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TOP TECH ISSUES FACING BIDEN: President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE will face a vastly different tech landscape in January than the one he interacted with just four years ago as vice president.
While he enjoys overwhelming support in the tech industry, a return to the rosy D.C.-Silicon Valley relationship of the Obama-era is unlikely anytime soon.
Here are some of the biggest tech policy issues facing Biden and how his administration may approach them.
Content moderation: Biden has taken an unorthodox position on a law considered to be the bedrock of the modern internet, saying earlier this year that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be revoked “immediately.”
The 1996 law, which has come under increasing scrutiny ever since President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE targeted it with an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.
While Biden’s stated position on the issue is not too different from Trump’s, the two are worlds apart in terms of their reasoning. Trump and Republicans maintain that the law is being used to censor conservative content on social media platforms, despite no evidence showing any ideological bent in moderation. Biden, meanwhile, argues that tech companies haven’t done enough to tackle misinformation on their platforms.
Antitrust: Scrutiny surrounding the market power of America’s biggest tech companies has increased almost exponentially since Biden was last in office.
House Democrats released a report this fall spelling out alleged abuses of monopoly power by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, as well as potential legislative recourse.
But unless Democrats pull off the unexpected and win both Senate seats in Georgia’s runoff elections on Jan. 5, getting those suggested reforms through Congress may prove difficult given that Republicans refused to sign on to the blockbuster House report.
The Biden administration can turn to federal agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to push through some of those antitrust changes, said Morgan Harper of the American Economic Liberties Project, an advocacy group focused on fighting monopolies and corporate power.
Privacy: Federal data privacy legislation has been bogged down in Congress for years now, but there is hope that a new administration and increasing pressure coming from a new law in California could provide fresh momentum.
While congressional talks have fractured several times, there is broad consensus on what a privacy bill should contain, including protections for consumers like the ability to access, correct and erase the personal data companies have collected on them. Advocates say those protections are essential and should be a priority.
Broadband: The coronavirus pandemic has made Americans more reliant than ever on the internet, and industry observers and advocates are hopeful that the Biden administration will make expanding and improving broadband a priority.
Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, wrote in a letter to Biden and the incoming Congress that the “first 100 days of a new administration and new Congress are critical to charting a clear, bipartisan course for our nation’s policy agenda.”
Biden laid out a plan to invest $20 billion in broadband infrastructure, a proposal that lines up neatly with some Democratic bills on the issue.
BRING IN THE CYBER CZAR: Pressure to reinstate a cyber czar within the White House is growing, with bipartisan allies lining up on Capitol Hill to push such a proposal while the incoming administration zeroes in on addressing cybersecurity challenges.
Outside experts and allies say they are optimistic President-elect Joe Biden will establish a cybersecurity coordinator position in the White House, after the Trump administration cut such a position in 2018.
Then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE said the move was intended to reduce bureaucracy, but members of both parties criticized the decision, saying it took away a key mechanism for coordinating cyber policy.
With a new administration set to take over in January, lawmakers are ramping up their efforts to establish a national cyber director position to provide a central coordinating force for federal cybersecurity initiatives.
“I think the coordination needs to be improved, and the way to do that is to have somebody at the center whose job it is to provide that coordination and direction,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (I-Maine), one of the key lawmakers leading the charge in Congress to establish the position, told reporters on a call last week.
King, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, co-chairs the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), a group created by Congress and made up of lawmakers, federal officials and members of industry who were tasked with laying out recommendations for defending the U.S. in cyberspace.
Earlier this year the group submitted a recommendation to establish a national cyber director at the White House, which would have greater authority than the eliminated position and would be Senate-confirmed. King and other lawmakers in the CSC have fought hard to get such a position included in the annual defense policy bill being negotiated in Congress.
The House-passed version of the 2021 defense funding bill included a provision to establish such a position, but the version approved by the Senate earlier this year did not. The Senate version only included a requirement to conduct an “independent assessment” of the “feasibility” of establishing the role.
NO NEW POLITICAL ADS: Facebook and Google are set to extend their bans on political advertising longer than expected as President Trump and his allies continue to delegitimize his electoral loss.
Facebook notified advertisers Tuesday that they should expect the pause “to last another month, though there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner.”
Google has told advertisers that the ban is unlikely to be lifted this month or next, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Both platforms had initially said that the bans would likely last a week after the election but had cautioned they could extend longer.
The bans were instituted to avoid misinformation or confusion from spreading via ads given that the coronavirus pandemic would make election results take longer than usual.
HOUSE REPORT BACKS REMOTE VOTING: A new report prepared by staff on the Democratic-led House Administration Committee has concluded that technology exists for members of Congress to securely vote remotely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The report was released Wednesday as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country and after dozens of members of Congress have tested positive for the virus since March.
“This staff report concludes that operable and secure technology exists that would permit the House to conduct remote voting, and that such a tool could be developed to further establish the House’s flexibility and resiliency to operate during the pandemic,” the staff members wrote in the report’s executive summary.
Staff members for the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), pointed to the need to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that more than 75 members of Congress had either been diagnosed with the disease or been exposed to someone with the virus.
The authors acknowledged that certain security criteria would have to be met to ensure safe remote voting. These included ensuring the security of remote networks, issuing “dedicated voting devices” to each member of Congress to only be used to cast votes, publicizing votes immediately after they are cast so members can check there was no interference, and regular checks of the remote voting system for cyber vulnerabilities.
Committee staff noted they were consulting with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on which vendors could provide the necessary remote voting technology, but that “the range of products available today further supports the general conclusion that remote voting is technologically feasible.”
Both the House and Senate conducted remote operations for several months earlier this year when the COVID-19 virus began to spread across the United States, though lawmakers in both chambers have shown up on Capitol Hill in recent months for hearings and votes.
CLOCK TICKS ON TIKTOK BAN: TikTok’s parent company ByteDance filed a petition Tuesday asking the courts to extend a Thursday deadline for the company to divest the popular video-sharing app as outlined in an executive order from President Trump, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed to The Hill Wednesday.
In the petition filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Beijing-based ByteDance asks for an extension since a proposed deal tentatively approved by Trump in September has yet to be finalized, according to reports. The proposed deal would establish a U.S.-headquartered TikTok Global with partial U.S.-based owners, Oracle and Walmart.
“In the nearly two months since the President gave his preliminary approval to our proposal to satisfy those concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to finalize that agreement – but have received no substantive feedback on our extensive data privacy and security framework,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Facing continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted, we requested the 30-day extension that is expressly permitted in the August 14 order,” the spokesperson added.
With the imminent Thursday deadline and “without an extension in hand” TikTok said it had no choice but to file a petition in court and defend the rights of the company and its more than 1,500 employees in the U.S.
Lighter click: Here comes the Balrog :)
An op-ed to chew on: The new battle of Triangle Hill: China’s bid for technological supremacy
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
You may not know these tech Democrats. Now you need to. (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)
Biden Promised to Reclassify Gig Workers. But How Will He Actually Do it? (Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)
Fact-Checked on Facebook and Twitter, Conservatives Switch Their Apps (New York Times / Mike Isaac and Kellen Browning)
Misinformation by a thousand cuts: Varied rigged election claims circulate (NBC News / Brandy Zadrozny)