Startup News Digest 2/23/18

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at

The Big Story: SESTA showdown looms. Congress is preparing to vote next week on proposals ostensibly aimed at fighting sex trafficking online, but one approach could hurt startups and actually make it harder for good actors to fight sex trafficking on their platforms.

For months, lawmakers have discussed versions of two measures: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, in the Senate, and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA, in the House. Engine supports FOSTA, a bill that passed the House Judiciary Committee and would boost law enforcement’s ability to fight online sex trafficking without undermining the protections that allow online platforms to police their user content for sex trafficking in the first place. On the other hand, SESTA could hold Internet companies, including startups, liable for sex trafficking content on their platforms even if they didn’t know that content existed. While SESTA has been considered by the Senate Commerce Committee, it has never been considered or examined in the House.

But with a House floor vote scheduled for Tuesday, some lawmakers are attempting to attach the more controversial SESTA to FOSTA, which would undermine the careful balance currently in the bill between law enforcement’s need for more power to fight sex trafficking and online platform protections that allow Internet companies of all sizes to work with law enforcement and victims’ groups without fear of criminal prosecution or bad faith civil lawsuits.

Policy Roundup

Net neutrality repeal on the books. The FCC’s repeal of its 2015 net neutrality rules has been published in the Federal Register, which starts the countdown clock for challenges in court as well as for Congress to take up a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the repeal.

Next NAFTA round. The next round of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement kick off next week, and we’re hoping negotiators advocate for the U.S. balanced copyright framework and intermediary liability protections, since weakening those protections could cost more than 400,000 jobs and $44 billion annually in GDP.

Lawmakers eyeing cryptocurrency rules. Reuters looks into the bipartisan, bicameral push for regulation of virtual currencies.

Fake video fears. Lawmakers are raising concerns about technology that allows for the easy manipulation of video and audio, warning that it could contribute to problem of inaccurate news online.

AT&T expands ‘sponsored data.’ AT&T has brought most of its wireless customers onto its “sponsored data” program, which lets customers use certain services—including AT&T-owned DirecTV—without counting that use towards their data caps.

STEM talent talk. A House panel had a hearing this week about the need to boost talent in STEM fields.

Startup Roundup

Best cities for tech talent. The Consumer Technology Association pulled together a list of the best cities to find tech talent, including Baltimore, Raleigh, and Atlanta.

Making coding accessible. After acquiring Flatiron School last fall, WeWork will open Access Labs, a 15-week software engineering education program for low-income New Yorkers.

Smart souther cities. The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge will give four communities $50,000 grants to explore smart city projects.