The House Democrat Taking On Silicon Valley

Politico

“You can’t just ignore facts that don’t prove your presupposed conclusions. That’s not how ‘investigations’ work,” says Carl Szabo. “Especially from the Judiciary Committee? We should be better than that.”

On a warm Friday in October, sun streamed in the window of Szabo’s K Street offices, decorated with thick books on telecommunications law, a LEGO R2-D2 and framed mock patent applications of heavy machinery from the “Star Wars” universe. Szabo is the outspoken vice president and top lawyer for Silicon Valley’s most aggressivelobbying presence in Washington: a group called NetChoice, which counts Facebook and Google among its members.

Szabo’s job is to say what the tech companies don’t want to be seen saying themselves, which, in this case, is that Cicilline is unfairly targeting them. That he isn’t after going after bad corporate behavior but simply taking scalps from some of the highest profile companies in the world. That, despite his declarations that he is keeping an open mind, the result of his investigation is a foregone conclusion. Cicilline, the argument goes, is convinced there’s no competition left in the tech industry. Says Szabo, ever heard of TikTok?

Cicilline’s investigation won’t add up to much of anything, Szabo insists, because there’s no there there. The worry, though, is that he adds his powerful voice to the “cacophony of people complaining about technology”—many of whom, Szabo argues, are motivated, somewhat perversely, by the desire to get their name in headlines smack up against mentions of Facebook, Google and the rest. “I think the whole reason we’re even talking about these groups is because of SEO,” or search engine optimization, Szabo said.

Senate impasse on Huawei

Politico Morning Tech

2020 tech watchers are still reeling, meanwhile, from surprise support from Democratic front-runner Joe Biden for nixing the online liability protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Tech trade group NetChoice rushed to slam Biden’s comments, saying that scrapping the prized provision “would prevent online services from effectively curating content created by users, meaning Biden’s proposal would accomplish the complete opposite of its goal.”

Truth and lies: Social media political ads

Carl Szabo is with the internet industry trade group, Net Choice.  

“Senator Warren has said her health care plan will not increase taxes on the middle class. Many studies have said this is impossible. President Trump announced the border wall will be paid for entirely by Mexico. Should those types of statements be removed?” Szabo said. 

Szabo says social media companies usually defer to free speech on their platforms and oppose legislation to put limits on political ads.

“Allow the voters to be the ones to decide whether a statement is true or false,” Szabo said.

Szabo says as the 2020 campaign approaches, he expects calls to regulate political ads to get louder.

Why Are Major Politicians Spreading Misinformation About Section 230?

Both political parties might find it useful to attack Section 230, but it’s not clear either understands it — or even wants to.

Read more at Medium

“Section 230 should be revoked,” Joe Biden told the New York Times in an interview published this morning.

This is not the first time the crucial internet law has come under attack by the Democratic presidential front-runner. Back in November, Biden alluded to the law, saying “I, for one, think we should be considering taking away [Facebook’s] exemption that they cannot be sued for knowingly engaged in promoting something that’s not true” (we’ll explain why this is incorrect later).

For a good explanation of what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is, click here.

Biden’s not alone: Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the law could be repealed, and fought the inclusion of Section 230-style language in USMCA.

Read more at Medium…

Deepfakes And Beyond: Who Wins If Social Media Platforms Are Regulated?

Forbes

Conservatives fixated on social media bias are reluctant to appreciate the immeasurable benefit they receive from Section 230. It was never a subsidy to anyone; it applied equally to all (publishers like newspapers get to have websites too). Even if biases on the part of some platforms are deemed valid (in an elemental sense, bias should not be denied and big tech needs to defend it), there is no precedent for the reach conservatives enjoy now. Those who complain of bias on YouTube, for example, pay nothing for the hosting that can reach millions, and stand to profit instead. Some do get “deplatformed,” of course; but if improperly so, that may be a violation of terms by the host resolvable in ways other than altering Sec. 230 with a sledgehammer.

NetChoice Voices Support for the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act

Today, NetChoice voiced support for the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, introduced by Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Wyden (D-OR) and by Reps. Khanna (D-CA) and Lee (D-CA). The Act would trigger an investigation into the unintended consequences of SESTA/FOSTA.

SESTA/FOSTA amended Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and undermined sensible limits on liability for online services that host user-created content.

“SESTA/FOSTA has harmed vulnerable women across the country, the very community it was crafted to help,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “SESTA/FOSTA is the first and only amendment to Section 230, so Congress must understand how much damage SESTA/FOSTA caused before it considers further amendments to Section 230.”

Top 5 Tech Policy Predictions for 2020

Morning Consult

But Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of industry group NetChoice, which typically doesn’t support antitrust actions against large tech companies, sees the continued interest in antitrust as more of a political tool, saying that once someone pulls back the layers of an argument for breaking up big tech companies, there’s nothing substantial there. 

“Once you take more than a knee-jerk analysis of the digital landscape, you realize that there are a lot of competitors out there, that choice is robust and there is no consumer harm,” he said.

Rand Paul vs. Google and Facebook

National Review

Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, a trade association whose members include Google and Facebook, panned the bill as a “special handout” to the news industry and argued that the legislation, despite its intent, could still leave smaller newspapers “out in the cold.”

“What’s concerning about legislation like this is it’s pretty much designed to empower large newspaper conglomerates to circumvent existing anti-trust law,” Szabo tells National Review. “Today, businesses regardless of what industry they’re in are subject to the same rules when it comes to concerns about size and anti-trust. This [bill] is giving a special handout to the news industry, and it’s hard to argue that Rupert Murdoch needs yet another handout.”

Although the 500-word bill states that the negotiations that news companies engage in with Google and Facebook must “pertain to terms that would be available to all news content creators,” Szabo suggested it could still benefit big papers over small ones: “Let’s presume I’m an online company [such as Google or Facebook], and I have to cut this nice sweetheart deal because the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the LA Times have decided to get together and hard bargain negotiated rates. Let’s say the Kansas City Tribune [sic] wants to enjoy that. The online service provider might say, ‘Look, I won’t carry your content because it’s just not going to be worth it to me.’”

The Technology 202: Facebook defends encryption push as lawmakers raise child exploitation concerns

Washington Post

“It is unfortunate that the Sect. 230 language was not taken out,” Rick Lane, a longtime technology policy adviser who has supported overhauling Section 230 told me. “But at least for those of us who believe that changes to CDA Sect. 230 are necessary can take solace in knowing that organizations like CTA and NetChoice have stated unequivocally that inclusion of Section 230 language in trade agreements does not stop the [United States] from changing the law in the future should it choose to do so.”

Tech world’s USMCA win

Politico Morning Tech

The Internet Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Semiconductor Industry Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, BSA | The Software Alliance, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, NetChoice and TechNet were among the many (many!) industry groups to praise the agreement Tuesday. Amazon also applauded the deal, tweeting that it “breaks new ground on digital trade and cuts red tape for Amazon customers and sellers.”