Media plays tech watchdog while regulations stall

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Investigative reporting from news outlets over the past 2 weeks has led to some swift changes from some of the biggest tech companies.

Why it matters: Despite an onslaught of hearings and statements from Washington, virtually no regulation has actually passed in the past couple of years to significantly address the potentially harmful practices of tech companies. Media reports have driven most of the changes to date, especially around privacy.

What's happening:

  • Facebook says it’s working on an improved compliance and audit process for the third-party contractors that moderate content on its platform, following a brutal exposé Monday by The Verge's Casey Newton on workplace conditions at a facility in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Popular health and fitness apps have stopped sharing data with Facebook after a Wall Street Journal report last week detailed how many do so without users knowing.
  • Facebook will shut down its controversial Onavo VPN app in the wake of backlash following TechCrunch’s investigation about Onavo code being used in a Facebook research app that sucked up data about teens.

Yes, but: Changes without the weight of law can be temporary, or promised but not delivered, Axios' Ina Fried points out. Remember that "clear history" feature Facebook promised? We're still waiting for it to arrive.

  • Plus, these actions come as regulators begin meeting on Capitol Hill enter a series of hearings this week. But, as Axios' David McCabe notes, "The privacy debate in Congress has seen a lot of press attention and not much movement."

What's next

New York Times endorses Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president

Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warrenand Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the December 2020 debatein Los Angeles. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The New York Times editorial board has endorsed Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president, in a decision announced on national television Sunday night.

Why it matters: The board writes in its editorial that its decision to endorse two candidates is a major break with convention that's intended to address the "realist" and "radical" models being presented to voters by the 2020 Democratic field.

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - Media

What's next in the impeachment witness battle

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senators will almost certainly get to vote on whether or not to call impeachment witnesses. The resolution laying out the rules of the trial, which will be presented Tuesday, is expected to mandate that senators can take up-or-down votes on calling for witnesses and documents.

Yes, but: Those votes won't come until the House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team deliver their opening arguments and field Senators' questions.

Inside Trump's impeachment strategy: The national security card

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trump officials say they feel especially bullish about one key argument against calling additional impeachment witnesses: It could compromise America's national security.

The big picture: People close to the president say their most compelling argument to persuade nervous Republican senators to vote against calling new witnesses is the claim that they're protecting national security.