i2Coalition May 2023 Legislative Brief
Your brief update on important Internet policy issues
Debt limit negotiations between the White House and the Speaker of the House dominated the Washington, DC political environment in May. Over the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, President Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a legislative deal–called the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) –to raise the U.S. debt limit until January 1, 2025, while also setting some limits on discretionary government spending. The President and Speaker portrayed the agreement as a meaningful political compromise that should attract enough bipartisan support to pass in the House and Senate. The FRA includes other key provisions that would: recoup nearly $30 billion in unspent COVID relief funds; redirect some funds originally intended for the Internal Revenue Service for tax enforcement and modernization; temporarily raise the maximum age for work requirements for food assistance program recipients while creating certain exemptions; adopt several energy and infrastructure permitting reforms; and expedite approval of a West Virginia natural gas pipeline project supported by West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R). After announcing the deal, President Biden and Speaker McCarthy pivoted quickly to mobilize support for the FRA so that the legislative deal could pass in Congress and be signed into law by the President in time to avoid an unprecedented, economically catastrophic default by the U.S. Without this action, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has predicted that the U.S. will default on its debt on June 5.
TECH POLICY PRIORITIES
Section 230/Intermediary Liability. On May 18, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Gonzalez v. Google LLC, which allows existing Section 230 legal interpretations to stand unchanged. The Court found it unnecessary to address the Section 230 arguments in Gonzalez in light of its analysis in a related decision the Court released the same day in the Twitter v. Taamneh case, in which the Court found that the plaintiffs failed to state a valid “aiding and abetting” cause of action against social media platforms under the anti-terrorism statute. Several prominent members of Congress immediately reacted to the Court’s decisions by calling for Congress to redouble efforts to reform Section 230. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) believes that Congress should pass legislation to “sunset” Section 230 within two years. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) re-introduced legislation to establish a five-member commission to regulate large social media platforms.
Federal Privacy. Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee continue to emphasize their plans to pass national consumer data privacy and protection legislation. In May, they sent letters to numerous data broker companies seeking information about their data gathering, retention, and disclosure practices. The Senate Commerce Committee may consider legislation focused on children’s online privacy and online safety. The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on May 23 on the impact of social media on youth mental health.
Copyright/IP. The impact of AI on copyright law is a growing area of Congressional focus. The House Judiciary Committee IP Subcommittee held a hearing on the subject on May 17 and plans more hearings in the future. The Copyright Office has continued to hold its series of AI listening sessions.
Antitrust/Competition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a petition from 48 states and territories to reinstate their antitrust complaint against Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook). Senior Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph’s opinion urged courts to proceed cautiously in antitrust cases involving emerging technologies. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights held a May 3 hearing on competition in the digital advertising ecosystem.
Broadband. On May 30, the FCC released an updated National Broadband Map. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held an NTIA oversight and reauthorization hearing on May 23, during which a discussion of NTIA’s administration of federal broadband funding programs figured prominently. The NTIA has said it is on track to use the new FCC map to make state broadband, equity, access, and deployment (BEAD) program funding allocations by June 30.
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