Jan 28, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today is Data Privacy Day. To receive your personalized Login card celebrating the occasion, just reply to this email with your social security number, mother's maiden name and the street you grew up on.

Situational awareness: Two big stories breaking this morning.

  • The U.K. has announced rules for 5G networks that will allow the use of Huawei equipment, setting up a showdown with the U.S., which has threatened to withhold intelligence sharing from countries that don't bar the Chinese company from their 5G networks.
  • Also, Facebook said it is now globally rolling out a long-promised tool to let people view and delete the data Facebook collects on them from external websites and apps, known as "Off-Facebook activity."

In the meantime, today's Login is 1,213 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: What to expect on tech legislation in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Bipartisan bills to protect kids online, promote and secure new technologies like 5G and autonomous vehicles, and restrain tech giants' power are a real possibility in 2020 — despite a presidential election and impeachment proceedings preoccupying Washington.

The big picture: Sweeping legislation will still struggle to gain traction, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports. But narrower measures on issues like privacy and antitrust could help lawmakers show they can work across a bitter political divide.

What's next: Lawmakers are likely to unite around the following legislative priorities next year, Capitol Hill aides and industry sources tell Axios.

  • Protecting kids' privacy: Comprehensive privacy legislation may still prove elusive despite strong bipartisan interest (more on that below). But there could be bipartisan lift for legislation to bolster digital privacy protections for minors. Efforts to update the decades-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act are already underway in both the House and Senate.
  • Keeping kids safe online: Legislation that would increase pressure on platforms to take more action to police online child pornography and predation could gain bipartisan support.
  • Antitrust: Policymakers from both parties have talked about updating antitrust laws to address tech companies' data- and advertising-driven business models, which don't fit neatly under existing theories of competition that focus primarily on consumer prices. That sort of overhaul won't happen in a matter of months, but smaller changes are possible.
  • Autonomous vehicles: The House passed self-driving car legislation in 2017 that didn't pick up steam in the Senate, but a bicameral, bipartisan effort led by the House Energy & Commerce and Senate Commerce committees is underway this year.
  • 5G security: The House has already passed a slew of bills related to advancing secure 5G networks, with some expected to be taken up by the Senate.

Yes, but: Last year looked promising for national tech legislation, too. And uncertainty still looms over lawmakers' very top tech policy priority: delivering sweeping online privacy legislation.

  • Congress ended 2019 with dueling Republican and Democratic drafts in the Senate and a bipartisan staff draft in the House. The latter failed to resolve the two biggest partisan sticking points stalling privacy legislation: Republicans want to override existing state privacy laws, while Democrats want to give individuals the right to sue companies over privacy violations.
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who's lent her support to the draft and has been gathering feedback on it, believes there's room for compromise on both areas, she told Axios in an interview that will air on C-SPAN's "The Communicators."

Margaret has more here.

2. Online misinformation about coronavirus is spreading fast

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Misinformation about the coronavirus is testing governments, tech platforms and health officials — as well as a nervous public — in both the U.S. and China, as Axios' Sara Fischer and I report.

Why it matters: The new cycle of misinformation around the deadly disease is testing big tech platforms' ability to police rule-breaking content and China's ability to control domestic criticism.

Tech platforms — including Facebook, Twitter and Google — are scrambling to stop the spread of misinformation about the virus, much of which violates their own content rules.

  • BuzzFeed News has documented several examples of misinformation about the virus, including fabricated government warnings and false information about the number of people affected in U.S. cities.
  • Some of it's coming from private Facebook groups that popped up after the virus began spreading, the Washington Post reports.

The Chinese government is facing similar challenges — a change from past outbreaks.

  • Some of the fastest-spreading misinformation about the crisis involves unfounded rumors that the Chinese government started the virus, according to an analysis provided to Axios from social media intelligence company Storyful.
  • According to Storyful's Catherine Sanz, dozens of posts across Weibo, the Chinese messaging app, are making claims that the virus was engineered by either the Chinese or the U.S. government, a narrative that exploits the already strained relationship between the two counties.
  • According to the data, nearly 13,000 posts across Twitter, public Facebook pages, and Reddit between Jan. 24 and Jan. 27 have propagated conspiracy theories about the virus, including that it may be a bioweapon or a depopulation method.

Yes, but: The Chinese government is spreading some misinformation of its own in response.

  • Storyful found that Chinese state media has tweeted photos purporting to show a new hospital, but which were actually stock images from a company that sells modular containers.

The big picture: Health care has long been a target of misinformation, because it plays into existing fears. This is especially true for disease outbreaks, which can spread faster than the news cycle is equipped to handle.

  • Axios wrote last year that Russian efforts to sow discord ahead of the 2020 elections appeared to be focused on spreading inaccurate information about vaccines and 5G wireless technology.
  • The Council on Foreign Relations wrote last year that online disinformation about the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola virus outbreak in 2018 and 2019 made the crisis worse, because it undermined confidence in the underlying science being used to stop the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile: Facebook and hardware maker Razer are among companies restricting employee travel to China amid the outbreak, per the Verge.

Go deeper: 2020 misinformation campaigns take aim at the latest spook issues

3. The iPad at 10

When the iPad was introduced 10 years ago this week, there was much debate over whether the device was bringing in the next era of computing or if it was merely a companion device best suited for content consumption.

Why it matters: The iPad hasn't supplanted the computer to the degree that Steve Jobs envisioned. But the tablet has clearly found its niche and it continues to slowly add capabilities once limited to traditional computers.

I remember describing the iPad as nothing more or less than a giant iPhone, noting that such a device had lots of utility, even if it never did replace a computer.

  • Lest I give myself too much credit, I also hoped that Apple would add Adobe Flash support and a decade later, it is Flash, not the iPad, that is on the verge of being discontinued.

What they're saying:

  • Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern: "Lots of smart stuff being written about the iPad's 10th anniversary. All I can think of? Thank you, Apple, for allowing me to travel in peace as my son watches 'Frozen' for the millionth time."
  • Longtime tech reviewer Walt Mossberg: "The iPad hasn't entirely replaced the laptop, but it has taken over many common scenarios for which the laptop was once the prime device. I use my iPads daily, and they have led me to dramatically reduce my laptop use. I'm typing this post on an iPad."

My thought bubble: As a writer, I still rely on my laptop daily and use an iPad only sporadically, mainly for entertainment on airplanes. But, each generation gets more capable, as evidenced by the recent arrival of Photoshop for the iPad.

Go deeper:

4. iPhone sales in spotlight for Apple earnings

Once again, all eyes will be on iPhone sales when Apple reports earnings later today.

Why it matters: Apple may be growing its services and wearables businesses, but both those units depend on a solid base of iPhones.

By the numbers: Per Seeking Alpha, Apple is expected to report:

  • Revenue: $88.38 billion
  • Earnings per share: $4.54

Meanwhile: Other numbers to watch include iPhone unit sales, services and wearables revenue as well as how the company is doing in China.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports include Apple, AMD and eBay.

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6. After you Login

This small, hopping insect has what look like mechanical gears to synchronize the kicks of its hind legs when it jumps.

Ina Fried