Protego Press Weekly Roundup: July 16, 2019

As we pass the middle of July, it’s clear that there will be no summer slow down as it relates to tech policy conversations. From IP legislation to the President’s social media summit, Facebook’s record fine, tech bias and antitrust hearings, things are staying busy.  All this and more in this week’s Protego Press Roundup.

In Case You Missed It: Dr. Wayne Brough, in his first piece for Protego Press, wrote about the new legislation introduced by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) to revisit Section 101 of the patent laws, which determines what is and is not patentable. The Tillis-Coons legislation seeks to seek to upend these Supreme Court decisions and the legal history of patents that dates back to the 1870s.  In so doing, the legislation strengthens the hand of patent holders and increases the potential for patent abuse. The end result may be that this bill impacts the ability to get lower drug prices for Americans. Read more here: A POISON PILL FOR LOWER DRUG PRICES?

In Case You Missed It II: Joshua Geltzer wrote about President Donald Trump’s “Social Media Summit” in THE DISTORTER-IN-CHIEF IS HOSTING A SUMMIT ON DISTORTION ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Yet, the biggest distortion of dialogue on social media may be the President himself. Geltzer writes how the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Trump’s blocking of unwanted voices on the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account violated the Constitution and created a public forum in which the First Amendment prohibits him from selectively blocking critics of him and his policies. 

In Case You Missed It III: Melissa Ryan wrote about how Trump’s social media summit received loads of negative press attention but no one has called the event out for what it is: a campaign event. In WELCOME TO HELL: THE WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL MEDIA SUMMIT PORTENDS A LONG ROAD TO 2020, Melissa writes how this summit provided a way for Trump to reconnect with his online supporters early in his reelection campaign, all at the taxpayers expense. 

Voting Machines Nearing End of Life: An Associated Press analysis has found that the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts. That’s significant because Windows 7 reaches its “end of life” on Jan. 14, meaning Microsoft stops providing technical support and producing “patches” to fix software vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit. In a statement to the AP, Microsoft said Friday it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023.

Antitrust Hearings Continue: Representatives from Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple will testify before Congress in the second hearing organized as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust investigation into the world’s largest technology companies.  For lawmakers and industry critics who have been accusing tech giants of monopolistic behavior for years, it will be an opportunity to make their case to the public and put those executives on the hot seat.

Tech’s Bias? Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Tex., asked the Federal Trade Commission Monday to investigate how big tech companies curate their content, citing the “enormous influence” wielded by Twitter, Facebook and Google. In the letter, the two Senators wrote that “Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter exercise enormous influence on speech. They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest. And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent.”

The duo asks the agency to seek information on the conduct and practices of big tech companies, specifically regarding what content they restrict or promote and how those decisions are made. The effort is part of a larger push by some Republicans against what they characterize as anti-conservative censorship by tech companies — an accusation that Silicon Valley has consistently denied.

Facebook Fined: After Months of negotiations, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record-setting $5 billion on Friday for privacy violations. The penalty comes after an investigation that lasted over a year, and marks the largest in the agency’s history by an order of magnitude. The settlement between Facebook and the FTC closes an investigation into the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.  However, not everyone is satisfied with the settlement, with critics voicing the punishment as being weak. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a statement. “The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early,” “It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist.” Meanwhile, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut was quoted as saying “The reported $5 billion penalty is barely a tap on the wrist, not even a slap,” said. “Such a financial punishment for a purposeful, blatant illegality is chump change for a company that makes tens of billions of dollars every year.” Finally, tech coverage highlighted that FB’s stock price went up after the fine.

Quick Hits:

The FEC ruled that campaigns can get discounts on cybersecurity. Hopefully, this most recent FEC ruling will make it easier for campaigns and cybersecurity vendors to work together.

Predictive policing algorithms are becoming common across the US—and cities are training them with “dirty data.” 

Instacart’s app punishes workers who decline undesirable gigs by sit through about four minutes of that strange pinging, which many say sounds like a submarine’s sonar and some compare to a time bomb.