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McCarthy has said the House GOP “will rein in Big Tech power over our speech” and created a task force targeting Silicon Valley giants, but he’s also pushed back against sweeping antitrust proposals and maintained close industry ties.
Here’s our breakdown of what the new House leader could mean for tech:
‘Censorship’ probes inbound
McCarthy’s most pointed criticism of the tech industry has been over allegations of an anti-conservative bias among major social media platforms.
McCarthy and the House GOP’s “Big Tech, censorship and data task force” previously outlined plans to “scrap Section 230 protections for Big Tech behemoths and subject them to liability and accountability for the suppression of speech.” If enacted, that would have major ramifications for the industry, but it’s a concept sure to be rejected by the Democratic-led Senate.
Rather than legislative changes, McCarthy’s focus on allegations of bias is more likely to spawn investigations from several congressional committees. House Republicans have said they also plan to probe communications between tech companies and the Biden administrations.
McCarthy’s office did not return a request for comment on his tech priorities.
House GOP looking beyond social networks
While the usual targets like Facebook and YouTube may continue to face the most heat around allegations of bias, House GOP leaders have said they also plan to scrutinize the potential gate-keeping power of app stores like those of Google and Apple, email services like Gmail and payment processing sites like PayPal.
The House GOP tech task force’s agenda called for ensuring that “app stores are not engaging in unfair or deceptive practices against developers” and to prevent email services “from using filtering algorithms” on campaign emails unless they are marked as spam. McCarthy said in December that another investigative priority would be to look into “PayPal’s debanking efforts.”
Notably, PayPal has recently come under fire from Peter Thiel and Elon Musk — two prominent Republican allies who helped found the site — over what they have called its increasingly “totalitarian” and dystopian practices of locking or shutting down certain accounts.
Tech’s China ties under the microscope
McCarthy has said House Republicans will investigate “TikTok’s threat to national security” and has sought to cast Democrats as weak on China for not cracking down on it more forcefully. Under his speakership, Republicans appear poised to scrutinize the company’s ongoing negotiations with the Biden administration on a deal to assuage U.S. security concerns.
The House GOP’s focus on combating China may also extend to other tech companies that do business or manufacture their goods in the country.
Industry ties abound
While McCarthy has been publicly critical of industry giants, a number of his close allies and aides have represented or lobbied for them, giving companies direct links to the speaker.
Lobbyist Jeff Miller, a longtime friend of and prominent fundraiser for McCarthy, has represented Apple and Amazon as they have sought to fend off antitrust legislation targeting their practices, according to Politico. His firm has also lobbied for Amazon Web Services. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Former McCarthy aides have also gone on to represent or lobby for TikTok, Amazon and Apple.
McCarthy is also a longtime friend of Musk, who now owns Twitter and last week publicly endorsed the California Republican’s speakership bid.
McCarthy is all-in on preempting state privacy laws
While former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voiced concern that a bipartisan data privacy bill passed out of committee in the chamber would override state privacy measures like California’s law, McCarthy has long supported setting a single national standard.
“There needs to be a national-level regulation, not state-by-state on what we’re going to do about privacy,” McCarthy told The Wall Street Journal in 2019. Tech industry groups have long called for one federal privacy standard.
That could mean that McCarthy would be more amenable than Pelosi to bringing the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which would override most state privacy laws, to the House floor for a vote. The fate of the legislation, however, still hinges on clinching more Senate support.
McCarthy seemingly out on bipartisan antitrust bills
McCarthy has been critical of the bipartisan tech antitrust proposals advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last Congress, significantly dimming their prospects for passage.
According to a 2021 The Wall Street Journal report, McCarthy “said he opposes giving too much enforcement power to antitrust agencies.” Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.), who has served as the top Republican on the House’s antitrust panel, last year in an interview with The Technology 202 criticized McCarthy’s tech task force for not making antitrust a bigger focus.
House Republicans have said they plan to “ensure new entrants are not crushed by incumbent players by preserving a market in which companies can grow, innovate, and compete.”
Our top tabs
Social media helped drive mayhem in Brazil
Social media channels in Brazil surged with calls for violence and for a “war cry party in the capital” in the run-up to Sunday’s violent attacks on Brazil’s congress, supreme court and other government buildings, Elizabeth Dwoskin reports.
“Brazilian analysts have long warned of the risk in Brazil of an incident akin to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” Elizabeth writes. “In the months and weeks leading up to the country’s presidential election in October — in which leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated the right-wing incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro — social media channels were flooded with disinformation, along with calls in Portuguese to “Stop the Steal” and for a military coup should Bolsonaro lose the election.”
Brazilian analysts found posts questioning the integrity of the election on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram. Some researchers have focused on Twitter, which they say is used by some Bolsonaro allies. Twitter owner Elon Musk fired the eight people in the country who were moderating content for inciting violence and misinformation, according to a person familiar with the firings who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.
Facebook weighs restoring Trump’s access to account
The social media company indefinitely suspended President Donald Trump on Jan. 7, 2021, just a day after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Now, as Trump continues to claim, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen, experts are waiting to see whether Facebook continues to uphold the ban this month, Naomi Nix reports.
The issue is complicated by Trump’s campaign for president in 2024. Some experts argue that limiting his ability to post on a social media platform would be a major online restriction imposed on a U.S. political candidate for office. Some experts say that Trump doesn’t pose an immediate threat to violence anymore, but others say that the election fraud claims are enough to uphold the ban.
Facebook “will announce a decision in the coming weeks in line with the process we laid out,” Facebook parent Meta spokesman Andy Stone told The Post.
Prosecutors subpoena hedge funds for communications with Binance
The requests by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington in Seattle don’t necessarily mean that authorities will bring charges against cryptocurrency exchange Binance, Douglas MacMillan and Tory Newmyer report. But they come as prosecutors reportedly talk about a potential settlement with Binance and whether they have enough evidence to indict the company.
Legal experts say that “Binance … has long frustrated financial regulators and law enforcement agencies,” Douglas and Tory write. “For years, Binance let users buy and sell cryptocurrency on the platform without identifying themselves, making it an easy way for criminals to launder ill-gotten money, said John Ghose, a former Justice Department prosecutor who specialized in cryptocurrency cases before leaving to join the private sector in 2021.”
Binance Chief Strategy Officer Patrick Hillmann said in an interview that Binance is talking to “virtually every regulator across the globe on a daily basis,” but declined to comment on any U.S. investigations. Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve declined to comment.
Inside the industry
Elon Musk seeks to move trial over Tesla tweets, saying San Francisco jurors are biased (Wall Street Journal)
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts an event on government policy relating to open-source software on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
- Signal President Meredith Whittaker speaks at a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
- Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) speaks at a Heritage Foundation event on Big Tech on Wednesday at noon.
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Will Ferrell’s SNL audition, 1994 pic.twitter.com/xzskRghzlj— Historic Vids (@historyinmemes) January 7, 2023
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