With help from Leah Nylen, John Hendel and Martin Matishak
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— The next antitrust shoe to drop: Weeks after Washington watched the Facebook-Australia flare-up unfold, the House Judiciary antitrust panel is examining whether news outlets should be able to negotiate with Facebook and Google for better terms.
— Coming today: Rep. Yvette Clarke, who has long focused on diversity issues in tech, is unveiling a resolution aimed at addressing the problem of under-representation of Black women in the field.
— Democrats go big on broadband: President Joe Biden’s signature on the Covid-19 relief package was barely dry before Energy and Commerce Democrats introduced a sweeping bill on infrastructure, a likely next priority for the White House.
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THE PUBLISHERS VS. THE PLATFORMS — The focus of House Judiciary’s latest antitrust hearing today: The news industry and whether publishers should collectively bargain for better terms with platforms like Facebook and Google.
Democratic antitrust Chair David Cicilline and his GOP counterpart Ken Buck on Wednesday reintroduced legislation aimed at helping local news outlets jointly negotiate with platforms over issues like attribution, branding and interoperability. (This newest version includes broadcasters along with print and digital outlets.) Both News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern and Jonathan Schleuss, president of journalism union NewsGuild-CWA, will back the bill today and discuss the state of local news.
— So, what’s it like negotiating with a Big Tech platform? We’re about to find out from Emily Barr of Graham Media, which operates seven local media hubs in Houston, Orlando, Detroit and elsewhere.
In an interview with Leah ahead of her testimony today, Barr described how stations are struggling to stay in business, even during a period that has underscored the importance of local news. “The irony of the whole situation is we’ve never seen higher ratings and we had no advertising” because companies cut back on it during the pandemic, she said. Right now, Graham is negotiating with an internet platform — Barr declined to say which one — but all it has offered is a non-negotiable set of terms that include restrictions on monetizing the company’s other content, she said: “It’s as if we’re paying to produce the product and they get to dictate the price and where and how it can be sold.”
— Next, the Australia example: Microsoft President Brad Smith, who is close with Seattle Times publisher Frank A. Blethen, will testify today on Australia’s proposal to require Facebook and Google to share revenue with news outlets (the Windows maker endorsed the Aussie legislation). “When technology undermines the health of the free press — as it has — then we must pursue new solutions to restore the healthy journalism on which our democracy depends,” Smith will say, according to prepared remarks reviewed by POLITICO. (Here’s a refresher on the Australia situation, which saw Facebook temporarily block links to news on its platform.)
— Republican-selected witnesses: Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald, who left to write screeds for Substack, will testify alongside Clay Travis of the OutKick. They are likely to focus on ranking Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s favorite topic: cancel culture.
EYEBALLS WATCHING EMOJI: CICILLINE-VESTAGER CONFAB? — Cicilline spoke Thursday to European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager about regulation and competition in digital markets, according to a commission spokesperson. Cicilline’s spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting. In remarks at the House panel’s first antitrust hearing last month, Cicilline mentioned efforts underway in Australia, the U.K. and the EU to rein in tech platforms, name-dropping Vestager in particular.
TEXAS GOOGLE SUIT MINI-UPDATE — U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan isn’t set to hear from Google until next week about moving the Texas attorney general’s antitrust suit over the giant’s advertising technology to California. But on Thursday, Jordan ordered Google and Texas to start meeting in the coming weeks on discovery in the case and appear for a scheduling conference on April 30 — a pretty clear sign that he’s not looking to give up the case to the Golden State.
EXPANDING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN TECH — Clarke is unveiling a resolution today to formally designate March as ‘‘Eddie Bernice Johnson Black Women in Science and Technology Month” — a change aimed at raising awareness about the achievements and under-representation of Black women in American tech and science. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who has been an advocate for Black women in STEM, made history not long ago as the first Black and female chair of the House Science Committee.
— ‘Hidden figures’: The New York Democrat’s resolution describes Black women as “hidden figures” unrecognized for their contributions to scientific progress in the U.S., particularly during the pandemic. Race and sex remain significant hurdles for getting into and moving up in science and tech, the resolution states, arguing that a national push to increase diversity in those disciplines would help the U.S. lead on innovation and better fight science and tech-related mis- and disinformation.
— Clarke is among the lawmakers who have been pushing Biden to pick diverse leaders to fill out the administration posts overseeing science, tech and telecom issues. That representation, Clarke and her colleagues have argued, is crucial to address problems with technology that often disproportionately affect communities of color. She plans to announce the resolution at a virtual summit celebrating women of color in tech and hosted by NPower, a nonprofit working to lift people out of poverty through tech training.
— Plus, other highlights from this week recognizing women in tech, and their work: Google is today holding its International Women’s Day summit. … The law firm Perkins Coie, recognizing the low volume of women patent holders in the U.S., launched a new program on Thursday to support female inventors and their startups. … Bipartisan lawmakers reintroduced the IDEA Act, which would empower the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to study the lack of diversity in patenting. … USPTO’s annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium continues for the next three weeks with events on resources, funding opportunities and innovation inspiration for women.
Girl Security, a nonprofit supporting Black girls in cyber and national security, won a $200,000 grant from the Gula Tech Foundation. … GETCities, an initiative working toward gender equality in tech, expanded from Chicago to D.C. … A Samford University researcher delves into the factors that shape people’s decisions to pursue careers in tech. … Check out the National Center for Women & Information Technology’s recently published inaugural issue of a magazine focused on inclusion in tech. … And meet “Women in AI” through these profiles from conversational AI company, Amelia.
LIFT AMERICA ACT BOOSTS BROADBAND IN A BIG WAY — House Energy and Commerce Democrats reintroduced a $312 billion infrastructure bill on Thursday that would make sweeping investments to expand internet access across the country. The measure comes as Biden likely turns to infrastructure after signing the Covid-19 relief package into law, and its broadband contours dovetail with legislation introduced the same day by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
— The Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, would include $80 billion to fund secure high-speed internet in unserved and underserved areas (both rural and urban); $15 billion in grants to deploy improved 911 services during emergencies; $5 billion in federal funding to finance the buildout of infrastructure; and $9.3 billion to help people afford and adopt the technology.
“By modernizing our infrastructure,” Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said Thursday, “we have an opportunity to revitalize our economy, create millions of new jobs, combat climate change, and ensure no community is left behind.” The bill was first introduced in 2019 and passed the House under the 116th Congress but hit a dead-end under a then-GOP controlled Senate.
FIRST IN MT: TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS PUSH FOR AUTO AIRWAVES BILL — The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials are asking the Biden administration to create a proposal for Congress that would undo the FCC’s November decision to carve up the auto airwaves of 5.9 GHz, which included a cut for Wi-Fi and liberalized what safety tech could be used.
— They outlined their specific asks, seeking a proposal that keeps the entire 5.9 GHz band reserved for transportation safety, in a letter sent late Thursday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and National Economic Council head Brian Deese. The letter marks the latest sign of tension over the FCC decision and comes in the wake of top Democrats showcasing they’re still worried about the airwaves carve-up — despite FCC assurances about the merits of last year’s order.
Michèle Flournoy, co-founder and managing partner of WestExec Advisors, was elected board chair for the Center for a New American Security, and James Murdoch, former CEO of 21st Century Fox, as vice chair. Michael Zak, a partner emeritus at CRV, will also chair a newly formed nominating and governance committee. … Ashley J. Earle and Cynthia A. Neal have joined Calfee, Halter & Griswold’s intellectual property practice as associates in the law firm’s Cincinnati office. … Sarah Shive, former vice president and counsel at the Information Technology Industry Council, is now partner at Capitol Tax Partners.
The Financial Technology Association launched this week; founding members include Afterpay, Betterment, Carta and Plaid. … Uber and Lyft announced the launch of the Industry Sharing Safety Program, a way “to share information about the drivers and delivery people deactivated from each company’s platform for the most serious safety incidents.”
On the future of shopping: “The e-commerce explosion does not herald the death of the physical store,” according to this special report in The Economist.
In profile: Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, a director of AI at Facebook. “The company’s AI algorithms gave it an insatiable habit for lies and hate speech,” MIT Technology Review reports. “Now the man who built them can’t fix the problem.”
Democracy Journal: “Why America needs a tech New Deal,” by Nicol Turner-Lee, director of the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation. And more here from the Journal on connectedness (or lack thereof) in America.
An early ask for Garland: The Project on Government Oversight penned a letter to newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to limit the Justice Department’s use of surveillance — from facial recognition to location tracking.
AI in medicine: IBM Research “has developed an AI system that can help speed up the design of molecules for novel antibiotics,” the company announced Thursday. Beyond antibiotics, the AI could help scientists “discover and design better candidates for more effective drugs and therapies for diseases.”
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).