Axios Login

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November 16, 2022

Aloha from Maui.

Today's login is 1,343 words, a 5-minute read.

đź‘€ Situational awareness: Elon Musk told all Twitter employees in a late night email to either commit to a "hardcore" work environment by 5pm ET on Thursday or leave the company with three months severance, the Washington Post reports.

1 big thing: Congress' year-end push for kids' online privacy

Illustration of a padlock with googly eyes

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Lawmakers from both parties who back stricter rules for handling kids' data and accounts online see an opening in the last lame-duck weeks of this Congress, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

Why it matters: Passing a national online consumer privacy bill continues to be out of Congress' reach, but protecting young people online has been one of the few areas in recent decades where Congress has been able to pass new tech regulations.

Driving the news: The two laws best positioned to get rolled into big year-end legislative packages, according to advocates and lawmakers, are:

  • The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which would require platforms to guard kids from harmful content using new features and safeguards and to turn privacy settings "on" by default for children. The law also mandates privacy audits and more transparency about privacy policies.
  • The Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act, which bans marketing to minors without their consent. It also extends some privacy protections online that now only cover children through age 12 so that they continue through age 16.

The big picture: Many legislators have promoted comprehensive online privacy proposals for years now, only to be tripped up by disagreements over whether such a law should pre-empt state efforts and whether individuals could sue for violations of it.

  • Tech bills that focus on kids have had a little more luck getting to the President's desk.

What they're saying: Senate leadership is pushing to make these bills a priority, including the chair of the Senate Commerce committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

  • "Senator Cantwell is meeting with families this week and supports any effort to get children’s online privacy passed during the lame duck," Tricia Enright, communications director of the Senate Commerce committee, told Axios.
  • The likeliest path forward for the bills is for them to be added to the year-end defense or spending bill.
  • "I think it's going to move," Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, said this week at an event in Washington. "I think it could actually go — it's one of those very rare pieces of legislation that is getting bipartisan support."

Meanwhile, the issue of the safety of kids and teens online has been heating up across the globe, with efforts in the United Kingdom, Europe, and in U.S. states like California.

  • Family members who hold social media partially responsible for the deaths of their teenage relatives have been on the Hill this week, urging lawmakers to pass KOSA.
  • "It would be irresponsible for Congress to close out this year without taking concrete action to protect kids online," childrens' online safety advocacy groups wrote in a letter to members of Congress this week.

The other side: As legislators roll out new bills on this issue, tech firms have responded with tighter controls for kids and teens and touted new safety features, saying they want to partner with parents to make safer experiences online.

  • But advocates say that even with parents involved in their kids’ online lives, using all available social media parental controls, the children remain at risk.
  • "It is not my job as a grieving mother to look up these harmful videos and report them to the platforms," said Joann Bogard, a mother from Indiana who lost her child because of an online "choking" challenge and is working with Sens. Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), another sponsor of KOSA.
  • Talking to tech companies and trying to get policy changed has been a "brick wall," she said.

Yes, but: Senate Democrats have a big pile of competing priorities.

2. Cybersecurity bipartisanship after the midterms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Illustration of Capitol building with wifi beaming out

In the week since Election Day, cybersecurity lobbyists in Washington are anticipating their jobs will mostly stay the same — even with the likelihood that Republicans take control of the House, Axios' Sam Sabin reports.

Why it matters: Since cyberattacks aren’t going anywhere, lawmakers and lobbyists are optimistic they can push through rules on software security, critical infrastructure security oversight and federal IT spending, even in a closely split Congress.

The intrigue: While the potential for a change in party control could slow progress for other issue areas, cyber lobbyists so far don't see a need to change their tactics, since most cyber legislation comes with bipartisan co-sponsors.

  • "There's a pretty good history of Republicans and Democrats working together to address cybersecurity challenges," says Henry Young, a policy director at BSA | The Software Alliance focused on cyber issues. "My expectation is that will continue."
  • Part of the reason is that cyberattacks will just keep happening, creating lawmakers focused on the problem, says Mike Flynn, vice president and counsel at the Information Technology Industry Council.

Details: Even if cyber bipartisanship isn't expected to change, House leaders at the helm of key cybersecurity committees will.

  • Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) is retiring at the end of the year, leaving a vacancy in the top Republican position on the House Homeland Security Committee. So far, lobbyists expect Republican Reps. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) and Mark Green (Tenn.) to run for the position.
  • At the helm of the Homeland Security Committee, Green, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, would likely have more of a focus on border security and immigration.
  • On the Senate side, Homeland Security ranking member Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is also retiring.

Between the lines: Another reason bipartisanship is expected to survive is Sen. Gary Peters' (D-Mich.) continued leadership of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Yes, but: The most sweeping cyber measures are likely to come from the White House instead of Congress, says Andrew Howell, a cyber lobbyist at Monument Advocacy.

Sign up for Axios’ cybersecurity newsletter Codebook here.

3. Quick takes: Musk delays Twitter Blue relaunch

1. Elon Musk announced that he has pushed back the relaunch of the Twitter Blue subscription service — and the accompanying blue checkmark available for $8 a month — until Nov. 29, "to make sure that it is rock solid."

Between the lines: Musk pushed engineers to launch the revamped subscription offering in a week but then faced a wave of fraud and pranks, which spread confusion and discouraged advertisers.

2. The knock-on effects of FTX.com's collapse are starting to show as businesses it embraced, partners, and customers start to feel the hurt, Axios' Crystal Kim reports.

Why it matters: Pain. Up to a million FTX customers could be affected by the exchange's collapse, according to court filings submitted by FTX, and other crypto businesses could be in peril.

4. Take note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy promoted Asad Ramzanali to chief of staff. Ramzanali had joined OSTP earlier as director of legislative affairs.
  • BSA | The Software Alliance has hired Matthew Lenz as senior director of state advocacy. Lenz previously was director of state government affairs for the Entertainment Software Association.

ICYMI

  • Tim Cook reportedly told European staff that Apple plans to start getting some of its chips from a U.S. plant in Arizona as soon as 2024. (Bloomberg)
  • Politico plans to wind down Protocol, the tech news website it launched in 2020. It will stop publishing new stories immediately, with one newsletter continuing through December. (Axios)
  • Amazon has begun making cuts to its corporate workforce, including some people on its Alexa team. (Washington Post)
  • Microsoft released the results of an outside inquiry into sexual harassment issues at the company and pledged to make a series of reforms, including the publishing of an annual report on new claims. (GeekWire)

5. After you Login

This broadcast journalist did everything he could to keep going with his live shot, but sometimes you just have to give in to an adorable, playful baby elephant.

Thanks to Scott Rosenberg and Peter Allen Clark for editing and Nick Aspinwall for copy editing this newsletter.