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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spent the year under increased political pressure. Photo: Jeff Roberson / AP

Lawmakers expressed concern and confusion about the role of big data and algorithms used by major web companies like Facebook and Google at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

The takeaway: Tech firms are under increasing pressure to account for their impact on society — including how information is targeted to individuals on their platforms — but policymakers have a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the technology behind the popular services.

Quote of the day: "We don't, I don't think, as a committee really know how to get socks on the octopus, so to speak, here because it's complicated," said California Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo. "Free speech is central to us. But we also know that there are bad actors that have used the best of what we have invented to divide us, and something needs to be done about that,"

The gritty details:

  • Concerns were bipartisan. "We know that there is in effect paid prioritization on some of these platforms, right, because you buy advertising, and it strikes me that at least Google it's an amazing American company — does incredible work — but has about 77 percent market share of search," said Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "And I've had consumers complain to me about what they believe to be the use of algorithms that have disproportionately affected them."
  • Net neutrality cast a shadow over the conversation. Republican lawmakers raised the difference in how neutrality is treated for internet providers — who are subject to regulations slated to be repealed next month at the FCC — and web platforms. Democrats said that plan to repeal the rules would hurt free speech online.

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with the Denver Broncos' quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.