The Big Tech SCOTUS news you probably missed
Hello and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, we’re talking about a potential SCOTUS case you weren’t watching. Republican lawmakers seem to be in no rush to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the competitiveness bills. And Airbnb puts its foot down on throwing ragers.
With the country still reeling from the Supreme Court’s back-to-back decisions on guns and abortion and anticipating one on climate regulation, you could be forgiven for missing another important bit of SCOTUS news that could wind up being a do-or-die moment for the tech industry.
Last week, NetChoice and CCIA said they’d reached an agreement with the state of Florida over its blocked social media law. Rather than continuing their fight in district court, the parties plan to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case. If the Supreme Court bites, it’s a case that could wind up determining the fate of not just the Florida law but of any other state law that seeks to mandate what online platforms can and can’t publish.
- “There are so many provisions between the Texas and Florida laws that are unconstitutional, and states are picking and choosing. Sometimes they’re doing a straight copy-paste,” said Chris Marchese, counsel for NetChoice. “The sooner the Supreme Court lays out some guardrails on that, the better it’ll be for everyone.”
It’s been a busy few weeks, so a quick refresher on the Florida law: SB 7072 seeks to prohibit tech companies from “censoring” or deplatforming political figures.
- The law was immediately blocked after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it, and last month, the 11th Circuit court of appeals upheld core parts of the injunction, finding that social media companies "are 'private actors' whose rights the First Amendment protects."
- The opinion came on the heels of another appeals court decision regarding Texas’ similar social media law. In that case, the court lifted the injunction, allowing the Texas law to go into effect, without issuing an opinion.
- After an emergency application from NetChoice and CCIA, the Supreme Court ruled on its shadow docket to reinstitute the Texas injunction while the appeals case continues.
Now that we’re caught up, there’s good reason to believe the Supreme Court would take up the Florida case.
- In his dissent in the Texas shadow docket ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the Texas law “concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit this Court’s review.” Alito was joined in that dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
- Justice Thomas has also been itching for a fight over tech platforms’ ability to moderate content. He’s called for curbing Section 230 protections and regulating tech companies as common carriers.
But despite the views of the court’s most conservative members, NetChoice and CCIA seem to like their odds.
- While he says he was “taken aback” by the fact that three justices dissented in the Texas shadow docket decision, Marchese said he’s confident that once NetChoice is able to actually present arguments, “the numbers will change.”
- “Because we believe the precedents are so clear, there doesn’t seem to be any benefit in waiting,” he said.
The cert petition is due by late summer, and it’s unclear when the Supreme Court will decide whether to take it up.
Of course, it would seem an awfully odd time to rely on this Supreme Court to uphold precedent. But Marchese believes the Florida case is so deeply rooted in core principles of the First Amendment that if the Supreme Court were to overturn those principles, it could “wreak havoc” on the country.
Huh, imagine that.— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)
Republican lawmakers are unmoved by calls to reconcile the House and Senate competition bills before the end of the week, POLITICO reports. “Republicans are in no rush to meet an artificial deadline set by Democrats,” an unnamed GOP aide said. Leadership wants to wrap things up before midterms and either remove disputed clauses or resolve them quickly.
The White House touted $700 million in EV infrastructure commitments from the likes of Volkswagen and Siemens. The funding will help build out the nation’s EV charging network, which is already getting a boost from $7.5 billion in EV charging subsidies made available to states through the infrastructure law.
The FTC filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging the company "turned a blind eye" to fraud worth hundreds of millions on its money transfers. The agency also said the retail giant did not properly train employees or put procedures in place to prevent the fraud.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a six-figure attack ad campaign against CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. The Chamber said it was focusing on what it calls Chopra’s hopes “to radically reshape the American financial services sector,” and it hinted — by sending letters to the CFPB through its litigation center — that it was ready to sue. The Chamber has also made a target of Lina Khan, whom Chopra mentored.FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called on Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores over reports that user data was accessed in China. The FCC doesn’t have authority over app stores — but Carr, a Republican, has a habit of weighing in on tech policy issues from a conservative angle, especially when they intersect with China, even when they’re outside his agency’s domain.
SPONSORED CONTENT FROM TRUSTED FUTURE
How to build an equitable and inclusive future: At the same time that the pandemic demonstrated all that is possible in an interconnected world, we saw in new and increasingly stark ways how certain communities continue to be marginalized and harmed by a persistent digital divide and how effectively that divide exacerbates our society’s other inequities.
Sure, subsidies would be great — but to thrive, chipmakers also need skilled workers. Chipmakers like Samsung and TSMC are expected to create as many as 27,000 new U.S. positions over the next decade. One of their biggest challenges, however, will be luring students away from software giants that have traditionally appealed to in-demand STEM majors.
Methane is on the rise, and that puts our climate goals in danger. New data suggests the U.S. could be falling behind its pledge to the United Nations to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Oh, and any day now the Supreme Court might also nix the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses.
The digital ad industry might limit sensitive data collection in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But there are signs of the change-resistant sector embracing new protections: Last week, the Network Advertising Initiative introduced voluntary guidelines to limit sensitive data around fertility or abortion clinics, mental health treatment facilities, correctional facilities and addiction treatment centers.
Protocol asked author Ben Tarnoff about why closing the digital divide isn’t enough. Tarnoff described the merits of Biden’s Internet for All initiative and the potential pitfalls of a Web3 tokenized internet.
Around the world
Some investment funds want Microsoft to show it’s paying its fair share of taxes around the world. Pensions & Investment Research Consultants, which organized the investor call to action, called for Microsoft to produce a country-by-country tax report. Amazon faced a similar investor request in May that failed to pass.
The USB-C world tour continues with Brazil joining the fray. Brazil’s telecoms regulator kicked off a public comment period to decide whether it would follow the EU’s decision to set USB-C as the universal standard for mobile ports.
In the media, culture and metaverse
Meta said it mistakenly blocked posts related to abortion pills. The mix-up occurred for posts that said "abortion pills can be mailed," which is allowed under FDA rules. A Meta spokesperson tweeted a response to the story, clarifying that “content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed.”
Amazon capped emergency contraceptive purchases at three units per customer. Other major retailers including CVS, Target, Walmart and Rite-Aid have put similar caps in place to adjust to the surge in demand (and the potential for price gouging) in the wake of SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade.
In the c-suite
Eric Schmidt said Google engaged in "pure, naive techno-optimism” under his leadership. "We learned the lesson that you cannot go and impose your American values on countries, even if you don't like it," Schmidt said at an Aspen Ideas Festival panel yesterday. He went on to call for the government to come up with a plan for tackling false information.
23%: That’s how much global venture capital deal activity plummeted between Q1 and Q2 (through June 23) of this year, according to CB Insights data cited by Bloomberg. One big reason for the decline? In Q1, fintech companies received 1 of every 5 venture dollars. That sector has been particularly hard hit, with crypto and “buy now, pay later” companies making headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months.
SPONSORED CONTENT FROM TRUSTED FUTURE
How to build an equitable and inclusive future: There is so much more we need to do to make sure our future is more equitable and inclusive and maximizes America’s potential. It is not enough just to ensure everyone is connected. We also need to extend the full scope of digital opportunity to the people, the communities, and the institutions.
No more parties in LA (Airbnbs)
In a decision that will surely be a hard hit to frat bros everywhere, Airbnb codified its pandemic party ban. The company said it was encouraged by a 44% year-over-year drop in party reports since its August 2020 party ban. Airbnb also clarified that “party house” properties would continue to be strictly prohibited — so congratulations to anyone who was unlucky enough to live next to one of those.
Thanks for reading — see you Friday!