With help from Laurens Cerulus and Leah Nylen
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Morning Tech will not publish from Monday, Aug. 30, to Monday, Sept. 6. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
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— Transatlantic sit-down: A European Union official is ready to tackle a bevy of tech topics with U.S. and U.N. leaders over the coming week.
— Tell me more: A curt response from Facebook to two senior House Democrats on the topic of Covid-19 misinformation shows the social media giant may be done trying to charm its Democratic critics.
— An appealing plan: After an appeals court nixed the FTC’s antitrust case against 1-800 Contacts, the agency faces a decision on whether to get the Supreme Court involved.
IT’S OUR LAST AUGUST FRIDAY. HELLO. Is anyone there? This thing on? John Hendel here, joining your inbox today, filling in for Ben (just for today). And is it just me or is this song about Section 230 legitimately catchy?
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TODAY: EU COMMISSIONER COMES STATESIDE — EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson is in the country today to meet with her U.S. and U.N. counterparts. They plan to discuss cybersecurity issues like ransomware, exchange of passenger name records and the circulation of child sexual abuse material online — though some of those plans had to “change a bit because of Afghanistan,” she told Politico Europe’s Laurens Cerulus.
— The schedule: Johansson is set to dine with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this evening and will meet U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and chief counterterrorism official Vladimir Voronkov in New York on Monday.
— Johansson has pushed for ‘Big Tech’ to do more to stop the spread of child sexual abuse content, so it’s no surprise she welcomed Apple’s recent announcements to screen devices for previously documented depictions of abuse — although she stopped short of endorsing that approach entirely. But she said she’s happy to see that a company is “out there” trying, even if there will be further debate and policy adjustments. The EU, for its part, agreed on a set of temporary rules for how tech firms can scan for such material earlier this year, even as some European Parliament members fear even those rules violate Europe’s privacy law and die in the courts. Johansson has “another opinion,” she said — that the rules will stand.
— On ransomware: Johansson will also talk to Mayorkas about the progress of a proposed EU-U.S. working group on ransomware, which has already begun looking into how cryptocurrencies and money laundering factor into the problem. “Ransomware attacks are having more and more severe consequences for the whole society, for energy supply, health care, the ability to buy food,” she said. “We are not really prepared how to fight this.”
SPEAKING OF APPLE — Late Thursday, the iPhone maker said it had reached an agreement to resolve longrunning antitrust litigation over its App Store. The settlement, which requires court approval before it can be finalized, would let developers email consumers about cheaper ways of purchasing their iOS software outside the App Store. Apple also said it will “expand the number of price points” App Store developers can use — meaning software companies could charge prices that don’t end with a .99.
— Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) cheered Apple’s “concession,” but said further action is needed and pledged to advance his Open App Markets Act when the Senate reconvenes this fall. “The fox guarding the hen house status quo will remain until there are clear and enforceable rules for Apple and Google to play by,” he said.
FACEBOOK TO CONGRESS: ‘NOTHING TO SHARE’ ON COVID MISINFO — The company offered a 79-word snub to a three-page letter sent by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) last month, an exchange likely to stoke tensions between Silicon Valley and the Hill after weeks of unease.
— What we’re watching: Schakowsky and Eshoo both hold Energy and Commerce subcommittee gavels, and if they don’t receive the responses they want in writing, they could try to force an official from the social media titan to testify. (Don’t forget, it was just months ago that CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before E&C.)
— Congress could subpoena the company itself to try to secure answers, an approach favored by advocacy group The American Economic Liberties Project, which seeks to break up tech giants. “Facebook’s terse rejection of basic oversight even as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly worsens is disgraceful,” said executive director Sarah Miller, arguing lawmakers should “immediately” compel answers this way. (Facebook offered no immediate comment on the prospect.)
Facebook won’t comment on details around its advertising, such as the revenue raised from users’ engagement with misinformation, and has already publicly detailed its attempts at cracking down on misinformation, the company told lawmakers.
KHAN’S FTC FACES FIRST SCOTUS TEST — To appeal to the Supreme Court or not to appeal? That is the question facing the FTC and new Chair Lina Khan, after an appeals court ruled Thursday that it won’t reconsider a June decision reversing the agency’s win in a novel antitrust suit involving trademarks and online search ads. Earlier this month, the FTC had urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to rehear its antitrust suit against online contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts because of its “exceptional nationwide importance.”
— The FTC had challenged 1-800 Contacts over its trademark settlements that barred other online contact lens sellers from using its brand name, “1-800 Contacts,” in their search ads. The agency claimed the deals deprived consumers of information about cheaper online options, since they reduced the number of ads that appear in search results. The appeals court took issue with the FTC’s disregard for the lens company’s trademark rights.
The Supreme Court is now the FTC’s last option — but one the Democratic-majority agency has been circumspect in using, given the conservative bent of the current bench. The FTC took a beating from the court in April when the justices ruled 9-0 that the agency doesn’t have authority to force companies that break the law to pay consumers back. The House passed legislation in July to give the FTC back its power to seek restitution, but the Senate hasn’t yet considered the bill.
— In the meantime, 1-800 Contacts hasn’t wasted any time making use of its win. Last week, the contact lens retailer sued Warby Parker, the online glasses retailer popular with millennials, for buying search ads that use its brand name.
THE TECH DISRUPTION COMING TO YOUR TV — More cities are launching the next generation of broadcast TV, a shift likely to put lingering questions around privacy and consumer expenses back in the spotlight. Backers say this next-gen TV will mean both better video and audio quality, as well as a new way of delivering internet content and emergency alerts. This week alone, the newer standard launched in major markets including Atlanta and Kansas City, two of the more than 40 cities where the tech has already gone live.
— But data privacy concerns are looming: Lawmakers and FCC commissioners have cautioned that this richer media environment could have implications for safeguarding how consumers’ data is used in advertising. Jessica Rosenworcel, before she became the FCC’s acting chief, cautioned last year about the high cost of the new TV equipment consumers will need in order to see these next-gen broadcasts. Expect the expansion of the standard across U.S. cities to revive these discussions.
— Top FCC representatives joined broadcasters at a conference Thursday to discuss the standard, known technically as ATSC 3.0. Broadcasters have been voluntarily transitioning to the standard since it received FCC approval during the Trump administration, and will no longer be obligated to also transmit broadcast signals on the older standard after 2023.
— “There’s always a chicken-and-egg problem with respect to new technologies,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told conference attendees of what he dubbed a “disruptive moment” taking place. “People may not be able to see all of the benefits just yet.”
But Carr himself sees tremendous potential. He cited examples of schools using the technology to more creatively transmit educational materials during the pandemic, and compared the development to the 4G and 5G wireless marketplace, arguing these new generations ultimately propelled various spillover benefits that went well beyond faster data speeds.
On a screen near you: About a quarter of TV sets sold within the U.S. should be capable of receiving these signals within the next year or so, said Madeleine Noland, who leads a broadcast group devoted to the standard, during the event.
Jim Wasilewski, longtime deputy chief of staff and director of congressional affairs for NTIA, will retire today after 34 years at the agency. Jason Goldman will fill these roles in an acting capacity. … Justin Snow, who served as speechwriter for Amazon Web Services’ World Wide Public Sector, has joined Adobe as chief speechwriter for CEO Shantanu Narayen. … Microsoft hires Amazon cloud executive Charlie Bell as VP, per the WSJ. … The FCC announces another round of funding awards from its Covid-19 Telehealth Program. … Jeff Barrus, who directed communications for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, has joined the Entertainment Software Association as director of communications and public affairs … Mindset has promoted Zach Ostro to senior director and Sarah Alexander and Lois Lim to associate. … Kelly Wismer, legislative director for broadband at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is leaving to work as chief of staff to the executive director at the Appalachian Regional Commission.
White House readout: “Several companies at the White House’s cybersecurity meeting on Wednesday bristled at the Biden administration’s push for them to rapidly upgrade their technology,” per POLITICO.
No secrets here: “A year after the Kenosha riots, following the police shooting of Black citizen Jacob Blake, Google has handed over data on any phones that were located in the vicinity,” Forbes reports.
Meet the T-Mobile hacker: “Generating noise was one goal,” he tells WSJ.
All-seeing upvote: Community moderators and Reddit’s CEO debate the best way to control misinformation on the site, via The Hill.
Let’s make a deal: The United Kingdom wants a data flow arrangement with the U.S., via POLITICO Europe.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
SEE YOU AFTER LABOR DAY!