With help from Doug Palmer, Cristiano Lima, Steven Overly and John Hendel
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Tech world honors Juneteenth: Tech workers across the San Francisco Bay Area are gathering in observance of Juneteenth, using an evening vigil to talk about how the legacy of slavery affects them today at Amazon and calling on Jeff Bezos and other tech CEOs to do more to address racism.
Digital tax drama: After the U.S. pulled out of global negotiations over how to collect revenue from internet companies operating overseas, Europe warns it may move ahead with an EU-wide digital services tax anyway a penalty that would affect Silicon Valleys leading tech giants.
Sit-down with Brad Smith: In a live-streamed interview with my colleague Cristiano Lima, Microsofts president said the time is ripe for antitrust regulators to turn their scrutiny to the app stores run by some of his companys biggest rivals, Apple and Google.
ITS FRIDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. Im your host, Alexandra Levine.
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JUNETEENTH IN SILICON VALLEY A new grass-roots group known as Bay Area Amazonians, and the Workers Collective, a labor coalition for Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and FedEx workers, are coming together today for a vigil in observance of Juneteenth a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America and often called the countrys second Independence Day. The recent, sweeping protests over racial violence and police brutality have prompted a social justice reckoning across Silicon Valley, and now, companies including Twitter, Square, Lyft and Postmates have decided to make Juneteenth a permanent company holiday. (POLITICO this week made that same call.)
Bay Area Amazonians inaugural event is tonights Juneteenth vigil. The group, co-founded by Amazon employees Adrienne Williams and John Hopkins, both of whom are black, said it wants to highlight how the legacy of slavery in the U.S. is today affecting them in their jobs. They want people to see how racism manifests in things like what Amazon's General Counsel David Zapolsky said about another black organizer to justify his firing, Williams said. It's things like Jeff Bezos saying slavery ended a long time ago while not paying a living wage. The group is also looking to draw a thread between police brutality, and the economic oppression we face in these so-called unskilled jobs, Hopkins said in an email.
Tonights Juneteenth vigil will honor the lives of black women killed through police violence and co-workers lost during the pandemic. Organizers will also demand that Amazon and other tech giants do more than simply releasing statements expressing solidarity with the black community and ask that leadership take a closer look at exploitative, dangerous labor practices at their companies. The structural violence being perpetrated against Black women and all low-wage workers in the workplace is a product of the same system of racism that leads to police brutality against Black bodies, the coalition said in a release.
DIGITAL TAX DISPUTE HEATS UP European officials on Thursday threatened to move ahead with an EU-wide digital services tax after the United States stepped away from negotiations at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development over how to collect revenue from the foreign business operations of internet companies like Facebook and Google. The action increases the chances that the Trump administration (which believes the taxes are unfairly aimed at American tech companies) could slap duties on billions of dollars of European goods. More here from my colleagues across the U.S. and Europe.
Up next: On June 6, USTR launched new investigations against five countries Austria, India, Indonesia, Italy and Turkey that it said have adopted some form of a digital services tax. It also targeted four countries Brazil, the Czech Republic, Spain and the U.K. plus the European Union, that it said are considering a DST. USTR is in the midst of a public comment period for those 10 investigations that ends on July 15. After that, its next steps presumably would be to make a determination that the taxes are unfair and discriminatory, announce 10 sets of proposed retaliation lists and then hold another public comment period before imposing any tariffs.
KEY MOMENTS FROM OUR INTERVIEW WITH MICROSOFTS BRAD SMITH Microsoft President Brad Smith told Cristiano during a POLITICO Live interview Thursday that he thinks its time for antitrust regulators to scrutinize the app stores run by rivals like Apple and Google more thoroughly (see Stevens report). During a wide-ranging interview, he also called on Congress and the White House to agree on permanent protections for Dreamers in the wake of the Supreme Courts ruling upholding DACA. A few other highlights:
Microsoft isnt currently providing facial recognition to federal law enforcement, Smith said, a week after announcing a moratorium on sales of the software to U.S. police that notably left out any mention of federal agencies. We certainly won't provide facial recognition technology in any scenario that either leads to bias against people, people of color or women, the two groups that have most been found to be subject to bias, he added. And we won't allow our technology to be used in any manner that puts people's fundamental rights at risk. He noted, though, that there are plenty of federal agencies that arent law enforcement.
On Section 230: We can't throw this baby out even if we don't like the bathwater, Smith said in response to a question about Trumps recent executive order aimed at narrowing liability protections for social media companies. If we were to eliminate Section 230, we would largely, I think, eliminate the opportunity for social media to thrive, he said. But at the same time, Smith said theres been a clear call for the tech sector to step up and exercise more responsibility in curtailing illicit material. And he said hes seen the greatest concern around the globe about two types of material: violent extremist content and online child exploitation.
MEET THE NEW ADVOCATES FOR CONTENT MODERATORS As Washington homes in on the laws that govern content moderation on social media, a new group has taken shape to focus on the people who enforce companies policies. The San Francisco-based Trust and Safety Professional Association aims to represent the thousands upon thousands of content reviewers, engineers and other employees within companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter whose job is to keep offensive content from going viral. Co-founders Adelin Cai, a veteran of Google, Twitter and Pinterest, and Alex Macgillivray, an Obama administration official and former Twitter general counsel, told POLITICO the group plans to offer career guidance to employees in the growing field and recommendations to the companies that rely on them to defend their reputations.
TSPAs efforts will include, for instance, suggestions on how to provide health and wellness resources to content reviewers, whose constant exposure to violent and graphic content can take a toll on their mental health, Cai said. Dont expect the group to weigh in on bills before Capitol Hill or White House executive orders, though. To be super clear, we're not a lobbying organization, so we're not going to be taking positions on legislation, Cai noted. The group got three years worth of financial support from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Postmates and other firms, but Cai said the association does not consider them members or represent their interests.
REPUBLICANS SET BROADBAND PRIORITIES Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and House Energy and Commerce member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on Thursday outlined a framework for broadband spending as part of coronavirus relief. The outline touches on many known priorities, from funding the FCCs broadband mapping efforts to providing regulatory relief to wireless carriers (no dollar figures included, sadly).
Expect more chatter. As Bloomberg reported, the administration is mulling funds for internet connectivity in new infrastructure ambitions, and House Democrats on Thursday floated billions for broadband in a new transportation package.
THE NEW LIGADO ARGUMENT: AN ADMIN ABOUT-FACE? Satellite company Ligado Networks is accusing the Trump administration of politicizing the government review of the companys 5G plans in contradiction of past government assessments and is telling lawmakers its got the emails to prove it messages that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, whose agency approved Ligados plans in April, was quick to tout Thursday.
The Pentagon argues Ligados operations would scramble GPS, but in its new letter to lawmakers, Ligado is sharing emails, allegedly from officials within DoD, that it says undermine those public attacks. According to Ligado, one unidentified member from the Defense Department chief information office recently contacted the company to praise the FCC approval's engineering and regulatory soundness. Pai quickly seized on this apparent Pentagon contradiction, tweeting the message and saying at an event that Ligados letter shows there are technical experts out there who are willing to look at the facts without any sort of institutional lens.
Ligado said its own direct discussions with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration back up what Commissioner Mike ORielly asserted Tuesday during his reconfirmation hearing (that NTIA only became so hostile to Ligado following Administrator David Redls departure last year).
When asked about Ligados letter and the alleged emails Thursday, the Pentagon did not confirm if the messages were genuine, saying only that it is standing by its objections to the companys plans. Pai's defense comes less than a week before an oversight hearing before Senate Commerce.
House Energy & Commerce, meanwhile, just received a briefing late Thursday from NTIA, FCC and Pentagon officials on the Ligado fight. One tidbit: During the call, telecom subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio) called for a subcommittee hearing on Ligado to allow for further scrutiny, an E&C aide told John.
Civil rights activist and athlete Colin Kaepernick is joining Mediums board of directors. Michelle Duke, president of the National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Foundation, will in July also become the groups chief diversity officer.
Lobbying latest: Google has tapped Robert Babcock of the lobbying firm Clark Hill to advocate on federal appropriations related to its cloud services and suite of office products, disclosure documents show. Babcock is a Hill veteran who previously served as a regional administrator for the General Services Administration. Google has shed more than a half-dozen lobbying firms in recent years, and its spending to lobby the federal government has declined as a result. In 2019, Google spent $11.8 million on federal lobbying.
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ICYMI: Facebook on Thursday took down Trump campaign content and political ads that featured Nazi insignia that had been used during the World War II era to label prisoners in concentration camps, I reported for POLITICO.
Meanwhile, the latest Trump tweet label: Twitter added a warning to a post from President Trump about a racist baby on Thursday, saying the tweet contained manipulated media designed to mislead people, NYT reports the first time Twitter has used that label on one of the presidents tweets.
Google lawsuit: A group of black YouTube creators filed suit against the company this week, WaPo reports, alleging that the platform has been systematically removing their content without explanation.
Facebook lawsuit: The social giant filed lawsuits in Europe and the U.S. over the use of unauthorized automation software on Facebook and Instagram, the company announced Thursday: The defendants in the European lawsuit operated a Spain-based fake engagement service, and the defendant in the US lawsuit operated a data scraping service with ties to California.
Amazon lawsuit: The search giant and luxury shoe brand Valentino filed a joint lawsuit against a New York-based fashion company for allegedly counterfeiting Valentino shoes and offering them for sale online, Reuters reports.
Techs DACA takeaways: The tech industry roundly praised the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to strike down a Trump administration policy that would have threatened the deportation of about 650,000 undocumented Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children, Steven reports. But industry groups also said the job isn't done and called on Congress to make the Dreamers' protections permanent.
Across the pond: Frances highest constitutional authority struck down the core of the countrys new hate-speech law before it could go into effect, WSJ reports.
Taking to Twitch: Black Lives Matter protesters have been using Amazon-owned Twitch to broadcast their fight for racial justice, NYT reports.
Does anyone even read privacy policies?: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wants lawmakers to stop pretending that people do, WaPo reports, and to instead [shift] the burden away from consumers and onto companies.
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