Overnight Tech: Feds, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | Ex-Yahoo CEO grilled over breach | Senate panel approves sex trafficking bill

Overnight Tech: Feds, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | Ex-Yahoo CEO grilled over breach | Senate panel approves sex trafficking bill
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DOJ, AT&T OFFER CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS OVER MERGER DISCUSSIONS: The Justice Department and AT&T traded accusations on Wednesday over whether the company would have to sell off CNN, the cable network frequently feuding with President Trump, as a condition of its merger with Time Warner.

Sources at the Justice Department told The Hill and other news outlets that antitrust officials had rejected an offer from AT&T on Monday to divest in CNN in order to win approval for the $85 billion deal.

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The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the offer did not alleviate their concerns that the deal could potentially harm the public by giving the new company too much power to deliver only the content it produces through AT&T's networks.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, however, flatly denied that his company had ever entertained the idea of selling CNN to win approval of the deal.

"Until now, we've never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ's statement this afternoon, it's important to set the record straight," said Stephenson, referring to the anonymous quotations from Justice sources.

"Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so."

It is highly unusual for details of such offers to emerge in public, and the startling back-and-forth between Stephenson and the Justice Department will raise new questions about whether the deal can be consummated.

It was also impossible not to consider Trump's ongoing feud with CNN, which is run by a former NBC executive who worked with Trump on "The Apprentice."

Trump frequently rips CNN as "fake news," and earlier this year tweeted out a video from the president's Wrestlemania appearance that was edited to show Trump beating up someone with the CNN logo imposed on their head.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump vowed to block the deal, but since he took office, most observers predicted that the $85 billion transaction would sail through the regulatory review.

Before Stephenson's public comments, The New York Times reported that Justice had told AT&T and Time Warner to either sell off CNN's parent company, Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV as a condition of approving their proposed merger. AT&T bought DirecTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion.

Read more here.

 

Please send your tips, comments and way too early college football playoff predictions to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland and @hneidig. We're also on Signal and WhatsApp. Email or DM us for our numbers.

 

Join The Hill on Tuesday, November 14, for Digitalizing Infrastructure: Building a Smart Future featuring Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoFamily, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush Lawmakers propose boosting park funding with oil money Lawmakers trade barbs, torch Trump at DC soiree MORE (R-W.Va.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands). Topics of conversation will include the integration of smart technology into new and existing infrastructure, changing investment strategies, and regulatory challenges. RSVP Here

 

EX-YAHOO CEO GRILLED BY LAWMAKERS: Lawmakers railed against former CEOs of Yahoo and Equifax over massive cybersecurity breaches that occurred on their watch and floated potential policy solutions to crack down on hacks.

Frustrated members of the Senate Commerce Committee pressed former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith and its current CEO Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. on how their companies allowed such enormous breaches and pushed for answers on how they would handle the fallout.

Committee Chairman Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHouse, Senate GOP compete for cash Overnight Tech: Alleged robocall kingpin testifies before Congress | What lawmakers learned | Push for new robocall rules | Facebook changes privacy settings ahead of new data law | Time Warner CEO defends AT&T merger at trial Senators grill alleged robocall kingpin MORE (R-S.D.) opened the hearing by asking Mayer to explain how, despite the increased investments she touted during her opening, 3 billion of Yahoo's accounts were hacked in 2013.

Read more here.

 

SENATE PANEL ADVANCES SEX TRAFFICKING BILL: The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to combat online sex trafficking that has been the subject of an intense lobbying fight.

The bill has sparked strong opposition from many tech companies, but received a boost last week when a number of major internet players signed on.

"This is a momentous day in our fight to hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve," Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo Ending sex trafficking tomorrow requires preventing child abuse today Doctors bristle at push for opioid prescription limits MORE (R-Ohio), who has been championing the bill, said in a statement.  

Portman urged the Senate to take the bill up for floor vote as soon as possible.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) revises Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from being held legally liable for content posted by third-party users. The changes would make it easier to sue internet platforms for facilitating online sex trafficking.

Online companies are worried the bill would undermine their business models and make them unfairly liable for content posted by third parties. The bill sparked wide opposition from Silicon Valley.

But lawmakers reached a breakthrough last week when the Internet Association, a trade group representing the biggest web firms, backed the bill after technical revisions to the language.

Read more here.

 

Facebook late Tuesday night also came out in support of the bill.

In a post, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg applauded the revisions made last week to SESTA.

"This important piece of legislation allows platforms to fight sex trafficking while giving victims the chance to seek justice against companies that don't," Sandberg wrote.

Read more here.

 

SENATE PANEL APPROVES NASA NOMINEE: A Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve President Trump's highly contentious nominee to lead NASA.

The decision to advance Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineOvernight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE's (R-Okla.) nomination came down to a party line 14-13 vote in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Democrats strongly objected to Bridenstine, labeling him a politically polarizing figure with little scientific or technical expertise. They also objected to his skepticism of climate change science and his past statements on homosexuality and LGBT rights.

Read more here.

 

SENATE CONFIRMS TELECOM NOMINEE: President Trump's nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), David Redl, was approved by the Senate with a voice vote on Tuesday evening.

Redl, who was unanimously approved by a voice vote earlier this month in the Senate Commerce Committee, was nominated by Trump in May. He most recently served as the chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The NTIA, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, is the White House's primary adviser on telecom policy, including broadband access and spectrum.

Read more here.

 

UBER JOINS TECH HURRICANE RELIEF IN PUERTO RICO: Uber and Mark E. Curry, a tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, are partnering to help Puerto Rico recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria. The two will help deliver resources to various groups across the island including relief organizations, charities and individuals in the community.

"We have been working to address the greatest needs on the island and I am very grateful to Uber for this partnership and their dedication to help provide basic nutrition and clean drinking water to those impacted by these disasters," said Curry who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

 

ON TAP:

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will hold an event on "hybrid" infrastructure at 10:00 a.m.

New America will hold an event on how the FCC can protect consumers without harming innovation at noon.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) spearheads Dem letter to FCC on media ownership

Senate panel confirms slew of Trump transportation nominees

Daily Beast: Russia activated Twitter sleeper bots for 2016 Election Day blitz

Axios: Why Google and Facebook folded on sex-trafficking bill

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Bloomberg Businessweek: Snapchat has a child-porn problem