January 24, 2022
Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Hello and welcome to the inaugural Protocol Policy newsletter! We're glad to have you with us. The team — Issie Lapowsky, Ben Brody, Hirsh Chitkara and yours truly — will be in your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to explain what's going on with regulation, legislation, lawsuits and more on the Hill, in the states, in the courts and around the world. We'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, too. You can reach us by replying to any edition of our newsletter, or by sending a message to email@example.com.
In today's edition: Antitrust legislation keeps stalling out, the FTC is facing a challenge to its entire structure in the Supreme Court, and states are busy introducing their own bills.
— Kate Cox, editor (email | twitter)
Big Tech and its lobbyists have developed a simple message to combat the first major push toward real antitrust legislation: If you break us up, Americans will lose the services they’ve come to take for granted.
But not everyone buys it. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who drafted the bill alongside Sen. Chuck Grassley, accused Big Tech of spreading “misinformation and outright lies” to “keep their positions as monopoly gatekeepers.”
After all the arguing, the bill was approved. After a 16-6 committee vote, it heads to the Senate floor. But the bill will undoubtedly keep being watered down as it advances.
There are two ways to read this likely outcome, which I’ll call the battle and the war:
— Hirsh Chitkara (email | twitter)
Illinois legislators introduced an app store bill, the Freedom to Subscribe Directly Act, directly aimed at Apple and Google. The bill would prevent either mobile giant from requiring app developers to use “a particular in-app payment system.” Similar bills have been introduced in several other states, and Apple is also facing legal pressure over in-app payments.
Former Apple employee Cher Scarlett and former Googler Chelsey Glasson testified in support of a Washington state bill similar to California's Silenced No More Act. The Washington bill would prohibit employers from using NDAs to force workers to stay silent about illegal activity.
Also in Washington state, lawmakers introduced a bill limiting Amazon's warehouse productivity quotas by requiring employers to put quotas in writing and giving employees new rights to fight back against exploitative quotas.
Emerging technologies and changing needs of consumers and commercial organizations are creating significant challenges and opportunities for all enterprises. These challenges and opportunities will require companies to act quickly, creatively and with an appetite and a push for rapid adoption of new technologies.
Changes to antitrust action, privacy laws and more will influence the tech industry and affect some of the world’s most powerful companies. Our expert panel will discuss what lawmakers hope to achieve, how tech companies are already responding to possible regulation and what the whole situation might look like a few years from now.
Sign up here to join our free, online event including speakers Justin Brookman, Julie Brill, Samir Jain and Linda Moore, moderated by Protocol Senior Reporter Ben Brody, on Jan. 26 at 10:30 a.m. PT/1:30 p.m. ET.
In Axon v. FTC, a maker of police body cameras that sought to acquire a rival is challenging the entire structure of the federal agency that acts as a de facto U.S. tech regulator on privacy and competition matters. The Supreme Court announced Monday it would review the case. The heart of the matter is the FTC's enforcement process, which goes not through the federal court system but to the FTC office of administrative law judges.
Washington, D.C., attorney general Karl Racine on Monday announced a lawsuit against Google over "bold misrepresentations" about the way it tracks Android users' locations. Attorneys general for Texas, Indiana and Washington are also filing similar suits against Google in their own state courts.
Amazon and Meta, two of the giants of modern federal lobbying, spent just shy of $39.4 million trying to bend federal laws and regulations in 2021, according to our analysis of newest filings with Congress. (And that doesn't even include some Amazon subsidiaries like AWS.) The two companies both set in-house records for quarterly spending in the last three months of the year, with Meta alone putting down more than $5.4 million. Given the general feeling about Meta — in Washington and elsewhere — that number's likely to keep going up. Way up.
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday.