With help from Cristiano Lima, John Hendel, Leah Nylen and Laura Kayali
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— On RBG: Memes, disinformation and baseless conspiracy theories about Ruth Bader Ginsburg have proliferated across social media in the days following her death. The late Supreme Court Justice will lie in repose beginning today.
— Privacy bill redux: Top lawmakers felt confident they’d pass nationwide privacy legislation in the 116th Congress. That hasn’t happened — an issue they’ll reckon with at a morning Senate Commerce hearing.
— Section 230 + Googlemaggedon: Key Republican attorneys general are in town today to talk about Section 230 with President Donald Trump and a Google antitrust suit with Attorney General William Barr.
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RBG CONSPIRACY THEORIES, DISINFORMATION FLOOD FACEBOOK — As the country mourns the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — she will lie in repose today and Thursday, and a ceremony will be held Friday morning at the U.S. Capitol — memes and baseless disinformation about the late Supreme Court Justice have been making their rounds on social media.
— Preliminary research from disinformation experts at the global civic organization Avaaz identified widely-shared claims on Facebook that Ginsburg wanted to lower the age for sexual consent to 12 years old; that she was already dead and that her true passing last week was made-up; and that the country should prepare to descend into “civil war” if President Donald Trump appoints a SCOTUS replacement ahead of the November election. The material in some cases wrongly attributed the claims to reputable news outlets and to the Justice herself.
— What’s next: Some of the content has been labeled as false, and some associated accounts have been suspended, according to Avaaz. But disinformation experts have long warned that this material proliferates around politically divisive moments, and this is certainly one of them.
TODAY: SENATE RECKONS WITH INACTION ON DATA PRIVACY — Confidence was high among top lawmakers going into the 116th Congress that they would quickly strike a bipartisan deal on federal data privacy legislation. “We need to have … a federal law on the books, by the end of 2019,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), now chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said at a panel. In November 2018: “My hope is we can have something to introduce early in the new session,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a key negotiator in privacy talks, told reporters in late 2018 following a hearing with FTC officials.
— They weren’t the only ones with big expectations. Former FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz, who is testifying at a new Commerce hearing on privacy legislation today, writes in his prepared testimony that he and committee staffers walked out of a January 2019 meeting “optimistic that there would soon be a federal privacy law.” But “unfortunately,” he adds, “nearly two years later, our shared goal remains unfulfilled.”
— Lawmakers will grapple with that fact at today’s session, slated to also feature testimony from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and three other former FTC leaders: Julie Brill, William Kovacic and Maureen Ohlhausen. The witnesses will say that now more than ever, Congress needs to step in. “The events of 2020 make the need for such legislation even more apparent,” Ohlhausen writes in her testimony, citing the “rapid shift to online work and learning” due to Covid-19 and efforts to use data to track the virus spread as key motivators.
— Resolving the seemingly unresolvable: The witnesses will also offer their take on how to break the impasse on the two major issues that have bogged down talks: preemption of state laws and private right of action. Leibowitz, a Democrat, argues that “it would be a tragedy if we let a fight over private rights of action kill the far more important protections for American consumers that you can otherwise put in place.” But Becerra will say that “new laws should include a private right of action to complement and fortify the work of state enforcers” and will urge Congress to pass a bill that “respects—and does not preempt—more rigorous state laws,” including California’s.
ALSO TODAY: DECISION TIME ON GOOGLE — Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr will meet at the White House today with Republican attorneys general to talk about tech’s liability shield. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, both outspoken Google critics, will attend. “Online censorship goes far beyond the issue of free speech, it’s also one of protecting consumers and ensuring they are informed of their rights and resources to fight back under the law,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “State attorneys general are on the front lines of this issue and President Trump wants to hear their perspectives.”
— Later, Paxton and Landry are expected to head down Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Justice, where DOJ prosecutors will kick off discussions about Google that are expected to last through Friday. Those talks, Leah reports, come amid new signs that the case may be splintering along partisan lines. The Justice Department is preparing to file a suit as soon as next week centered on the company’s dominance of online search while putting off a decision on Google’s command of advertising technology, the area where state AGs are most inclined to sue.
HAS #METOO IMPROVED WORKPLACE CULTURE FOR WOMEN IN TECH? — Not quite. Almost half of female founders and women working in tech have faced harassment on the job, and the #MeToo movement has barely moved the needle, according to a recent report from Women Who Tech, a group focused on diversity and equity issues in venture capital. Some highlights from the survey, which polled 1,000 employees, founders and investors in the tech space this year:
— Female founders of color faced more harassment from investors than their white counterparts.
— More than half of female founders reported “differential treatment” because of their gender while raising funding for their businesses.
— Meanwhile, a majority of investors said they don’t view access to funding as problematic and that entrepreneurs with strong ideas can raise the money they need to, regardless of race or gender.
— A majority of white, male founders said #MeToo had a positive effect on these workplace issues. Less than half that percentage of women agreed. “We need less ally theater and more people in positions of power to recognize that power, not abuse it, and support women in tech,” said Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, who sits on the Women Who Tech advisory board.
PUBLIC SAFETY GROUPS WARN FCC AGAINST AIRWAVES VOTE — A mix of public safety groups are telling the FCC to drop its plans to vote next week on Chair Ajit Pai’s draft proposal to let states lease airwaves in the 4.9 GHz band, which is currently designated for public safety but not widely used. Pai has defended what he calls his proposed “market-driven path” that will help boost wireless broadband without harming public safety incumbents operating there now.
— Groups including APCO, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs Association and Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association all call the Sept. 30 vote a mistake. “This will effectively reallocate the 4.9 GHz band from public safety without explicitly admitting as much,” the public safety agencies wrote, saying the FCC shouldn’t “put state governments in a position to dictate spectrum policy and effectively override investments made by public safety agencies at county and local levels.” In a separate letters also released Tuesday, the International Association of Fire Chiefs also asked Pai to drop the item, as did the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance.
— Commissioners can still privately negotiate changes to Pai’s plan ahead of next week’s vote. Pai spokespeople didn’t immediately comment on the pushback.
NOT NAMING NAMES, BUT U.S.-CHINA SHENANIGANS HAVE GOT TO STOP — As final word on the TikTok deal looms (yep, the whiplash continues), United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Tuesday — without naming names — that “we are moving in a very dangerous direction” as U.S.-China relations continue to fray. That worsening rapport, he suggested, is putting the entire world at risk. “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” Guterres said, addressing the General Assembly.
TECH QUOTE DU JOUR — “The whole thing is a crock.” — Billionaire media mogul and IAC and Expedia Chairman, Barry Diller, on the TikTok deal.
YOUTUBE TO INTRODUCE STRICTER AGE VERIFICATION IN EUROPE — Over the next few months, the Google-owned platform will ask some European users to provide proof they’re above 18 if they seek to watch age-restricted videos, the company announced Tuesday: “If our systems are unable to establish that a viewer is above the age of 18, we will request that they provide a valid ID or credit card to verify their age.” The goal is to help the company comply with the EU’s audiovisual media services directive, which requires platforms to protect minors against harmful material.
Grace Koh, former special assistant to the president for technology, telecom and cybersecurity policy in the White House, has joined Nokia’s government relations office as vice president of legislative affairs. … Ben Tompkins, former managing partner at the venture capital firm Draper Esprit, was hired as a managing director in Stifel Financial’s global technology group, based in London. … Stephen Stokols, most recently the founder and CEO of FreedomPop, is joining Boost Mobile’s executive leadership team as executive vice president, DISH announced. … The FDA launched a Digital Health Center for Excellence.
The Entertainment Software Association has hired Annie Chavez as senior director of federal government affairs, David Thomas as senior counsel for global policy and international trade, Tara Ryan as vice president for state government affairs and Karen Elliott as vice president of communications and public affairs. (h/t POLITICO Influence)
Google grilling: Lawyers for a Google employee suing the giant for discrimination are raising new questions about the extent of surveillance by the company, WaPo reports.
2020 watch: The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are warning that foreign actors are “likely to spread disinformation” around the results of the election.
(Other) TikTok trouble: The company said that a suicide video that went viral on the platform this month was “the result of a coordinated raid from the dark web,” The Guardian reports.
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