This is a concern shared by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), people familiar with the matter told The Technology 202.
Part of the legislation that ostensibly aims to ‘tackle censorship and barriers to digital trade’ in countries like China disagrees, but groups fear it contains loopholes that could be co-opted by big business .
According to the Senate version of the bill, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) would be required to identify and report countries “that engage in acts, policies, or practices that disrupt digital business activities,” including censorship. It’s a process that can lead to tariffs, and which proponents say could be used as a weapon to pressure tech regulations overseas.
On Friday, a transatlantic coalition of consumer groups wrote a letter to congressional leaders warning that the language was drafted too broadly and could be used by tech companies to argue that overseas rules aimed at promoting safety online or cracking down on competitive abuse are labeled as ‘censorship’ or as ‘barriers to digital trade’. The groups said in the letter shared exclusively with The Technology 202 that it could ‘undermine the Union’s overarching regulatory to protect consumers online”.
The Coalition for App Fairness, a group of smaller app developers including Match Group and Basecamp that lobbies for new tech regulations, also expressed concern last month in a separate letter obtained by The Technology 202 that the language “could be interpreted as undermining critical efforts”. to restore fairness and competition in the digital app economy. Another coalition of consumer and anti-monopoly groups took aim at the language last month.
The provision is a key point of contention for consumer advocates as talks enter a crucial stretch on Capitol Hillwhere the House and Senate will have to iron out differences between their versions of the bill, aimed at boosting competitiveness with China.
The concerns are shared by key House lawmakers, including Pelosi, said people familiar with the matter, who spoke anonymously to discuss private discussions. It could become a flashpoint in negotiations as the two chambers seek to finalize the much-watched package.
During a hearing last June, Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.) urged colleagues to reject what she called “the effort to entrench Big Tech…failed [business] models” in the Sens bill. Ron Wyden (D-Oré.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who is the author of part of the Senate business title.
Schakowsky confirmed that the remarks referred to the section on censorship and digital trade barriers, among other provisions.
“This is exactly the wrong approach, and as a participant I will fight to make sure this wrong approach stays out,” Schakowsky, who is part of the group negotiating the bill, said in a statement.
Pelosi’s staff told House members she shared the concerns, according to two people familiar with the matter. A senior congressional official added “there is no daylight” between Schakowsky and Pelosi. Another senior congressional aide, who was not authorized to speak officially, said that “the House’s position is reflected in what is and is not included in the trade-related measures that have been carefully crafted to get the votes to pass the house.”
Henry Connellya spokesperson for Pelosi, said in a statement that “the President supports the trade package carefully crafted and passed by the House.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also opposes the language. “There is no reason big tech companies should be given special treatment and a potential tool that could undermine policies that address corporate concentration, combat misinformation and protect privacy,” he said. she told The Technology 202.
Wyden pushed back on the criticism, presenting the altered trade language as a tailored approach to combat censorship by authoritarian countries like China and Russia.
“If America does not step up to combat this wave of digital censorship, authoritarian forces will win, and freedom of expression, political dissent, and human and labor rights will suffer,” he said. he said in a statement. He added that their amendment “begins the process of fighting back, calling on the USTR to identify nations that engage in coercive digital censorship.”
A Wyden staffer, who was not authorized to speak officially, noted that the censorship provisions require the USTR to identify and prioritize countries engaged in the “most serious acts, policies or practices”. onerous or the most egregious” and that the bill more broadly urges the agency to negotiate digital trade deals “with like-minded countries” that support consumer protections.
However, Wyden supports a proposed change in a letter from human rights group PEN America to add a more detailed definition of what constitutes “forced censorship” to the bill and to explicitly state that it “does not should not be construed to include government actions related to data privacy, antitrust enforcement, or anti-harassment orders,” according to the staffer.
The remarks reflect growing concern among some lawmakers and consumer advocates that corporate interests, including in Silicon Valley, are hijacking trade policy to target sweeping regulations abroad while jostling policymakers domestically.
Lawmakers including Pelosi and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) have previously expressed concern over the inclusion of language enshrining tech industry liability protections, known as Section 230, in U.S. trade agreements with allies. strangers.
NLRB denies Amazon’s request to close hearing to public
Amazon is set to argue Monday that a landmark vote to unionize a Staten Island warehouse should be overturned, Caroline O’Donovan reports. The company argued that a typical public hearing would corrupt witnesses.
‘Commission hearings are not secret,’ NLRB regional director says Cornele Overstreet wrote. “As a result, blocking the public from seeing its important processes is not an option.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Regulators step up probe into Tesla Autopilot crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration turns its preliminary assessment into an engineering analysis, a potential precursor to a recall, Faiz Siddiqui reports. The regulator is investigating the role of Tesla driver assistance systems in collisions with parked emergency vehicles.
“The agency began evaluating the issue in August 2021, following nearly a dozen crashes in similar circumstances, which included stationary emergency vehicles such as ambulances and police cruisers, some in low light conditions,” writes Faiz. “The agency has identified 15 injured and one fatality involved in the crashes,” he wrote.
Legislation to boost semiconductor industry faces uncertainty
Time is running out for lawmakers to strike a deal on the bill amid the upcoming summer recess and midterm elections, Bloomberg News’ Jenny Leonard and Daniel Flatley report. Some senators blame the White House for not pushing the legislation enough, while some people familiar with the process tell Bloomberg News that politics is to blame for the delay on the Hill.
“Republicans who had worked with the administration on the measure are now balking at giving Biden a win ahead of the November election as their party is poised for big gains in Congress,” they write. “Instead, they aim to draft their own China bill after taking control of the House, Senate or both.” Senate Democrats have recently focused on federal gun laws, slowing work on the semiconductor bill.
Some administration officials also blame consumer electronics companies and makers for not being supportive enough, Bloomberg News reports.
Actor seth green recovered his stolen non-fungible token, reports Sarah Emerson of BuzzFeed News. Editor Mark Yarm:
The Hollywood Reporter editor Masters Kim:
Journalist and writer Maggie Serota:
Big Tech spent $36 million on ads to torpedo antitrust bill (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook again fails to detect hate speech in ads (Associated Press)
JD Vance and Peter Thiel accused of ‘secret website’ shenanigans (The Daily Beast)
SEC investigates UST stablecoin explosion in new threat to Terra (Bloomberg)
Apple retail workers in New York change unions (The Verge)
Meta will stop creating Portal for consumers (The Verge)
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing on privacy legislation Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
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