With help from John Hendel
Editor’s Note: Morning Tech is a free version of POLITICO Pro Technology’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.
— Field trip: President Joe Biden is heading across the pond today. Here’s what to watch for.
— Looking close to home: A bipartisan Senate report into the Jan. 6 Capitol assault pointed the finger largely at the failures of law enforcement agencies, rather than social media platforms.
— Into the cloud: Dell Technologies is investing heavily in an alternative use of 5G, amid concerns over China’s hardware giants.
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! MORNING TECH IS HALFWAY THERE. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Fun fact: When I was in high school, I won a Twitter competition and got to go backstage at a Microsoft event where I met Seth Rogen, Selena Gomez and Boo the dog (RIP). I wanted to pet Boo, but his owner (a Facebook employee) said he was scared of strangers. Sad!
Mark your calendars: Last week, Alex unpacked why a national privacy law has stalled (again). This week, she’ll ask a bipartisan duo of lawmakers for their latest take — and what’s needed to push legislation forward at a time when privacy concerns remain front and center. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the leaders of the Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee, will join Alex for a POLITICO Live editorial panel on Thursday afternoon. Register to watch here.
Got a news tip? Got secret tax filings? Email [email protected]. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
TECH WATCHES POTUS ON HIS FIRST FOREIGN TRIP — Biden is flying to the U.K. this morning, the start of an eight-day European tour that gives him an opportunity to reset transatlantic relationships. He’ll attend the G-7 and NATO summits and have sit-downs with Queen Elizabeth and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but tech watchers are particularly interested in what happens with a proposed transatlantic Technology and Trade Council at the U.S.-EU summit in Brussels.
That proposal is backed by tech players like Google and IBM, and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said last month that the U.S. was “very interested” in and preparing a response to the EU’s proposal. But don’t expect any major breakthroughs on issues where Brussels and Washington don’t see eye to eye, such as transatlantic data flows and standards for artificial intelligence. Rather, it’s best to view this potential partnership as an open line to discuss policies and principles on key digital policy issues, said Sam Rizzo, senior director of policy at the Information Technology Industry Council.
— Aiming for a deal: Biden also wants to secure a high-level political agreement from the EU to lay the groundwork for a transatlantic data transfer agreement. Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, both key players in orchestrating a deal between the two governments, are expected to travel with Biden to Brussels. Raimondo told House lawmakers Tuesday that she was “deeply” involved in talks for a Privacy Shield replacement and planned to raise the issue in Europe.
— Semiconductor watch: It’s also worth keeping an eye out for any announcements related to semiconductor R&D or supply chain resilience. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, S. 1260 (117), which passed Tuesday in the Senate, included a $52 billion fund for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and the EU has its own funding program for research and innovation.
— Other issues: “There’s also a lot of things in the technology space that we have the opportunity now to work closely with our European friends on, in terms of addressing 5G security, emerging technology, setting standards, technology regulation and really finding a way to set the rules of the road together with our EU partners,” Amanda Sloat, the senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, said last week.
SENATE REPORT TARGETS LAW ENFORCEMENT, NOT SOCIAL MEDIA — Social media platforms have been major targets of criticism for their role as gathering places for extremist groups online, including the rioters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. But they were largely excluded in a bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday on the deadly attack. (Facebook wasn’t mentioned at all in the 128-page report.)
Instead, it focused much of that blame on intelligence agencies that failed to act on social media posts from as early as December detailing plans for an insurrection. Those findings will likely bolster tech companies’ defense that they can take only so much action on their platforms if law enforcement and intelligence agencies fail to respond to dangers emerging in plain sight.
— Key findings: The report found that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security deemed the online threats credible. It also took the Capitol Police to task, saying its intelligence and interagency coordination division knew about the threats but failed to convey their full scope to the rest of the police department’s leadership, rank-and-file officers or other law enforcement partners.
The findings point to a growing struggle for law enforcement in juggling First Amendment-protected speech and credible threats of violence, especially when extremist groups congregate in public online forums.
“Data that’s been widely out there, the departments will ignore at their own peril,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, told MT, adding that the social media posts were just one of many red flags that authorities missed ahead of Jan. 6.
Social media companies took steps to combat extremism, Levin said, but by then many groups had moved on to other platforms that were encrypted — and the companies still need to take responsibility for their role in incubating conspiracy theories and misinformation. Ultimately, he said, the Senate report underscored the need for a comprehensive investigation into the events surrounding Jan. 6, an effort that Senate Republicans have shot down.
HELLO, 5G? IT’S ME, DELL — Software giant Dell is launching a suite of offerings today meant to scale up and support the global marketplace for moving 5G networks into the cloud. That’s likely to please Western policymakers fearful of the dominance of traditional 5G hardware players like China’s Huawei.
— At play is a buzzy new way of building 5G networks known as “open RAN”: The concept refers to opening the protocols of 5G radio access networks. Right now, legacy providers like Huawei and Europe’s Nokia and Ericsson are the main suppliers of this gear, but open RAN lets a wider mix of Western software companies jump into the game.
— And here comes Dell: The tech heavyweight is unveiling a set of tools aimed at helping telecom companies deploy and maintain some of these open, cloud-native 5G networks, including through a new software program dubbed “Project Metalweaver” and partnerships with other vendors active on open RAN. It also promises network operators a chance to use a telecom innovation lab to test ways to make money in this new ecosystem (Dell plans a lab at its Round Rock, Texas, corporate HQ as well as satellite labs elsewhere, including one in Tokyo).
— Global stakes: U.S. policymakers are aggressively pushing this 5G alternative amid tensions with China. The Commerce Department last week announced plans to procure this type of gear to test out the new tech, while the FCC is planning a June 29 vendor showcase. And in the China competition bill the Senate just approved, senators tucked in $1.5 billion to help foster 5G open RAN.
— Despite the enthusiasm, the U.S. marketplace is still nascent, although Dish Network plans to roll out a fully virtualized, open 5G network later this year. Today’s event will feature speakers from other companies in the open RAN space, including Dish, Intel and Mavenir.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A BILLIONAIRE? — Well, good news: Your federal income tax rate might go down.That’s according to ProPublica’s blockbuster investigation that analyzed previously undisclosed IRS documents of some of the wealthiest people in the world. It also provides a new window into the finances of the super-rich.
From 2014 to 2018, for example, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ wealth grew by $99 billion, but he reported only $4.22 billion of that as income and paid $973 million in taxes, for what ProPublica calls a “true tax rate” of 0.98 percent. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s wealth grew by $13.9 billion in the same period, the publication wroe, of which he reported $1.52 billion as total income and paid $455 million in taxes. (“True tax rate”: 3.27 percent.)
A debate emerged on Twitter about how ProPublica framed the story, but it had an immediate impact: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reupped her call for a wealth tax, and the IRS will conduct an investigation into the apparently leaked documents.
For your MT host, this was the real kicker: Bezos didn’t pay any federal income tax in 2007 and 2011, ProPublica wrote. And in 2011, because he made so little, he was able to claim a $4,000 tax credit for his children.
GET READY FOR IT — The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee has set a time for its first hearing this summer: 2:30 p.m. next Tuesday. The hearing will be on “Protecting Competition and Innovation in Home Technologies,” which MT wrote about a few weeks ago.
Morgan Butler is now engagement and outreach manager for public policy at Twitter. She most recently was digital director for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Jack Karsten recently joined the Progressive Policy Institute as managing director of its Innovation Frontier Project. He was previously a senior research analyst at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. … Rick Lane, a tech policy and online child safety advocate, is joining REGO Payment Architectures’ board of advisers. He is the founder and CEO of Iggy Ventures. … Derek White is digital banking and payments platform Galileo’s new CEO. He was previously VP of global financial services at Google Cloud and London’s technology ambassador. … Jeffrey Stoops, president and CEO of SBA, was elected chairman of the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s board of directors. Tom Kane, CEO of NB&C, also joins the board. … Lou Borrelli is the new CEO of the National Cable Television Cooperative. … Adam Conner, VP of tech policy at the Center for American Progress and a Facebook and Slack alum, has joined the board of trustees of George Washington University, of which he is an alum.
Deep dive: “”What Really Happened When Google Ousted Timnit Gebru,” WIRED reports.
ICYMI: The FBI built an encrypted chat app to catch criminals, Laurens Cerulus reports.
Say it ain’t so: “Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy,” via NYT.
Raising eyebrows: Ohio sued Google, asking the court to classify and regulate the search giant as a public utility, Leah reports.
Shut down: A judge denied Facebook’s motion to dismiss a Trump-era DOJ complaint that the company allegedly discriminated against U.S. workers.
Sign here: The Colorado legislature passed a data privacy law, the third state to do so. Now it heads to Gov. Jared Polis, the Denver Post reports.
Expansion pack: The privacy tech sector is growing beyond regulatory compliance, according to a report from the Future of Privacy Forum and Privacy Tech Alliance.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Cristiano Lima ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
SEE YOU TOMORROW!