With help from Cristiano Lima, John Hendel and Steven Overly
Editor’s Note: This edition of Morning Tech is published weekdays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services, at politicopro.com.
— Congress coming to a close: With the holiday recess on the horizon, the tech world is watching for possible outstanding legislation on privacy and Section 230 in the eleventh hour.
— Are we robot-ready? As presidential candidates amplify concerns about artificial intelligence and automation changing the labor market, House lawmakers take up future-of-work issues at a hearing this morning.
— FOSTA-SESTA redux: Sen. Rob Portman‘s office is pushing back on a new bill that would direct HHS to assess FOSTA-SESTA, the landmark online sex trafficking law that he spearheaded.
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BILL WATCH: END OF THE YEAR EDITION — With 2019 drawing to a close and Congress nearing the holiday recess, we’re on high alert for a couple of outstanding pieces of tech policy legislation:
— Privacy bill inbound? Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), whose House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has led efforts to craft a bipartisan online privacy bill, told Cristiano on Tuesday that the panel is on track to roll out a planned discussion draft this week. Schakowsky offered a glimpse at the contours of the bill last week, as Pro Tech reported, but we’ll be watching to see how the committee fills in key details — and whether it will table discussion on other key issues, beyond preemption and private right of action.
— The latest threat to Section 230? Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have suggested they may unveil a bill before the end of the year to protect children from online exploitation. Graham told Cristiano in November they’re considering a bill to require digital firms to demonstrate they’re meeting “best business practices when it comes to protecting children” to maintain their liability protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
— “It could be,” Blumenthal said Tuesday when asked about a possible draft bill rollout this year. “Hopefully we can find a compromise between us by the end of the year,” Graham said earlier this month.
HOUSE ZEROES IN ON FUTURE OF WORK — A House hearing this morning on “ensuring workers are competitive in a rapidly changing economy” comes amid rising concern about the near- and long-term effects of AI and automation, an issue that presidential candidates such as Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg have amplified. An Education and Labor subcommittee will hear from representatives of the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board and the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, among other organizations.
TEAM PORTMAN REJECTS BILL TO STUDY FOSTA-SESTA — Portman‘s office is brushing off a Democratic-led measure that would direct HHS to study the landmark online sex-trafficking law that he spearheaded last year. Four House and Senate members, including presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, debuted the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act on Tuesday, amid concerns that the law is causing unintended physical and financial harm to sex workers by forcing their communications offline. But Portman spokesperson Emily Benavides wasn’t buying it.
— “This law was about helping the most vulnerable women and children who were being raped and trafficked, and it’s succeeded in helping take down evil websites that facilitated these criminal trafficking enterprises,” Benavides told MT. “We have no interest in doing a study on how to facilitate any further illegal activity.” Portman added in a statement that the passage of FOSTA-SESTA “was an important milestone and hard fought victory for the victims and survivors of online sex trafficking.”
WALDEN: C-BAND AUCTION SALE SHOULD FUND BROADBAND — Top Energy and Commerce Republican Greg Walden supports legislation to ensure that the FCC’s sale of 5G-friendly C-band airwaves helps close the digital divide, which would seem to align him with telecom subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). “I think some of the proceeds should go to help fill the gaps in America where we don’t have high-speed reliable broadband,” the Oregon Republican told John on Tuesday. “And you’ve got to have a system where the current licensees are willing to come to the table.”
— The approach championed by Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) would have preserved at least half of the auction’s proceeds for the Treasury, but Democrats and some Republicans, like Louisiana Sen. John Neely Kennedy, say Congress should more explicitly set aside a big cut for rural broadband. (A Wicker amendment would allow for a tenth of the revenue to go to broadband.) The flip-side: Wicker wants to make sure the satellite providers who now hold the C-band airwaves are also well compensated so they don’t sue and slow down the process.
— Walden also suggested that any C-band legislation may need to be packaged with repeal of the so-called T-band mandate. That mandate would force an auction of a different swath of public safety spectrum by early 2021 despite consensus that first responders aren’t ready to move off the band. (Wicker’s bill tackles both airwaves issues.)
COMCAST LOBBYING UPDATE — Joshua Hurvitz from the lobbying firm NVG is now advocating on behalf of Comcast on issues related to copyright, content protection, telecommunications and the video marketplace, according to a new disclosure filing. Until recently, Hurvitz was vice president of public policy at WarnerMedia, the company formerly known as Time Warner until its merger with AT&T. He was previously a legislative director for former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).
Bryan Tramont, managing partner at the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer, has joined the Technology Policy Institute’s board of directors. … Jim Weaver, Washington state chief information officer, and Michael Hussey, Utah chief information officer, have joined the executive committee of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.
ICYMI: Silicon Valley billionaire and outspoken Trump supporter Peter Thiel is at the center of infighting at Facebook, WSJ reports.
Union woes: A fifth Google engineer has alleged she was fired in retaliation for her activism in the workplace, WaPo reports.
Location tracking latest: After Facebook responded to lawmakers’ questions about its location tracking practices, the senators are calling on the company to give users more control over their data, CNBC reports.
On the horizon: California’s gig economy reckoning, via WSJ.
Going dark: India is shutting down the internet amid protests — and does so “far more than any other country,” NYT reports.
What the: Dumpster divers say rummaging through other people’s trash and selling their junk on Amazon is alarmingly easy, WSJ reports.
By the numbers: A new Knight Foundation study that analyzed 86 million tweets found that Twitter’s political spectrum skews heavily center left.
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