May 14 2021

This Week in Washington

CNET FCC approves $7B broadband connectivity fund
The US Federal Communications Commission on Monday unanimously approved the final rules to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The FCC program will provide funding for schools and libraries across the country to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students and teachers to access the internet for online learning during the pandemic. The program is part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Roll Call Lawmakers eye tightening law to get more details on cyberattacks
When federal agencies suffer a major cyberattack, they’re required by law to notify Congress immediately and provide details including any data breaches. But agencies aren’t always complying with the law as intended, top lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said at a hearing Tuesday.

Protocol In Biden’s broadband plan, cable is in for the fight of its life
The Biden administration’s broadband plan read like a dream come true to Donnel Baird. The $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, introduced in late March, had a whopping $100 billion for broadband infrastructure baked in — and a promise to give that money first and foremost to affordable local networks owned by municipalities and co-ops.

The Verge The PRO Act would reshape the tech industry — will it get the chance?
Congress is considering a law that would dramatically reshape American labor. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (also known as the PRO Act) would eliminate many of the roadblocks that workers face when they try to unionize. The bill would have massive implications for tech companies that have faced few consequences for union busting.

The New York Times Biden Plans an Order to Strengthen Cyberdefenses. Will It Be Enough?
A pipeline that provides the East Coast with nearly half its gasoline and jet fuel remained shuttered on Sunday after yet another ransomware attack, prompting emergency White House meetings and new questions about whether an executive order strengthening cybersecurity for federal agencies and contractors goes far enough even as President Biden prepares to issue it.

The Washington Post Biden’s new CISA director will confront a host of complex challenges
The next leader of the nation’s top cybersecurity agency will inherit a bevy of crises. President Biden has nominated Jen Easterly, the head of Morgan Stanley’s global fusion center and a former U.S. government official, to be just the next director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. If confirmed by the Senate, she’ll enter the relatively nascent agency as a series of high-profile breaches are testing the federal government in new ways.

Article Summary

The Wall Street Journal Google Plans to Double AI Ethics Research Staff
Alphabet Inc.’s Google plans to double the size of its team studying artificial-intelligence ethics in the coming years, as the company looks to strengthen a group that has had its credibility challenged by research controversies and personnel defections. Vice President of Engineering Marian Croak said at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival that the hires will increase the size of the responsible AI team that she leads to 200 researchers.

The Associated Press Emergency program to give people $50 off internet bill
Americans can begin applying for $50 off their monthly internet bill on Wednesday as part of an emergency government program to keep people connected during the pandemic. The $3.2 billion program is part of the $900 billion December pandemic-relief package. The government is increasing spending on broadband as the pandemic made stark that millions of Americans did not have access to, and could not afford, broadband at a time when jobs, school and health care was moving online.

Axios Why companies and cities are such a juicy target for ransomware
Last weekend’s ransomware attack on a major U.S. energy pipeline highlighted a growing dilemma facing U.S. companies and institutions: the more their processes go digital, the more vulnerable they are to malicious digital attacks. Why it matters: The tech industry loves to talk up how the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation, which it has. But that brings fresh risks from cyberattacks with a broad range of motivations — from hacker mischief to international espionage to financial profit, as appears to be the case with the new incident.

TechCrunch Facebook is testing pop-up messages telling people to read a link before they share it
Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6% of Facebook’s Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news stories on the platform. Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform.

Protocol China could soon have stronger privacy laws than the U.S.
International observers often think of China as a place where privacy protections are thin or nonexistent. But a forthcoming law could arm Chinese consumers with offensive and defensive tools that web users in places like the United States could only dream of. In late April, China unveiled the second draft of the country’s privacy law, the Personal Information Protection Law, for public comment.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Facebook Oversight Board’s Decision
    The initial flurry of commentary concerning the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision on deplatforming President Trump has subsided, providing some perspective to assess what we have learned. A key lesson is that the Board is an ineffective substitute for a meaningful external dispute resolution and accountability mechanism that should be part of an overall system of social media regulation. Another lesson is that, as president of the civil rights group Color of Change Rashad Robinson said, the operations of the Board have become a distraction from the much-needed task of throwing a regulatory net around social media companies. (TechTank – The Facebook Oversight Board’s failed decision distracts from lasting social media regulation, May 11, 2021)