Nov 8, 2018

What the new Congress means for Silicon Valley

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

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

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