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 http://engine.is/digest
The Big Story: House passes bad bill for platform protections. The House this week passed a bill that would undermine platform protections that companies rely on to host user content and to police that content themselves without fear of meritless litigation.
The House passed H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA, a carefully balanced bill that would dedicate more resources to fighting online sex trafficking without making it harder for platforms, including startups, to police the content themselves. Unfortunately the House also added S. 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, a more wide-ranging bill that could hurt platforms acting in good faith to identify and remove trafficking content.
We've long warned about the unintended consequences of the well-meaning SESTA, especially for honest startups who want to combat sex trafficking on their platforms. While the bill is hypothetically aimed at bad actors, as it’s currently written, it would open up companies to criminal charges and civil lawsuits even if they don't know about specific trafficking content on their platform, which might actually make it harder for startups to continue to work with law enforcement and victims’ groups to identify and remove trafficking content.
According to reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could put the bill up for a vote on the Senate floor the week of March 12.
The House and Senate have both introduced resolutions to block the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality! Lawmakers, advocacy groups, and Internet users alike spoke out this week to oppose the FCC’s repeal of its 2015 net neutrality rules, with advocacy groups organizing a day of action to bring the issue to Congress’ attention, and lawmakers officially introducing a measure to undo the FCC’s repeal. That measure now has more than 150 cosponsors in the House, where lawmakers have heard from Internet users and startups in their districts.
SCOTUS hears cross-border data case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the years-long fight between Microsoft and the U.S. government over whether U.S. warrants apply outside of U.S. borders. Here's our rundown of where the law stands and how some lawmakers are trying to make it easier for companies to navigate cross-border requests for data.
FCC sets up 5G vote. The FCC will vote next month on a proposal to eliminate regulatory burdens for small wireless facilities in an attempt to boost 5G efforts.
Lawmakers launch Entrepreneurship Caucus. Reps. John Delaney and Tom MacArthur launched the Entrepreneurship Caucus this week as a way to connect lawmakers and entrepreneurs to find ways to boost innovation and startup and small business growth.
Are you going to SXSW? We’re helping a few of our fellow organizations promote some amazing startup-related parties during SXSW Interactive. If you would like to learn more, please email Rachel, our SXSW policy guru, at Rachel@engine.is for a full list of events.
#StartupsEverywhere: Des Moines, Iowa. This midwestern city may be most fondly known for the fried foods at the Iowa State Fair, but it also has a bustling startup scene due to the state’s low interest loan program and investment tax credit, according to Des Moines local Geoff Wood. And on his policy wishlist are measures to make it less risky to start a business in the relatively risk-averse Des Moines, including making healthcare insurance more accessible and finding a way to ease the burden of student loans.