Happy Friday! Below: A Google rival notches a win in a patent dispute, and Facebook faces a lawsuit tied to a murder. But first up:

Josh Hawley was Democrats’ go-to ally in the battle against Big Tech. Then came Jan. 6.

When he joined Congress in 2019, Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) quickly became one of the most high-profile Republican critics of Silicon Valley giants, carving out a prominent role spearheading numerous bipartisan efforts to rein in the tech industry. 

But since Hawley led the charge to object to President Biden’s electoral win last Jan. 6, his work publicly leading tech efforts alongside Democrats has all but vanished.

By this time last Congress in January 2020, Hawley had partnered with Democrats to lead at least eight letters on tech issues, including with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), then the Senate minority whip, according to a review by The Technology 202. The topics spanned from data privacy to kids’ online safety to potential risks posed by tech firms with links to China.

He also led at least four high-profile bipartisan proposals to, among other things, boost kids’ privacy laws, force social media companies to disclose how much money they make off user data and increase competition among online platforms. The efforts drew broad praise from unlikely corners, including from progressive advocates who touted his work across the aisle

But a year into this Congress, during which his top issues have only gained prominence, Hawley hasn’t led any bipartisan letters on tech policy issues that his office has publicly released, according to a review. All of the new tech bills he’s introduced this past year have been either a solo or Republican-only effort. And of those four bills he co-led early last Congress, only one has been reintroduced — without him on it

An aide to Markey, who led that one proposal, told me last year after the Jan. 6 attack that the senator had no plans to work with Hawley on tech issues going forward. A spokesperson for Blumenthal similarly said he had “no immediate plans.” One advocate who works closely with those offices said at the time that Hawley’s support on legislation was “a kiss of death.”

Another Senate Democrat who'd partnered with Hawley last Congress on a bill, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), told me in October that future partnerships were still up in the air. 

When asked whether he shares the concerns voiced by other Democratic offices and advocates about working with Hawley, Warner said, I’ve been pretty clear about how I feel about those members that voted to not certify President Biden and that’s still a grave disappointment to me.”

Asked if he still plans to partner with Hawley on tech issues, Warner said, “I think it’s still an open question.” Warner has yet to reintroduce two bills he led with Hawley last Congress. Warner’s office did not respond to a request for additional comment on Thursday.

The result is that his once-glowing prominence in the debate has faded, at least publicly, even as overall scrutiny of Silicon Valley has remained at an all-time high on Capitol Hill.

Hawley’s office pushed back on the notion any of his bipartisan work has dropped off. 

“Senator Hawley has done more work across the aisle this past year than ever, and that includes on Big Tech,” Hawley spokesman Phil Letsou said in a statement Thursday. “No one has done more to hold Big Tech accountable, and he won’t back down.”

Hawley bashed Democrats last year for putting “politics ahead of protecting children online” after I reported on some Democrats swearing off working with him at the time

“This is a classic example of the Washington swamp giving Big Tech exactly what they are hoping for and sinking any attempt at making real change,” Hawley said in a statement. “My colleagues may have caved to the woke mob, but I won’t stop fighting for families and consumers to hold Big Tech accountable.”

Democrats have still worked with him on several key legislative efforts. 

Hawley was an original co-sponsor on a major proposal led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to ban tech giants from favoring their goods over those of their rivals. And just Wednesday, he signed up as a co-sponsor on another high-profile bipartisan effort to rein in app store practices by titans like Apple and Google. 

But the only tech bill he’s led that’s drawn bipartisan backing this Congress was a proposal to ban TikTok on government devices, which had already unanimously passed the Senate in 2020

Some argued the shifting dynamics likely have less to do with Jan. 6 and more to do with how the debate around reining in Big Tech has shifted since he entered Congress.

Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, said that since the movement to crack down on the tech giants has gained steam, congressional leaders are playing a bigger role and steering more of the debate.

“The institutions are taking over, the committee process is taking over, and so youre seeing a lot more leadership from the chairmen, from the ranking members,” she said. 

She added, “Josh Hawley remains, I think, a thought leader in this space. But he’s not in a position of leadership on these committees.”

Plus, she said, it’d be “self-defeating” for Democrats to stop working with Hawley, given his influence among conservatives on all things tech — and their need for Republican votes to pass most bills.

“I definitely think they need his vote [to] bring a lot of Republicans along. … He assigns a lot of credibility and weight to a lot of these proposals for the base. I think the base and the voters recognize that he’s the vanguard of Republicans on this issue,” she said.

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A lawsuit accused Facebook parent Meta of facilitating the hateful far-right ‘boogaloo’ movement — and a murder

Angela Underwood Jacobs accused Facebook of “knowingly promoting extremist content” and connecting individuals who “planned to engage in acts of violence against federal law enforcement officers,” Faiz Siddiqui reports. Her brother, Homeland Security protective security officer Dave Patrick Underwood, was fatally shot by an adherent of the “boogaloo boys,” an online extremist movement, authorities said.

The lawsuit takes aim at Facebook’s legal immunities. Section 230 “says platforms are not publishers of the content posted on their sites, and thus aren’t responsible for the content that appears in such forums,” Faiz writes. But the lawsuit argues that “Facebook actively promoted inflammatory content and steered people toward it,” Faiz writes.

Facebook pushed back. “We’ve banned more than 1,000 militarized social movements from our platform and work closely with experts to address the broader issue of Internet radicalization,” spokesman Kevin McAlister said. “These claims are without legal basis.”

A trade commission sided with Google rival Sonos in a patent dispute

It’s a win for Sonos, which has for years fought to grow its business as it sees competition from tech giants, Gerrit De Vynck reports. The Thursday ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) won’t affect Google’s current products, which the company has already modified to not infringe on Sonos patents.

“The ruling from the International Trade Commission marks the end of a two-year investigation from the agency that incorporated multiple rounds of submissions from Google, Sonos and the public,” Gerrit writes. “It now goes to the White House, and Google can appeal the decision directly to the president if it wants to.”

Google signaled that it plans to continue to spar with Sonos. “While we disagree with today’s decision, we will ensure our shared customers have the best experience using our products and do not experience any disruption,” said Google spokesperson José Castañeda. “We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property.”

Sonos, for its part, argues that Google is still infringing its patents. “There is a possibility that Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that circumvents the importation ban that the ITC has imposed,” Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus said. “But while Google may sacrifice consumer experience in an attempt to circumvent this importation ban, its products will still infringe many dozens of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will persist, and the damages owed Sonos will continue to accrue.”

Trump’s social media network is said set to launch next month

Truth Social’s Apple App Store listing says it will go live on Feb. 21, which is Presidents’ Day in the United States, Reuters’s Krystal Hu and Helen Coster report. The launch by Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) would happen 13 months after Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter over incitements to commit violence.

“The launch is expected to be the first of three stages in TMTG's development. The second would be a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ with entertainment, news and podcasts, according to the company website,” Hu and Coster write. “A November investor presentation indicated that TMTG also wants to launch a podcast network.”

Two federal regulators have asked the publicly traded company that plans to merge with Trump's company for information on its investors and board meetings.

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Daybook

  • Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger speaks at an Atlantic Council event on Monday at 10 a.m.
  • FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks discusses infrastructure funding at an Information Technology Industry Council and Bridge for Innovation event on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
  • Damian Collins, who chairs the U.K. Parliament’s Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill, discusses disinformation at a Washington Post Live event with former Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican who represented Texas, on Tuesday at 11 a.m.
  • Cédric O, France’s Minister of State for Digital and Telecommunications, discusses Europe’s digital agenda at an Atlantic Council event on Wednesday at 10:15 a.m.
  • The Senate Indian Affairs Committee hosts a roundtable on the digital divide and infrastructure investment on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

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