This week ends the spring season, and just like the weather the tech policy world is starting to heat up. Be it Facebook’s new crypto currency Libra, Senator Josh Hawley’s new proposal to compel large tech companies to be politically neutral on content moderation, or the US government’s hearings on manipulated media, it’s a full slate in this week’s Protego Press Weekly Roundup.
In Case You Missed It: Avery Gardiner wrote about how the US government can address competition concerns in tech mergers. The three questions proposed can hopefully help focus merger investigations and conversations on the many factors that affect competition and consumers, especially in the technological arena.
In Case You Missed It II: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence convened an open hearing on “ the national security challenges of artificial intelligence (AI), manipulated media, and ‘deepfake’ technology.” With Danielle Citron,Jack Clark, Dr. David and Clint Watts available to answer their questions, we at Protego proposed some of our own. The hearings did not produce many new ideas, but they did succeed in framing some of the key challenges. Watts suggested one very straightforward idea that should be easy to adopt- the US government should make it a policy that no government entity can engage in the use of manipulated media.
Facebook’s New Digital Currency: Libra, Facebook’s new proposal for a digital currency, is not going over well in the world’s capitals. “Regulators in Europe are worried that Libra could become a systemic risk to the global financial system and rival central banks; a member of the US Congress called for Facebook to halt development until it answers questions about privacy; officials elsewhere have expressed fears that any cryptocurrency may help users evade global sanctions or launder money,” reports Wired. And while Facebook argues Libra could help billions in the global south get access to capital, some economists are skeptical. In general, the Facebook brand- with its legacy of privacy and ethical disasters- is part of the problem. One commentator summed it up: “Libra: an interesting idea, if only Facebook weren’t involved.”
Hawley’s “Neutrality” Plan: Senator Josh Hawley, R-MO, put forward a bill this week that would radically challenge the business models and immunities under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently enjoyed by the big tech companies. Hawley wants the tech platforms not to- as he sees it- censor conservative voices with impunity. “With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” said Hawley’s statement. Tech platforms argue that fiddling with Section 230 could unleash toxic content on the internet. The debate will likely heat up going into the 2020 election cycle.