Antitrust the talk of the town


With help from Steven Overly and Ashley Gold

TODAY: ANTITRUST THE TALK OF THE TOWN — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is slated to huddle with other Justice Department officials and state attorneys general this morning to discuss allegations of bias and possible anticompetitive behavior by tech companies. The meeting, billed by the DOJ as a “listening session” to discuss “consumer protection and the technology industry,” is the culmination of months of criticism from President Donald Trump and his allies aimed at top tech firms. But it remains unclear whether it will translate to concrete steps from the DOJ or other planned participants, including Democratic law enforcement leaders like California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has frequently stood in opposition to the Trump administration’s agenda.

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— Plans in flux: Prior to the DOJ announcing a list of expected attendees for the 10 a.m. summit — which includes eight state attorneys general, the D.C. AG and law enforcement representatives from five states — other officials who received invites voiced frustration over a lack of communication about the session. “It’s changed a lot and we’re having a difficult time getting details,” said Robert Kittle, communications director for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R). (Wilson, who was invited, was not included in the DOJ’s latest list of participants.) And Sean Rankin, executive director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, said “Democratic AGs were given unreliable information during the planning, and the topic seems to have devolved from original intentions behind such a meeting.”

— Unhappy campers: Industry officials continue to criticize the meeting. “At a time when the misuse of governmental power to pursue personal or partisan agendas is increasingly understood to constitute a threat to the rule of law, and the stability of our nation, a meeting that appears to use anti-trust enforcement power to intimidate free speech is a particularly bad idea,” Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, told MT.

— Guest of honor? A noteworthy addition to the guest list for the event: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The DOJ’s embattled No. 2 will appear at the closed-press event two days before a highly anticipated meeting with Trump and amid a flurry of reports that his departure from the administration may be imminent. (For a full dispatch on the meeting, read Steven’s take here.)

MEANWHILE, JUST A FEW BLOCKS AWAY… An eclectic cast of U.S. and foreign government officials, along with industry leaders, will also talk antitrust (and likely tech) at a Georgetown Law symposium. But the event figures to strike a different tone than the Sessions-led summit, with European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager — the architect of the EU’s historic antitrust fine against Google and the recently launched probe into Amazon — set to deliver a keynote address.

— Among the other speakers and panelists slated to attend are: FTC Chairman Joe Simons, FTC director of competition Bruce Hoffman, DOJ Deputy Assistant AG for antitrust Bernard Nigro, and acting Deputy Assistant AG for antitrust Richard Powers. Officials from Japan and Brazil will join EU officials as foreign representatives in attendance. (Georgetown would not say whether DOj antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, who was scheduled to deliver a keynote address for the event shortly after the DOJ meeting kicks off, would appear.)

GREETINGS AND WELCOME TO MORNING TECH, where your host is finding escape through The Onion (as usual) during yet another bonkers news week. Got any tech or telecom tips? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @viaCristiano. Don’t forget to follow us @MorningTech. And catch the rest of the team’s contact info after Quick Downloads.

Have an event for MT’s tech calendar? Email us the details at [email protected].

THIS WEEK join POLITICO at The Liaison Capitol Hill on Sept. 27 for the AI Summit: Innovation & Governance, a global leadership gathering of policy makers, business leaders, and experts for solutions-driven conversations on the impact of AI on governments, industries, and society. Doors open at 8:30 a.m.! bit.ly/POLITICOAI

** A message from Intel: 5G is not just the “fifth generation” of wireless technology. It is poised to usher in a new innovation era and reshape our world – and Intel is making that world a reality. POLITICO Focus sat down with Intel’s Sandra Rivera to find out how. https://politi.co/2xFdoAo **

MCCARTHY REVEALS PLANS FOR GOOGLE — Just two weeks ago, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said an “invite will be on its way” for Google to answer lawmakers’ questions on allegations of anti-conservative bias. Now, Google CEO Sundar Pichai is expected to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing after the November election, according to a McCarthy spokesman. And on Friday, Pichai will meet with a “broad swath of the [Republican] conference,” McCarthy’s office said, and officials are sure to re-up criticism of how the company has managed conservative content on its platforms. Google and its parent company, Alphabet, came under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers earlier this month after declining to send a top official to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

— A full plate: Among the topics likely to come up at Friday’s meeting, McCarthy’s spokesman said, are: human bias and its impact on search algorithms; Google’s search dominance; data privacy and information tracking; the division of news and opinion content on its platforms; and the company’s efforts to strengthen business “partnerships” in countries like China and Russia.

— Hearing haggling awaits: A Google spokeswoman confirmed the Friday meeting but said the company had “no details to confirm on a potential hearing” after the midterms. An aide on the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, said members expect to hold a full committee hearing with Pichai later this year.

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YOU’RE INVITED — Help us celebrate the launch of POLITICO Pro Canada at a special breakfast event on Sept. 26 at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Navigating the New Washington” will feature an intelligence briefing by POLITICO reporters who cover trade, economic policy, the White House, and the midterm elections—and an in-depth conversation with Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton. Send us questions you’d like us to ask and RSVP here.

NTIA SEEKING INPUT The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will launch its request for public comments on consumer privacy rules today, with a portal set to go live on the Federal Register on Wednesday, NTIA spokeswoman Anne Veigle told POLITICO. The development marks the latest step by the Trump administration in its efforts to develop a national privacy framework. The comment period coincides with congressional efforts to take up the issue with tech and telecom leaders. As MT readers know, the Senate Commerce Committee is set to field testimony Wednesday from Google, Twitter, Amazon, AT&T and Charter Communications on data privacy.

TECH GETS A JUMP ON PRIVACY MESSAGING — Speaking of that hearing, tech companies and industry groups appear to be making efforts to get their privacy priorities on the record before their testimonies on Wednesday. On Monday, Google became the latest industry heavyweight to weigh in with a privacy framework outline, as Nancy reports for Pro. Familiar faces to industry observers, such as the Internet Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have already offered up privacy frameworks in support of federal legislation. And according to testimony from Apple’s Bud Tribble, who is slated to appear before the Senate panel, the company will also come out in favor of “comprehensive” privacy legislation, Axios reports.

— A few common threads: Privacy principles unveiled by tech companies and trade associations appear to show the industry coming together on a set of basic requirements: that companies make clear to consumers what data they are accessing and what is being done with it; that users have the ability to delete their data; and that they are able to transfer information from one device to another, among other things. Such is the case in the Google recommendations. But the principles steer clear of certain hot-button topics, such as whether federal laws should preempt state laws and to what extent users should have to opt in for companies to access and use their data — indicating areas that tech firms and lawmakers may need to hash out in future discussions.

DEMS PRESS TWITTER ON EXTERNAL AUDIT PLEDGE Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Bobby Rush (Ill.) called for Twitter to provide a “robust report” on its plans to conduct an external civil rights audit of the company’s practices in a letter to CEO Jack Dorsey on Monday. The lawmakers applauded Dorsey for committing to an audit during his congressional testimony before the House earlier this month while expressing concern that the company’s rules remain “vague and inconsistently applied.” For months, lawmakers have pressed for social media companies to boost efforts to thwart the spread of disinformation on their platforms. Pallone and Rush argued an external audit to evaluate the company’s practices would go a long way toward alleviating those concerns.

— Details TBD: “We’ve received feedback from some of our NGO partners and are in the process of determining next steps,” a Twitter spokesperson told MT when asked about the status of audit discussions. “We’re engaged with Ranking Member Pallone and members of the Committee on this topic.” The company would not say whether it has hired a third party to conduct the audit, nor offer details on its scope. Lawmakers set Oct. 5 as a deadline for additional details on the pledged external evaluation.

QUANTUM ENTHUSIASM GROWS — Officials from IBM and Intel left Monday’s White House summit on quantum science buoyed by the federal government’s interest in expanding research and investment in the emerging technology. “What we saw today was the government getting all the right people in the room and moving with industry and academia towards a more concerted, consistent approach to investing in quantum information science,” said Dario Gil, the chief operating officer at IBM Research. The technology could accelerate innovation in areas as broad as medical research, banking and national security. “Most people don’t know what quantum computing is or what quantum technologies are,” said Jim Clarke, Intel’s director of quantum hardware. “It’s really the same magnitude, over the next many decades, as going to the moon and back.”

— At the gathering, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released its “National Strategic Overview” that outlines policy priorities for federal agencies, including promoting quantum research and education, Steven reported for Pros. Federal agencies have until the first quarter of next year to identify pressing national problems that could be addressed using quantum science and provide the White House with a plan for working with universities and companies to tackle them in the years to come.

SILICON VALLEY MUST READS

— Gone in an Insta: Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have resigned from the Facebook-owned company and plan to leave in the coming weeks, exits that “add to the challenges facing Instagram’s parent company,” The New York Times reports.

— Troll tide: A new book makes a compelling case that targeted Russian cyberattacks and trolls had a decisive impact on the 2016 presidential race, The New Yorker reports.

— Alexa, why are you wearing my uniform? Hotel employees and other service workers are increasingly worried that the rise of artificial intelligence will threaten their foothold in the industry, The New York Times reports.

QUICK DOWNLOADS

— Giant patrol: A critical new report says tech giants can’t be trusted to police themselves and should face increased regulatory measures, The Wall Street Journal reports.

— Why so Sirius? SiriusXM will acquire Pandora, a deal valued at $3.5 billion that may create an audio entertainment behemoth, The Washington Post reports.

— A former Facebook contractor alleges in a lawsuit against the company that its content moderators are subject to mental trauma from reviewing disturbing material, The Guardian reports.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Eric Engleman ([email protected], @ericengleman), Kyle Daly ([email protected], @dalykyle), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Margaret Harding McGill ([email protected], @margarethmcgill), Ashley Gold ([email protected], @ashleyrgold), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel) and Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano).

** A message from Intel: For Sandra Rivera, the possibilities of 5G wireless technology are endless – and poised to re-shape our world. Think smart cities, smart factories and connected homes. But so many questions remain about how, when and where we will realize the country’s interconnected future.

Rivera is senior vice president and general manager of the network platforms group at Intel. POLITICO Focus talked with her recently about what’s next with 5G, which she says is not just about faster transmission speeds and reduced latency, but about the promise of creating virtually unlimited computing everywhere.

“5G is about releasing a whole new generation of innovation,” says Rivera.

That’s why Rivera’s team is moving quickly to advance the rollout of this technology, participating in more than 25 5G trials across the globe.

Learn more about how Intel is making the next generation of wireless technology a reality for all. https://politi.co/2xFdoAo **

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