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Below: Cloudflare dropped Kiwi Farms, and a report highlights Twitter’s challenges in responding to misinformation. First: Wp Get the full experience. Choose your plan ArrowRight Congress is running out of time for its sweeping tech agenda Going into the year, hopes were running high among industry critics that Congress might finally turn years of frustration with the conduct of Silicon Valley giants into legislative action. But so far, those ambitions have gone largely unfulfilled.
Now, as Congress returns from recess, it faces a shrinking window to overcome major obstacles standing in the way of passing big-ticket tech items — including privacy and antitrust legislation, and confirming key federal regulators.
Here’s what to watch for as lawmakers enter a crucial legislative stretch:
A new goal post for lawmakers’ tech antitrust package
After a years-long effort to investigate claims of anticompetitive conduct by the tech giants and craft legislation aimed at addressing it, lawmakers set the early summer as their unofficial deadline to pass antitrust legislation, amid fears the election would bog down plans.
“I hope that we get the opportunity this month, not next month, not after the August recess,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), one of the lawmakers leading the push, said in early June about a potential Senate floor vote for a few highly watched proposals.
He added, “We all know what happens after the August recess. After the August recess, we have to clean up issues before the election, and right after the election, before the end of this Congress.”
That timeline has come and gone, and to this point neither the House or Senate have taken up the bills — American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S.2992) and the Open App Markets Act (S.2710) — for a floor vote. That means lawmakers will need to juggle a growing list of priorities, including the high-stakes election, while trying to convert on the bills
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged in early Augsust to hold a vote on the legislation, as the New York Post reported. But he’s privately mused that he doesn’t think the proposals have the 60 votes needed to pass, according to Bloomberg News, and his office has said he’s still working with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to gather enough support. That leaves the fate of the effort up in the air.
And while the effort is bipartisan, the bills are likely dead if Republicans retake the House. “The antitrust bills that we are currently considering will not move forward under Republican leadership, and that’s been a very clear signal that has been sent,” Buck told me in March.
A surging privacy push hits a familiar wall
An unexpected breakthrough in negotiations over federal privacy legislation earlier this year catapulted discussions on Capitol Hill farther than they have ever gone, with a key House panel advancing a so-called comprehensive data privacy bill for the first time.
But strong pushback from two critical Democratic leaders has put the effort on life support.
Senate Commerce Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has voiced deep reservations that the bill that advanced out of committee 53-2 in the House, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (PPA), has major enforcement loopholes and said she has no plans to mark it up.
“I don’t even think Nancy Pelosi has plans to bring it up, so pretty sure we are not going to be bringing it up,” Cantwell told me in July.
Instead, Cantwell’s panel passed up advancing a privacy bill that would cover all U.S. consumers and instead greenlit legislation to expand data protections for kids and teens.
Even that campaign now faces a major roadblock in the House, too. Pelosi, the chamber’s top Democrat and its most powerful Californian, echoed concerns voiced by colleagues in her delegation that PPA would override state laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act.
After remaining mum on the topic for months, Pelosi issued a statement last week calling it “imperative that California continues offering and enforcing the nation’s strongest privacy rights.”
The remarks dealt another blow to negotiations, with Pelosi now calling for the type of changes that Republicans have rejected throughout discussions.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement in response, “California … should not be dictating privacy and data security rules for the rest of the country.”
A key nomination in limbo, with more to come
For the entirety of President Biden’s term, the Federal Communications Commission has operated without a full complement of commissioners and a Democratic majority, as former agency staffer Gigi Sohn’s nomination has been stuck for nearly a year amid partisan gridlock.
That has left FCC Democrats unable to carry out key agenda items, including restoring the Obama-era net neutrality regulations.
It’s unclear whether Sohn has the votes among Democrats to clear the chamber. If Republicans retake the Senate in this year’s midterm elections before she’s confirmed, a prospect that appears increasingly unlikely, it would likely doom her prospects, making the next several months critical.
At the Federal Trade Commission, Republican Commissioner Noah Phillips is set to leave the agency this fall and Democratic Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter’s term is set to expire. That likely means the agency will soon be operating at limited capacity again.
Our top tabs
Security firm Cloudflare drops Kiwi Farms website
Cloudflare’s move marks a reversal of course for the company, which had previously justified its protection of Kiwi Farms, Joseph Menn and Taylor Lorenz report. Kiwi Farms is best known for being used by stalkers to organize real-world harassment, as well as online hacks and abuse.
“As Kiwi Farms has felt more threatened, they have reacted by being more threatening,” Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince told The Post. “We think there is an imminent danger, and the pace at which law enforcement is able to respond to those threats we don’t think is fast enough to keep up.” Contributors to the forum have posted home addresses of perceived enemies and called for them to be shot, Prince said.
Last week, Cloudflare faced pressure to drop Kiwi Farms. Organizations and influencers joined Clara Sorrenti, a trans Canadian Twitch streamer known online as Keffals, in calling for the removal of Kiwi Farms from Cloudflare’s services. Sorrenti launched the #DropKiwiFarms campaign after being targeted by users of the forum for months. Forum users doxed Sorrenti and her family, and they also called the police to come to her home in “swatting” attacks.
Cloudflare isn’t the only firm to cut off Kiwi Farms. DDoS-Guard, a Russian service that protects websites from cyberattacks involving overwhelming amounts of traffic, had picked up Kiwi Farms after Cloudflare cut it off. But that didn’t last long. On Monday, the firm said it was terminating its services to Kiwi Farms after receiving reports that the forum violated its policies. “Having analyzed the content of the site, we decided on the termination of DDoS protection services for kiwifarms.ru. To all those who brought this incident to our attention, we thank you,” the firm said.
Twitter has lacked resources for combating major threats like disinformation
Twitter’s former head of security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, commissioned an external audit of the firm’s ability to counter misinformation, and the review depicted a company facing sophisticated disinformation campaigns while short on resources, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Joseph Menn and Cat Zakrzewski report. The audit was included in an explosive whistleblower complaint by Zatko, a famed hacker.
“While Zatko’s allegations of Twitter’s security failures, first reported last month by The Post and CNN, have received widespread attention, the audit on misinformation has gone largely unreported,” my colleagues write. “Yet it underscores a fundamental conundrum for the 16-year-old social media service: despite its role hosting the opinions of some the world’s most important political leaders, business executives and journalists, Twitter has been unable to build safeguards commensurate with the platform’s outsize societal influence. It has never generated the level of profit needed to do so, and its leadership never demonstrated the will.”
Twitter disputes much of the report, which said the company was too understaffed, siloed and reactive to threats. Alethea Group, the firm behind the report, declined to comment.
European regulator fines Instagram $400 million over children’s privacy violations
It’s the second-largest fine that a European regulator has hit a tech giant with over violations of European privacy regulation GDPR, Politico Europe’s Vincent Manancourt reports. The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) is working on at least a half dozen other investigations into firms owned by Instagram parent Meta, Manancourt reports.
The Instagram investigation centered on 13-to-17-year-old users of the app who could run business accounts that published contact information like phone numbers and email addresses, Reuters reported.
Instagram plans to appeal the fine, a Meta spokesperson told Reuters. “This inquiry focused on old settings that we updated over a year ago, and we’ve since released many new features to help keep teens safe and their information private,” a Meta spokesperson told Politico Europe. “Anyone under 18 automatically has their account set to private when they join Instagram, so only people they know can see what they post, and adults can’t message teens who don’t follow them. We engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, and we’re carefully reviewing their final decision.”
Inside the industry
Nand Mulchandani and retired lieutenant general Jack Shanahan software-defined warfare at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Wednesday at 2 p.m. CIA chief technology officerand retired lieutenant general discuss software-defined warfare at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Wednesday at 2 p.m.
CSIS hosts an event on stopping misinformation and disinformation on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Before you log off
“Are we friend or foe..?” 🐈😆pic.twitter.com/XElo48rcrO — Mack & Becky Comedy (@MackBeckyComedy) September 5, 2022
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