Overnight Tech: Net neutrality repeal sparks backlash | Dems push FCC to delay repeal vote | Apple, Ireland reach deal over $15B tax bill | Facebook launches Messenger for kids

Overnight Tech: Net neutrality repeal sparks backlash | Dems push FCC to delay repeal vote | Apple, Ireland reach deal over $15B tax bill | Facebook launches Messenger for kids
© Lauren Schneiderman

FCC FACES NET NEUTRALITY BACKLASH: The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) plan to scrap net neutrality rules governing how internet service providers handle web traffic has unleashed a wave of intense opposition.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, announced last month that the agency would vote to undo its 2015 net neutrality rules, which prevent companies like Verizon and Comcast from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet "fast lanes."

The plan was met with instant backlash from net neutrality supporters, who have been rallying to save the rules for the better part of a year.


As of Sunday afternoon, at least 750,000 people have called Congress since Pai announced his plan, according to battleforthenet.com. And activists are planning hundreds of demonstrations at Verizon stores -- Pai was associate general counsel at the telecom giant from 2001 to 2003 -- and congressional offices across the country next week in protest of the planned vote.

Evan Greer, the campaign director for the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future, said she was surprised by the outpouring of support for net neutrality in the days following Pai's announcement just before Thanksgiving.

Pai's rollback is expected to pass when the FCC votes on it this month. Still, Greer says it's important to pressure Congress to intervene.

"The reality is that Congress provides a critical role in overseeing the FCC," she said. "If they sit back and do nothing and allow the FCC to move forward with this vote, then the blood of the internet is on their hands as well, and they will be to blame for getting rid of these basic consumer protections."

Pai, whose spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment, argues that the Obama-era rules have stifled broadband companies' investments and are too heavy-handed.

In addition to removing the FCC's restrictions on how broadband companies can handle web traffic, his plan would put the Federal Trade Commission, a consumer protection agency, in charge of policing internet providers.

Pai responded to the backlash by calling out celebrities who have criticized his plan and social media companies that he claims are a greater threat to internet speech than broadband providers.

Read more here.


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SENATORS CALL FOR FCC TO DELAY NET NEUTRALITY VOTE: Twenty-eight senators are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay its vote on repealing its net neutrality rules next week, citing concerns over the possibility that the agency's public comment file may be filled with fake comments.

The group, led by Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Former Dem aide makes first court appearance on charges of posting GOP senators' info online Ex-House intern charged with 'doxing' GOP senators during Kavanaugh hearing MORE (D-N.H.), wants the FCC to conduct an investigation into whether the net neutrality docket's public comment record was tampered with.

"A free and open Internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding," the senators wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed."

Read more here.


... AND SO DOES NY ATTORNEY GENERAL: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) on Monday called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold off on its vote to repeal net neutrality pending an investigation into alleged fake comments in the agency's public record on the 2015 regulations.

Appearing in a press conference alongside Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Schneiderman said that his office had found about 1 million comments in the FCC's net neutrality docket that may have been submitted using stolen identities. Schneiderman said that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has so far rebuffed his requests for assistance in the probe.

"I'm asking Chairman Pai to join us in our effort to investigate millions of fake comments and massive identity theft perpetrated against Americans," he said.

Schneiderman added that he has contacted the FCC nine times about the investigation before finally receiving an offer of assistance from the agency's inspector general's office that morning.

Read more here.


APPLE REACHES DEAL WITH IRELAND OVER $15B TAX BILL: Apple and Ireland have reached a deal for the company to pay billions of dollars in back taxes it owes the country, Ireland's finance minister said on Monday.

"We have now reached agreement with Apple in relation to the principles and operation of the escrow fund," Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told reporters before a meeting with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, according to Reuters.

"We expect the money will begin to be transmitted into the account from Apple across the first quarter of next year."

The agreement comes one year after the European Union ruled that Apple owed the country more than $15 billion in back taxes after establishing what Brussels considered unfair arrangements letting the company underpay its taxes. 

The tax arrangements, set up in 1991 and 2007, let Apple pay 0.005 percent and 1 percent tax rates on its European profits.

Apple launched an appeal of the decision after the ruling, which it says it's still pursuing.

Read more here.


SEC CYBER UNIT FILES FIRST CHARGES: The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) new Cyber Unit on Monday filed its first charges against a digital currency fraud that had raised $15 million from investors.

The SEC took action against Dominic Lacroix and his company PlexCorps, who were issuing digital tokens as a part of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) scheme, according to the agency. Lacroix promised investments in his digital currency would yield an explosive 1,354 percent profit in just under a month.

The SEC found the claim false and immediately shut down his operation, which was running since August.

"This first Cyber Unit case hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam and is exactly the kind of misconduct the unit will be pursuing," said Robert Cohen, chief of the Cyber Unit, according to the release.

The unit was created in September to focus on fraud and abuse with digital currency and initial coin offerings and mitigate the spread of fake information on the internet and hacking of trading platforms.

These are the first charges leveled by the Cyber Unit, but the SEC has been taking steps to stop ICO scams.

Read more here.


EUROPE WANTS TO CRACK DOWN ON BITCOIN: European countries are plotting a crackdown on the digital currency bitcoin as its value hits record highs.

European Union countries and the United Kingdom are planning to regulate bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies out of concern for their use for criminal activity like money laundering and tax evasion.

Cryptocurrency detractors worry that its anonymity helps criminals looking to avoid law enforcement oversight.

Read more here.


FACEBOOK ANNOUNCES MESSENGER APP FOR KIDS: Facebook announced on Monday that it will introduce a new kid-friendly version of its messaging app.

Messenger Kids functions like Facebook's normal messaging app with a few caveats: children using the app can only send age appropriate GIFs, their version has no ads or in-app purchases available and the account must be set up by a parent. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account.

No ads means that Facebook will collect "little data" since it won't be doing targeted advertising towards kids on Messenger Kids.

The data it will collect is "to do things like display the previous messages in a conversation, to put most frequent contacts at the top of the contact list."

Read more here.



New America will hold an event on net neutrality at 11:00 a.m.

US Telecom will hold a webinar on broadband at 2:00 p.m.



Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump

Mercury News: Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist Hillicon Valley: Seven Russians indicted for hacking | Apple, Amazon servers reportedly compromised by China | Pence calls on Google to end censored search engine work | Ireland investigates Facebook breach MORE's (D-Calif.) net neutrality op-ed.

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