Hillicon Valley: Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup | Rick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border | John McAfee dies

Hillicon Valley: Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup | Rick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border | John McAfee dies
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

Welcome and Happy Wednesday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

The tech world had its eyes on the House Judiciary Committee (for most of the day — and night) as members marked up the bipartisan antitrust agenda that targets Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon. The meeting continued well into the evening, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raising concerns over the implications of the bills that aim to rein in the power of tech platforms. 


Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) blocked a Senate vote on President BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE’s nominee to lead a key federal cybersecurity agency until Vice President Harris arrives at the U.S.-Mexico border later this week, and a former cybersecurity titan killed himself after Spanish authorities approved his extradition to the United States. 

LONG ROAD TO REVAMP: An hours-long House Judiciary Committee markup Wednesday created unusual bipartisan alliances both for and against a package of bills targeting some of the country’s biggest tech companies.

The committee had advanced two of the six bills as of early Wednesday evening, with proceedings expected to stretch late into the night.

The six bills aim to revamp antitrust laws, giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department greater authority to rein in the power of tech giants.

Lawmakers did not firmly support or oppose all of the bills, with some crossing the aisle at times.

Read more here



Speaking of antitrust: Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (D-Minn.) wants to know more about how Amazon and Alphabet approach interoperability in connection with their smart-home devices and protect the user data that they collect. 

In letters sent to each of the tech giant’s CEOs Wednesday, the chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee overseeing antitrust said that testimony by the companies’ attorneys during a hearing last week had left her with worries.

“I am deeply concerned about competition and the future of innovation related to connected home devices,” Klobuchar wrote.

Read more here


CISA DIRECTOR SPEEDBUMP: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Wednesday blocked a proposed unanimous consent vote on President Biden’s nominee to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) until Vice President Harris visits the U.S.-Mexico border later this week.

Scott made clear on the Senate floor that he is not opposed to Jen Easterly serving as the director of CISA, but that the block is meant to hold the Biden administration accountable for addressing migration concerns at the southern border. 

“This isn’t about Ms. Easterly, this isn't about cybersecurity,” Scott said. “I am here today because families in my state of Florida and across our nation deserve accountability, and President Biden has shown a total lack of accountability when it comes to addressing the border crisis.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary PetersGary PetersBiden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former longtime Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (D-Mich.) brought up both Easterly’s nomination and the nomination of Robin Carnahan to serve as administrator of the General Services Administration for a vote Wednesday. Carnahan’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate. 

Read more about the nominations here.


JOHN MCAFEE DEAD: Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee died by apparent suicide in a Spanish prison on Wednesday, police sources told El País. 

McAfee, the creator of the McAfee antivirus software, was reportedly found dead in his cell on Wednesday, with the Catalan Justice Department saying it looked like a suicide. His death came shortly after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the U.S. to face tax evasion charges.

Read more here.


FBI ON THE MONEY: FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday told a Senate panel that a request for a $40 million increase in its cybersecurity budget for the upcoming fiscal year would go in part towards combating increasing and damaging ransomware attacks.

“Our budget request, the enhancements we requested, include 155 positions and $40 million for cyber, and a huge part of that will be going very much to the ransomware campaign that we are working on,” Wray testified to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. 

Wray noted that the FBI is currently investigating over 100 types of ransomware variations, each of which he said had “scores and scores of victims,” and that enhancing the FBI’s ability to address ransomware attacks is a top priority.

Read more here


NEW ELECTION SECURITY FUNDS (MAYBE): The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday included $500 million for election security grants in one of the proposed appropriations bills for next year. 


The proposed fiscal 2022 Financial Services and General Government bill would give $500 million to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to states and territories to help address election security concerns. This includes moving to voting machines with voter-verified paper ballots and improving election administration. 

The EAC would be given 45 days to distribute the funds once the bill is signed into law.

Read more about the election security funding fight here.


AMAZON UNION FIGHT 2.0: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters will vote Thursday on a resolution recognizing unionizing Amazon as one of the organization’s top priorities.

As part of an initiative called “The Amazon Project,” the Teamsters will create a special Amazon-focused division that will assist workers interested in organizing, according to a copy of the resolution reviewed by The Hill. Vice first reported on the resolution, which is expected to pass easily.

That project would be the most ambitious effort yet to organize the e-commerce giant, which is the country’s second-largest private employer and has been hiring at staggering rates since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.


Read more here


THE KIDS (MAY NOT BE) ALRIGHT: The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is launching a new campaign to advocate for children’s online protection under a rebrand with the name Fairplay, the organization announced Wednesday. 

The watchdog, founded in 2000, said it is changing its name to Fairplay to better reflect the shifting nature of its work with the rise of social media and tech platforms. 

“In the more than 20 years we have advocated for children, childhood has been transformed by smartphones, tablets, and an overwhelming array of apps and games designed to hook kids, monopolize their attention, and mine their personal information for profit,” Angela Campbell, professor emeritus of Georgetown Law and chair of the Fairplay board of directors, said in the announcement. 

Read more about the campaign


On tap this week:

-The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will discuss a massive new energy proposal during a hearing Thursday that includes multiple sections to enhance grid cybersecurity. 

-The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on implementation of the Department of Defense’s program to increase cybersecurity across the defense industrial base.


An op-ed to chew on: The Department of Energy can be a model for diverse startup pipelines



David Dobrik Was the King of YouTube. Then He Went Too Far. (RollingStone / E.J. Dickson) 

How Twitter hired tech’s critics to build ethical AI (Protocol/ Anna Kramer)

FBI Hacking and Tech Contracts Are Vanishing from the Web (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)