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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The growing online trade in copycat goods is a new target in Washington's war on Big Tech, as policymakers pressure companies like Amazon to take more responsibility for what happens across their platforms.

The big picture: The spotlight on counterfeit goods is part of a broader push by lawmakers to use policy levers to hold tech companies accountable for real-world harms that result from users' online actions.

Driving the news: Lawmakers want to crack down on the sales of fake products online, with two House committees raising the issue this week.

  • The leaders of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday introduced the "SHOP SAFE" Act, which would hold online marketplaces responsible for trademark infringement if they don't take steps to stop third parties from using their platforms to sell counterfeit goods with a health or safety risk.
  • Those steps include verifying sellers' identity and contact information; screening for counterfeits; removing a seller that has repeatedly listed or sold counterfeit goods; and sharing sham sellers' information with law enforcement and the owners of any brand being impersonated.
  • The bipartisan bill is specifically focused on goods that could harm consumers, with lawmakers noting that baby formula, chargers, and car seats are among the life-threatening fakes available online.

Separately, the House Energy & Commerce consumer protection subcommittee on Wednesday will hear from Amazon, eBay, Apple and others in a hearing focused on fake and unsafe products sold online.

  • Apple senior director for intellectual property Jeff Myers said in written testimony that one analysis of 400 fake iPhone power adapters found that 99% failed basic safety tests. He argued marketplaces should do a better job of vetting sellers and permanently removing repeat offenders.
  • In written testimony, Amazon's Dharmesh Mehta outlined the e-commerce giant's actions against counterfeit goods, including "Project Zero," which allows brands to remove counterfeit listings directly without having to flag them to Amazon for review.
  • Consumer Reports' David Friedman outlined investigations into dangerous inclined sleepers for infants, children's toys and motorcycle helmets sold online in testimony ahead of the hearing.

Context: The Trump administration in a January report said it would step up enforcement against counterfeit goods and urged the private sector to follow "best practices," including enhanced vetting of sellers.

  • E-commerce platforms must "assume greater responsibility, and therefore greater liability, for their roles in the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods," the report from the Department of Homeland Security concluded.
  • The report notes the value of infringing goods seized by U.S. authorities increased from $94 million in 2003 to $1.4 billion in 2018.

The bottom line: Policymakers are already talking about updating federal law to hold tech companies more responsible for what happens on their platforms. The focus on counterfeits marks another front in that push.

Go deeper

Updated 54 mins ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  2. Vaccine: Employers mull COVID vaccine requirements — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategyPfizer begins study on 3rd vaccine dose as booster shot against new strains.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.