Startup News Digest 4/12/19

The Big Story: Dealing with harmful online content. Dueling congressional committees this week held hearings on online hate speech and digital censorship as the United Kingdom released a sweeping plan to require social media companies to be more proactive in removing harmful content from their sites.

U.K. regulators unveiled a 102-page white paper proposing new requirements for social media platforms, including steps to combat cyberbullying and promote "authoritative" news services. While the plan is still being fleshed out, regulators have proposed that the requirements would apply to companies that "allow users to share or discover user-generated content or interact with each other online."

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing examining how social media companies can combat online hate speech, while a Senate panel discussed concerns about online censorship. YouTube said it was forced to shut down comments on the livestream of the House committee hearing, which focused on hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism, after the page became inundated with hateful comments. In the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republican members threatened to impose regulations on social media companies over charges that the platforms censor the speech of conservative users.

Policy Roundup:

Net neutrality bill passes in the House. House lawmakers passed the Save the Internet Act, legislation to to reinstate the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality protections, in a 232-190 vote. Over 120 startups joined Engine in calling on Congress to pass the legislation, in part because net neutrality helps keep the Internet a level playing field for startups.

Democrats target biased algorithms. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation that would give the FTC authority to require that all data brokers or companies with data on more than 1 million consumers correct algorithms that result in harmful discriminatory or biased actions.

Senators target dark patterns. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced legislation that would prohibit large online sites from using so-called “dark patterns” to trick users into handing over their personal data. Dark patterns are deceptive user interfaces that, once clicked, can lead users to unknowingly agreeing to relinquish some control over their personal information.

H-1B visa denials jump under Trump administration. An analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy found that the denial rate for high-skilled foreign-worker H-1B visas in the first quarter of this fiscal year was 32 percent, the highest rate in at least a decade.

EU releases guidelines for AI development. The European Union published ethics guidelines outlining how companies should develop artificial intelligence systems, including seven requirements focused on: human agency and oversight; technical robustness and safety; privacy and data governance; transparency; diversity, non-discrimination and fairness; environmental and social wellbeing; and accountability.

Startup Roundup:

In DC? Join us for the first "Nuts and Bolts of User Privacy" event. Engine and the Charles Koch Institute will be hosting a Hill panel on Thursday, April 18 at noon to discuss recent and potential changes to privacy rules in the U.S. and abroad, and the impact those changes will have on U.S. users and companies. Learn more and RSVP here.

#StartupsEverywhere. Las Cruces, New Mexico. Based in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center works to connect startups and entrepreneurs across the state with the resources they need to innovate and expand. Zetdi Runyan Sloan, director of the center’s accelerator programs, uses her own entrepreneurial spirit to help startups--particularly those operated by underserved entrepreneurs--grow through mentorship programs and networking opportunities.