Protego Weekly Roundup – March 12, 2019

Sunday marked the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, sparking the bi-annual debate around if this change in time is still needed.  The technology policy world is used to constant change, and this past week was no exception. Be it discussions around antitrust impacting technology, privacy laws and taxes, anti-vaccination media and net neutrality, lots of news in this week’s Protego Press Roundup.

In Case You Missed It: Jeff Kosseff previewed his upcoming Illinois Law Review article in It’s Time to Hack Cybersecurity Law.  Jeff proposes that U.S. cybersecurity law spans so many different areas of federal and state law, it’s time to hack it with a set of common values and principles to guide the conversation, and even lays out seven principles to guide U.S. policymakers as they work to hack cybersecurity laws.  

In Case You Missed It II:  Justin Hendrix highlighted a proposal to a complex issue: What to do about domestic social media disinformation? A new report from @NYUSternBHR Deputy Director @AuthorPMBarrett says platforms should remove false content. You can also read the full report here, and find earlier reports from the Center for Business and Human Rights here.

Breaking Up Tech Companies? US Senator Elizabeth Warren, as part of her campaign to become President in 2020, has proposed breaking up tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google if elected.  In a speech in Queens, New York (which recently had its on controversy with Amazon), told the crowd that she was “sick of freeloading billionaires”, and hoped to promote competitor and safeguard small business.  Senator Warren went on to post additional thoughts, including proposing forcing the rollback of recent  Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze. Companies would be barred from transferring or sharing users’ data with third parties. Dual entities, such as Amazon Marketplace and AmazonBasics, would be split apart.

Privacy At Center of Attention.  

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley issued a rare rebuke of the government agency that oversees Facebook, Google and other tech giants, charging that regulators had “failed” to protect consumers and their personal data from abuse. Hawley wrote a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, urging a more aggressive stance towards technology companies, including investigations into privacy violations, and specifically saying that “The FTC has a special role to play in protecting consumers, but it too has failed us.”

Later in Austin for SXSW, Minnesota Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar discussed the idea of taxing companies that make money off user data. Similar to an idea that has been floated, but not passed, in Europe, Klobuchar said “When they sell our data to someone else, well, maybe they’re going to have to tell us so we can put some kind of a tax on it.”  Klobuchar acknowledged that she was simply floating an option, not putting forward a detailed policy prescription.

Facebook Address Anti Vaccination Media

Following last weeks changes by Amazon to pull anti-vaccination documentaries from the company’s Prime Video service, Facebook is making its own changes.  Specifically, to achieve a reduction in the spread of anti-vax propaganda, Facebook will downrank groups and pages that spread this kind of content across both News Feed and its search function. Facebook will also reject ads promoting anti-vaccination misinformation. Similar to the Amazon change, US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent a letter, this time to Mark Zuckerberg, requesting that Facebook reexamine their policies.  

Net Neutrality Back In The News: On Wednesday, Congressional Democrats introduced the Save the Internet Act of 2019, legislation that would restore the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules about net neutrality that were enacted during Obama administration. The three-page bill does not so much introduce a new law as wipe out an existing order issued by FCC chief Ajit Pai back in December 2017, which effectively killed net neutrality. Republicans have also put forward a net neutrality bill that has been criticized by Democrats and some technologists as a watered-down version of the FCC’s regulations, setting up a potential political battle over net neutrality.