With help from John Hendel, Leah Nylen and Sam Sabin
Programming Note: We’ll be off this Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day but will be back in your inboxes on Tuesday.
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— More Jan. 6 documents: Google, Meta and Reddit all say they’ve been closely working with the House’s Jan. 6 committee. But now they’re facing subpoenas demanding even more info.
— Trahan works to embolden FTC: Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) is working on multiple bills to give the FTC more power to go after tech companies who aren’t transparent about how they use consumers’ data.
— Expected vote on broadband program: The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on the rule governing a new federal program to help subsidize consumers’ internet bills.
HAPPY FRI-YAY! Congrats! You’ve reached the three-day weekend! It’s Rebecca Kern, and today is my last day as your Morning Tech guest host. Thanks for travelin’ thru this week with me. Our antitrust guru Leah Nylen (@leah_nylen) and our broadband king John Hendel (@JohnHendel) are taking over Morning Tech next week!
JAN. 6 DATA DISPUTE — The question of what could help the investigation into the deadly attacks on the Capitol last year is turning into a battle. The tech giants have argued they’re working with the Jan. 6 committee to provide data on the role their respective platforms played in the lead up to the deadly attacks on the Capitol last year. But the committee remains unsatisfied, and sent subpoenas to Meta, Twitter, Reddit and Alphabet for more documents as part of the panel’s ongoing investigation, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Leah Nylen report.
— The companies didn’t sufficiently answer requests sent last August, the panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said. “It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions,” he said in a statement.
— The tech giants say they’re playing ball. “We’ve been actively cooperating with the Select Committee since they started their investigation, responding substantively to their requests for documents, and are committed to working with Congress through this process,” Nicolas Lopez, a Google spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.
“Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested — and we will continue to do so,” Andy Stone, a Meta spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.
A Reddit spokesperson said the company is continuing to work with the committee on its requests. Twitter declined to comment.
— Thompson wants to know how misinformation and violent extremist content online contributed Jan. 6 and what measures, if any, the companies took to “prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence.” The companies have until Jan. 27 to respond.
— Meanwhile, panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said he wants the committee to hold hearings on social media’s role in the attack, focusing on Facebook and Twitter, according to an interview on WAMU last week.
TRAHAN’S CAMPAIGN TO BEEF UP THE FTC — Trahan is working on two fronts to bolster the power of the Federal Trade Commission to go after tech companies for violating users’ data.
— A new bill introduced Thursday would direct the FTC to issue requirements for tech companies to ensure their terms of service are easy for consumers to understand. If they fail to do so, the measure would let the FTC — as well as state attorneys general — hit them with civil penalties.
The measure shows the “consensus we need to advance policies that rein in the power of large platforms and strengthen enforcement when they violate users’ rights,” she told MT. “Consumers deserve to know how their data and content is being used by the services they frequent, and they certainly shouldn’t have to dig for it.”
She’s still working to get bipartisan cosponsors in the House. A companion measure was also introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).
— Trahan previously said she’s working on another FTC bill, expected in the coming weeks, that would create a new FTC bureau to provide oversight of tech companies’ platform governance. The bureau would also issue guidance on ethical platform design and “have the teeth to go after these companies that falsely claim” to follow them.
— “The FTC is well-suited to address the wide-ranging issues consumers face from large online companies,” she said. Her forthcoming legislation will give the agency more funding and personnel to give them “long overdue oversight of platform governance.”
WATCH FOR FCC VOTE ON AFFORDABILITY SUBSIDIES — Today marks the 60-day deadline Congress gave the FCC for setting up rules for its new $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides low-income households a monthly $30 subsidy to help pay for their internet bills. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel recently unveiled a draft proposal for the program’s rules, as MT noted Monday, setting off negotiations with her three colleagues.
— FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said he’s glad to see the permanent affordability benefit up for a vote, according to remarks during a Thursday Cooley event.
— The lobbying has begun: Trade group USTelecom suggested tweaks to what obligations participating internet service providers would face. Meanwhile, Free Press was happy to see Rosenworcel included draft language aimed at keeping providers from cutting off non-paying customers by moving them to a less costly plan.
U.S. PATENT LEADER ADVANCES— The nomination of Kathi Vidal, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and currently a Silicon Valley managing partner for the law firm Winston & Strawn moved forward Thursday — but not without scrutiny from GOP lawmakers.
— Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) opposed her nomination because of her Big Tech ties and “evasive” responses to questions. “If you took Big Tech and turned it upside down and shook it, our patent office directors would fall out. We keep talking about doing something about this problem, but we don’t do it,” he said.
— Kennedy voted against Vidal, along with fellow GOP tech critics Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, as well as Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.). Osssoff’s office declined to comment on the senator’s opposition to Vidal.
ANTITRUST BILL HOLDOVER — The Senate Judiciary Committee held over the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) from its Thursday business meeting, and it now plans to mark up the bill as early as Jan. 27, a committee aide told POLITICO.
CHALLENGES TO SECURING OPEN SOURCE REMAIN – Following Thursday’s White House meeting with the tech companies and software nonprofits on how to better secure open source code, one thing was clear:everyone agrees enough resources haven’t been given to securing collaboratively written, freely distributed code found throughout the online world. But few know how exactly to tackle that.
— The meeting was called in the wake of massive cybersecurity breaches caused by a piece of open source code known as Log4j. Companies like Google and nonprofits like the Open Source Security Foundation both indicated they are open to working with the federal government on whatever solutions it comes up with.
— There was a solid showing of tech companies in attendance, including: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Cloudflare, GitHub, VMware, Oracle and RedHat. Also in the room were representatives from the Apache Software Foundation, which supports the development of code libraries such as Log4j, and the Open Source Security Foundation, which runs several software security projects.
—The White House will release its own proposals for shoring up open source security in a few days, per Protocol.
Jay Cho is joining VMware’s Washington office as director of federal government relations, where he’ll lead commercial advocacy efforts around multi-cloud, 5G and cybersecurity. He previously worked for Verizon and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) … Justine Turner is now a vice president at iHeartMedia, focused on Democrats and progressives. She’s a Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Elizabeth Warren campaign and Senate Majority PAC alum. …Patrick Hedren joined Upwork, an online job marketplace, as its vice president of public policy and government relations. He was previously at the National Association of Manufacturers. …The FCC announced members of its communications equity and diversity council. … Danielle Sheer was named chief legal and compliance officer at data software company Commvault.
Airports want to stall 5G: The largest airport trade group has called for a delay in the deadline for a 5G wireless rollout to ensure airports are not disrupted once the next generation wireless deployment occurs, Oriana Pawlyk reports for Pros.
GAO takes aim at financial regulators: Four out of five financial regulators don’t fully implement privacy protections for the data they collect, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
Iran clamps down on social media: More than 74 percent of Iranians use social media and messaging apps, despite most being blocked in Iran, an Atlantic Council report found.
TikTok millionaires outpace CEOs: Several influencers on the popular video-sharing app have made millions more than the CEO of some S&P 500 companies, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Tech billionaire returns artifacts: James Clark, co-founder of Netscape, has returned 35 relics to Cambodia, which had been allegedly trafficked to the U.S., The Washington Post reports.
Wicker calls on FCC/NTIA coordination: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote to leaders of the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Thursday, urging them to collaborate on spectrum policy issues.
Amazon workers can’t find Covid tests: Amazon workers are struggling to get tested for Covid after the company shut down warehouse testing facilities, NBC News reports.
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