Startup News Digest 8/09/19

The Big Story: Examining online extremism. The White House is holding a meeting on online extremism with tech and Internet platforms today in the wake of reports that the suspected perpetrator of last weekend’s deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas posted an anti-immigrant manifesto to online message board 8chan shortly before the shooting. 

The meeting comes after reports surfaced that the White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order to address allegations that social media platforms are unfairly censoring conservative voices. Sources cautioned that the text is still in flux, and it remains to be seen whether a final executive order will address concerns about online extremism in the wake of the El Paso shooting. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he wants to work with social media platforms “to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.” 

Lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee this week also called for the owner of 8chan to testify before the panel about the website’s handling of racist and violent content. Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) also released an action plan to address online extremism that asks in part for the House to consider legislation that includes “a national commission on social media companies and terrorism content” when Congress return from its August recess.

Policy Roundup:

The latest IP news. This week, Engine launched IP Recap—a newsletter that will provide periodic updates on IP developments relevant to the startup community. The first edition discusses the Federal Circuit's recent decision in Westech v. 3M, rules about where patent lawsuits are litigated, and what it means for startups. Click here if you want to subscribe to IP Recap. 

2020 broadband access proposals. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a plan this week that would grant $85 billion in federal funding to subsidize the development of rural broadband networks, joining several other Democratic presidential candidates who have also announced broadband infrastructure proposals. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), another presidential candidate, announced the create of a $50 billion fund for rural communities that could also be used to address broadband concerns, while fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also announced a “commitment to connect every household in America to the Internet by 2022.”

The cost of privacy legislation. A new report released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that a federal data privacy law mirroring the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act could cost the U.S. economy approximately $122 billion per year, with startups and other small businesses bearing a large brunt of the financial impact. 

Lawmakers raise flags over 230 in USMCA. The bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer raising concerns about the inclusion of U.S. platform liability protections in the USMCA trade agreement. As Engine previously noted, startups will benefit from the digital trade chapter’s inclusion in the USMCA because the provision “will lead to greater innovation domestically and among our trading partners.” 

Shootings highlight difficulties in fighting misinformation. This weekend’s deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio highlighted how difficult it is for online platforms to combat the rapid spread of misinformation after false and misleading news about the shooters and shootings spread across Internet platforms and online message boards. 

AG Barr wrong about encryption. Engine joined with other organizations on a new report correcting Attorney General William Barr’s recent comments about law enforcement's push to have tech companies build intentional vulnerabilities into their products to facilitate law enforcement access to encrypted data.

Regulators concerned about Libra user data. Data protection officials from the U.S., U.K, and EU issued a joint statement criticizing the “vast reserves” of personal information that would be collected as part of Facebook’s proposed Libra digital currency. Regulators added that they were “surprised and concerned” about the lack of information the company has provided about how it plans to protect user data.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere: Middletown, Delaware. Delaware may be small, but the passion of the state’s entrepreneurs is hard to miss. One such innovative leader is Pedro Moore, who founded Funding Fuel as a means of helping everyday people build up wealth.