With help from Rebecca Kern, John Hendel and Mark Scott
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Morning Tech wont publish from Friday, Dec. 24-Friday, Dec. 31. Well be back on our normal schedule on Monday, Jan. 3.
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Life after BBB: Here are the tech and telecom provisions that could survive the wreckage of the Build Back Better Act, congressional aides told us amid Sundays chaos.
Looking to the new year: The digital ads industrys major trade group wants to get more vocal, and has hired an Amazon public policy executive to help.
Amazons ties to FBI and DOJ: The e-commerce giant has increasingly tipped off the Justice Department to investigate alleged fraud by the sellers using its platform and even Amazons own employees.
HAPPY MONDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! Im your guest host, Emily Birnbaum. Ill be filling in during this unexpectedly busy week drop me a line if theres something you think we should cover before Christmas!
You can reach out via @birnbaum_e or [emailprotected]. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [emailprotected]. Anything else? Team info below. And dont forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
A message from Save Our Standards:
Technical standards like 5G and Wi-Fi have the power to transform industries, fuel the economy, and create high-quality jobs. But that only happens if owners of patents essential to standards honor their commitments to license all innovators to use those patents on fair and reasonable terms. A new draft Administration statement restores the balance vital to standards adoption and job creation. Support the Administration to promote American manufacturing and limit product bans on standard-essential patents.
WHATS LEFT FOR TECH Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) stunned the White House and sent many in Washington scrambling on Sunday by crushing Democrats chances of passing the House version of President Joe Bidens massive social spending bill. Now Senate Democrats are scheming about what elements might survive if they can assemble a more Manchin-friendly bill. Among the possibilities for the bills tech provisions:
FTCs new privacy bureau: Democrats are hopeful they can still use a pared-down legislative package to provide $500 million for creating an Federal Trade Commission data privacy bureau, one senior aide told MT on Sunday.
Though some Republicans have warned against an expansion of the agencys authority especially under Bidens FTC chair, Lina Khan lawmakers have shown some bipartisan interest in firming up the FTCs ability to respond to concerns like data breaches and tech companies privacy practices. Manchin has not weighed in publicly on the issue, but he has previously supported privacy legislation.
$1 billion for antitrust enforcement: The BBB called for splitting an influx of antitrust funding evenly between the Justice Department and the FTC. Both agencies are cash-strapped but are pursuing major cases against Google and Facebook, with suits against Apple and Amazon under consideration.
Another senior Democratic aide told MT on Sunday that its very likely that upcoming packages including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which has passed the Senate and passed out of committee in the House will include additional funds for the agencies, though that figure may not be $1 billion.
FTC penalty authority: The commission has long sought the ability to fine companies that deceive consumers by lying about their privacy or data security practices. A provision granting this authority was tucked into the House bill, though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and top Republicans like Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi oppose it. Its unlikely that the civil penalty authority will make it through any future vehicle amid intensifying opposition.
Broadband investments: The House-passed bill included $1.15 billion for broadband internet, a pot of money meant to supplement the $65 billion in broadband spending included in the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by Biden this year. The BBBs proposals included $300 million for bolstering remote-learning subsidies and a $280 million pilot program on urban broadband affordability. Manchin has not stated a clear position on these provisions.
$470 million to upgrade 911 call centers: Democrats urgently hope to upgrade the countrys 911 system for the digital age. This money in the BBB a fraction of the billions lawmakers originally proposed would enable emergency call centers to receive text messages, video and photos, not just phone calls. Manchin has not weighed in on this proposal, either.
FIRST IN MT: A NEW CHAPTER FOR IAB The Interactive Advertising Bureau, a massive trade group that represents companies on all sides of the digital ads ecosystem, is about to get a whole lot more involved in tech policy discussions on Capitol Hill.
IAB has tapped Lartease Tiffith, an Amazon public policy executive and former aide to Vice President Kamala Harris, to lead its policy shop. And he plans to make the groups presence known.
IABs challenges: The group has faced serious disagreements among its roughly 700 members, who include both the big tech platforms such as Google, Meta and Amazon as well as smaller publishers and brands that feel exploited by those companies control over the digital ads ecosystem. IAB too often advocates on behalf of the biggest tech companies.
Tiffith believes it will be his job to find consensus among IABs diverse membership, he said in an interview. His top priorities include lobbying for federal privacy legislation that preempts state laws and against digital services taxes. The digital advertising ecosystem is one that our country relies on, Tiffith said.
He added that he is absolutely in touch with the vice president and her close aides, and said he intends to advocate particularly on behalf of the small- and medium-sized businesses that benefit from digital ads. I do think there will be some opportunities to be more vocal about what we do and dont do, Tiffith said. We want to make sure people know where IAB stands.
What IABs CEO says: Chief executive David Cohen said the trade group tries to not focus itself on Google or Meta or Amazon or anyone. We are industry-focused. Thats why it has stayed out of the congressional antitrust battles the tech giants are facing so far, though Cohen said IAB reserves the right to change our perspective on that.
If there are individual member companies doing things that are harmful to the industry at large there are other forums, like courts and judicial systems, that would be better suited than a trade association to weigh in on that, Cohen said.
AMAZONS TIES TO THE FEDS: The federal government has indicted 20 people for crimes related to Amazon in the past year and a half a number that exceeds indictments related to other comparably large retail and logistics companies like Walmart and FedEx, according to a POLITICO report from your host and Daniel Lippman. In many of those cases, Amazon either tipped off the government or cooperated closely with the investigations, according to public disclosures. The crimes relate to a range of issues including fraud and counterfeits.
While federal officials have discretion over which criminal cases they choose to pursue, Amazon has invested significant resources into pushing prosecutors and investigators to take on cases it wants them tos.
And the company appears to be getting results. This looks like a huge and powerful company attempting to generate goodwill and appear to be cooperative with the government, said J. Kelly Strader, an academic focused on how companies deal with the government when they handle white-collar crime.
Amazons response: Amazon says its referrals to law enforcement show that it is taking forceful action against criminal activity.
We take our responsibility seriously to protect our customers and selling partners from fraud and abuse, said Amazon spokesperson Jodi Seth. We are proud of the industry-leading investments weve made in technology and human expertise to prevent criminal activity and deter bad actors.
Amazons revolving door: As part of its efforts to get closer to the feds, Amazon has hired people with deep ties to federal law enforcement. The company employs at least 21 former federal prosecutors and at least 49 former FBI employees, according to a review of LinkedIn pages of current Amazon employees.
TODAY: LIGHTBOX TO UNVEIL BROADBAND MAPPING TOOLS LightBox, a company known for crunching reams of real estate data, is today announcing what it is calling a SmartFabric, a newly enriched and customizable map of location data that it hopes states will tap to guide their broadband funding decisions.
We have a state that is already signed up, LightBox CEO Eric Frank told John, though he declined to say which state. They've also asked us to do all the work so were actually collecting the ISP data, were building the map, mapping the ISP data to location data, doing the gap analysis, identifying service versus non-serviceable and building the public website so the public can interrogate it. Watch for more details soon, Frank said.
And LightBox still wants that bigger nationwide FCC contract: The company is in the middle of a challenge to the FCCs November decision to award a $45 million location fabric contract to a rival company known as CostQuest Associates, which had worked with USTelecom to run a mapping pilot effort in two states in 2019.
Todays announcement is another sign of LightBoxs ongoing broadband ambitions. Other customers using LightBoxs location data include internet service providers like AT&T and Charter Communications, tech giants like Google and Microsoft and real estate companies Zillow and Redfin.
The Government Accountability Office has up to 100 days to review the FCC contract decision, meaning the agency may not be able to proceed with a key part of its federal mapping efforts until sometime in February.
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has complained of the associated delays and suggested Congress may want to intervene. If Congress wishes to identify a legislative way to
expedite this process, the agency will provide whatever further information is necessary to assist, she assured lawmakers in a letter unveiled Friday.
FACEBOOK GRAPPLES WITH ISLAMIC EXTREMISM: Supporters of the Islamic State and the Taliban continue to sidestep the social networks content moderation rules, despite the companys claims to be clamping down on extremist material. In multiple open Facebook groups at least one of which had more than 100,000 members jihadist groups posted beheading videos, propaganda and violent hate speech, according to a report by POLITICOs Mark Scott, who conducted a review of months of social media activity
Refresher: Internal Facebook documents, made public by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen earlier this year, showed the companys own researchers had repeatedly raised concerns that hate speech targeting war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan was avoiding detection by the platforms moderators.
A message from Save Our Standards:
Eva Berneke was appointed CEO of telecom company Eutelsat. She was previously CEO of IT company KMD.
International scamming: The New York Times conducted an investigation into an enormous online scam involving Harvard and several prominent media personalities in India.
Not just Meta: How TikTok inundates teens with videos to encourage eating disorders, via The Wall Street Journal.
ICYMI: We recommend this fabulous POLITICO piece by Nancy Scola about how Republican Colorado Rep. Ken Buck tries to avoid using products from Google, Amazon, Twitter and Apple.
Revolving door hits Kanter: Advocacy groups say Googles attack on DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter is far-fetched, according to Motherboard.
ICYMI: Critics say businesses regularly exploit H-1B visa holders, paying them below market wages, POLITICOs Rikha Sharma Rani writes.
A message from Save Our Standards:
Support US Jobs. Stop SEP Abuse.
A new draft policy statement on standard-essential patents (SEPs) committed for licensing on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms was released jointly by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Justice. The draft statement provides guidance on appropriate remedies in cases involving the use of these patents, and presents an approach to SEPs that strives to balance the interests of patent holders with the broad range of U.S. industries that use standards to protect the future of innovation.
Save Our Standards is a broad-based coalition working to end abusive practices in SEP licensing. We welcome the draft statement and support the Biden Administration for their leadership protecting U.S. competitiveness in charting out this balanced approach. Comments are being accepted through February 4. Support the Biden Administration to stop SEP abuse.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([emailprotected]), Heidi Vogt ([emailprotected]), Emily Birnbaum ([emailprotected]), John Hendel ([emailprotected]), Rebecca Kern ([emailprotected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([emailprotected]) and Leah Nylen ([emailprotected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [emailprotected]. And don't forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
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