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Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Tuesday’s midterms will shake up the congressional committees responsible for keeping tabs on the tech industry and set the stage for new legislation taking direct aim at companies like Google and Facebook.

The bottom line: Democrats focused on privacy and conservatives who are suspicious of the platform companies are moving into more prominent positions at a time when Big Tech is a bigger target for concrete regulation than ever before.

In the House, a new era of Democratic leadership has major implications for Silicon Valley and Washington.

  • Likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has mentioned a desire to produce an infrastructure package that would include broadband.
  • Rep. Frank Pallone, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, said Wednesday he would seek to lead the panel. Among his priorities are developing “meaningful privacy and data security protections."
  • He also said the committee under his leadership would “conduct rigorous oversight of the Trump Administration.” That would likely include the Federal Communications Commission and its Trump-appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, who has run a de-regulatory agenda with little oversight from congressional Republicans.
  • The big tech companies may also face tough scrutiny from a Democratic House, including Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the current top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel who could become its chair.
  • “He's had concerns with Amazon and Google and almost certainly would hold antitrust hearings on those companies — the first since Google's hearing in 2011,” said Cowen Washington Research Group's Paul Gallant in an analyst note. “House antitrust hearings could influence how aggressively the FTC and DOJ investigate the Internet companies.”

In the Senate, a key committee’s leadership is in play and several tech skeptics won seats for the first time.

  • The Senate Commerce Committee, which will take a key role in crafting privacy legislation, is likely losing its Chairman, Sen. John Thune (SD), to a higher position in GOP leadership. The top Democrat on the panel — Sen. Bill Nelson (Fl.) — lost his bid for reelection this week but may be waiting out a recount. It's possible a lawmaker more critical of tech’s data collection practices could take his job.
  • Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has accused web platforms of conservative bias and previously introduced internet privacy legislation, won a Senate seat. So did Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), who has been investigating major tech firms.

Yes, but: Congressional committee assignments haven’t been decided yet, so the full picture of who tech will tangle with for the next two years hasn’t yet come into view.

What to watch: Expect more frequent hearings, especially on issues such as consumer data practices and market competition issues. While sweeping legislation won't materialize anytime soon, narrow measures uniting concerns from both sides of the aisle could be more feasible.

Go deeper: Midterms will shape the internet's new privacy rules

Go deeper

Biden to sign 15 executive actions on Day One

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies.

Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.