But calendars of Khan's first seven weeks at the commission, obtained by The Technology 202, show meetings with friends and foes, as well as experts in civil rights and Section 230 policy. While it's not clear whether every call and meeting took place as planned, taken as a whole, the schedule offers insight into Khan's priorities as she settles into her role, and it provides hints about the agency’s potential future targets. The FTC declined to comment.
In all, Khan scheduled meetings and calls with more than a dozen lawmakers — seven Democrats and six Republicans — in her first 45 days.
Khan’s meetings outside of government included confabs with Color of Change President Rashad Robinson — a civil rights activist and frequent critic of the ways technology companies’ policies on misinformation and hate speech impact communities of color — and Olivier Sylvain, a communication law scholar at the Fordham University School of Law.
Sylvain is an expert on the Section 230 liability shield, which gives Internet platforms protection from liability for what their users say online.
Section 230 has hampered the commission’s ability to oversee the technology sector, FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said at a July hearing, just two days before Khan’s scheduled meeting with Sylvain. Color of Change and Sylvain did not respond to requests for comment.
Foes and allies
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a Libertarian-leaning Republican who is Khan’s most vocal opponent, told her in a July 27 letter that recent developments at the commission under her leadership amounted to a “progressive putsch.”
Khan and Lee were scheduled to speak by phone just two days later, according to the calendars. Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Khan has spoken with prominent Republicans like Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee; Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee; and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Two days after their scheduled meeting on July 26, McMorris Rodgers criticized Khan’s leadership at the FTC as an attempt to “consolidate power in order to pursue an agenda that will completely reshape our economy.”
Contacts with oppositional lawmakers are not unusual, according to William Kovacic, a former FTC chairman.
“It's a lot better to hear them out, especially if they have problems or concerns, than to ignore them,” he said.
Khan’s calls with supporters on Capitol Hill were scheduled soon after she was sworn in on June 15. The next day, she had a call scheduled with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee and has pushed to create a new FTC bureau to go after online privacy violators. Schakowsky’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Scheduled talks with prominent congressional allies included Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is leading the charge in the Senate to boost the FTC’s power to go after the tech sector. Khan also scheduled a call with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an outspoken critic of Big Tech who has repeatedly called for the companies to be broken up. Klobuchar’s office did not comment on the specific talks and Warren’s office declined to comment.
Both senators are critical of major technology companies like Khan, who became famous as a law student for writing a 2017 paper arguing that antitrust standards had to be rethought in the wake of Amazon’s dominance.
Calls beyond Capitol Hill
Khan spoke with European antitrust enforcer Margrethe Vestager and had a call scheduled with Andrea Coscelli, the CEO of the United Kingdom’s antitrust regulator. She also planned to attend a “virtual meet and greet” with Didier Reynders, Europe’s Justice commissioner, according to the calendars.
Khan also met with a key colleague on the state level: Sarah Allen, who chairs the National Association of Attorneys General’s antitrust task force and is a senior assistant attorney general for Virginia. It was an introductory meeting, according to Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
Our top tabs
Federal regulators are paying attention to under-the-radar acquisitions by Big Tech
Antitrust regulators are overwhelmed by a soaring number of acquisitions and mergers, imperiling the Biden administration's hopes for scrutinizing the technology industry, Gerrit De Vynck and Cat Zakrzewski report. Regulators are especially worried about the hundreds of acquisitions that major technology companies don’t have to report because of their size.
“We won’t know the effects of the concentration that’s happening for some time, and neither will the general public,” said Krista Brown, a senior policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project, a liberal think tank that studies antitrust policy. “If we don’t have a record of what’s happening or what type of oversight and competition enforcement are working, then we will have missed an opportunity to know where things are slipping.”
Google abused Android's dominance, Indian regulator says
The report by the investigations unit of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a setback for Google, which is facing scrutiny by regulators around the world, Reuters’ Aditya Kalra reports. Google has not yet seen the report and will have a chance to defend itself against the charges, people familiar with the case said.
Google reduced “the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android,” the CCI said in the report. The regulator did not respond to a request for comment.
Google looks forward to working with the CCI to “demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less,” the company told Reuters.
U.S. government agencies are divided on whether to blacklist a smartphone maker linked to Huawei
Career officials at the Pentagon and the departments of Energy, State and Commerce deadlocked on whether smartphone maker Honor presents a significant risk to U.S. national security and should be put on a Commerce Department blacklist, Ellen Nakashima and Jeanne Whalen report.
U.S. technology would not be allowed to be exported to Honor, a former Huawei subsidiary, without a license if it were placed on the blacklist.
The disagreement comes as a Senate committee prepares to take up the nomination of Alan Estevez to lead the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, which administers the blacklist.
Commerce officials declined to comment specifically on Honor and the dispute. Honor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rant and rave
The Guardian's Julia Carrie Wong:
My colleague, Will Oremus:
Inside the industry
- Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith participates in a Washington Post Live event today at 11:30 a.m.
- Former Undersecretary of State Keith Krach and former U.S. Agency for International Development deputy administrator Bonnie Glick speak at a Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue event on semiconductors and supply chains on Tuesday at 9:10 a.m.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel holds a hearing on big data and competition on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee discusses proposed legislation that would boost the power of state antitrust enforcers on Thursday at 9 a.m.
- The House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee holds a hearing on modern antitrust policy on Thursday at 10 a.m.
- SEC Chairman Gary Gensler discusses cryptocurrencies at a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday at noon.
- Ericsson North America President and CEO Niklas Heuveldop discusses 5G technology at a Washington Post Live event on Thursday at 3 p.m.