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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Achmad Ibrahim / AP

Members of Congress in both parties have begun exploring possible legislative action against Facebook and other tech giants, setting the stage for a potentially massive battle in the midterm election year of 2018.

Why it matters: Following revelations about fake news and paid Russian propaganda on Facebook during last year's election, big tech has become a big target, with politicians across the spectrum declaring on Sunday shows that more scrutiny, transparency and restrictions are needed.

The shift against the companies has been sudden, and is one of the biggest stories of the year.

Republicans are likely to emphasize the national security and homeland security aspects to reining in the tech companies.

  • A GOP lobbyist who's involved in the conversations says that the populist right in Trump's base views tech companies as political combatants that favor open border and liberal social policies.
  • Republican lawmakers, seeing a massive opening on a sexy issue, have begun consulting experts who have studied ways Congress could act.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is actively working to develop legislation to improve disclosure for online political ads.

  • Warner's office tells me: "As more and more dollars are being spent on these digital platforms, we may need legislation to require more disclosure about political ads running on social media, the way we do for television ads. ... [T]he ads you may see on Facebook are not public and are targeted narrowly to users based on different variables — making disclosure and transparency even more vital."
  • But a well-wired Democrat warns: "It's not at all clear that people are ready to turn the big tech firms into villains — for national security issues, monopolization, commodifying our info or privacy. People like iPhones and Google and Amazon. They don't make for as clear cut a target as pharma or Wall Street."

Be smart: Facebook sees the abrupt turn in elite opinion about Big Tech, and is unlikely to oppose all legislation. Instead, Facebook will describe the proposals as a "roadmap" or "framework," and try to steer them in the industry's direction rather than try to kill them, which would be unpopular in this environment.

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Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 5 mins ago - Technology

Exclusive: GLAAD finds top social media sites "categorically unsafe"

The leading social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube — are all "categorically unsafe" for LGBTQ people, according to a new study from GLAAD, the results of which were revealed Sunday on "Axios on HBO."

The big picture: GLAAD had planned to give each of the sites a grade as part of its inaugural social media index, but opted not to give individual grades this year after determining all the leading sites would receive a failing grade.

Biden admin declares state of emergency over fuel pipeline cyberattack

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Sunday declared a state of emergency in response to a ransomware attack that forced operator Colonial Pipeline to shut down a key U.S. pipeline.

Why it matters: Friday night's cyberattack is "the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure" known to have occurred in the U.S., notes energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe, per Politico.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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