May 27, 2022
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Another day, another version of antitrust legislation. But as the Senate sprints up on its do-or-die moment on tech competition, even small changes can affect the fate of a bill, and the industry. Plus, the latest airing of grievances between Meta and Apple and why a top blockchain advocate wants people to cut the trash talk on Twitter.
Tech antitrust crusaders in the Senate are racing against the clock — and some Democratic jitters — to finalize their proposals. A new version of the antitrust package dropped earlier this week, prompting a lot of bickering and unsupported claims. Senate leadership reportedly plans to actually bring the tech nondiscrimination bill up for a vote within weeks. Here’s what’s in the newest iteration.
First, fintech is really out.
Next, the amendment makes it a bit easier for a tech giant to defend its privacy measures against accusations they’re anticompetitive — after the companies hammered lawmakers on the issue and implied the original text made cyber thieves giddy.
Most provisions haven’t really changed, despite some initial claims.
The companies aren’t going for it, of course.
And even some Democrats aren’t on board.
Still, frustration with tech does seem to trump even interparty rivalry on some issues, and the bill’s GOP supporters may be able to make up for a deficit of Democrats facing tough races. Plus, the measure would have to pass in the House too. The question then becomes whether the bill’s backers need to make any more changes to finish it.— Ben Brody (email | twitter)
Twitter will pay $150 million to settle claims it secretly used phone numbers and email addresses it collected in the name of account security for targeting ads to users. The actions allegedly violated a 2011 order from the FTC that directed the company not to misrepresent its privacy or security practices. Twitter probably thinks it worked out: The company originally floated that it might owe up to $250 million, and it got away without any executives being named.
Sen. Mark Warner brought back his bipartisan bill requiring portability of social media data and interoperability between services, now with an expanded roster of supporters. Many experts hope that portability and interoperability could bring much-needed competition to companies like Meta, but even regulation-happy Europeans have found it hard to pull off while leaving the ad-supported business model in place.
The CFPB is demanding banks and lenders explain their algorithmic decisions, especially when denying credit. Would-be borrowers have a right to “specific reasons” for such a denial, and the CFPB warned financial institutions that making those decisions through complex AI doesn’t get them around their obligations.Newly installed FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya has brought on Aaron Rieke as his chief of staff. Rieke is a longtime critic of platforms, and recently served as managing director of the civil rights group Upturn. Bedoya also brought on Max Miller, a former Iowa attorney general staffer who played a key role in one of the multistate antitrust lawsuits against Google.
An Amazon-inspired bill to expand antitrust law in New York passed the state’s Senate again, although a supporter in the assembly said it doesn’t appear ready to get a thumbs-up from the lower chamber this year.
There are three things that companies need to know when it comes to setting climate goals. The first thing I would say is that if you're going to set a climate goal as a business, it needs to be a businesswide effort. It cannot live within just the corporate responsibility or the sustainability team as it often does.
Another Twitter shareholder is suing Elon Musk for allegedly manipulating the company’s share price. This suit claims that Musk’s tweets about bots on Twitter are "designed to create doubt" and drive Twitter’s stock price down.
Meta told the NTIA that Apple’s gaming and app tracking restrictions are “self-serving tactics” that inhibit Meta’s ability to innovate and reach users. The filing came as part of the NTIA’s competition research, which itself is a response to a Biden administration executive order.
The founder of the blockchain-focused Chamber of Digital Commerce wants crypto advocates to keep criticism of the SEC professional, and she’s put a Bible quote in her Twitter bio to prove it.
Strong majorities of all voters say social media is at least “somewhat responsible for the spread of extremist ideologies such as white supremacy and antisemitism,” according to a Morning Consult poll. That was most of any choice, including the news media and various political figures and parties. The survey was conducted in the wake of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this month. The person charged in the spree appears to have adopted some of his views on 4chan.
Once a company understands its sustainability baseline, it is important to identify areas that the company can feasibly make more sustainable, and then address those areas. Implementing technology that improves connectivity and provides greater insight into operations will prove to be the solution for many companies.
Opponents of Klobuchar’s tech-antitrust push apparently bought a TV spot urging voters to stop Senate bill 2922. The antitrust measure, though, is actually bill 2992. (Bill 2922, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, proposes to investigate the U.S. war in Afghanistan.)
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!