Startup News Digest 9/06/19

The Big Story: Hate speech in the spotlight. As policymakers continue to think about problematic content on the Internet, 8chan and YouTube’s responses this week to the proliferation of online hate speech underscore the inherent difficulties of content moderation.

In prepared remarks, 8chan owner Jim Watkins told members of the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday that the online message board “has no intent of deleting constitutionally protected hate speech.” The House panel subpoenaed Watkins to appear before the committee this week after the gunman in last month’s deadly El Paso shooting posted a racist manifesto to the website in advance of his rampage.  

YouTube also announced this week that it removed more than 17,000 channels and over 100,000 videos between April and June for violating the platform’s new policy against racist and hateful content. The video platform previously announced in June that it was updating its hate speech policies to prohibit videos promoting extremist ideologies.  

A few Democratic and Republican lawmakers in recent months have targeted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act over concerns about how online content is being moderated by platforms. Several prominent Democratic politicians, including presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, have called for the removal of Section 230 liability protections from websites that do not do enough to police hateful content and activities on their sites. Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), meanwhile, have alleged that sites are unfairly censoring conservatives and want the federal government to step in and enforce political neutrality online. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is already planning to make allegations of political censorship a central component of its 2020 strategy. 

Policy Roundup:

2019 Congressional Startup Day. Throughout out the final weeks of August, more than 50 members of Congress and their staff met with over 75 startups across the country as part of Congressional Startup Day festivities. Learn more about the lawmakers and startups that participated here

Lawmakers press Google on copyright infringement. A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers, led by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai regarding the platform’s approach to copyright infringement. The lawmakers asked Pichai to participate “in a roundtable with Congressional offices and members of the creative community.”

Lawmaker, FCC commissioner talk geolocation data. In a Boston Globe op-ed, Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel expressed concerns about the sale of geolocation data, saying in part that “public policy should recognize that geolocation data collection is especially sensitive.”

President Trump doesn’t want to discuss Huawei with China. President Donald Trump said the U.S. does not want to discuss its blacklist of Chinese telecoms firm Huawei with China while the two countries hold talks over their escalating trade war. President Trump previously said he was open to discussing Huawei as part of the negotiations, but called the company “a national security concern” this week and added that “Huawei has not been a player that we want to discuss.” 

NTIA releases report on spectrum repurposing. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released its first annual report on the state of spectrum repurposing this week. The report found that the U.S. “already leads the world in spectrum available for 5G technology” and is planning to “more-than-double the radio spectrum available” to help streamline the development of future wireless networks. 

FTC's YouTube settlement outlines path for platform COPPA compliance. Google agreed to pay a record $170 million fine as part of a settlement with the FTC and New York’s attorney general over allegations that the site harvested personal data from children and used it to target advertisements. The settlement also requires YouTube to have channel owners self-identify the child-directed content they upload so ads are not placed next to that content.

Lawmakers plan antitrust hearings. The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee is planning to hold a Sept. 12 hearing “to discuss the effect of consumer data collection by big tech platforms.” The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is also holding a Sept. 17 oversight hearing with FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, and is planning to hold a Sept. 24 hearing to “explore issues relating to competition in technology markets and the antitrust agencies’ efforts to root out anticompetitive conduct.” 

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere. Chicago, IllinoisChicago boasts the highest percentage of female founders in the United States, with approximately 34 percent of the city’s startups run by women. One of these successful entrepreneurs is Reva Minkoff, the founder and president of two digital marketing startups—Digital4Startups and DigitalGroundUp—who has also been recognized for her leading role in Chicago’s startup ecosystem.