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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

GOP uproar over FTC's Khan mounts as lone Republican calls it quits

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Happy Wednesday! The UFO news cycle is sucking the air out of the room, but I don’t feel deflated and won’t let it burst my bubble. Send tips and puns to:

Below: The latest on Elon Musk’s Twitter plans, and senators take aim at the tech giants at a hearing on kids safety. First:

GOP uproar over FTC's Khan mounts as lone Republican calls it quits

Republican resistance to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan's aggressive enforcement agenda reached a fever pitch Tuesday as a GOP member of the agency announced plans to resign in protest.

In a scathing op-ed, Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson accused Khan and her “enablers” of having a “disregard for the rule of law and due process,” including in their antitrust policy. 

“I refuse to give their endeavor any further hint of legitimacy by remaining,” she wrote. “Accordingly, I will soon resign as an FTC commissioner.”

Wilson for months has grown increasingly vocal in denouncing both Khan’s approach to competition policy and her leadership at the agency, where there’s been reports of waning staff morale since she took over as chair in 2021. 

Wilson did not say when she plans to step down, and did not return a request for comment on the matter. But the decision could bring the five-seat commission down to three commissioners, all Democrats, after the FTC’s other Republican stepped down last year.

In response to Wilson’s op-ed, the agency’s three Democratic commissioners issued a joint statement thanking Wilson for her service. The statement did not directly address her critiques.

“While we often disagreed with Commissioner Wilson, we respect her devotion to her beliefs and are grateful for her public service,” Khan, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya said. “We wish her well in her next endeavor.”

Some Senate Republicans, who backed Khan initially but have grown wary of her tenure, expressed sympathy for Wilson's position. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, called Wilson a “critical counterweight at the FTC” and said her resignation “raises significant questions about the agency’s direction and operations.”

“I hope the two open Republican FTC slots can be filled quickly because the extreme partisanship at the FTC is leaving whole swaths of the U.S. economy vulnerable to Lina Khan’s activist agenda,” Cruz said in a statement.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called it “frustrating” that the Biden administration “is trying to do all these things through rules and regulations rather than through legislation,” and he is “sorry for people who are trying to serve and do their job.”

The FTC in August launched a rulemaking process on “commercial surveillance” that could reshape the agency’s enforcement around data protection issues. 

The move was lauded by consumer advocates but opposed by FTC Republicans, who argued it was too broad in scope and called instead for Congress to tackle the issue. 

President Biden recently called on Congress to pass data privacy legislation and other tech reforms in his State of the Union address. 

Democratic senators defended Khan’s record, praising her as a champion for more stringent consumer protections and diligent antitrust enforcement. 

“I support Lina Khan and I supported the nomination,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I’m sorry to hear that this other commissioner does not agree.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a staunch Khan ally who for years has urged federal regulators to take a tougher posture against the tech giants and other major corporations, had a more pointed response to Wilson’s resignation plans.

“Who cares?” she told me. 

Warren added, “Antitrust laws have been in place for over 100 years, but for the past 40 years they've been left on the side of the road to rust. Lina Khan is picking them up and using them again.”

Other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle suggested that if Wilson wanted to change the agency’s direction, she should stay and advocate for it. 

“I think the FTC is going in the right direction and a way for her to [influence it] would be to stay on the commission, not to abandon it,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“If you believe in what you’re doing, you ought to stay there and fight,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has voiced concern that the FTC under Khan has become more partisan, told me.

Wilson’s departure would create a second FTC vacancy, which could reveal whether Senate Republicans are willing to embrace another aggressive enforcer, as some conservative groups have called for, or if they will push for a more traditional free-market pick. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an outspoken critic of the tech giants, said he looks “forward to confirming a Republican FTC Commissioner who’s committed to vigorously enforcing our antitrust laws in order to hold corporate monopolies accountable.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Sen. Richard Blumenthal's state affiliation. He represents Connecticut.

Our top tabs

Musk looking to name new Twitter CEO by year’s end

Twitter owner Elon Musk said Wednesday that he’s aiming to name a new chief executive at the social network by the end of 2023, CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal reports.

"I think I need to stabilize the organization and just make sure it’s in a financially healthy place and that the product roadmap is clearly laid out," Musk said while speaking at a summit.

Musk’s Twitter takeover has been hailed by conservatives who view him as an ally in their battle against allegations of censorship, but criticized by Democrats over reports of rising hate speech on the platform.

Senators target tech giants on kids safety at hearing

“Senators from both parties blasted Big Tech on Tuesday and called for the passage of federal legislation to regulate tech platforms in the midst of a mental health crisis among young Americans,” CNN’s Brian Fung reports

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) kicked off the hearing by accusing tech companies of “doing everything they can to keep our kids’ eyes glued to the screens.” And he suggested the committee may soon call in representatives from major tech companies to testify before the panel. 

“The hearing comes amid renewed attention on the impact social networks are having on their youngest users,” CNN reports. Tuesday’s session did not feature any industry representatives, who testified in 2021 on their efforts to protect kids online before the Senate Commerce Committee. 

U.S. tweaks immigration policy after pressure from tech giants

After pressure from Big Tech companies, the United States updated its immigration rules to make it easier for children of documented immigrants to stay in the country past their 21st birthday, my colleague Gerrit De Vynck reports for The Technology 202.

The children of immigrants usually gain permanent resident status when their parents get green cards, but because of massive delays in the immigration system, many of them face the risk of losing their right to be in the country when they turn 21 and cease to be considered kids by the U.S. government.

The situation affected tens of thousands of children and teens, many of them the kids of highly skilled immigrant tech workers employed by companies like Google, Amazon and Uber. The companies wrote a letter to Congress last year demanding changes to the status quo.

The new changes, which were announced Tuesday and go into effect immediately, mean that as long as kids apply for permanent residency before they turn 21, they won’t lose their status even if the wait time takes years.

Google vice president of government affairs and public policy Karan Bhatia said the company was glad to see the changes. “We'll continue to advocate for a better and more competitive immigration system,” Bhatia said.

Inside the industry

Walmart to close 3 tech hubs, asks staff to return to office (Associated Press)

Meta Oversight Board to begin reviewing cases more quickly (Reuters)

Sam Bankman-Fried summoned to NYC by judge over bail rules (Associated Press)

Workforce report

Amazon Workers Plan Week-Long Strike at UK Warehouse (Bloomberg)

Laid-Off Tech Workers Seek Leverage on the Way Out (Wall Street Journal)


These women journalists were doing their jobs. That made them targets. (Taylor Lorenz)

Meet the latest Chinese apps shaking up your shopping (Shira Ovide)


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