Hillicon Valley — Biden backs reforms targeting Big Tech

President Biden urged Congress to cross party lines and work together to pass reform to hold tech giants accountable. He called for progress on data privacy, competition and content moderation reform, but stopped short of backing specific proposals.

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Biden urges bipartisan work on tech reform

President Biden pushed for sweeping reforms to target tech giants through data privacy, competition and content moderation law updates in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday.

Biden’s op-ed is light on details and falls short of backing specific policy proposals, but throws the president’s weight behind several hot-button issues Big Tech critics on both sides of the aisle have raised.

“We need bipartisan action from Congress to hold Big Tech accountable. We’ve heard a lot of talk about creating committees. It’s time to walk the walk and get something done,” Biden wrote.

Privacy: As part of his push, Biden said the U.S. needs “serious federal protections for Americans’ privacy.”

  • There is bipartisan support for a comprehensive federal data privacy bill in Congress, as was evidenced last year when a proposal passed with support from both parties out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  

  • But there are lingering roadblocks over the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), the proposal that advanced. Democrats from states with strong privacy laws in place, mainly California, have not wanted the bill to preempt their state laws. 

  • Republicans, however, broadly maintain that federal preemption is crucial to their support for a federal privacy law.

Antitrust: In his op-ed, Biden also pushed for action to “bring more competition back to the tech sector.”

“When tech platforms get big enough, many find ways to promote their own products while excluding or disadvantaging competitors—or charge competitors a fortune to sell on their platform,” he wrote.

  • Antitrust reform gained bipartisan momentum last Congress, but two key proposals supporters backed — including a bill that aimed to prevent companies from self-preferencing their products and services — failed to make it across the finish line.  

  • The chances of those bills passing in the next two years are slimmer now, with current House GOP leaders having pushed back on them.

Section 230: The president reiterated his call to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial provision that provides a liability shield for companies over content posted by third parties.

  • There is bipartisan support to reform that provision, but severe disagreement on how to proceed.

Read more here.

RUSSIA, US ANNOUNCE PLAN TO BRING COSMONAUTS HOME 

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will be getting a ride home from the International Space Station — but it may take a while.

The trio flew to the space station in a Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft in September. In December, a tiny micrometeorite strike caused a puncture no more than 1 millimeter in diameter in the Soyuz, which was enough to cause coolant to leak out into space.

  • Russian space officials have been working with NASA since the incident to come up with the best course of action. Would the MS-22 spacecraft be able to safely deliver the crew home? Could they get a replacement vehicle to the station? Or would they need to call upon commercial partners like SpaceX for help?  

  • The Russian Space Agency gave its answer on Wednesday, announcing it would be sending up an uncrewed replacement craft, Soyuz MS-23, to replace the damaged spacecraft as a crew lifeboat. That craft is slated to launch on Feb. 20, and the MS-22 will be sent back to Earth without a crew.

Read more here.

STUDY BREAKS DOWN EV COSTS FOR CONSUMERS 

More than 90 percent of car-owning households in the U.S. could reduce both the amount they pay to power their vehicles and their greenhouse gas emissions if they decided to go electric, a new study has found.

At the same time, however, more than half of the lowest-income U.S. households — about 8.3 million — would continue to shoulder significant expenses when fueling their vehicles, according to the study, published on Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters.

For 60 percent of car-owning households in the U.S., the money and emissions saved by switching to an electric vehicle (EV) would be considered “moderate to high,” the authors determined.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Move slowly and fix things: A better way to combat social media posts that incite violence

Notable links from around the web: 

Twitter Said to Consider Selling User Names to Boost Revenue (The New York Times / Ryan Mac and Kate Conger)

Why experts worry TikTok could add to mental health crisis among US teens (CNN / Vanessa Yurkevich)

One last thing: FAA outage sets stage for clash

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer system outage that disrupted thousands of flights on Wednesday could set the stage for another clash between airlines and the agency.

Airlines and the FAA traded blame over the cause of mass flight delays and cancellations this summer, and carriers have lamented that the FAA has gone eight months without a Senate-confirmed administrator.

Wednesday’s outage — the most disruptive FAA failure in recent memory — sparked renewed calls for the agency to revamp its aging systems.

Read more here.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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