Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google

Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google
© Washington Examiner/Pool

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. 

Lina KhanLina KhanOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens FTC warns health apps to notify consumers impacted by data breaches Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE will face her first big hurdle as the chair of the Federal Trade Commission after a federal judge gave the agency 30 days to amend their antitrust case against Facebook. The Big Tech critic is already drawing fire from Amazon, which is asking the agency to recuse her from cases against it because of her past writings. In other news, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE is calling on the CFTC to involve itself in digital markets by opening an investigation into Google’s ad tech.



TO BE CONTINUED: A federal judge’s dismissal of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) antitrust lawsuit against Facebook is posing the first big test for President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE’s new FTC chair, Lina Khan.

But the renowned Big Tech critic faces a serious time crunch, with less than 30 days to try to shift the momentum through a revamped lawsuit.

The stakes are high for the 32-year-old antitrust scholar who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month in a 69-28 vote, gaining the support of both conservatives and progressives.

Those same lawmakers, along with advocacy groups and small businesses, are hoping she can deliver a win while enforcing the antitrust laws she’s been pushing to reform.

Read more about the FTC’s next steps



SPEAKING OF KHAN: Amazon sent a request to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday asking its new chair Lina Khan be recused from any antitrust investigations into the company because of her past critiques of the e-commerce giant.

Khan first gained attention for a paper she wrote called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” while she was a law student at Yale. She has since written several pieces detailing the company’s alleged abuses of monopoly power and assisted the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust with its investigation into digital marketplaces.  

The new FTC chair “has on numerous occasions argued that Amazon is guilty of antitrust violations and should be broken up,” Amazon said in the petition. “These statements convey to any reasonable observer the clear impression that she has already made up her mind about many material facts relevant to Amazon’s antitrust culpability as well as about the ultimate issue of culpability itself.” 

A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment on the request.

Read more.

WARREN PUSHES FOR GOOGLE INVESTIGATION: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the first and most outspoken advocates for breaking up Silicon Valley giants, is calling for a federal watchdog group to investigate Google over allegations of abusive manipulations of the online ad market.

Warren wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) urging the investigation into Google over allegations of the company's secret program that allegedly gave its own advertising an edge over rivals by gathering bid data through its ad exchange. The allegations surrounding the program, known as “Project Bernanke,” were reported earlier this year based on court documents in a Texas-led antitrust case. 

“Given the power of a company like Google to unilaterally manipulate the online advertising market, it is critical that the CFTC ensures these new digital commodities are traded fairly and without harmful manipulation,” Warren wrote, according to a copy of the letter shared by her office on Wednesday. 

Read more about the letter


BRING IT HOME: Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch Facebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorFacebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Democrats seize on 'alarm bell' climate report in spending plan push Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Cities a surprise refuge for wildlife MORE (D-Fla.) are pushing digital platforms to apply the same protections for teens and young children in the U.S. as in the United Kingdom, while Congress lags on updating its rules.

The two Democratic lawmakers sent letters to the executives of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter on Wednesday asking them to extend any privacy protections they provide under the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) to American users. 

“Today, children and teens encounter constant threats to their privacy online,” the letters shared with The Hill read.

“It is imperative that Congress acts with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century,” they continue. “As we work towards that goal, we urge you to extend to American children and teens any privacy enhancements that you implement to comply with the AADC.”

The AADC requires all commercial online services that are likely to be used by minors — such as a social media platform or search engine — to meet a set of 15 standards that include data minimization, defaulting against collecting geolocation data and barring the use of "nudge" techniques to encourage data sharing.

Companies are being asked to conform with the code in the U.K. starting Sept. 2, a year after it came into force.

Read more.


PRIVATE SECTOR REJOICE: Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Daines to introduce bill awarding Congressional Gold Medal to troops killed in Afghanistan Powell reappointment to Fed chair backed by Yellen: report MORE (R-Mont.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats draw red lines in spending fight What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Climate hawks pressure Biden to replace Fed chair MORE (D-R.I.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would take steps to potentially allow private sector companies to strike back at hackers launching attacks against their operations.

The bipartisan bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a study on what the potential benefits and risks may be of allowing companies to “hack back” in the event of an attack, actions that private sector groups are currently banned from undertaking.


Federal law only allows federal agencies to go on the offense against hackers, while all other groups are prohibited from any type of unauthorized access to other networks.

The bill was formally introduced on the heels of escalating cyberattacks, such as the SolarWinds hack, which involved Russian government-backed hackers exploiting a vulnerability in an update from IT group SolarWinds to compromise nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups.

Read more about the bill here. 


7M TAKEN DOWN: TikTok removed more than 7 million accounts from suspected underage users in the first three months of the year, according to a transparency report released by the platform. 

The accounts removed for potentially belonging to a person under the age of 13 made up less than 1 percent of all accounts on TikTok, it said. 

The popular video-sharing app has a separate version of TikTok for users under 12 that has additional safety protections in place. 


Read more here

On tap this week:

-A House Veterans’ Affairs Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the IT budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday. 


An op-ed to chew on: America deserves a Cabinet-level Department of Cybersecurity

Lighter click: The best Olympian of the bunch



The Internet Is Rotting (The Atlantic / Jonathan Zittrain)

How big business exploits small business (Vox / Emily Stewart) 

Citizen App Says It Will Get Access to Encrypted Police Comms (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)