H.R. 4346, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, is displayed after it was signed by US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House.
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The chips bill isn’t just for the Valley

Protocol Policy

Hello and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, I’m exploring how “geographic diversity” is the unsung achievement of the Chips bill — and the crucial development ensuring its success. Plus, the messages that Meta handed over on a Nebraska teen now facing charges, and DIY car testing.

Bring chips home

President Joe Biden has signed the Chips and Science Act, with its $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing, into law. That’s great news for companies headquartered in Silicon Valley — or even as far away as San Diego (!). But getting the law passed required provisions actually spreading at least a little more of the research funding to places and people who historically haven’t benefited from those sweet grants from Uncle Sam.

The core provisions trying to broaden where funds go have authorized them for states and localities that are, in essence, not coastal research hubs.

  • The law both plans for more research money to go to universities in places that are already listed as being traditionally deprived of that funding, and sets up a system for a larger share of the National Science Foundation budget to go to those areas.
  • The measure discusses scholarships, fellowships, “grants for early career faculty, and funding to institutions to support collaboration and expertise-building.”
  • The law also includes provisions for things like faculty professional development, student stipends and even “acquisition of research instrumentation” at those other universities to bolster programs outside the top 100 schools that usually capture the bulk of federal research funding.
  • Chips and Science also directs the Commerce Department to create 20 “innovation hubs” and requires consideration of geography, per capita income and rural-ness when setting up a program under the government’s advanced manufacturing initiatives.

This approach to geographic diversity was actually key to winning some Republican votes in the Senate, many of whom represent states that stood to benefit. (Who says earmarks are bad?)

  • Among them was Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top GOP member of the Commerce Committee. Wicker took credit for a compromise that phased in the funding from NSF over several years and created the hubs.
  • In something of a celebration of actual experts having an effect on the law, the head of the Federation of American Scientists also took some credit for the compromises, citing a proposal the group unveiled in June.
  • Either way, the deal came when lawmakers who represent universities that are used to getting tons of research funding worried that an earlier version of the bill would actually create cuts for their home institutions.

The new law also takes some steps to try to expand the people who get funding (i.e., not just white men), although those provisions don’t always appear to benefit from the same concrete funding plans as the geographic sections.

  • The measure, for instance, discusses setting up or expanding “cybersecurity programs for institutions of higher education that have a high enrollment of needy students” as well as HBCUs and tribal institutions.
  • Chips and Science also incentivizes “institutional reform efforts to expand opportunities and development for underrepresented minorities in STEM academic careers and undergraduate STEM studies” like training for administrators.
  • It also has a section on measuring and combatting sexual harassment in STEM.

Ultimately, there are still provisions that allow the government to sidestep some of these mandates on geography, and just because Congress allows funding doesn’t mean lawmakers have actually set aside the money. A provision requiring new guidance for how schools treat, say, faculty hiring may do a lot more than billions of dollars that are merely “authorized” — or both could fall short. Either way, it provides a model for the kinds of tech policies that can actually clear Congress.

— Ben Brody (email | twitter)

In Washington

The Treasury Department said Tornado Cash was used to launder more than $7 billion in cryptocurrency in the last three years, including by North Korea, and sanctioned several wallets associated with the protocol. Tornado is a cryptocurrency mixer, meaning it makes transactions more private by blending funds in a larger pool — but mixers not surprisingly face extensive accusations of being used for money laundering.

Tim Wu denied reports that he’s planning on leaving the administration. The OG antitrust hipster, who serves as a top technology policy aide in the White House, tweeted that he isn’t heading out “anytime soon” and scolded outlets for “reprinting rumors.”

FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya tweeted he wants to know more about social media companies’ algorithms and staff for stopping fraud on their services in all languages, not just in English.

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Chip shortage could undermine national security: The global shortage of semiconductors has impeded the production of everything from pickup trucks to PlayStations. But there are graver implications than a scarcity of consumer goods. If the U.S. does not ensure continued domestic access to leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing, experts say our national security could suffer.

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In the courts

Facebook handed over private messages of a Nebraska teen to the state, and now she faces charges of obtaining an illegal abortion. CNBC reported law enforcement had received a tip that the 17-year-old had taken an abortion pill before the end of her pregnancy. Documents obtained by VICE suggest that, in gaining access to the messages between the young woman and her mother, police said they were looking into the disposal of the fetus’ body and whether the teen’s claims of stillbirth, which were supported by an autopsy, were covering up “asphyxia.” Meta said in a Tuesday statement the warrant it was served, which included a non-disclosure requirement, did not mention abortion. The searches of the messages occured before the Supreme Court in June ended federal abortion rights.

A jury found a former Twitter employee who was accused of spying for Saudi Arabia guilty on six counts. The U.S. had alleged Ahmad Abouammo used his position dealing with journalists and influencers in the Arab world to gain information on Saudi dissidents.

The DOJ is reportedly ready to launch another antitrust lawsuit against Google over its position in the digital ads market, which could come as soon as September, according to Bloomberg.

On Protocol

The urgent care provider that New York City used to schedule monkeypox vaccines settled with the state in 2016 for paying for fake reviews. MedRite Urgent Care’s systems crashed on the first day of vaccine rollout — as did another scheduling system when it launched — raising questions about what lessons the city learned from COVID as well as its procurement process.

Everyone from battery startups to carbon capture–curious fossil fuel firms is psyched about the Democrats’ new climate and health care bill — except EV makers. They’re worried the price ceilings and made-in-America requirements for the revamped EV tax credit could make many buyers of their vehicles ineligible for the benefit, imperiling 2030 adoption goals.

Publicly traded companies are furious about the SEC’s plans for a cyber-incident disclosure rule, while CISA’s rulemaking on the topic for critical infrastructure providers is going much more smoothly after months of outreach to the industry.

Around the world

U.S. border officials have blocked solar panel shipments in recent weeks as the U.S. seeks to stop imports of goods made with Uyghur forced labor. Despite months to prepare with new legislation requiring evidence that forced labor wasn't used to make imports originating in the Xinjiang region, panel companies appear to have been caught flat-footed.

Facebook and Instagram will keep serving European users for now, according to POLITICO. A draft decision from Ireland’s privacy authority appeared to raise the possibility that the Meta services would shut down to comply with data-transfer restrictions, but other EU regulators have raised objections to the draft, effectively pausing the process.

In the media, culture and metaverse

The FBI’s execution of a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago inspired calls for civil war among some pro-Trump social media users.

Snap is poised to roll out new safety features for kids, including functions that allow parents to see which users their children are friends with and report suspicious accounts. There’s just one problem: Parents will need to start using Snap for this all to work.

Google is launching a campaign to pressure Apple over the less-than-stellar experience of texting between Android devices and iPhones.

With Biden racking up surprise wins like the Chips Act, the White House has embraced “Dark Brandon.” The sort-of-edgy, sort-of-cringey memelord fantasies of the president are appropriating the conservative anti-Biden slogan “Let’s Go Brandon” — which was also appropriated by frustrated leftists who view the president as a feckless centrist.

'A lot of stupid people seem to think I’m going to murder someone'

A Twitter account billing itself as “part 24 hour EV news channel / part shitty stand up comedy routine” put out a call for a child to run out in front of his Tesla. The “serious request,” which included promises to go slow and intercede if Full Self-Driving mode didn’t stop the car, was apparently designed to prove that skeptics who claimed the car wouldn’t brake reliably were “liars.” At one point in the thread, the poster, who maybe isn’t aware there are professional safety testers, claimed to have a volunteer on board who just had to clear things with their wife first.

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Chip shortage could undermine national security: To ensure American security, prosperity and technological leadership, industry leaders say the U.S. must encourage domestic manufacturing of chips in order to reduce our reliance on East Asia producers for crucial electronics components.

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Thanks for reading, see you Friday.

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