With help from Leah Nylen and John Hendel
Editor’s Note: Morning Tech is a free version of POLITICO Pro Technology’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.
— Misinfo monitor: As Mark Zuckerberg gears up for his first appearance before Congress since the Capitol riot, a new post-mortem on Facebook’s handling of the 2020 election cycle details how the company’s alleged missteps contributed to the violence.
— Scoop: Dozens of progressive groups are calling on President Joe Biden to rethink how he’s filling top slots at the FTC and Justice Department following a POLITICO report.
— More money, more problems: Partisan sparring over telecom is heating up in Congress as the Biden administration eyes $3 trillion that could be used in part to boost 5G and broadband.
IT’S TUESDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
Got a news tip? Write me at [email protected], and follow @Ali_Lev on Twitter and @alexandra.levine on Instagram. An event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
TRACKING MISINFORMATION AHEAD OF TECH CEO HEARING — Days before Zuckerberg testifies before Congress for the first time since the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, a new review of Facebook’s efforts around the 2020 elections offers more insight into how the platform helped instigate the insurrection. The CEO’s testimony at Thursday’s House Energy and Commerce hearing on “social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation” is expected to highlight the company’s work tackling harmful content, fake accounts and deceptive behavior.
— Research out this morning from Avaaz, a left-leaning nonprofit and frequent Facebook antagonist, estimates that top pages that continually shared misinformation nearly tripled their page views between October 2019 and October 2020. The authors also claim to have identified far-reaching Boogaloo, QAnon or militia-aligned pages and groups still active on the site. (Facebook said Monday night that some of them had already been removed.)
— “We have over a year’s worth of evidence that the platform helped drive billions of views to pages and content that confused voters, created division and chaos, and, in some instances, incited violence,” said Avaaz Campaigns Director Fadi Quran. “But the most worrying finding in our analysis is that Facebook had the tools and capacity to better protect voters from being targets of this content, but the platform only used them at the very last moment, after significant harm was done.”
— Facebook highlighted flaws in Avaaz’s methodology and reiterated its commitment to addressing misinformation across its platforms. “This report distorts the serious work we’ve been doing to fight violent extremism and misinformation on our platform,” spokesperson Andy Stone told MT. “We’ve done more than any other internet company to combat harmful content, having already banned nearly 900 militarized social movements and removed tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups, and accounts from our apps. … Our enforcement isn’t perfect, which is why we’re always improving it while also working with outside experts to make sure that our policies remain in the right place.”
FIRST IN MT: PROGRESSIVES URGE ‘CLEAN BREAK’ ON ANTITRUST — Nearly 30 progressive groups told Biden to take a “a new approach” to personnel for the FTC and Justice Department antitrust chief and “make a clean break from past leadership” of the tech-friendly Obama administration. In a letter to Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the groups cited POLITICO’s reporting on the FTC’s 2013 Google decision and said enforcers failed to grasp the threat Google posed. “We need a break from past, failed leadership, and we need it now,” they wrote. For more, see Leah’s story out this morning.
MEANWHILE, WASHINGTON WELCOMES KHAN — Biden made it official on Monday with Lina Khan, the tech industry critic who he tapped to become one of three Democratic commissioners at the FTC. (“Excited to get to work if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed!” Khan tweeted Monday afternoon.) Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike had some immediate thoughts.
— In the Senate: The Senate Commerce Committee’s top Republican, Roger Wicker (Miss.), said “I know other Senators have raised some initial concerns” but stressed that “I will be keeping an open mind” until he reviews her nomination and speaks with Khan herself. “If we can see eye-to-eye on a way to rein in the gross censorship being conducted by Big Tech,” Wicker added, “then she might have found her biggest champion.” Senate Judiciary antitrust Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) praised the move: “We need all hands on deck as we work to take on some of the biggest monopolies in the world,” she said in a statement to MT, “and President Biden is making his commitment to competition policy clear.”
— In the House, and beyond: House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and acting FTC Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter also congratulated Khan and wished her “a speedy confirmation.”
PARTISAN FIGHTS LOOM OVER BROADBAND TALKS — A House Energy and Commerce hearing on Monday showcased tense partisan divisions over potential broadband infrastructure fixes. The sparring comes as Biden’s advisers eye up to $3 trillion in proposed economic boosts that could be split across multiple packages and would include explicit broadband and 5G provisions.
— Fault lines within E&C: Republicans bashed Democrats’ LIFT America Act at Monday’s session for prioritizing much faster broadband speeds as a federal benchmark, with upload and download speeds made identical to one another (as opposed to today’s, where download is much higher). Republicans fear that upping that definition could mess up the roll out of the billions in subsidies presented in the bill, potentially postponing development of new broadband mapping and causing internet service providers to prioritize upgrades in regions where it’s cheaper and easier (read: not rural areas).
Pallone said the bill “is a beginning” and “work in progress” with Republicans. Former Obama-era FCC Chair Tom Wheeler sought to dispel GOP fears, saying “there’s nobody in the back of the line” under its framework and insisting the maps should function as a database, without a need to be rewritten to accommodate faster speeds. Democrats touted LIFT’s focus on building out fiber internet, key to boosting 5G wireless connectivity. “You cannot deregulate your way to full coverage,” Wheeler added of GOP proposals, which center on streamlining broadband buildout permitting and which don’t contemplate the score of billions that Democrats want.
— The stakes: It’s not yet certain whether Democrats will try to use a tool like budget reconciliation to jam through these broadband infrastructure ambitions (that tool, as with the pandemic relief, would let them do so without GOP backing). If they don’t, Monday’s tensions could mean serious negotiation is in order to yield a bipartisan package that could clear both chambers.
AMAZON’S BRUSH WITH UNIONS… IN ITALY — In a global first, Amazon workers, drivers and subcontractors went on strike in Italy on Monday for 24 hours, bringing the e-commerce giant to a halt in the boot as tech organizing sweeps both sides of the Atlantic. The company’s umpteenth brush up with European unions could embolden U.S. Amazon workers pushing to get their first union (we’re one week away from warehouse workers’ unionization vote count in Alabama).
— Full story here from my Brussels-based POLITICO colleagues Leonie Cater and Paola Tamma.
Building the Biden administration: “Half a dozen senior members of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy and national security team worked as consultants for Microsoft before joining the administration,” POLITICO reports. (Among them: Secretary of State Tony blinking, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Director of National Intelligence April Haines.)
Laura Nestler, former global head of community at Duolingo, was named Reddit’s new vice president of community. … Genevieve Lakier, a law professor at the University of Chicago, and Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, are later this year joining Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute as visiting research scholars. Lakier will focus on disinformation and the First Amendment, and Douek on social media content moderation.
Alexis DeJarnette is now communications director for Senate Commerce Committee Republicans after serving as deputy to that role; she takes over for Emily Taylor, who now works for Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). … Evan Swarztrauber, former FCC policy advisor to then-Chair Ajit Pai, is joining Clout Public Affairs, a division of Axiom Strategies, as director, focusing on tech and telecom policy and communications. … Jeff A. Taylor, previously executive vice president and chief litigation counsel for Fox Corporation, was named the company’s general counsel.
The Day One Project announced a cohort of Technology Policy Accelerator Fellows who will work with the organization to develop tech proposals for Congress and the Biden administration around issues like disinformation, internet security, broadband and racial equity. … As part of the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection program focused on improving broadband maps, the agency wants to hear from consumers about the broadband availability and quality they’re experiencing.
Zooming ahead: One year after Zoom’s meteoric pandemic-driven rise, WSJ on how the company is continuing to spread its tentacles.
Pinned: “Pinterest and the subtle poison of sexism and racism in Silicon Valley,” via TIME.
Eyeballs watching emoji: “Former President Donald Trump teased the creation of his own social media platform in a new interview,” POLITICO reports.
Dumping Dobrik: DoorDash, HelloFresh and EA Sports are among the brands cutting ties with YouTuber David Dobrik and his photo-sharing app Dispo over allegations of misconduct, BuzzFeed News reports.
A twist on grocery deliveries: You’ll soon be able to use DoorDash to order at-home Covid testing kits — the same way you’d order food, The Verge reports.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).