FTC and DOJ testify on antitrust
— Antitrust animosity: The Trump administration’s top antitrust cops will be in Congress today to talk about their tech investigations — and whether they’re playing nice with each other.
— Disinfo check-in: Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are gathering at an FEC event to talk about whether the tech industry is prepared for election manipulation.
— All things AI: Experts and policy leaders on artificial intelligence are convening at The Newseum to talk about the state of the technology at POLITICO’s AI summit.
IT’S TUESDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. This week marks my sixth month at Politico, and what a great six months it’s been. (A quick six, too — time flies when you’re on deadline.)
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SENATE TACKLES ANTITRUST ‘TURF WAR’ — Senators are set to grill the Trump administration’s two top antitrust enforcers today on whether they are up to the task of investigating Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. FTC Chairman Joe Simons and Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim will face questions from the Judiciary Committee on their inquiries into Facebook and Google, respectively — and whether their agreement to split jurisdiction over the companies is panning out. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who chairs the antitrust subcommittee hosting the hearing, “will be focusing on the growing turf war between DOJ and FTC on tech antitrust enforcement,” spokesman Conn Carroll told MT.
— Lee warned in June that a “divergence in enforcement policy” between the FTC and DOJ “will only result in confusion.” Now — with several investigations underway — early signs suggest there’s already friction between them. In a letter sent to the DOJ last week and obtained by the Wall Street Journal, “the FTC complained about the [Justice Department]’s behavior and raised concerns about recent interactions between the two agencies.” The letter, according to the report, “raises the prospect that the longstanding power-sharing agreement between the two agencies is fraying.”
‘INFORMATION INTEGRITY’ IN 2020 — Representatives of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft will join lawmakers and political groups in Washington today to unpack the threat of disinformation ahead of the 2020 election. The event — convened by the Federal Election Commission, Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and PEN America — comes as experts warn that social media manipulation and disinformation remain acute, and that the government, the public and internet companies are not prepared for the evolving tactics of bad actors. Expected to attend are Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who have put out proposals addressing election security and deepfakes.
PLUS: WARNER BLASTS CBP — Warner, meanwhile, is demanding answers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection about a subcontractor breach that he said gave hackers access to the facial images of at least 100,000 travelers. The cyberattack (which took place in June) comes at a time when government use of facial recognition technology is under scrutiny from privacy advocates and lawmakers. “Federal agencies continue to fail to ensure that contractors and subcontractors adequately manage the sensitive information of the American people,” Warner wrote Tuesday in a letter to the agency. “It is absolutely critical that federal agencies and industry improve their track records, especially when handling and processing biometric data.”
POLITICO’S AI SUMMIT — Tech policy leaders and AI experts are gathering at The Newseum today for POLITICO’s AI Summit, a series of panels and interviews on a range of topics including the global race to develop artificial intelligence, research and workforce trends, and fears and misperceptions about the technology. The lineup includes U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios as well as Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force on AI, and Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional AI Caucus. (Plus you’ll catch members of the Pro Tech team — including your loyal MT host and Nancy Scola, Steven Overly, John Hendel and Cristiano Lima — on stage as moderators.) Here’s the schedule, and here are the speakers.
FACEBOOK’S CRYPTOLOBBY GROWS — Facebook isn’t finished bulking up on lobbyists to help it win over Washington on its plan to launch its cryptocurrency Libra. Alexander Sternhell and Mike Ahern of the Sternhell Group will lobby for the company on blockchain and digital currency policy, according to disclosure documents. Sternhell previously served as Democratic deputy staff director on the Senate Banking Committee, while Ahern was a senior professional staffer on the House Financial Services Committee. Other lobbying firms working the issue for Facebook include Hollier & Associates, The Williams Group, FS Vector, Mason Street Consulting, Off Hill Strategies, and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
FCC, FTC FUNDING WATCH — Senators are gearing up this week to consider fiscal year 2020 proposals for funding the FCC and FTC. The Appropriations panel hasn’t revealed details yet but we’re watching for a subcommittee vote this afternoon and full committee vote Thursday.
J. Christopher Giancarlo, a blockchain advocate and leader in the global cryptocurrencies and digital assets space, has joined the Chamber of Digital Commerce’s advisory board.
California on Trump: President Donald Trump remains popular among Republicans in California, whose fundraising “events are shrouded in secrecy to a large extent, necessitated by the deep hostility many in the state feel toward the president,” POLITICO reports.
Competition questions: “Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boost Its Own Products,” via WSJ.
Say it ain’t so: A lawsuit accusing AT&T of misleading investors alleges that the telecom giant “pressured employees to create fake accounts for its DirecTV Now streaming television service to boost subscriber numbers ahead of its 2018 merger with Time Warner,” Bloomberg reports.
Mass surveillance fears: Hong Kong protesters “believe their identities may be collected digitally by mainland China and their participation used against them in the future,” WSJ reports.
Merger madness: “The FCC [on Monday] announced that it’s allowing broadcasters Nexstar Media Group and Tribune Media to merge and create the country’s largest broadcaster, against objections from the commission’s two Democrats,” John reports for Pros.
Swipe right: The popular dating app Tinder is expanding into the TV space, Reuters reports.