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Tech newsletter: Net neutrality looms

Here's this week's tech newsletter.

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Nov 23, 2021   Updated Nov 23, 2021, 12:16 pm CST

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Internet Insider, where we dissect tech and politics unfolding online.

TODAY:

  • Net neutrality is a hot topic at FCC chair’s confirmation hearing
  • Amazon to face strikes and protests in 20 countries on Black Friday
  • 8 states team up to investigate Facebook for pushing Instagram on children

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at a confirmation hearing in the Senate on Wednesday.

BREAK THE INTERNET

Net neutrality is a hot topic at FCC chair’s confirmation hearing

Jessica Rosenworcel, President Joe Biden’s nominee to chair the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), reiterated her support for net neutrality and said there was a need for oversight of the broadband industry during a recent confirmation hearing. 

Rosenworcel was tapped to be the full time chair of the FCC by President Joe Biden late last month after serving as acting chairwoman since January. She was nominated for another term along with prominent public interest advocate Gigi Sohn to fill out the FCC after months of Biden failing to make any moves at the agency.

Last week, Rosenworcel appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee during a confirmation hearing. The hearing comes as the Senate will have to rush before the end of the year to confirm Rosenworcel, to avoid a 2-1 Republican majority at the FCC, and Sohn, to give Democrats a majority.

While Rosenworcel had a hearing on Wednesday, a date has not been set for Sohn. However, Politico notes that it may come the week after Thanksgiving.

Perhaps not shockingly, net neutrality was a topic that was brought up frequently

Early on in the hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)—who has blocked attempts by Democrats to vote on a net neutrality bill—said that he felt the United States had done well with “light touch” regulation, referring to the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules in 2017.

In response, Rosenworcel said that the repeal was “broader” than just net neutrality rules like blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of internet traffic. 

Rosenworcel noted that the FCC’s repeal also took away the agency’s authority over the broadband industry. Specifically, the agency repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which classified internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II of the Communications Act.

“I think you know that I support net neutrality. I supported it in 2015, and then I opposed the rollback in 2017. I continue to support it,” Rosenworcel told Wicker, later adding: “I think the impact of the rollback in 2017 is broader than just net neutrality, because it took the FCC away from oversight of broadband. Coming out of this pandemic, I think all of us know that we need some oversight because it’s become such an essential service for day-to-day life.”

Read the whole story here.

— Andrew Wyrich, deputy tech editor


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Jeff Bezos smiling.

LABOR

Amazon to face strikes and protests in 20 countries on Black Friday

An international coalition is planning Black Friday strikes and protests targeting Amazon in 20 countries.

The campaign, Make Amazon Pay, hopes to improve employees’ working conditions, shrink Amazon’s environmental footprint, and draw attention to other issues at the massive company on one of its most profitable days of the year.

Make Amazon Pay includes more than 70 labor unions, Greenpeace, Amazon Workers International, the Athena Coalition, among other social justice and environmental groups. It’s led by UNI Global Union and Progressive International, federations of unions, and left-wing organizations, respectively.

Actions planned for Black Friday include a delivery drivers strike in Italy, work stoppages at warehouses in France, demonstrations at the site where Amazon is building regional offices in South Africa, and protests by garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

In the United States, #MakeAmazonPay actions will include protests and events on union organizing and labor disruptions.

The campaign launched last year with protests on Black Friday. That day, 50 social justice organizations unveiled a set of common demands. In the year since, dozens of additional participants have signed on, including labor unions. The demands on Make Amazon Pay’s website say it’s highlighting Amazon’s global footprint, wealth, tax evasion, and carbon emissions.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with [owner Jeff] Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth,” its demands state. “Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay.”

— Claire Goforth, staff writer


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A child holding up a paper hand.

BIG TECH

8 states team up to investigate Facebook for pushing Instagram on children

A group of eight state attorneys general from across the country has launched an investigation into how Facebook, now known as Meta, was “providing and promoting” Instagram to children and teenagers despite knowing about mental health concerns.

The investigation comes after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who turned into a whistleblower, testified before Congress about the impact Instagram was having on the mental health of teenagers, among numerous other topics. During her testimony, Haugen said Facebook “put their astronomical profits before people.”

The states launching the investigation include California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont. The attorneys generals from the states are both Democrats and Republicans. 

Both Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who are co-leading the investigation, said the investigation will look into “the techniques utilized by Meta to increase the frequency and duration of engagement by young users and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement.”

— A.W.


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*First Published: Nov 23, 2021, 11:46 am CST