Overnight Tech: GOP, industry skeptical of new online ad rules | Twitter to label political ads | Microsoft drops lawsuit over gag rule

Overnight Tech: GOP, industry skeptical of new online ad rules | Twitter to label political ads | Microsoft drops lawsuit over gag rule
© Greg Nash

GOP, INDUSTRY SKEPTICAL OF AD DISCLOSURE RULES: Republicans and the advertising industry at a hearing Tuesday criticized proposals to expand disclosure rules on online political ads amid revelations Russian actors used social media platforms to influence the 2016 election.

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology that new rules would unduly burden digital publishers.

"One of the problems I have with the Honest Ads Act is its placing the burden on smaller publishers that don't have the financial wherewithal to shoulder that burden," he said, referring to legislation offered in the Senate that would impose new regulations on web companies.

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In the upper chamber, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security Senate Intel report urges action to prevent Russian meddling in 2020 election MORE (D-Va.) have offered The Honest Ads Act, which would force digital platforms with 50 million or more unique users a month to provide data on campaigns that spend at least $500 on political ads a year. Such platforms are currently exempt from similar regulations which are imposed on TV and radio outlets.

But Rothenberg said those restrictions were too stringent.

"[The Honest Ads Act] would include companies like Hearst, Conde Nast, Vox, Vice Media, basically a lot of newspapers and media that are not in a position to take on financial burdens in reporting," Rothenberg said. "50 million unique users in the internet world is actually not a lot."

Republicans also expressed skepticism.

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) blasted the idea of holding companies like Facebook and Google to the same rules as other media over political ads.

"On the internet post, the provider, the intermediary is not responsible for it. They didn't write it. They didn't hire them, they didn't determine who they are, yet you want to hold them to the same standard as your newspaper, which is an entirely different format," he said.

Read more here.

 

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TWITTER TO LABEL POLITICAL ADS: Twitter announced Tuesday that it would begin labeling political advertisements as part of a new effort to increase transparency on its platform.

The company said that in the coming weeks it will move to identify political electioneering ads, which the Federal Election Commission (FEC) defines as ads promoting a specific candidate or a party within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election.

Such labeling would include some kind of signifier, like a purple dot noting that the tweet is prompted by a political account, according to a potential mockup the company included in a post announcing the changes.

Read more here.

 

FCC VOTES TO ALLOW POLICE ACCESS TO THREATENING BLOCKED CALLER IDS: The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday voted to allow law enforcement access to blocked caller IDs in cases of anonymous phone threats.

With the new rule, law enforcement will no longer have to apply for temporary waivers when probing threats from anonymous callers.

"This information could save lives and help apprehend those making such calls," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "Moreover, this measure is justified because callers who make threats should have no legitimate expectation of privacy that their caller ID information will remain secret."

Read more here.

 

FCC GETS RID OF STUDIO RULE: The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday also voted to eliminate a rule requiring television and radio broadcasters to maintain studios in the communities they serve.

The FCC passed the proposal in a 3-2, party-line vote. Republicans argued that the nearly 80-year-old rule was outdated, given that consumers can access news about their communities online.

"The record shows that main studios are no longer needed to enable broadcasters to be responsive to their communities of license," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "That's because the public these days is much more likely to interact with stations (including accessing stations' public files) online. Additionally, technology allows broadcast stations to produce local news even without a nearby studio."

Read more here.

 

MICROSOFT DROPS LAWSUIT OVER GAG ORDERS: Microsoft is dropping a lawsuit against the U.S. government after the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to limit the routine use of gag orders on technology companies in connection with ongoing investigations.

The software giant sued the DOJ in April 2016, asking a federal judge in Seattle to strike down a statute in a major data privacy law that governs the use of secrecy orders by the federal government regarding warrants on electronic data. Microsoft argued in its complaint that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was signed into law more than three decades ago, allows courts to order companies to "keep its customers in the dark when the government seeks their email content or other private information."

But the company is now taking steps to dismiss the lawsuit after DOJ implemented new policies to address the issues.

Specifically, the Justice Department's new binding guidelines halt courts from routinely imposing gag orders that prevent technology companies from informing customers when their electronic records have been turned over to investigators, The Washington Post reported.

Read more here.

 

TECH GROUP UNVEILS AI PRINCIPLES: A technology trade association representing the interests of major tech firms including Apple, Amazon and Google is releasing principles it believes should be incorporated in the development of artificial intelligence (AI).

The loose guidelines, created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), seek to establish industry guidelines for "responsible development and use" of AI by prioritizing human safety and using comprehensive data to build AI algorithms that are not biased against certain groups.

"I would say these are both a commitment of the pioneers developing AI as well as a call to action," Dean Garfield, president and CEO of ITI, Dean Garfield told The Hill.

Read more here.

 

CONSERVATIVE SITE SUES GOOGLE, YOUTUBE OVER CENSORSHIP: PragerU, a conservative educational site, is suing Google and its subsidiary YouTube, accusing the video site of censoring its online videos because of their political leanings.

The company filed the suit on Monday, saying that YouTube had been "restricting" some of their videos, cutting them off to viewers with certain parental settings and preventing them from generating ad revenue.

"Watch any one of our videos and you'll immediately realize that Google/YouTube censorship is entirely ideologically driven," Dennis Prager, the company's founder, said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP:

The House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the risk of Kaspersky Lab products to the federal government on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the satellite industry on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

The House Energy Commerce Committee will hold an FCC oversight hearing on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.

 

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