Executive Briefing April 9 21

This Week in Washington

Protocol Justice Thomas argues for making Facebook, Twitter and Google utilities
Last fall, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that it was time to rein in Section 230 immunity. Now, Justice Thomas is laying out an argument for why companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google should be regulated as utilities.

The Washington Post Supreme Court sides with Google in multibillion-dollar copyright dispute with Oracle
The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-2 vote that Google didn’t violate copyright law when it used code from Oracle Corp. to create its Android mobile operating system, marking the end of a decade-long court battle between Oracle and Google.

NPR After A Major Hack, U.S. Looks To Fix A Cyber ‘Blind Spot’
The National Security Agency considers itself the world’s most formidable cyber power, with an army of computer warriors who constantly scan the wired world. Yet by law, the NSA only collects intelligence abroad, and not inside the U.S. U.S. rivals like Russia are aware of this blind spot and know how to exploit it, as the NSA director, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, explained recently to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

NBC News Supreme Court lets FCC ease media ownership rules, sides with Facebook in robocall case
The Supreme Court said Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission could begin to relax the rules restricting single-company ownership of multiple media outlets in a community, clearing the way for more industry consolidation. In a separate ruling, the court said Facebook did not violate the federal law governing robocalls when it sent text messages to a man who said he never had an account with the social media company.

FedScoop Biden’s GSA administrator pick Robin Carnahan boasts strong tech credentials
President Joe Biden intends to make one of 2017’s “Top Women in Tech” the head of the General Services Administration, the White House announced Tuesday. Robin Carnahan founded and led the state and local government practice at 18F, GSA’s tech consultancy, from 2016 to 2020, having previously been Missouri’s secretary of state.

The Hill House panel investigating YouTube for advertising practices on kids’ platform
A House panel launched an investigation Tuesday into YouTube’s advertising practices on its platform for children. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chair of the Oversight and Reform subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki requesting documents about YouTube Kids amid concerns over the content and advertisement practices for children.

The Associated Press Supreme Court dismisses case over Trump and Twitter critics
The Supreme Court dismissed a case over whether former President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked people from his personal Twitter Inc. account, saying there was nothing left to discuss after the social media platform banned him in January, and tossed out an appeals court ruling that found the practice did violate the First Amendment because it silenced his critics.

Article Summary

The Verge Once again, someone tampered with an entire drinking water supply via the internet
You would think that something as critical as a town or county’s drinking water supply would be well-protected – you know, like how America’s nuclear armament was isolated from the internet and even relied on eight-inch floppy disks until just recently? And yet we’ve now had two instances where someone was able to remotely log into a municipal water supply in a way that could have harmed people.

Mashable So many people don’t have internet — and it’s not their fault
When Georgianne Wright and her 13-year-old grandson, Keiontay, wanted to use the internet before the pandemic, she’d try the prepaid wireless plan she purchased from a national service provider. But the pair often gave up on browsing the internet or watching a movie thanks to the slow connection. “It wasn’t working. It didn’t benefit neither one of us,” says Wright, who is Keiontay’s primary caregiver and lives in Highland Park, a small city surrounded by Detroit.

Fortune Can A.I. help Facebook cure its disinformation problem?
In addition to testing American democracy, November’s election and the subsequent storming of the U.S. Capitol put social media to the test. Facebook and its rivals have spent years creating technology to combat the spread of disinformation, violent rhetoric, and hate speech. By some measure, the systems did better than ever in filtering out hundreds of millions of inflammatory posts. But ultimately the technology failed, allowing many similar posts to slip through.

Insider Jeff Bezos says Amazon supports a corporate-tax hike, arguing that Biden’s infrastructure plan will require ‘concessions from all sides’
Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement that the company supports President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, including a “rise in the corporate tax rate” from 21 percent to 28 percent, making Amazon the first major corporation to publicly support the increase in corporate tax rates.

CNET SpaceX a handful of Starlink launches from blanketing Earth in broadband
In the next few months, SpaceX could have more than 1,600 of its Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit, and that may be enough for the nascent broadband service to reach just about anywhere in the world. “After about 28 launches, we’ll have continuous coverage throughout the globe,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Tuesday during an online panel discussion for the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Trust in Tech Sector
    In our Brookings Press book, Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence published last year, John Allen and I note the backlash against technology that has reduced public support for many things digital. As an illustration, Pew Research Center surveys show people are worried about privacy intrusions, cybersecurity risks, and misinformation campaigns. Many individuals think the pace of technological change is advancing too rapidly and it is hard to distinguish fake from actual phenomena. (TechTank – Techlash continues to batter technology sectorApril 2, 2021)