Hillicon Valley — Senate runoff threatens antitrust bill

Happy Friday! We’ll break down the latest on Twitter’s ever-changing verification system. But first, we’ll have a rundown of how a potential Georgia runoff to determine control of the Senate could hinder the chance of a key antitrust bill targeting tech giants from moving forward.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter?

A make-or-break moment for antitrust bill

Democrats’ chance of pushing through a key antitrust bill to rein in the power of tech giants may be thwarted if their shot at keeping Senate control depends on the results of a Georgia runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R).

A bipartisan antitrust bill that aims to keep dominant tech firms from preferencing their own products has been stalled in the Senate as vulnerable Democrats fought off tough challenges this year, but proponents remained steadfast that they would get a vote before year’s end. Now, if Democrats’ Senate power hinges on a tough battle in Georgia, the bill may fall to the wayside yet again.

Even if Democrats secure Senate control, their chances of passing the bill, or other antitrust legislation targeting tech giants, in the next Congress are slim with Republicans poised to win control of the House — making the lame-duck session the best shot for the bill’s supporters.

“If Republicans take control of the House, we won’t see any kind of regulation over big tech,” said Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Omidyar Network-funded advocacy group the Tech Oversight Project.

  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, made the same assessment in March, telling The Washington Post at the time “the antitrust bills that we are currently considering will not move forward under Republican leadership, and that’s been a very clear signal that has been sent, and I believe the tech companies are trying to run out the clock.”  

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), poised to take over as Speaker if Republicans secure the majority, and House Judiciary ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), set to take control of the committee in the same instance, have both pushed back against the antitrust bills, meaning such legislation would be unlikely to advance under their leadership. The GOP leaders instead are likely to push forward with an agenda that targets tech companies’ content moderation policies should they win control.

Read more here.

Bye, Twitter Blue (for now)

Options for Twitter users to sign up for a subscription that allowed them to pay for a verified blue check mark next to their account disappeared from the app by Friday morning, following a day of chaos on Twitter with user’s posing as brands and public figures.

The paid check mark, which did not require users to actually verify their identities, was part of services offered to users under Twitter Blue for $7.99 in a change made by new CEO Elon Musk.

Experts warned when Musk announced plans to let users pay for check marks that it could undermine credibility on the platform by making it difficult to confirm if verified accounts are legitimate. When the feature launched Thursday, the chaos they warned about ensued.

  • Accounts popped up impersonating public figures ranging from the NBA’s LeBron James to former President George W. Bush. Others posed as companies, including pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly with a tweet announcing free insulin causing confusion. The company posted a tweet apologizing about the “misleading message” from the fake account, and the impersonating account was suspended.

  • A note was sent to Twitter employees Thursday night saying the sign-ups would be temporarily disabled in an effort to “help address impersonation issues,” The Washington Post reported.

Read more here.

ICYMI: Twitter turmoil worsens

THE REAL ED MARKEY HAS SOME QUESTIONS

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) pressed Twitter for information about its process to verify users who paid for a subscription on Friday after a fake account impersonating the senator received a blue verification check mark.

The impersonating account, under the username @realedmarkey, received a blue verification mark after it was set up as a test by a Washington Post reporter with Markey’s permission.

In a letter to new Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Friday, Markey slammed the launch of the feature allowing users to pay for a blue check mark. The blue check mark once “allowed users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square,” but Musk’s “rapid and haphazard imposition of platform changes” and layoffs at the company “accelerated Twitter’s descent into the Wild West of social media,” Markey said.

Read more here.

CRYPTO’S CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

Cryptocurrency is facing a crisis of confidence after popular crypto exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy, the latest and most significant failure in a series of high-profile collapses.

FTX lent billions of dollars in users’ deposits to an affiliated trading firm that suffered massive losses on risky bets. That left FTX with a shortfall of up to $10 billion, raising the question of whether its users will lose everything.

It’s a shocking turn of events for a respected firm run by Sam Bankman-Fried, a darling on Capitol Hill who cultivated deep relationships with lawmakers and helped them write industry friendly legislation.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: To boost solar, the US should use more carrots and fewer sticks

Notable links from around the web:

Meta, Twitter, and Stripe engineers wanted: Laid-off tech workers have a job opportunity in climate tech (Protocol / Michelle Ma)

Japan vies for ‘last chance’ as major global chip producer (The Associated Press / Yuri Kageyama)

🥊 Lighter click: We won’t mess with you, Carl

One more thing: Piece of Challenger shuttle found

NASA confirmed a sunken artifact from the Challenger Space Shuttle was found off the east coast of Florida.

The discovery was made by a documentary crew that set out in search of a World War II-era aircraft as part of a new series called “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters.”

Instead, divers came upon a 20-foot long piece of debris with a modern construction and square tiles. Footage of the wreckage was captured in May and the team contacted the space administration in August. This week, NASA confirmed the origins of the artifact in a release.

Footage of the discovery can be seen on the History Channel’s Twitter account.

On the morning of Jan 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., but exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven passengers aboard. The disaster was broadcast live on televisions across the country.

NASA is considering next steps for the artifact to honor the legacy of those who died in the tragedy. U.S. law dictates all space shuttle artifacts are U.S. government property.

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 Monday.

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