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.

A Tech Stakeholder Group Is Solidifying Its Presence in the Scooter Regulatory Arena

Morning Consult

NetChoice eyes restrictive markets for advocacy work as it releases new e-scooter guidelines.

After publishing its first white paper examining regulations of dockless e-scooters, a Washington e-commerce group representing the likes of Google, Lyft Inc. and Airbnb Inc. said it expects to lean more into micromobility issues in 2020.

NetChoice, which also includes e-scooter company Lime among its members, will release its guidelines Tuesday on how city officials should approach e-scooters, including proposals related to scooter curfews, speed limits and geofencing. The proposal makes NetChoice one of the few Washington tech groups focusing on a space typically saturated by transportation advocacy groups and city officials.

California lawmakers push for data privacy protection

Nexstar

Carl Szabo, the vice president of NetChoice, said stricter rules on data collection could hurt online business and consumers.  “We’re seeing a fracturing of the internet,” Szabo said. “There are going to be unintended consequences. People are going to see an increase in prices, or fewer offerings of stuff they really enjoy having.”

Even so, Szabo said Congress should act to make privacy laws consistent nationwide.

Short-term rental ‘avengers’ seek fair regulation with new playbook

Shorttermrentalz.com

NetChoice president Steve DelBianco said: “If homeowners want to host paying guests, they need to understand concerns raised by neighbours and local government officials, and be ready to respond with real data and smart policy solutions. That’s why this playbook is an indispensable resource.”

Streamlined Tax Pact OKs Nonmember Participation Model Bill

Law360

The model statute would require states to identify where their tax codes deviate from the agreement. However, Steve DelBianco, president of the online business trade group NetChoice, told Law360 that he didn’t believe the measure went far enough to satisfy the full Streamlined agreement that the justices referred to in Wayfair.

“This new model bill falls well short of the real [agreement] since it lets any new state simply explain how it ‘deviates from those requirements,’” DelBianco said.

Nonmember states, he said, “should have no illusions that this model bill puts them in full conformance with Wayfair.”

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.

Ring Hacking Lawsuit Boosts Amazon Security Device Scrutiny

Bloomberg Law

However, Orange may have a hard time achieving standing to sue because he fails to allege specific harm, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said. “There isn’t a single actual harm identified,” Szabo said.

Most Voters Say Congress Should Make Privacy Legislation a Priority Next Year

Morning Consult

While it’s predicted that few federal legislative items will move in 2020 because of ongoing impeachment proceedings and the U.S. presidential election, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of industry group NetChoice, said he expects the election to “help move this forward” anyway.

“Once everyone realizes the unconstitutional nature of a lot of these state privacy laws, and the conflicts between them, lawmakers are going to run on a platform that provides consistent privacy protections for all Americans,” said Szabo, whose group advocates for the pre-emption of state laws. 

Szabo also predicts someone filing a preliminary injunction that would prevent the CCPA from being enacted Jan. 1, which would “spur congressional activity,” leaving Congress with a clean slate to determine privacy protections.