i2Coalition October 2023 Legislative Brief
Your brief update on important Internet policy issues
On Oct. 25, Republicans in the U.S. House unanimously elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be the next Speaker following 22 days of intra-party conflict, several failed nominees, and uncertainty during which no House legislative business could proceed. A small group of conservative Republican members dissatisfied with the leadership and policy decisions of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) instigated his abrupt removal using a special voting rule procedure. Until now, Speaker Johnson, first elected to Congress in 2016, did not have a strong national profile and was generally seen as a conservative lawmaker and supporter of former President Trump. With Speaker Johnson in place, both the House and Senate can resume work on urgent legislative priorities, including advancing the FY 2024 appropriations bills. The House and Senate will need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open past Nov. 17, when the current stopgap funding expires, because there is not enough time to complete work on all of the FY 2024 appropriations bills. Speaker Johnson has said he wants to extend the CR to either January or April 2024. The House and Senate are also trying to resolve their differences regarding an emergency funding package to provide aid supporting Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan and U.S.-Mexico border security. Prospects are unclear for Congressional passage of the Biden administration’s requested $56 billion in domestic supplemental funding, which includes natural disasters, broadband, and child care programs.
TECH POLICY PRIORITIES
Section 230/Intermediary Liability/Content Moderation. The Supreme Court agreed to review a Fifth Circuit federal court of appeals decision in a lawsuit filed by Missouri and Louisiana which limited the Biden Administration’s efforts to curtail controversial social media posts regarding content addressing COVID-19 and election security. The state complainants argue that the Biden administration’s actions violate the First Amendment and unjustly suppress conservative viewpoints.
Federal Privacy. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held an Oct. 18 hearing on artificial intelligence and privacy, during which the need to pass federal comprehensive consumer data privacy and security legislation was extensively discussed. The Senate children’s online privacy and safety bills approved by the Senate Commerce Committee have not yet advanced for a Senate floor vote. California enacted a new law set to take effect in 2025 to punish social media platforms that facilitate commercial sexual exploitation of children as defined in the statute.
Copyright/IP. A bipartisan group of Senators led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) has proposed legislation, the No Fakes Act, to protect entertainers from unauthorized AI-generated replicas. The U.S. Copyright Office is expected to release a report on AI next year after reviewing thousands of comments filed in response to its 2023 AI Notice of Inquiry.
Antitrust/Competition. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the pending FTC Commissioner nominations, which await a floor vote. The FTC and DOJ continue to hold public workshops on the 2023 draft merger guidelines.
Broadband. On Oct. 19, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to start an Open Internet (net neutrality) rulemaking. Numerous Republican leaders in the House and Senate issued statements in opposition to the FCC’s rulemaking, arguing, among other things, that it is unnecessary and unlawful. Comments in the proceeding are due on Dec. 14, 2023, and reply comments are due on Jan. 17, 2024. The Biden Administration requested $6 billion from Congress to continue the Affordable Connectivity Program, an Internet subsidy program that helps more than 21 million low-income households pay for their monthly broadband bills. Congress has not yet completed the reauthorization of the FCC spectrum auction authority, which lapsed in March 2023.
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