October 24, 2022
Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today I’m bracing myself to find the really brilliant arguments in the pile of garbage that the Supreme Court’s Section 230 case(s) will create. Plus, “swatting” hoaxes aimed at schools have a surprising origin, Starlink gets to Iran, and the U.K. has a new PM.
Former President Donald Trump has made himself heard. So have 16 Republican-led states. Outside briefs are trickling into the Supreme Court as the justices consider taking up a case that could give them an opportunity to remake both the First Amendment and Section 230 by allowing states to stop social media content moderation. So far, the amicus filings are supporting such a ruling, but many more perspectives will almost certainly pour in soon — because they really could affect the outcome.
Multiple amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs recently landed as Florida tries to get the justices to let it force companies like Meta and Twitter to carry all content.
A lot more of these amicus briefs are on the way.
Amicus briefs are on an absolute tear in recent years, as everyone tries to have their say in the nation’s highest court.
In other words, if you care about Section 230 in any way, your foes are probably filing soon — and the justices just might be interested in your two cents.
That being said, most amicus briefs are trash, and justices seem not to read all of each one.
Much of that may be good news for tech: Section 230 certainly has its share of weird implications for a whole bunch of unexpected industries, and the Biden Justice Department has previously defended the constitutionality of Section 230 even if Republican states want a new status quo. Big Tech has also practically bought up multiple Big Law firms. Still, anyone who wants to have a say should be having their high-priced lawyers writing now, and they should know the justices could always cite them just to disagree.— Ben Brody (email | twitter)
Chinese intelligence officers tried to bribe a U.S. law enforcement official to undermine a prosecution of a Chinese telecom giant, the Justice Department and FBI said Monday. The indictment, which several media outlets report is related to Huawei, is one of three cases relating to Chinese activity unsealed Monday. In another, FBI Director Christopher Wray said individuals from China created a “fake think tank” to help “cheat” their way into dominance in certain tech sectors.
Valuations have become less hype-driven and more realistic; the amount of time spent on due diligence has increased substantially; and every founder needs to directly, clearly, and concisely answer the question, “Does this project have any real-world utility, and does it create economic value?”
Ad tech firms are using troves of data to score voters on a range of issues, according to The New York Times. The scoring — on topics such as “racial resentment” and “trans athletes should not participate” — is being used in midterm elections to target campaign messaging to voters.
Renters are suing a Texas-based rental pricing software company over allegations of price fixing. The proposed class-action lawsuit came just a few days after ProPublica published an exposé documenting RealPage’s pricing practices.
Join Protocol Enterprise for “AI and chips: What the future holds for the U.S. and China” on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m. PDT/1:30 p.m. EDT. Protocol senior reporter Kate Kaye will moderate two panels on cross-border AI tech and the AI “Values Competition.”
President Xi Jinping is consolidating power in China, as the Politburo Standing Committee is now filled with loyalists. Stocks of major Chinese tech companies including Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent sank more than 15% Monday morning.
Iranian activists have confirmed the arrival of smuggled Starlink receivers. Those receivers will in theory allow some Iranians to bypass internet shutdowns imposed by the government.
China’s top memory chip maker asked all employees with U.S. citizenship to leave the firm. The company, Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., has been reeling from the impacts of U.S. export controls that require U.S. citizens to gain approval from the Department of Commerce before providing services to chip fabrication facilities.
The U.K. has a new prime minister. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will become the third person to occupy the office in 2022, following Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.The Wire retracted its stories about BJP members having backdoor access to Meta platforms. The Indian digital news outlet conceded to having discrepancies in its reporting and is in the process of subjecting itself to an outside investigation.
Calls in a massive wave of U.S. school “swatting” hoaxes may be originating in Ethiopia, Wired reports. At least six phone numbers identified as placing the calls have been connected to TextNow, a service that allows users to place calls using U.S. phone numbers. The company has suspended all service in Ethiopia for the time being, although the callers may be masking their locations and working from somewhere else.
16.4%: That’s how much domestic chip output in China fell in the first nine months of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, according to recently released data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Chip imports likewise contracted by 12.4% in that period compared to a year prior.
The state of public education in the U.S. will become a tech problem sooner or later: Recent data from the Education Department showed dramatic postpandemic learning losses, with only 26% of eighth graders proficient in math and 31% proficient in reading. No U.S. state reported a gain in math. In 2019, the last year the test was administered prior to the pandemic, 34% of eighth graders were proficient in math.
The VC correction is proving once again that valuations are not an indicator of success. While money continues to flow, the crypto winter and VC slowdown have forced even the most committed Web3 venture capitalists (and their investors) to proceed with more caution.
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!