With help from Cristiano Lima and Leah Nylen
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— Tech’s fall calendar: Will the Trump administration wage an antitrust war on Google? Will Facebook’s pre-election political ads ban be enough? Will TikTok see a U.S. buyer? Here’s what to watch across the tech world in the coming weeks.
— 230 talk: A leading tech researcher and law professor at NYU is urging Congress to create a new digital regulatory agency to oversee the tech industry’s Section 230 online liability protections.
— ‘Competition is Killing Us’: Competition lawyer Michelle Meager argues in her new book, set to be released this week, that antitrust authorities’ failure to check corporate power has spurred everything from income disparities to climate change.
AND JUST LIKE THAT, IT’S (UNOFFICIALLY) FALL. WELCOME BACK TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
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SEPTEMBER IN THE TECH WORLD — It’s going to be a big month for the world’s most powerful social media and software giants. Here’s what’s on tap:
— For Congress: House Energy and Commerce lawmakers will consider a range of tech and telecom proposals at a full committee markup Wednesday. Those include Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s (D-N.C.) Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, H.R. 3957 (116), a Democratic bill that would review the FCC’s minority tax certificate program and help foster more media diversity. Also on the docket? Bipartisan legislation from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), H.R. 8132 (116), aimed at securing American leadership (and a leg-up on China) in emerging technologies from artificial intelligence to quantum computing.
— For competition: The Trump administration is, as early as this month, expected to file its planned antitrust lawsuit against Google. The Justice Department and attorneys general from almost every state have been laying the groundwork for the suit for a year and had anticipated the filing itself to happen over the summer — but those plans were delayed amid partisan headwinds.
“Disagreements between the department and mostly Democratic AGs are holding up the launch of what would be the biggest antitrust battle in a generation,” writes POLITICO’s antitrust reporter, Leah Nylen. One point of contention, she notes, “is whether to push to file the suit before Election Day — assuring it as a legacy for Attorney General William Barr — or risk leaving the case’s future in the hands of a Biden administration.” The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is separately holding a Sept. 15 hearing examining whether Google has harmed competition in online advertising.
— Also for competition: Apple and Epic Games are set to face off in court on Sept. 28 over their Fortnite dispute. (Fortnite, the wildly popular game by Epic, is still blocked from Apple’s App Store.) The game creator plans to re-up its request to have Fortnite reinstated in the App Store at the hearing before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. Epic late Friday filed its official brief for the session. More here from Leah on Apple and Epic’s antitrust showdown.
One more on the topic: The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee plans to hold a Sept. 30 hearing on oversight of the enforcement of antitrust laws, featuring testimony from FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim.
— For TikTok: The deadline for an American company to purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations is fast approaching. Oracle, Microsoft and Walmart remain in the running ahead of the Sept. 15 deal due date set by the Trump administration. “Let the best company win,” the president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told POLITICO before the holiday.
— For Europe: Here are five things to watch this fall in European tech policy, from digital trade and cybersecurity to artificial intelligence.
BACK-TO-WORK CLIFFSNOTES: WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE HOLIDAY WEEK? — Here’s what you might’ve missed while you were (hopefully) unplugged.
— Microsoft: The Pentagon said Friday that Microsoft remains its top choice for the highly lucrative JEDI cloud computing contract, “rejecting allegations by rival Amazon that the award came about through political meddling by President Donald Trump.” More from Steven.
— Facebook: The social network announced it will ban new political ads during the week before Election Day. More from Steven.
— Twitter: The platform, along with Facebook, moved to limit the reach of President Trump’s recent statements encouraging supporters to cast two ballots in November. More from Cristiano.
— Apple: The company “agreed to delay implementing a change to the iPhone that Facebook, news publishers and some other mobile apps said would significantly decrease the amount of money they can earn from advertising.” More from Leah.
— Verizon: The telecom giant was the biggest winning bidder in the FCC’s auction of 5G-friendly 3.5 GHz airwaves. More from John.
OUT TODAY: A NEW TAKE ON SECTION 230 — Congress should create a new digital regulatory agency to oversee the tech industry’s online liability protections under Section 230, according to a report out today from New York University. The paper, written by law professor Paul Barrett, argues for keeping but significantly revamping the law that shields online business from lawsuits over user content, which has come under fire from officials of all political stripes in Washington.
— A new look law: The report calls for requiring platforms to take on “a range of new responsibilities related to policing content” to keep their Section 230 protections, including demonstrating that their algorithms don’t skew towards extreme content, publicly disclosing their moderation policies and removing “demonstrably false” material. “One of the central problems I think we now experience with social media is the fact that the algorithms that are used to select [and] recommend content for users have a tendency to emphasize sensationalistic, unreliable [or] extreme material,” Barrett told MT in an interview Friday.
— A fresh federal agency: Under the framework, a new digital regulatory agency led by a bipartisan group of Senate-appointed officials would enforce those standards. “The idea is not that the government is going to rule ‘yay or nay’ on each content decision, but instead would oversee whether companies themselves implement policies that would be favorable to users and society at large,” Barrett said. The agency could also take on a broader mandate and tackle issues like privacy and competition, he noted — but the report focuses on Section 230.
— So what’s the appetite on Capitol Hill? The NYU report notes that some aspects of the proposal have already been incorporated into ongoing efforts to reform Section 230 — and Barrett said he’s already spoken to “a number of congressional offices” about these ideas. (Two House Democrats have separately proposed creating an agency to tackle online privacy.) But, Barrett added, the “more ambitious approach” of creating an agency to oversee Section 230 “is not particularly on anybody’s radar right now.”
BOOK LOOK: ‘COMPETITION IS KILLING US’ — Climate change, worker exploitation and growing income disparity are the result of antitrust authorities’ failure to check corporate power. That’s the thesis of competition lawyer Michelle Meager’s new book, slated for release this week, which examines how a few companies control key industries — like agriculture, energy and technology — and leverage their economic power in ways that harm workers and the environment.
“Companies make money today by cornering a market, getting a monopoly position and shifting the costs onto society,” she said. In an interview with MT, Meager spoke about how to use antitrust and other regulatory tools to counter corporate power.
— On break-ups: “If companies repeatedly breach the public interest, they should be shut down. It would really concentrate the minds of lots of companies if we didn’t take it as a right that they could exist forever. … Currently the model is to keep going until they are forced to stop.”
— On creating ‘countervailing power’: “You can give antitrust exemptions and encourage cooperation among smaller players in the market. We need to think about how we can create other platforms or mechanisms to counter corporate power. For citizens and consumers, how do we give them more power?”
— On July’s blockbuster hearing with the Big Tech CEOs: “These four human beings have an enormous amount of power and it’s staggering how out of touch they are to some of the issues. It was as if they were hearing some of this for the first time. It just isn’t a daily concern for them.”
John Stratton, a former longtime Verizon executive who this spring became a board observer at Frontier Communications, was selected to serve as executive chairman of Frontier’s board of directors upon the company’s emergence from Chapter 11, expected in 2021. … Christine Fox, former deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, was named the organization’s interim executive director following the passing of Candice Dodson. … Richard Carrizzo, fire chief for the Southern Platte Fire Protection District in Missouri, was named vice chair of the board of the First Responder Network Authority.
Ch-ch-changes for the FCC’s data team, within its Office of Economics and Analytics: Steve Rosenberg was named the agency’s chief data and analytics officer; Anne Levine, deputy chief data officer; and Chelsea Fallon, chief of the data division.
Trump leans on YouTube: “In 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign cracked the code on Facebook as a campaign tool,” POLITICO reports. “This time, the president is betting big on YouTube.”
No fair: “Pandemic policies at tech companies have created a rift between parents offered more benefits and resentful workers who don’t have children,” NYT reports.
ICYMI: Trump over the weekend lobbed insults at Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs who owns a majority stake in The Atlantic, after the outlet published a story detailing the president’s repeated, disparaging remarks about military veterans and service members.
Let’s shake on it: Samsung signed a $6.65 billion contract with Verizon that will primarily cover 5G infrastructure, WSJ reports.
Facial recognition findings: The U.S. Government Accountability Office, after reviewing U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s use of facial recognition at the borders, raised privacy and compliance concerns in a new report.
cola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).