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Big Tech

America Leads in Information Technology, But U.S. Big Tech Still Has to Heal Itself



Screenshot of Steve Clemons of The Hill during the Thursday event

January 18, 2021—“Congress needs to better organize itself around technology,” said Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois, a member of the Financial Services and Science, Space, and Technology Committees.

Foster, along with a panel of tech innovators and policymakers, explained the steps the United States should take to remain a global leader in technology and innovation, during a webinar by The Hill that aired Thursday.

“The current Congress representing America” is outdated, Foster said, calling for new life to be breathed into the U.S. Office of Technology. Further, he suggested a new Committee on Information Technology to be established.

Other panelists believed greater distribution of broadband resources will help America remain competitive. “In order to get trade and technology right in this current age, proper infrastructure must exist,” said Ambassador Michael Froman, former U.S. Trade Representative and vice president and chairman in strategic growth at Mastercard ,

Froman also stressed the importance of having an open digital economy that protects privacy.

When it comes to homeland security, “America can not take its eye off the ball,” said Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., ranking member on the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee. Katko recognized the challenge in balancing security and innovation, but ultimately said he believes foreign input in the American tech sector is a positive thing.

Katko said he favored easing student visa regulations to allow scholars from around the globe  to stay in America, rather than taking their knowledge and expertise back home, where America will have to compete against them.

The technology industry needs to establish norms for free expression and safety

“Tech needs to have norms and rules to make sure people have free expression while also being safe,” said Karen Kornbluh, senior fellow and director at the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, member of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and former ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“It is critical civil rights, consumers, and even campaign finance transparency are protected,” said Kornbluh. “America needs more than standard media literacy. It needs more investment into civic infrastructure like broadband, and to use its public institutions in the best way possible, such as libraries.”

Kornbluh went on to say that the federal government needs more tech literate people. No longer can government separate pillars like economic issues from tech issues. It needs to have techonomic—a blend of technology and economics—appointed people, and other roles including Housing and Urban Development Tech.

Kornbluh also said that the IT sector needs to take ethics and values seriously, because ethics in tech is not optional.

The coronavirus pandemic is driving greater focus on health care

Of the many areas panelists said the U.S. needs to remain competitive in, one stood out in particular: Health care. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, James Manyika, senior partner at McKinsey & Company, said this includes boosting research and development in medical supplies, equipment and vaccine research.,

Ambassador Daniel  Sepulveda, senior vice president in policy and advocacy at MediaMath and a member of the Biden-Harris Transition Agency Review Team, said when he worked with then-Sen. Barack Obama, it was important to ensure nascent technologies were not hindered by regulation.

He maintained that this should be an important priority for the Biden-Harris administration. “Technology must be governed since it has potential to be used to harm,” said Sepulveda. “Ensuring interagency cooperation is important to prevent state-level malicious actors from harming U.S. interests via cyberattacks.”

Sepulveda maintained that keeping an openness to the world by accepting and welcoming talent, including low age and immigrant populations is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration.

Squeezing the inequities out of the technology industry

Technology can and continues to perpetuate systemic inequalities in racism and gender. “The first thing America must do is milk out the inequities in the tech industry,” said Mia Dand, CEO of Lighthouse3 and founder of Women in AI Ethics.

“There is not enough representation of women. Women and women of color still sink into the single when it comes to representation in tech,” said Dand.“The right people needed are not sitting at the table to help change this. Not only is this a problem for women, but any minority group as well.”

Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow of Governance Studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution., further argued  that the people developing technology are often not inclusive of the people tech is applied to.

Issues stemming from the digital divide go well beyond hurting women and people of color. This includes farmers, rural people, and lower-class people also face deep systemic inequities in the digital world,  she said.

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Free Speech

Panel Hears Opposing Views on Content Moderation Debate

Some agreed there is egregious information that should be downranked on search platforms.



Screenshot of Renee DiResta, research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory.

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2022 – Panelists wrangled over how technology platforms should handle content moderation at an event hosted by the Lincoln Network Friday, with one arguing that search engines should neutralize misinformation that cause direct, “tangible” harms and another advocating an online content moderation standard that doesn’t discriminate on viewpoints.

Debate about what to do with certain content on technology platforms has picked up steam since former President Donald Trump was removed last year from platforms including Facebook and Twitter for allegedly inciting the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

Search engines generally moderate content algorithmically, prioritizing certain results over others. Most engines, like Google, prioritize results from institutions generally considered to be credible, such as universities and government agencies.

That can be a good thing, said Renee DiResta, research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory. If search engines allow scams or medical misinformation to headline search results, she argued, “tangible” material or physical harms will result.

The internet pioneered communications from “one-to-many” broadcast media – e.g., television and radio – to a “many-to-many” model, said DiResta. She argued that “many-to-many” interactions create social frictions and make possible the formation of social media mobs.

At the beginning of the year, Georgia Republic representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was permanently removed from Twitter for allegedly spreading Covid-19 misinformation, the same reason Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was removed from Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube.

Lincoln Network senior fellow Antonio Martinez endorsed a more permissive content moderation strategy that – excluding content that incites imminent, lawless action – is tolerant of heterodox speech. “To think that we can epistemologically or even technically go in and establish capital-T Truth at scale is impossible,” he said.

Trump has said to be committed to a platform of open speech with the creation of his social media website Truth Social. Other platforms, such as social media site Parler and video-sharing website Rumble, have purported to allow more speech than the incumbents. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk previously committed to buying Twitter because of its policies prohibiting certain speech, though he now wants out of that commitment.

Alex Feerst, CEO of digital content curator Murmuration Labs, said that free-speech aphorisms – such as, “The cure for bad speech is more speech” – may no longer hold true given the volume of speech enabled by the internet.

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Big Tech

Twitter Whistleblower Says Company Needs to Work to Permanently Delete User Data

Meanwhile, Twitter shareholders approved a deal to sell the company to Elon Musk, who wants out.



Photo of Peiter Zatko at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary hearing

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2022 – Twitter’s former head of security and now company whistleblower told a Senate Judiciary committee Tuesday that Twitter must put more resources into trying to permanently delete user data upon the elimination of accounts to preserve the security and privacy of users.

Peiter Zatko, who was fired from Twitter in January due to performance issues, blew the whistle on the company last month by alleging Twitter’s lack of sufficient security and privacy safeguards poses a national security risk. He alleged that the company does not delete user data when accounts are deleted.

On Tuesday, Zatko told the Senate Judiciary committee that the company needs to take the step of ensuring that the personal information of users are deleted when they destroy their accounts.

He alleged company engineers can access any user data on Twitter, including home addresses, phone numbers and contact lists, and sell the data without company executives knowing.

“I continued to believe in the mission of the company and root for its success, but that success can only happen if the privacy and security of Twitter users and the public are protected,” Zatko said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Twitter investors approved SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, despite the billionaire trying to back out of the deal allegedly over a lack of information about the number of fake accounts on the platform. The company and Musk are currently in court battling over whether he must follow through on the deal.

Musk’s lawyer has asked the court to delay the trial — scheduled for mid-October — to allow his client to investigate the whistleblower’s claims, according to reporting from Reuters.

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Big Tech

A White House Event, Biden Administration Seeks Regulation of Big Tech

Participants voiced concerns over alleged abuses by big tech companies.



Photo of President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden on Thursday called for a federal privacy standard, Section 230 reform, and increased antitrust scrutiny against big tech.

“Although tech platforms can help keep us connected, create a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and open up new opportunities for bringing products and services to market, they can also divide us and wreak serious real-world harms,” according to a White House readout from the administration’s listening session on Thursday.

Participants at the White House event voiced concerns over alleged abuses by big tech companies.

A new data privacy regime?

The Biden administration called for “clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer, and maintain our personal data.” It also endorsed bipartisan congressional efforts to establish a national privacy standard.

Last June, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., introduced the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. The bill gained substantial bipartisan support and was advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July.

In the absence of federal privacy laws, several states drafted privacy laws of their own. The Golden State, for instance, implemented the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018. The CCPA’s protections were extended by the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020, which goes into effect in January 2023.

Biden maintains his position seeking changes to Section 23o

“Tech platforms currently have special legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that broadly shield them from liability even when they host or disseminate illegal, violent conduct or materials,” argued the White House document.

Biden’s hostility towards Section 230 is not new. Section 230 protects internet platforms from most legal liability that might otherwise result from third party–generated content. For example, although an online publication may be guilty of libel for a news story it publishes, it cannot be held liable for slanderous reader posts in its comments section.

Critics of Section 230 say that it unfairly shields rogue social media companies from accountability for their misdeeds. And in addition to Biden and other Democrats, many Republicans are dislike the provision. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, argue that platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube discriminate against conservative speech and therefore should not benefit from such federal legal protections.

Section 230’s proponents say that it is the foundation of online free speech.

Ramping up antitrust

“Today…a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants,” Thursday’s press release said. This sentiment is consonant with the administration’s antitrust policies to date. Indeed, Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, was a vocal antitruster in the academy and has greatly expanded the scope of the agency’s antitrust efforts since her appointment in 2021.

In the Senate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, is sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a bill that bans large online platforms from engaging in putatively “anticompetitive” business practices. The measure was approved by the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, and, though it was stalled over the summer to make way for other Democratic legislative priorities, it may come for a vote this fall.

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