FTC vacancy may show how forcefully Republicans will target tech giants


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Below: Facebook gave prosecutors data for an abortion case, and a report finds that white supremacy groups have a presence on Facebook. First:

FTC vacancy may show how forcefully Republicans will target tech giants

For decades, Republicans at the Federal Trade Commission have largely championed a light-touch approach to regulating big businesses — much to the chagrin of progressive advocates.

But as one of the agency’s GOP commissioners prepares to leave, the pick to replace him could shed light on the party’s direction: Republicans could push for a more aggressive enforcer, critical of the tech giants — or to stick with their typical playbook.

Noah Phillipsone of two Republicans at the five-member FTC, told Politico that he plans to leave the agency this fall. His departure will create an opening at a crucial agency that’s tasked with overseeing competition, privacy and consumer protection abuses in the technology sector.

While President Biden is slated to nominate Phillips’s replacement, the White House traditionally consults with and even defers to the opposing party in picking their appointees.

A senior Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said any recommendation to Biden on a nomination will be ultimately made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), likely in consultation with key committee leaders.

Analysts and former federal staffers say whoever is chosen for the slot may reveal how much attitudes about regulating the tech giants have changed in the GOP.

Nathan Leamerformer policy adviser to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Paisaid views on reining in the tech giants have “dramatically changed” in recent years, shifting away from a more “laissez-faire” approach to one filled with “skepticism” of industry titans. And that’s likely to surface as Republicans look to shape Biden’s eventual FTC nomination.

“This is the first real personnel decision Republicans have that plays into the realignment on the right,” said Leamer, who now serves as vice president of public affairs at the political consulting firm Targeted Victory.

He added, “In the past, it would be a 50-50 shot between someone who is very libertarian-leaning [and a] traditional conservative Republican in the policy world, and I think now it’s gone full in the other direction.”

GOP attitudes about cracking down on big businesses, particularly those in Silicon Valley, have been evolving for years. And the overwhelming Republican support for the nomination of prominent Big Tech critic Lina Khanwho now chairs the FTC, sent shockwaves in the industry.

But the FTC pick could send a major signal about where the party is headed, said Paul Gallant, managing director at Cowen’s Washington Research Group, an analysis firm.

“It will be a very interesting tell on how the party may view Big Tech over the next five or 10 years,” he said.

“This is a post-Lina Khan FTC,” Leamer added. “I think it’s just really opened the door for a new direction for Republicans.”

It’s unclear when Biden may nominate a replacement for Phillips. He took historically long to nominate numerous key tech enforcers, and several nominees have languished in the Senate. And Phillips’s departure may not significantly impact Democrats’ ability to execute any of their agenda items at the agency, where they already have the majority.

Gallant argued that appointing a GOP Big Tech critic could have an immediate impact by shielding Democrats from charges that the agency has become more partisan.

That could prove crucial as the judicial system grows increasingly skeptical of federal agencies’ expanding their enforcement powers, he argued.

“Having a bipartisan vote to regulate Big Tech would … give the agency a better chance of surviving this tougher legal scrutiny,” he said.

Facebook gave prosecutors data for an abortion case

The prosecutors’ case against Jessica Burgess and daughter Celeste Burgess17, relies on the data from Facebook, Motherboard‘s Jason Koebler and Anna Merlan report. They’re accused of using abortion medication too late in Celeste Burgess’s pregnancy. She subsequently gave birth to a stillborn fetus that they disposed of, prosecutors say.

Local news outlets including the Norfolk Daily News previously reported on the case. Jessica and Celeste Burgess have pleaded not guilty, the outlet reports.

“While the court documents, obtained by Motherboard, allege that the abortion took place before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, they show in shocking detail how abortion could and will be prosecuted in the United States, and how tech companies will be enlisted by law enforcement to help prosecute their cases,” Koebler and Merlan wrote.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone commented on the case:

White supremacy groups have presence on Facebook, report says

The nonprofit tech watchdog Tech Transparency Project found nearly 120 Facebook pages and 20 Facebook groups associated with white supremacy organizations, Naomi Nix reports. Of the 226 groups that the Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center and a leaked version of Facebook’s dangerous organizations and individuals list name as white supremacist organizations, more than a third have a presence on Facebook, according to the study, which was exclusively obtained by The Post.

“The findings illustrate the ease with which bigoted groups can evade Facebook’s detection systems, despite the company’s years-long ban against posts that attack people on the basis of their race, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics,” Naomi writes. “Activists have charged that by allowing hate speech to proliferate across Its networks, Facebook opens the door for extremist groups to organize deadly attacks on marginalized groups.”

Facebook acknowledged a request for comment but didn’t provide a response.

Russia finds holes in social media sites’ rules around propaganda

Russian propaganda and anti-Ukrainian posts continue to spread on social media platforms almost six months into the war, despite the platforms taking measures to limit it, Will Oremus and Cat Zakrzewski report.

Accounts belonging to Russian Embassies have racked up more engagement on Facebook and Twitter since the war began than before Russia invaded Ukraine, according to research by Advance Democracy, Inc., a nonpartisan research group. Those accounts have also exploited loopholes in social media platforms’ rules to spread pro-Russian propaganda.

“Russia already very well knows the vulnerability of the rules of some media platforms,” Ukraine Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation George Dubinskiy said. “We have a media war right now.”

Prosecutors’ use of Facebook messages in an abortion case prompted calls for people to use end-to-end encryption. Librarian and technologist Jason Griffey:

Cybersecurity expert Eva Galperin:

Reporter and podcaster Jon Fasman:

DOJ is preparing to sue Google over ad market as soon as September (Bloomberg)

Microsoft tries to reduce business expenses by restricting spending on travel and company gatherings (Wall Street Journal)

Elon Musk Sells Nearly $7 Billion Worth of Tesla Stock Amid Twitter Uncertainty (Wall Street Journal)

Ex-Twitter employee convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia (The Verge)

The TikTok influencers are coming for the midterms (The Verge)

How Russia took over Ukraine’s internet in occupied territories (The New York Times)

  • The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) will be honoring five people at its annual Champions of Freedom Awards ceremony next month. EPIC will honor Washington, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (DN.Y.) and US Census Bureau Associate Director and Chief Scientist John Abowd with its Champion of Freedom Award. UCLA professor Safiya Noble will get EPIC’s Privacy Champion Award and MIT professor Sherry Turkle will get its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Google tries publicly shaming Apple into adopting RCS (The Verge)

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