Apr 10, 2018

Big Tech's new era begins

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

For a decade-plus, Washington worshiped the power of the tech giants because they were cool and had coin.

A new day: When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is sworn in on Capitol Hill today around 2:15 p.m., it'll mark the official start of a new era that will be defined by skepticism, regulation and constant collision.

  • Silicon Valley, after dismissing Washington, now plans constant engagement. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will speak in Washington tomorrow, and Axios has learned that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has booked a visit.

Be smart: A longtime Washington maestro texts: "The next titanic political struggle will be over regulating tech/social media. The government often interrupts the aggregation of economic power over time. These companies have economic and political power. Politicians do not often ignore that combination."

The conversation ... The CGCN Group, a well-wired lobbying firm, says in a memo to clients headlined, "Tariffs, Populism and Mark Zuckerberg":

  • "Zuckerberg’s appearance is just one flashpoint in a larger political fight. These companies must come to terms with the reality that they are politically homeless — facing harsh rhetoric, tough questioning and policy differences from critics on both sides of the aisle."
  • "[A] victory for Zuckerberg under these circumstances is to stop the bleeding and do no further harm."
  • "These companies should take a page from the trade fight by emphasizing how their products are helping workers and businesses between the coasts."

Yes, but: Some Republican lawmakers are torn between their traditional philosophies of deregulation versus the pressure to take tech regulation seriously in light of recent events, per Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe:

  • These Republicans, like Sens. John Thune and John Kennedy, have been more open to talks of industry regulation ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted. But they're not totally past the traditional conservative aversion to regulation — let alone convincing their colleagues on Capitol Hill and at the FCC.
  • Meanwhile, Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told a small group of executives at the National Association of Broadcasters annual meeting in Las Vegas that more new platforms means regulators "getting out of the way" so everyone can "survive thrive and compete in today's and tomorrow's competitive media marketplace."

"Instagram, in all its trivial glory, might be the best hope for Facebook’s future" — Bloomberg Businessweek cover story by Sarah Frier:

  • Instagram relied on Facebook for its success, but now Facebook may depend on Instagram for its longevity."
  • "Instagram’s audience is younger than Facebook’s ... And unlike Facebook, which reported its first decline in users in North America in its most recent quarter, Instagram is still growing in its home market.”
  • The idea that Instagram might bail out Facebook has likely been in the back of Zuckerberg’s mind. He often says that Facebook should disrupt itself before someone else does, and he regularly celebrates Instagram at Facebook’s weekly staff meetings."

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