The House and Senate are both in session this week as the August recess approaches and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin continue to negotiate a path towards raising the debt ceiling, which Mnuchin is urging Congress to do before leaving Washington for the summer. Mnuchin said this morning that they have reached an agreement on a two-year deal to increase budget caps and to raise the debt limit and that discussions are now focused on offsets. The Speaker called it a “path” to agreement.
Intelligence Reauthorization, Raise the Wage Act
This week, the House passed a three-year intelligence reauthorization 397-31 before turning to the Raise the Wage Act, which aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The bill passed this afternoon, 231-199. The Energy and Commerce Committee marked up nearly 30 bills yesterday across its jurisdiction, touching on everything from prescription drug pricing to product safety and combating abusive robocalls. The Senate Aging Committee also held a hearing yesterday focused on robocall fraud focused on the impact on senior citizens.
As lawmakers continue to express concerns about so-called “deepfakes,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote to the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter this week asking for information about how these platforms plan to address the realistic fake videos and images and other false content, particularly ahead of the 2020 elections. Reps. Kilmer (D-WA), King (R-NY), Murphy (D-FL), and Hurd (R-TX) also introduced legislation late last month to require the Department of Homeland Security to publish an annual report on the use of deepfake technology. Senator Portman (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan companion bill earlier this month.
Google and Censorship through Search Engines
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate continues to consider pending nominations, including judicial and ambassadorial nominations, as well as a series of tax treaties. On Monday, Senators Cruz (R-TX) and Hawley (R-MO) wrote a letter to the FTC urging the Commission to use 6(b) authority to investigate how major tech companies, namely Facebook, Twitter, and Google, curate content. The letter preceded a hearing in Cruz’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee on “Google and Censorship through Search Engines.” Meanwhile, Hawley and Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Markey (D-MA) wrote to the FTC on Tuesday calling its reported $5 billion settlement with Facebook for violating users’ privacy “woefully inadequate” and asking for information on the Commission’s decisionmaking.
Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act
On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act, which authorizes the FTC to enforce transparency requirements on social media companies regarding the use of bots that replicate human activity and prohibits candidates, campaigns, and political organizations from using bots to disguise political advertising or deceive voters by giving the false impression of support from actual humans. The bill currently has no cosponsors. Elsewhere, Senate Judiciary Committee member Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) hosted the first in a bimonthly series of tech roundtables on Thursday as part of a new Committee task force she announced last week during the White House social media summit. The task force is expected to focus on issues including competition, privacy, and allegations of anti-conservative bias.
Executive Order on Maximizing Use of American-Made Good, Products and Materials
President Trump kicked off the week by hosting a Made in America showcase at the White House, during which he signed an executive order on Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials. He hosted a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and was scheduled to meet later in the day with Republican congressional leadership, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. On Wednesday, he held a rally in North Carolina.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin held a briefing on Monday at the White House during which he said that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is pursuing additional enforcement actions related to cryptocurrency. He also expressed concerns about Facebook’s plans to launch a digital currency ahead of a pair of related hearings in the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees on Tuesday and Wednesday. Elsewhere, the Pentagon announced on Monday that it is establishing a Joint Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center under its new Digital Modernization Strategy in order to keep pace with AI capabilities in the private sector.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule
The FTC announced this week that it is seeking comments on whether or not amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule are necessary to reflect changes in technology since the agency last made updates in 2013. The FTC will also host a public workshop on October 7 to discuss COPPA and its effectiveness.
Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.