April 4, 2022
Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today we turn toward Washington state, which recently passed three pieces of legislation that could shape the national tech landscape, particularly when it comes to competition for talent. Then, in D.C., House Democrats are calling for antitrust investigations into Big Tech coming for automotive screens. Finally, Elon Musk’s stake in Twitter could mean the platform executes his vision for adhering to free speech.
Washington is making great strides in advancing the rights of corporate tech workers. No, not that Washington. I’m talking about the salmon-loving, Nirvana-producing Washington state, which recently passed three significant pieces of legislation that will enhance the lives of tech workers — even those living outside of it.
The pay transparency bill will have the most far-reaching impact, as it could increase nationwide competition for tech talent. Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into lawSenate Bill 5761, which goes into effect on Jan. 1 next year. The legislation requires any company with 15 or more employees to disclose salary ranges for open roles alongside a “general description” of benefits and other forms of compensation. It’s a big win for workers, as limited pay transparency has been shown to suppress wages, particularly for women and people of color.
Toward the end of March, Inslee signed into law two additional pieces of legislation that won’t affect the tech industry as much, but will still provide important protections for tech workers:
You’ll notice that I specified “corporate tech workers” from the start of this article, and there’s a reason for that: Despite last week’s historic unionization victory at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse, low-wage tech workers aren’t making the same kind of progress as those with unlimited PTO and cold brew on-tap. It’s not a zero-sum game, but it’s worth noting the widening gap between high-wage and low-wage workers. Washington state is no exception in this regard. And just last week, Inslee signed a bill that prevents gig workers from being classified as employees.— Hirsh Chitkara (email | twitter)
Tim Wu, a White House official focused on competition,tweeted a shoutout to today’s efforts by reform advocates who are pushing Congress to act on two tech antitrust bills. Consumer groups, digital rights advocates and small and medium-sized rivals to Big Tech have launched their “Antitrust Day” at the same time as a push in opposition to the bills by conservative groups and tech allies.
As part of the day, Chamber of Progress also said it sent petitions to Congress signed by nearly 80,000 people opposed to competition bills aimed at Big Tech. Even as tech deals with a series of reports showing the influence of AstroTurf campaigns in policy, the Big Tech allies at the Chamber say the signatures show a genuine desire by voters for Congress not to “break the tech services they rely on.”
Ian Madrigal, the activist known for photobombing congressional hearings as the Monopoly Man, used April Fools’ Day to tweet that they “toast[ed] Big Tech for courageously lobbying to protect the status quo and stalling #antitrust reform in Congress.” Piggybacking on the dueling antitrust lobbying, Madrigal touted a “day of inaction” and teased upcoming events to save monopolies.
The head of the DOJ’s antitrust division said his staff needs to be ready to file many more lawsuits, and floated cases under a lesser-used provision banning interlocking boards between companies and criminal complaints under monopolization laws. Speaking to a conference of international enforcers, Jonathan Kanter said the DOJ is “more committed than ever to litigating when we believe a violation has taken place.”
The State Department is standing up its new cyber bureau, which is due to have nearly 100 staffers by year’s end, according to the Washington Post.Nearly a dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, urged U.S. antitrust enforcers to scrutinize tech giants’ ambitions in the auto market, citing efforts by Google to provide platforms for digital displays in cars, Apple’s ambitions in autonomous vehicles and Amazon’s hopes to get Alexa into vehicles.
DuckDuckGo has an all-in-one privacy solution aimed at simplifying online privacy protection. DuckDuckGo’s app can be used as an everyday browser with private search, tracker blocking, encryption, and now email protection built-in. It’s the free, easy button for online privacy.
What comes after the surprise victory of workers voting to form a union at an Amazon facility in Staten Island? Amazon may be going after the NLRB itself.
Still trying to make sense of all the crypto regulations? Today’s fintech newsletter wraps up the landscape in the EU and U.S. Fraction Chief Legal Officer Cathy Yoon noted, “I think it’s more like trying to control something that’s not understood and feared for an irrational reason.”Coming soon: Net zero. Carbon offsets. Scope 3 emissions. These are just some of the terms you’ll find in Big Tech’s climate plans. Understanding what they actually mean is vital to ensuring the industry is meeting its goals. Join us at 10 a.m. PT on April 19, when Protocol's Brian Kahn will talk with some of the people responsible for setting those goals and experts who are monitoring them to find out what tech companies are really doing. RSVP here.
The EU antitrust division questioned Microsoft over its cloud business practices,according to Reuters. The questions could set the stage for a more formal investigation. Two European software companies — Nextcloud and OVHcloud — filed complaints against Microsoft. Germany-based Nextcloud, for instance, publicly complained that Microsoft’s integration of 365 made it “nearly impossible to compete with their SaaS services.”
Indian antitrust authorities have released preliminary findings that the payments system behind Google’s app store is “unfair and discriminatory.” App developers who have successfully taken the fight with Apple and Google over app store fees worldwide have brought particular attention to India.
Trump’s Truth Social app has lost its CTO and chief of Product Development, Reuters reports. The company’s chief legal officer exited too, according to POLITICO.
9.2%: That’s the size of Elon Musk’s stake in Twitter, as disclosed in an SEC filing. That stake was worth around $2.9 billion, though Twitter’s stock jumped around 26% in pre-market trading. Musk has criticized Twitter for not adhering to free-speech principles. My first thought: Does this mean Trump will be back?
Tracking is a comprehensive problem — over 80% of websites, apps and emails contain third-party trackers. Because of that, people need a multi-pronged privacy solution. DuckDuckGo’s all-in-one privacy app can be used as an everyday browser with multiple features built-in, including private search, tracker blocking, encryption, and email protection.
In an annual letter to shareholders, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon warned that increased Russian sanctions “along with the unpredictability of war itself and the uncertainty surrounding global commodity supply chains … makes for a potentially explosive situation.” However, Dimon also noted the strength of the U.S. economy with the average consumer in “excellent financial shape.” He added: “Today’s economic landscape is completely different from the 2008 financial crisis when the consumer was extraordinarily overleveraged.”
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!