March 16, 2022
Photo: John Nacion/Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, I’m taking you back to the first great tech policy battle — and explaining that the anger over PIPA and SOPA determined a lot about how, and who, Google is fighting today. Plus, Ukraine comes to the antitrust debate, and Zuckerberg’s not getting deposed right now, but Amazon is due in court.
Ten years ago, the fight against PIPA and SOPA culminated with millions of everyday Americans blitzing Congress in opposition to the two copyright bills, which they believed would “break the internet.” When the bills went down, it seemed like the political awakening of a genuine pro-web grassroots. Instead, it gave Google the foundation of a new Washington playbook.
Google was probably the least experienced major tech player in the Washington game when lawmakers introduced PIPA in 2011 as part of an effort to combat piracy of movies and music.
At first, Google didn’t mobilize public outrage. Instead, it hired up and tried to fix its problems with a lot of expensive, pedigreed K Street types.
The lobbying, though, produced little. By the end of 2011, senators had added little more to the bill than a study of how much the would-be law might cost websites, and Senate leadership had signaled it was ready for passage.
But Google learned that a successful lobbying operation is more than just having advocates who wear the finest suits.
Today, Google has made plenty of room for the other messengers that saved the day in the PIPA fight, even as the company has somewhat backed off its most ostentatious lobbying budgets.
But Google also seems to have learned some of the wrong lessons from its PIPA victory.
The real irony, of course, is that the Google that grew out of its near-death lobbying experience with PIPA was one that the grassroots would have a harder and harder time rallying around. But the company seems to have discovered plenty of other friends who would do in a pinch.here.
Broadcasters now have to disclose on the air when foreign governments or their representatives are paying for the time for the programming. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine recently increased scrutiny of Moscow’s state broadcasters on TV and online, the FCC actually adopted the rules last April.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of six House lawmakers wants to know how Meta is dealing with ads from Chinese state outlets.
Tech allies are not being shy about using the situation in Ukraine to argue against proposed antitrust legislation. It’s a variant of something Issie has covered: how to balance competition with the effort to clamp down on small services where misinformation and hate speech thrive. But, as The Washington Post notes, this version seems to ignore some of the actual bill text.
In a virtual speech to Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged American companies to leave the Russian market “immediately, because it is flooded with our blood.”
The White House is backing a House bill that would ban mandatory arbitration clauses that many firms, including tech companies, use in agreements with consumers and workers. The contract terms can touch on employment, consumer protection, antitrust and more. The House is readying a vote on the measure.
Conservative-leaning tech groups are planning a “Day of Action” in early April to push back on antitrust proposals in Congress. Led by NetChoice, the self-described “most aggressive trade association” in tech, the plans include lawmaker meetings and “educational engagements online” on bills such as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.California Sen. Alex Padilla and Google AI ethicist-turned-whistleblower Timnit Gebru will speak with POLITICO later today about “the intersection of race, identity, power, and politics” as part of the new Recast Power List.
In a few years, we may be largely living “on the edge.” As the amount of data grows exponentially, there is a greater need for edge computing solutions to aid in real-time decision-making.
Amazon has to face an antitrust class-action lawsuit, a federal judge in Seattle has ruled. Crucially, the court found plausible the plaintiffs’ allegations that Amazon’s policy of forcing third-party sellers not to offer lower prices on other sites raised what consumers paid. That contention is key to other lawsuits like the one led by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, itself viewed as a possible trial balloon for a potential FTC case.
The world is already splintering in its approach to crypto regulation, with a tortoise-like EU, a U.K. cracking down on stablecoins and a U.S. that’s still trying to figure out who would even be in charge of this stuff.
The recent passage of the infrastructure law could help take us from having a bunch of semi-proprietary, frenemy EV charging networks to something like the network that would allow all electric vehicles to charge wherever they need.
We’ve got an excerpt from “The United States of Anonymous,” the new book from Section 230 guru Jeff Kosseff. It starts with the fact that policy can be whatever the biggest players like Meta do — not just something courts and legislatures hand down. David and Issie sat down for a talk with Jeff too.Meta’s rolling out some of the promised new parental controls on Instagram, including letting parents set time limits, get notified when their children report another account and get regular updates on who their kids are following.
“It was difficult to maintain our business like that,” Axel Medina of El Salvador’s “Bitcoin Beach” said about the country’s experiment with cryptocurrencies in this deep dive from Rest of World.
As a form of distributed computing, edge computing enables processing to happen where data is being generated. The convergence of 5G networks with edge computing means data is not only traveling faster, but can be quickly translated via media, inferencing and analytics into insights and action, enabling new, ultra-low latency applications to come to life.
Thanks for reading — see you Friday!