What’s happening this week: Representatives from tech companies and industry trade groups slammed France’s new digital services tax yesterday during a hearing held by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, saying that the legislation unfairly targets U.S. tech companies. The hearing came after the French Senate last month approved a 3 percent tariff on tech companies with more than 25 million euros (approximately $27.7 million) in French revenue, or have a global revenue of more than 750 million euros (approximately $832 million) per year.
What’s happening this week: The tech world is still digesting reports of a draft executive order from the White House that would empower the FTC and the FCC to crack down on social media platforms that moderate content that appears on their sites. The draft order, according to a summary obtained by CNN, would ask the FCC to develop regulations clarifying how and when digital platforms are protected when they remove online content. It also reportedly calls for the FTC to take the new regulations into account when it investigates or sues companies. The proposed order is not final and is subject to change, although it would represent a significant escalation of Trump administration’s allegations that social media sites are biased against conservatives.
The Big Story: Examining online extremism. The White House is holding a meeting on online extremism with tech and Internet platforms today in the wake of reports that the suspected perpetrator of last weekend’s deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas posted an anti-immigrant manifesto to online message board 8chan shortly before the shooting.
Startups facing patent litigation should be aware of recent, positive developments in patent venue law. This area of law dictates where a patentee-plaintiff can file an infringement lawsuit, and requires that a startup (or any company) can only be sued in a location (judicial district) where it has sufficient presence. Importantly, recent legal developments restrict parties—including patent assertion entities (PAEs), sometimes referred to as “patent trolls”—from suing startups in far-flung, plaintiff-friendly judicial districts. This levels the playing field in abusive patent litigation and benefits startups, who should no longer be required to defend litigation far from “home.”
What’s happening this week: In the wake of two tragic mass shootings over the weekend, officials are once again turning their attention to the spread of problematic content on the Internet after hateful messages from the shooter in El Paso were discovered on the online message board 8chan. President Donald Trump yesterday called on social media platforms to work with the Justice Department to identify potential mass shooters, saying that “we must shine light on the dark recesses of the Internet and stop mass murders before they start.”
The Big Story: Fallout from Capital One breach. Capital One revealed that a massive data breach exposed personal information from over 106 million credit card holders and applicants. The announcement came after the FBI arrested a former Amazon Web Services employee accused of breaking through the bank’s firewall to access customer data stored on an Amazon cloud server. The FBI is already examining whether the woman accused of hacking into Capital One’s cloud server also successfully hacked into other organizations’ servers as well.
What the Copyright Office hearing means for startups. This afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing of the U.S. Copyright Office. Karyn Temple, the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, will testify about operations and policy activities at the Copyright Office.
The Big Story: Barr wants to end “warrant-proof” encryption. Attorney General William Barr said in a speech that tech companies should be required to provide law enforcement officials with backdoor access to “warrant-proof” encryption on devices and apps. Barr did not propose a solution or path forward during his speech, but said that encryption was “enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield.”
China & the West Wing. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with leaders of Google, Intel, Micron, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Cisco, and other tech companies yesterday to discuss Huawei and the China trade war. The Trump administration blacklisted Huawei and banned sales of U.S. technology to the Chinese telecoms giant on national security grounds in May, but President Donald Trump softened his stance at the G-20 summit in Osaka at the end of last month. This thaw helped to restart trade talks between the two countries that stalled back in May.
The Big Story: Congress takes scattershot aim at big tech. Congress held a series of tech industry hearings this week examining issues ranging from anti-competitive practices to allegations of political censorship and questions about Facebook’s proposed digital cryptocurrency. While lawmakers expressed a variety of concerns about the tech industry’s practices, there was little common ground between Democrats and Republicans about how to adequately address their worries.
What Libra pushback means for startups. Congressional leaders in the House and Senate are planning to hold hearings this week about Facebook's recently launched Libra cryptocurrency. The hearings, as well as recent legislative and administrative responses to the digital currency proposal, could potentially impact blockchain and cryptocurrency startups.
Big Story. Trump administration targets social media sites. The White House criticized digital platforms over allegations of political bias during a social media summit this week. President Donald Trump and conservative lawmakers and activists have lashed out at major tech platforms over claims that they silence right-wing voices and viewpoints.
Big Story. Lawmaker targets content moderation practices. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced legislation this week that would impose a ‘politically neutral’ standard on internet platforms, upending critical protections that have allowed the Internet ecosystem to thrive.
Big Story. Tech giants under antitrust scrutiny. The Trump administration is reportedly launching a major antitrust probe to determine whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have misused their market power. Under a series of arrangements, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have reportedly divided up oversight of the four companies. The DOJ will now have authority over any potential antitrust investigations into Google and Apple, while the FTC will have oversight of Facebook and Amazon.
Big Story. Tech companies warned about doing business in China. U.S. intelligence officials have reportedly been briefing tech executives about the dangers of conducting business in China, including warning them about the theft of intellectual property and the possibility of cyber attacks. The meetings come as the Trump administration continues to warn companies against doing business with Chinese firms amidst an ongoing trade dispute between the two countries.