Startup News Digest 9/22/17

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: Congress Debates Bill to Change Section 230. The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing this week on the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (S.1693) a well-intentioned but overly broad bill that could be harmful to Internet platforms. At its core, the bill would broaden exemptions to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a provision of U.S. law that keeps Internet platforms from being held legally responsible for the conduct of their users.

We live-tweeted some of the highlights, and we wrote about our takeaways from the entire hearing in a blog post. While many of the lawmakers and witnesses discussed the need to combat sex trafficking, some honed in on the problems we see with the bill, including that it could make companies less likely to actively combat sex trafficking content on their platforms.

And the Senate isn’t alone. According to reports, the House Judiciary Committee is also planning to hold a hearing on the issue. Over in the House, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) has a bill that goes even farther than SESTA. As this issue picks up steam in Congress, we and others in the tech community are ready to find a solution that actually combats sex trafficking while protecting the Internet’s foundational law.


What’s Happening in Policy:

New Venue Rules for Texas Court. The Federal Circuit overruled the infamous Eastern District of Texas Judge Gilstrap this week in his attempt to rewrite patent venue rules. Startups have celebrated the Supreme Court's ruling in T.C. Heartland, and the Federal Circuit reaffirmed these crucial laws to get patent troll suits out of the plaintiff friendly jurisdiction. 

NSA Faces Skeptics. The National Security Agency has stopped pushing for two data encryption techniques to be set as global standards after facing international experts who were skeptical of the agency’s motivations.

VCs Sue over Immigration Rule Delay. Venture capital firms are suing the Trump administration over its delay of the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama-era that made it easier for foreigners to start companies in the U.S.

PTAB Turns Five. It’s been five years since the Patent and Trademark Office launched the Patent Trials and Appeals Board, which hears challenges to patents that have already been issued and has been a crucial tool in fighting the broad, vague and otherwise bad patents that are easily weaponized by patent trolls.

47,000 Open Internet Complaints. A group of Senate Democrats is pushing the FCC on how it plans to get feedback on and incorporate the tens of thousands of complaints it has received about net neutrality violations, which the agency made available only after the August deadline for reply comments in the net neutrality proceeding.

A Different Immigration Fight. Axios notes an uptick in U.S. applications for startup jobs in Toronto in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Warrants for Stingrays. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement’s use of stingrays -- devices that track cellphone location and use by mimicking cell towers -- is a search under the Fourth Amendment and requires a warrant.

EU Eyes Tech Taxes. A new report from the European Commission found that major tech companies have less than half of the tax rate of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.


Startup Roundup:

  • #StartupsEverywhere: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The latest installment of our #StartupsEverywhere series looks at Milwaukee-based Joe Poeschl, program director and co-founder of The Commons, a local collaborative effort to boost students’ entrepreneurial skills. “We formed The Commons in collaboration with all 24 colleges and universities in Southeast Wisconsin, several dozen local corporations, and the entrepreneurial community,” Joe says. “We bring together motivated students from any discipline and help them understand how to think like entrepreneurs.” Read the rest of the profile here.

  • Lyft Offers to DD. Lyft and Budweiser are teaming up to offer ride credits that can be redeemed on weekend nights.

  • National Day of Civic Hacking: It’s taking place September 23. Learn more here.