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Big tech's Russia problem goes well beyond Russia

Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios

Several months ago we first discussed the prospect of anti-trust action against technology giants. Pressure seemed to be coming from the right, in terms of Trump Administration animosity toward Silicon Valley antagonists. It also seemed to be coming from the left, in terms of income inequality and growing recognition that this generation's Masters of the Universe don't work on Wall Street. Some was just under the aegis of "I know it when I see it," in terms of everything from Facebook's relationship to media to Amazon's relationship with consumers.

The tech execs I spoke with mostly shrugged their shoulders, and then one more time for de-emphasis once Steve Bannon left the West Wing. But those sentiments are shifting, and it has nothing to do with mergers or market share.

What changed: Facebook's acknowledgment that Russian agents purchased ads around last year's election is a bit like stealing a car and then accidentally rear-ending a cop. Russia may be the initial bump, but it's liable to spark all sorts of other inquiries into big tech business models and products — with each new hearing or interview increasing D.C. knowledge of how Silicon Valley and its satellites actually work. Oh, and now it looks like Google might have done something similar.

Even if the Russia/social media story fades into oblivion, it could create regulatory ripples in everything from privacy to antitrust.

Bottom line: "This piqued the interest of people who didn't really care about so-called big tech before," says a senior D.C. rep of a major West Coast tech company. "Now they have reason to take out their magnifying glasses."

Amy Harder 2 hours ago
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Trump’s electricity solution in search of a problem

A group of President Trumps with power lines strung between them
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

President Trump is directing his administration to prop up financially struggling coal and nuclear power plants to ensure the electricity grid is resilient and reliable, but government data and most objective experts say there is no such problem.

Why it matters: America’s electricity fuel mix is undergoing significant change, which does present challenges. But Trump’s laser focus on coal and nuclear power — and companies seizing on that — distracts the debate from more substantive issues.

Sam Baker 3 hours ago
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How to lower prescription drug costs

A pill and a hammer
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's upcoming speech on drug prices will probably stick to small-ball ideas. But small-ball doesn't necessarily mean no impact.

Reality check: There are a lot of legitimate ways to bring down drug costs; there are also a lot of empty gestures masquerading as real change. Here's a guide to the kinds of ideas and the odds that they'll actually happen.