By Li Zhou | 10/11/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Margaret Harding McGill, Ashley Gold, Nancy Scola and Steven Overly
FACEBOOK MOUNTS FULL-COURT PRESS - Facebook is dedicating a hefty share of firepower to reaching folks in Washington as Congress' investigation into Russian interference on the social network continues to heat up. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, VP for Global Policy Joel Kaplan and VP for U.S. Public Policy Erin Egan are working the phones and talking to interested parties, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO. The calls are about helping people understand how Facebook views the situation, the actions the company is taking and the efforts it'll make going forward, the source said. A Bloomberg story on Tuesday noted that some of these calls were being directed at members of Congress.
- Sandberg is also due for a Beltway swing this week as part of a trip that will include a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The CBC has long pressed Facebook and other tech companies to ramp up efforts to diversify their workforces. The group recently urged Facebook and Twitter to curb Russian-linked ads , some of which aim to sow racially-charged discord by targeting organizations like Black Lives Matter. Sandberg is also making multiple press appearances this week, including one last night at a Wall Street Journal event in New York during which she called for federal policy on paid family leave. The WSJ appearance coincided with a report released by LeanIn.org that examined the need for more gender diversity in the workplace. "This has been happening for so long, on gender and on race, that we actually don't think more is achievable," she said of the disparities in the workplace, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Sandberg added that the reported behavior of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was unacceptable and that those who covered for it should also be held accountable.
- One company still not in the spotlight: Reddit. While there's been chatter about that social platform - which was a hotbed of pro-Trump activity during the election - being of keen interest to investigators, a source close to the situation says the firm hasn't been contacted by Russia investigations of any stripe, including the Senate and House intelligence committees.
FCC REAUTH GETS A MARKUP - This afternoon, the House Energy and Commerce's telecom subcommittee will hold a markup of a bill to reauthorize the FCC, something that hasn't happened since 1990. The legislation, as it stands in draft form, includes changes intended to increase the agency's transparency and modify fee collection authority. The bill also would elevate the agency's chief information officer and establish the independence of the FCC's inspector general. A bipartisan bill from Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune to reauthorize the commission stalled on the Senate floor last Congress. He had previously said that reauthorization legislation could also serve as a potential vehicle for overhauling the FCC's Lifeline program.
TWITTER BACKTRACKS ON BLACKBURN - Twitter is reversing a decision to block Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) from promoting her Senate campaign launch video on the social network, Pro Campaign's Kevin Robillard reports . "The company on Monday said a line in Blackburn's video referencing 'baby body parts' was 'inflammatory' and violated its guidelines, a decision that Blackburn and other Republicans quickly criticized. Blackburn said Tuesday morning the company should apologize and called out "Silicon Valley elites" for trying to impose their values on the broader user base of tech tools.
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POLITICO's Agenda: The Data Issue: Data has emerged as a powerful tool for business and governance, and nobody collects more data than Washington. This issue of POLITICO Agenda goes deep on data and looks at the public challenges and opportunities that emerge as "big data" expands the possibilities for society and for government. From financial data ownership, to thwarting digital thieves and hackers, be sure to read the full edition HERE.
UBER HR HEAD ON DACA - "We would be totally, 100 percent, fully supportive [of employees in the DACA program]," Uber Chief HR Officer Liane Hornsey said in an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday, though she acknowledged that she's not entirely sure what that support is going to look like yet. Hornsey also said the company plans to hold an open house in the coming months to welcome groups that have questioned its culture in the past and will conduct another audit of the company's status on sexual harassment and diversity at the end of the year. Hornsey started at the company in January and has been tasked with helping transform its troubled culture and improve its policies on sexual harassment, discrimination and diversity, following an explosive blog post from former engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti. Read the full interview, here.
STATION MOVE TO SAVE MILLIONS - The agreement between T-Mobile and Fox Television Stations to speed the relocation of WWOR TV to a new channel - in addition to another station move - looks like it will save the FCC an estimated $77 million from the $1.75 billion incentive auction relocation fund. How? WWOR's equipment is on the Empire State Building, which hosts a score of broadcast antennas. In July, WWOR told the FCC that structural changes to the tower and other costs involved in moving to a new channel would add up to nearly $42 million. But in September, it submitted a revised cost estimate of almost $4 million, which includes a move to One World Trade Center. Another Fox station, WNYW, is also making the move to One World Trade Center at a savings of $39 million. So what's in it for T-Mobile? The FCC gave WWOR permission to move to a new channel in early 2018, rather than the proposed deadline of August 2019. That will allow T-Mobile to deploy a "new competitive wireless broadband service" in New York City a full 12 months earlier, according to WWOR's request to the FCC.
- The savings could be important as the FCC's initial cost estimate from July showed that reimbursements could run $2.1 billion, well above the $1.75 billion set aside for repack costs. Lawmakers want to know how much the FCC needs while they consider legislation to add to the repack fund. The FCC's fund administrator is completing a reviews of the costs, but auction task force chairwoman Jean Kiddoo cautioned against relying on an estimate because costs will change as broadcasters move through the 39-month process. "It's hard to give Congress a dollar amount as to where we will be three years from now," Kiddoo said at an FCBA auction event Tuesday.
- As part of its auction update, FCC auction officials said that of the 133 winning auction stations that said they would share a channel with another TV station, 33 have filed construction permit applications for shared facilities. Remember, stations participating in the auction had the option to go off the air entirely, move to a different part of the band or share a channel with another station.
PAI TOUTS BIPARTISAN STATS - FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said one lesson he's taken from President Ronald Reagan is to seek bipartisan consensus whenever he can, and he gave stats Tuesday to show he's taken that guidance to heart. In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Pai said about 80 percent of the "major matters" voted on at the commission's meetings under his leadership have been approved with bipartisan support and without dissent, compared with less than 50 percent under his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler. Then again, Pai had a hand in the previous partisanship - he was in the minority when Wheeler was in charge, and regularly voted against the Democrat's major items.
LIGADO'S LATEST LOBBYISTS - Ligado Networks, the satellite communications company formerly known as LightSquared, has retained Signal Group Consulting to advocate on spectrum issues, a filing shows. The five lobbyists named in the filing - Erin Neal, Charles Cooper, Robert Chamberlin, Julie Hrdlicka and Samuel Whitehorn - hail from the Hill. What's more, four of them either worked for or have connections to the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC and telecom issues. Ligado retains a bench of lobby shops that includes Podesta Group, Perkins Coie, S-3 Group, The Fritts Group and Ogilvy Government Relations.
PENCE SPACES OUT - Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence followed the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council last week with a trip Tuesday to the New Mexico hangar of Virgin Galactic, one of the newer players in this sector. Like at last week's event, younger companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are getting a prominent seat at the table as the U.S. tries to maintain its space leadership.
BLUMENTHAL HOLDS SUMMIT ON SEX-TRAFFICKING BILL - Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Monday huddled with human trafficking activists, members of the hotel industry and legal experts to discuss an anti-sex-trafficking bill he's pushing alongside Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Blumenthal also recently told The Journal Inquirer that he was talking with Facebook about questions the tech company has about legal liability changes. The bill ( S. 1693 (115)), which has raised the ire of Silicon Valley, would hold tech platforms liable for publishing ads that help facilitate sex trafficking.
DREAMHOST DECISION - "A D.C. judge has ordered web hosting company DreamHost to turn over information about an anti-Trump website, but moved to conceal the identities of users who feared government retaliation for engaging in innocent political speech," POLITICO's Steven Overly and Josh Gerstein report. "The order Chief Judge Robert Morin issued Tuesday still compels DreamHost to give government lawyers files, messages and other information from DisruptJ20.org, a website used to convene and coordinate protesters ahead of President Donald Trump's inauguration. But the company can now redact the identities of individual users from the data that will be handed over to the government, the judge ruled."
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS - Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) introduced the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2017, which calls on the FCC to compile a report examining veterans' access to broadband in rural areas.
SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS
- Rosenstein comes down hard on encryption: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Tuesday indicated "that the DOJ will more aggressively pursue access to encrypted data in criminal cases, shifting away from negotiating with tech firms that resist `responsible encryption,'" POLITICO Pro's Tim Starks reports.
- The vision for Softbank's $100B Vision Fund: "The Japanese billionaire [Masayoshi Son] said he believed robots would inexorably change the workforce and machines would become more intelligent than people, an event referred to as the 'Singularity,'" The New York Times reports. "As a result, Mr. Son [said] he is on a mission to own pieces of all the companies that may underpin the global shifts brought on by artificial intelligence to transportation, food, work, medicine and finance."
- Zuck apologizes for handling of Puerto Rico - VR video: "Mark Zuckerberg is apologizing today after his Facebook Live video discussing his company's efforts to aid Puerto Rico's recovery raised some serious eyebrows," TechCrunch reports. "My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what's happening in different parts of the world. ... Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn't clear, and I'm sorry to anyone this offended," Zuckerberg wrote in Facebook post.
You've got (self-driving) mail?: The U.S. Postal Service has looked into the use of autonomous mail trucks, Fedscoop reports.
Netflix's anatomy: Shonda Rhimes explains that the streaming platform offered more flexibility and freedom than a traditional television network, in a conversation with Recode.
Apple teams up with Spielberg on video: "The iPhone maker is bringing back Spielberg's 30-year-old anthology series 'Amazing Stories' in its attempt to build an online video subscription service to challenge the digital networks operated by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO," The AP reports.
Alibaba debuts AI research division: "Alibaba Group announced today that it's launching a new research organization aimed at tackling emerging technologies like machine learning, network security, the internet of things, and quantum computing," VentureBeat reports.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Eric Engleman (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ericengleman), Angela Greiling Keane (email@example.com, @agreilingkeane), Nancy Scola (firstname.lastname@example.org, @nancyscola), Margaret Harding McGill ( email@example.com, @margarethmcgill), Ashley Gold (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ashleyrgold), Steven Overly (email@example.com, @stevenoverly), John Hendel (firstname.lastname@example.org, @JohnHendel) and Li Zhou (email@example.com, @liszhou)
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