Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: FCC chief lashes out at GOP | Obama takes on fake news | Bill would delay new hacking powers


FCC BRAWL: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday slammed Republicans for the dropping of controversial items from the agency’s agenda.

The items were dropped until the next administration takes office.

The decision came after Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) sent letters to Wheeler asking that he refrain from addressing “complex” or “controversial” FCC items until President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly also joined the lawmakers in their calls, citing precedent from the 2008 presidential transition.

After reviewing the letters, the FCC announced that it was deleting almost all of the agenda items from Thursday’s open meeting. This included consideration of pricing plans for business data services –– special access lines which businesses use to transfer large amounts of data –– and implementing video accessibility measures for visually impaired consumers. 

“It is tragic that 1.3 million Americans who are blind and millions more who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy expanded video description,” Wheeler said on Thursday at the FCC’s monthly meeting. “They deserve better from this Commission.

“I hope that this doesn’t mean that these issues won’t be quickly addressed after the transfer of leadership of this agency,” Wheeler continued.

After the items were removed, Thune told Morning Consult that he believed the chairman had overreacted, and that he had only called for the removal of most controversial matters. His letter did not specify which measures he specifically wanted dropped.

When questioned about this on Thursday, Wheeler said that the items chosen to be dropped came at the behest of his Republican colleagues.

Read more here.

Please send your tips, comments and stray observations to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland and @HilliconValley.

ONE OF THEIR OWN: Two top Senate Democrats are blocking the confirmation of a fellow Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, to the Federal Communications Commission. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) filed a hold, or formal objection, to block Rosenworcel’s confirmation. It’s the latest obstacle in efforts to confirm Rosenworcel to a second term. Her confirmation has been held up by Republicans for months, and now the opposition from lawmakers of her own party makes those prospects even more difficult.

Read more here.

OBAMA ON FAKE NEWS: President Obama on Thursday denounced the spread of fake news online, suggesting it’s helped undermine the U.S. political process.

“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” Obama said during a news conference in Germany.

The president’s comments drew attention to reports that viral fake news influenced the 2016 presidential election, adding to pressure on social media sites like Facebook to address the issue. Critics say the platforms did not do enough to stop users from sharing fake news stories.

Read more here.

CASE IN POINT: A network of fact-checking websites is calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to address the spread of fake news stories on his company’s platform. In an open letter to the tech mogul published on Poynter, the International Fact Checking Network suggested that the company work to enable its users to better identify viral hoaxes.

“Numerous studies show that, regardless of partisan ideology, people are very good at accepting information that conforms to their preconceptions, even if it is false,” the letter reads.

Read more here.

HOLD UP ON HACKING RULE: Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Review the Rule Act today. The bill would block the government from acquiring new hacking powers until after a congressional review of the Justice Department’s proposed changes to Rule 41. Rule 41 is a criminal procedure rule that allows surveillance of multiple computers in multiple jurisdictions from a single warrant. Privacy groups have raised concerns that the proposed changes to the rule would give the government unprecedented hacking powers.

Read more here.

FCC TEAM’S UP WITH CANADA: The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced an agreement with Canadian regulators today to jointly combat robocalls. 

“Robocall scams are as much of a menace to American consumers as they are to Canadians,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “We know that a lot of these calls originate from outside the United States. It is imperative that we work with our counterparts around the globe to quickly identify the origin of these calls and to shut them down at their source.”


Politico is hosting a panel on technology in the next administration at 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning.


Facebook has stopped collecting user data for advertising on WhatsApp in Europe. 

new study from Pew found that a quarter of Americans participated in the digital gig economy in the past year.

Top intelligence official James Clapper resigned today.

Intelligence officials say that public opposition to Russian election hacking helped mitigate it.

Tags Chris Coons Donald Trump Ed Markey John Thune Mike Lee Ron Wyden

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