With help from Emily Birnbaum and Shawn Pogatchnik
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— Hitting the floor: Lawmakers will vote on more than 400 amendments to the annual defense bill this week. Here are the tech and telecom amendments to watch.
— Another techlash: After a scathing Wall Street Journal exposé last week, lawmakers aren’t letting Facebook off the hook.
— New tune: Ireland, a staunch opponent to the global tax deal, signaled it was open to joining — but it has some conditions.
IT’S WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 22. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Welcome to the fall! Hope the weather is treating you well. A question for non-Beltway readers: Where are you reading today’s newsletter from?
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NDAA AMENDMENTS HIT THE FLOOR — The full House will consider amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act this week, after lawmakers approved 476 amendments for floor consideration on Tuesday. While some didn’t make it (RIP for now, internet balloons), here’s a slate of surviving provisions worth keeping tabs on:
— Social media: Lawmakers will consider an amendment calling for an annual report on how foreign terrorist organizations are using social media to recruit, fundraise and spread information. It would also address the threat online radicalization poses to U.S. national security.
— Chips collab: Another amendment tasks federal agencies with looking into a U.S.-Taiwan working group on semiconductors, in light of the ongoing computer chip shortage. Taiwan is home to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s preeminent chip-maker.
— Workforce: One of the more popular amendments — backed by more than 30 representatives — would establish a National Digital Reserve Corps within the General Services Administration, giving private-sector tech workers the opportunity to work on short-term projects for the government.
— Security concerns: Another would prohibit agencies from encouraging tech companies to weaken encryption on or build backdoors into their commercial products. Lawmakers will also consider an amendment requiring additional reporting on how foreign governments are using technology to spy on their citizens.
— 5G boost: Lawmakers will also weigh a measure to bolster U.S. leadership in standards-setting bodies for 5G and future generations of wireless networks by encouraging companies to participate in those efforts. Another would ask the secretary of State to work with the secretary of Commerce to produce a report on the national security implications of Open RAN technology — something that, if adopted, would lessen dependence on foreign telecom equipment. (That report would also address the concerns raised by the participation of certain Chinese companies in the global O-RAN Alliance.)
FACEBOOK CRITICS PILE ON — Following The Wall Street Journal series on Facebook’s practices, including its handling of Covid misinformation, even the platform’s own self-appointed oversight board has grown critical.
The board said that it will look into whether Facebook has been fully forthcoming about its approach to high-stakes content issues, especially related to its “cross-check” program that exempts some high-profile users from the platform’s typical review processes, Alex reported for Pros.
— Lawmakers weigh in: The Journal’s investigation also came up at Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary antitrust panel hearing, where senators grilled a Facebook executive about the reports — particularly the one about Instagram’s negative impact on teen girls. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Facebook vice president of privacy and public policy Steve Satterfield whether the company would commit to sharing future research it is doing about its products. “It’s something we’re looking into,” Satterfield said, adding that Facebook would want to provide “appropriate context.”
“You won’t release the research because this is a cash cow for you,” Hawley replied. He then asked if Facebook would commit to suspending its work on an Instagram app geared toward children under 13.
“We know that tweens are online. We want them to have an experience that is a good one, that is a healthy one,” Satterfield said. He added that Facebook prioritizes the health and wellness of its users.
“I really can’t believe you’re saying that,” Hawley said, laughing. “You always dissemble, you always mislead, but I can’t believe that given the research you’ve conducted that you can sit here and say that teens’ health and safety is your top priority.”
— Facebook’s defense: The company said in a blog post Tuesday that it has spent $13 billion on “safety and security” since 2016 and now has 40,000 people working on those issues. The new statistics are part of an effort to reframe the scrutiny it’s found itself in: “What is getting lost in this discussion is some of the important progress we’ve made as a company,” the post said.
The company has repeatedly said it is working to address the issues raised in the stories. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone has pointed to the fact that many of the internal documents cited by the Journal in its reporting were only produced because the company was in the process of evaluating and changing its policies. At the Senate hearing, Satterfield said that Facebook conducts much of its research “because we think that’s an important way of encouraging free and frank discussion within the company.” He also pledged that the company would not retaliate against the employees who leaked documents to Journal reporters.
IRELAND SOFTENS ITS GLOBAL TAX STANCE — Proponents of a global tax overhaul could be one step closer to securing a deal that would implement a worldwide 15 percent minimum corporate tax rate, after a top Irish official signaled openness to joining the accord.
“I think we’d certainly prefer to be part of any international agreement,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Tuesday outside Dublin Castle, Shawn Pogatchnik reports. “Ireland is not a tax haven, nor do we wish to be seen as a tax haven.”
— Ireland’s terms: The Emerald Isle’s participation would hinge on certain conditions, such as the new minimum rate applying only to multinationals that generate more than $880 million in annual revenue, said Varadkar, who will become prime minister in December. “Any agreement we may or may not sign up to won’t impact the average Irish business, won’t impact even any large Irish business,” he said.
The country had opposed signing on to the global deal, which 134 other countries have now agreed to, over worries that being forced to raise its current 12.5 percent corporate tax rate would make it difficult to attract businesses to its shores. (One area in Dublin colloquially known as Silicon Docks is home to the European headquarters of various U.S. tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter.)
Ireland’s approval is key to the global tax deal, given that all decisions related to EU tax policy must be made with unanimous consent. (Estonia and Hungary, which also have low corporate tax rates, are the other EU holdouts.) Although the country has maintained “leverage and negotiating power” by not joining, Varadkar conceded that sinking the deal could damage Ireland’s reputation in the long run.
TRADE AND TECH COUNCIL UP IN THE AIR — European officials are considering postponing next week’s inaugural meeting of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh, following France’s uproar over the U.S.’ new defense alliance with Australia and the U.K. — an arrangement that cost the French a multibillion-dollar submarine contract with Canberra. Although a spokesperson for the European Commission was noncommittal, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton hinted at a delay, saying, “It is probably time to pause and reset our EU-U.S. relationship.”
It’s just the latest hurdle for the embattled alliance, which has become a source of frustration in the EU over the U.S.’ combative stance towards China and tensions over a transatlantic data flow agreement, Barbara Moens and Laurens Cerulus report.
First in MT: A 2010 team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington — Stephen Checkoway, Tadayoshi Kohno, Karl Koscher and Stefan Savage — is one of the recipients of this year’s Golden Goose Award, which recognizes federally funded research that has greatly benefited society. The team’s work on cybersecurity issues in internet-connected automobiles resulted in automakers adopting a wide set of security practices as standard procedures.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 2022, including Marian Croak for her work on advancing VoIP technologies and Mick Mountz and Peter Wurman for their work on mobile robots used in warehouse order fulfillment.
Bonnie Glick is joining the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue as its inaugural director. She previously was deputy administrator and COO at USAID and is an IBM alum. … Lee Brenner is now head of public policy for digital assets at Goldman Sachs. He most recently helped lead global public policy and external affairs for Facebook Financial. … Ron Whaley has been elected to the Competitive Carriers Association’s board of directors.
Etsy announced the Etsy Uplift Initiative, aimed at boosting opportunities for “economically disenfranchised” entrepreneurs. … Amazon-owned Twitch and the National Music Publishers’ Association announced “an agreement to work together to build productive partnerships,” following months of acrimony over copyright issues. … Slack is launching GovSlack in 2022. It will also debut a tool for business leaders to coordinate policy letters and outreach to Congress, the White House and other policymakers, Salesforce’s head of global sustainability, Patrick Flynn, told POLITICO Long Game’s Lorraine Woellert.
Project Amplify: “No More Apologies: Inside Facebook’s Push to Defend Its Image,” NYT reports. And after you read that, check out Mark Zuckerberg’s response.
Also related: “Facebook Rolls Out News Feed Change That Blocks Watchdogs from Gathering Data,” via The Markup.
Robot uprising: Algorithms and robots are the stars at Amazon’s flagship fulfillment center. Bloomberg Businessweek has more.
Close scrutiny: “Zoom’s Nearly $15 Billion Deal for Five9 Under U.S. Government Review Over China Ties,” WSJ reports.
Visual learning: “Nine charts that show who’s winning the U.S.-China tech race,” via WaPo.
New features? Apple wants its iPhones to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, via WSJ.
Charger agnostics: “EU plans to legislate for common phone charger despite Apple grumbles.” More from Reuters.
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