The Senate unanimously confirmed all five of President Trump's nominees to serve on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), bringing the consumer protection agency to full strength for the first time since the start of the new administration. The FTC will now be chaired by Joseph Simons, a Republican antitrust attorney who led the commission's competition bureau during the George W.
In lieu of delivering advertised remarks dubbed "American Pai: The Courageous Chairman of the FCC," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai received the National Rifle Association's (NRA) “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The NRA-sponsored award was given to Chairman Pai in recognition of months of heavy criticism over his successful push to repeal the agency’s network neutrality rules. Chairman Pai led the push to repeal the rules, which were overwhelmingly supported by the public.
Facebook and Amazon both set quarterly records for federal lobbying over the last three months, leading a pack of large tech companies that are increasingly under siege in Washington. Each company spent a little more than $4 million on lobbying in the second quarter, the first time either firm has spent that much on their influence operations in the capital. Google, which has also seen its fortunes change in Washington, spent just $2.9 million in the second quarter — the least it’s spent on lobbying since 2011.
Consumer advocates are pushing for the Federal Trade Commission to come down hard on YouTube’s handling of children’s videos after conversations with the agency’s leadership prompted concerns about how regulators would be approaching a settlement with the video-sharing site. The Center for Digital Democracy and the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent a letter to the FTC, urging the FTC to force YouTube to separate the children’s videos from the rest of the platform in order to better crack down on illegal data collection of younger viewers.
Lawmakers expressed disbelief when Maggie Stanphill, Google’s director of user experience, told the Senate Communications Subcommittee “No, we do not use persuasive technology at Google.” At issue before the panel was how algorithms used by companies like Google, Facebook and others might influence their users. Stanphill's statement prompted pushback from senators who had been scrutinizing the company over its content decisions on platforms like YouTube. “You don’t want to clarify that a little further?” Sen Brian Schatz (D-HI) asked.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Rep David Cicilline (D-RI) that the White House is rejecting their request for information that would shed light on whether President Donald Trump tried to sway the Justice Department into opposing the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Cipollone said that the documents requested by the lawmakers were shielded under confidentiality protections afforded to the president and his advisers.
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is nearly two years into her second stint as a Democratic member of the FCC. Her first five-year term was during the Obama administration before she left the agency briefly when her confirmation for a new term was held up amid Senate bickering. Prior to being confirmed in 2012, Rosenworcel was a policy counsel at the Senate Commerce Committee, first under the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) then former Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV). Prior to that, she got her start as a staffer for the FCC in 1999.
The Federal Trade Commission told Congress that it only has 40 full-time employees dedicated to overseeing internet privacy and data security and requested lawmakers give the agency more resources to adequately police tech companies. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons wrote in a letter to House leaders that the commission lags far behind other developed countries’ data watchdogs.
President Donald Trump revealed he had met with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to discuss the company's work in China and allegations of anti-conservative bias. The president said on Twitter that the unscheduled meeting went "very well" following months of Republican attacks against Silicon Valley over how social media companies handle conservative speech. "Just met with @SundarPichai, President of @Google, who is obviously doing quite well. He stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military," President Trump wrote.