Startup News Digest: 8/11/2017

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

Tech Community Comes to Section 230’s Defense. Thousands of Internet companies rely on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from being held legally responsible for what their users say online. That’s why we and more than 30 companies, groups, and organizations—including Copia, Automattic, Cloudflare, GitHub, Medium, Patreon, and Reddit—wrote to two lawmakers looking to narrow Section 230’s protections in the name of curbing sex trafficking. In a letter this week, we reiterated the tech community’s demonstrated commitment to the laudable fight against sex trafficking but explained that the new bill from Sens. Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal would have unintended devastating consequences for the Internet. “Opening up Section 230, and drastically changing a law that has been key to the growth of the internet for the past two decades, is making a massive policy change without any evidence that it will be targeted and effective,” we wrote. “While there may be a few specific platforms that you are targeting with this legislation, it will have a much wider and devastating impact on many others.”

Continuing to Fight for the International Entrepreneur Rule. This week, along with Tech:NYC, we filed a letter with the Department of Homeland Security expressing concerns over the announced delay the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) and re-upping our arguments in favor of the rule from last fall. The rule would allow talented foreign-born entrepreneurs to build their companies in the United States, in turn creating jobs and driving economic transformation. As groups that push for policies to encourage the world’s brightest innovators to come to the U.S. and start their companies here, we know that delaying or even eliminating the rule would slow the growth of the U.S. startup economy and the jobs it creates.

Your Guide to Tech Policy Talks at SXSW. Voting for SXSW panels has opened, and we’ve made it easy to navigate the offerings and promote panels on the tech policy topics that are critical to the startup ecosystem. The Engine team will be representing on panels about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and patent trolls. We’ve also pulled together a list other proposed panels touching on startup policy topics, including on workforce automation, regulating artificial intelligence, government use of technology, and hacking back. Voting is open until August 25th, so head over the SXSW’s PanelPicker and cast your votes.

Trump Advisers Approach Tech Companies for Help. The White House is encouraging federal agencies to be more tech-friendly, and they’re asking tech companies for help. According to a report from Recode, White House advisers--including Jared Kushner, who heads up the Office of American Innovation--had a private call with companies like Apple, Amazon, Oracle, and Qualcomm and announced new efforts to reduce regulation and encourage federal agencies to use cloud computing and to open up their data for use by the private sector. Tech companies could potentially contribute to these efforts by having prominent engineers do “tours of duty” advising the government, Recode reported.

Personal Audio Podcasting Patent Goes Down. The Federal Circuit upheld a ruling that invalidated a podcasting patent held by Personal Audio being used to sue podcasters ranging from CBS and NBC to small podcast creators. The ruling in a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed with a decision from the Patent and Trademark Office that the patent, covering a “system for disseminating media content,” did not cover any new inventions and should be struck down.

Democrats Introduce Bill to Protect Planes from Drones. Rhode Island Democrats Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Jim Langevin recently introduced legislation that would make it illegal to fly drones near airport runways without air traffic controllers’ permission, according to The Hill. The bill would also criminalize the use of drones in a way that endangers manned aircraft.

Startup Day Across America Shows Bipartisan Support for Entrepreneurship. Last week, over 50 members of the House and eight members of the Senate showed their support for their local startup ecosystems by joining together to celebrate Startup Day Across America. For its part, Engine joined Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) in visiting a startup in his district, Sandboxx, a veteran-founded social media platform that allows military families, veterans, and service members to communicate. We’re grateful to the organizational efforts of Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for convening Members with the goal of supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship across the country.