EARN IT Act vs. Section 230

With help from John Hendel

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— Talk 230 to me: The Senate Judiciary Committee will this week mark up the EARN IT Act, a bill seeking to roll back tech platforms’ Section 230 protections, at a time when the 1996 statute is under fire from the Trump administration and bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

— News from broadband land: House Democrats’ newly unveiled infrastructure package includes $100 billion for broadband buildout — a proposal likely to see a House floor vote before Congress breaks for the July 4 recess.

— Internet harassment grows during coronavirus: The Anti-Defamation League says the pandemic has exacerbated online abuse — particularly for Asian, Jewish, Muslim and immigrant communities — while platforms have relied more on AI for content moderation.

IT’S TUESDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.

Got a news tip? Write Alex at [email protected], or follow along @Ali_Lev and @alexandra.levine. An event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Full team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

COMING UP: EARN IT ACT WILL HAVE ITS DAY — The EARN IT Act of 2020, S. 3398 (116), is on the agenda for Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee markup. The bipartisan proposal was introduced in March by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). It would roll back the tech industry’s prized liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for companies that cannot prove they’re doing enough to stop the proliferation of child abuse on their platforms. The markup comes less than a month after President Donald Trump signed an executive order seeking to severely restrict those liability protections, and less than a week since the Justice Department proposed a major overhaul. (They may not actually vote on the bill Thursday.)

— And for your radar before then: On Wednesday, NetChoice will host a virtual discussion with Section 230 authors, Sen. Ron Wyden and former Rep. Chris Cox, on the EARN IT Act and other legislative attempts to undermine the statute. Wyden and the trade association, whose members include Facebook, Google and Twitter, have been outspoken opponents of the measure. NetChoice’s vice president and general counsel, Carl Szabo, has argued that the bill, which would weaken encryption, would put children even more at risk. Register for Wednesday’s conversation here.

ICYMI: TECH INDUSTRY CRITICIZES TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION CHANGES — “President Donald Trump is temporarily halting and proposing major changes to an immigration program that tech companies use to employ foreign-born workers with in-demand tech skills, a policy declaration that was roundly criticized Monday by the industry’s advocates in Washington,” Steven reports for Pros. Proposed changes for when the program is reactivated could have a big long-term impact: “Companies currently have to vie in a lottery system for 85,000 available visas. The executive order proposes replacing that with a system that grants visas to immigrants who are promised the highest salaries — a metric that could benefit well-paid engineers, data scientists and others with technical chops.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS READY BILLIONS FOR BROADBAND (AGAIN) — The House Democratic caucus on Monday unveiled the text of H.R. 2, a sweeping infrastructure package that includes $100 billion for broadband infrastructure buildout. Expect a House floor vote before the July 4 recess…but check expectations beyond that.

— Democrats included many long-standing priorities, some of which they’ve floated in previous packages, such as money for digital equity programs, next-generation 911 upgrades and creation of a Commerce Department broadband office. They also include provisions that would prevent the FCC from placing a cap on its universal subsidy fund, something Republicans have previously floated. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) also secured language aimed at speeding up broadband buildout through policy known as “dig once” (the goal: minimizing how many times infrastructure builders need to dig into conduit).

— Although price tag-wary Senate Republicans are unlikely to take up the measure, the legislation does include some points of shared bipartisan interest that could land in eventual legislation (at least in some form). House Democrats included $24 million to implement broadband mapping legislation, for instance, which aligns with recently outlined Senate and House GOP priorities. Both parties say they want to help students stuck at home, too, and keep households struggling with the coronavirus digitally connected. The House proposal provides another negotiating front as lawmakers seek to iron out details of an eventual deal that could receive President Trump’s signature.

MEANWHILE ON BROADBAND The Chamber of Commerce is today releasing nine policy principles, such as technology neutrality, that it hopes will guide any broadband spending, including to address the so-called digital homework gap. In an accompanying blog post, the Chamber’s Jordan Crenshaw calls for disbursement of funding for students outside of the FCC’s existing E-Rate subsidy program (a point sure to displease Democrats, who say the existing program is the best method).

THE STATE OF ONLINE HATE — The Anti-Defamation League’s annual online hate and harassment survey, out this morning, found that these problems (ranging from namecalling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking) have grown even more acute during the pandemic. More than a quarter of Americans, 28 percent, endured severe online hate and harassment this year, according to the report.

While the study concedes that online hate was pervasive even before the pandemic hit, it suggests that social media platforms’ heavier-than-usual reliance on AI for content moderation during the crisis has, to an extent, made matters worse. “The Asian, Jewish, Muslim, and immigrant communities in particular are experiencing an onslaught of targeted hate, fueled by antisemitic conspiracy theories, anti- Asian bigotry, and Islamophobia” surrounding Covid-19, according to the report. Some highlights from nearly 2,000 respondents:

— Most widespread was harassment over political views.

— Harassment was highest on Facebook (77 percent). Harassment across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram increased between 2019 and 2020.

— 35 percent experienced online harassment tied to their identity-based characteristics, an increase from last year. (“LGBTQ+ individuals, Muslims, Hispanics or Latinos, and African-Americans faced especially high rates of identity-based discrimination.”)

— Religion-based harassment doubled. Twenty-two percent experienced harassment because of their religion, while those experiencing race-based harassment jumped from 15 to 25 percent.

— A majority of Americans, across the political spectrum, want to see the government and private tech firms step up their work addressing hate and harassment online. More here on the league’s recommendations for action.

Dave Spirk started Monday as the new chief data officer for the Department of Defense. … Joan O’Hara was on Monday named senior director of public policy for the XR Association, a trade group representing headset and technology manufacturers including Facebook and Google. … Ryan Naples, former senior public policy director at Lyft, started Monday as a policy director at the trade group Tech:NYC. … Audra Hale-Maddox will become chief of staff of the FCC’s Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force; Nathan Eagan, who has been the task force’s chief of the staff since 2018, has moved to the office of general counsel. … CTIA alum Kelly Miller, former vice president at Banner Public Affairs, is joining the telecom, media and technology team at FTI Consulting as a senior director.

Verizon vs. Schlapp: Having committed its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Verizon is cutting ties with right-wing provocateur Matt Schlapp, who has smeared the movement and insulted protesters, per Popular Information.

Covid-19 collateral: “Google’s U.S. advertising revenue will decline this year for the first time since eMarketer began modeling it in 2008,” WSJ reports, “largely because Google’s core search product is so reliant on the pandemic-battered travel industry.”

Tax talk: “The U.S. Supreme Court refused to question a ruling that technology companies including Facebook Inc. and Google say will cost them billions of dollars in taxes by limiting deductions for stock payments to employees,” Bloomberg reports.

‘Data Dividend Project’: Former 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang is throwing his weight behind the California Consumer Privacy Act (which will be enforced beginning July 1) with a new initiative focused on helping Americans fight for their data ownership rights. More on Medium.

ICYMI: “Mixer, the video game streaming site acquired by Microsoft in 2016 to expand its digital footprint, will be shutting down, transitioning its community of streamers to Facebook Gaming, a rival platform, instead,” WaPo reports.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), Nancy Scola ([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).

TTYL.




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