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Thank you for coming to our deep dive on technology policy. Obviously, we're at a virtual conference here, so I don't need to tell you that technology is impacting every aspect of our lives and is really a large topic to dive into today. So that said we have 45 minutes for our discussion, so we won't cover every nook and cranny of the topic.

We're joined by a slated stack of policy experts who are ready to give us their views on today's tech policy landscape. So to kick us off I'd like to introduce David Goodfriend, the president of Goodfriend Group. David served as Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton, Media Legal Advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, and as a professional staffer in the US House and Senate. He also teaches technology and telecommunications policy at Georgetown University Law Center and the George Washington University Law School. So I will turn it over to David.

Introduction to Committees and Agencies of Jurisdiction Over Federal Tech Policy

David Goodfriend: Thanks Ann, can you hear me okay now? Sorry about that. Yes. Technology lawyers who don't unmute themselves, it's an epidemic right now. Thanks for the introduction and, and don't worry. I will not be quizzing you at the end. Like I do. At Georgetown GW law schools, this is all just pure benefit.

As Ann mentioned, I have for a long time working in the fields of technology, telecommunications, and media. That seems to be the grouping that we define ourselves within this category, technology, telecommunications, and media, and really, they all boil down to a couple of basic principles and a couple of basic points within government where policy is made and where policy can be influenced.

For starters in telecommunications, there's the Communications Act or the Telecommunications Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. And the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation committee in the Senate, each of those full committees, in turn, has a subcommittee with jurisdiction over telecommunications and technology, although they give those subcommittees different names.

And then expanding out a little bit into media and technology. The Judiciary Committees have an awful lot to say about these fields, not only with respect to copyright because all technology involves the transmission of information, either as a common carrier or as a platform, or as a content provider.

So there's a copy of intersection with the field, but also an increasingly these days, antitrust. Antitrust falls within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate. So with respect to policy on the Hill, Congress in addition to leadership both chambers there's the Judiciary committees and Commerce committees.

And then with respect to agencies, the Federal Communications Commission obviously is near and dear to my heart cause as Anne mentioned that it was a legal advisor to a commissioner there, and that involves a lot of subjects with respect to wireless spectrum, broadband, cable, and broadcast media.

And then the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which is really for our purposes, at least in much of telecommunications in technology, the focal point for antitrust enforcement. There's also the Federal Trade Commission, which is, probably the other most important antitrust enforcement agency with respect to technology.

And in fact, DOJ and FTC have divided their respective portfolios. Oftentimes telecommunications mergers, such as sprint T-Mobile will be reviewed by the Department of Justice while mergers involving technology platforms may more likely be reviewed by the FTC, but the two agencies have divided their responsibilities to the point where today the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division handles Google and Apple and their related antitrust issues

while the FTC handles Facebook and Amazon. As always there is also the White House, which has oversight as you, as we say, overall, all the agencies except the independent ones. It has the ability to influence, but not direct independent agencies. It does have the ability, at least through the Office of the White House Council to give direction to the Department of Justice with some very important notable exceptions, which I won't go into here.

And then also under the White House, under the administration, you have the Commerce Department and its sub-agency NTIA and NTIA is about to be handed assuming that the infrastructure bill becomes law is about to be handed an enormous responsibility for doling out tens of billions of dollars for broadband support to the states.

So I think we'll see a lot of broadband and telecommunications focus in Washington on NTIA. That's kind of a broader overview of the mechanisms for technology, telecommunications, media with respect to federal jurisdiction, federal oversight. I just want to mention now a couple of major hot topics in the field that I'm sure we'll end up talking about more on this call.

First of all, in the field of antitrust, I think we have to acknowledge that we are in a moment now of rare bipartisan agreement that the largest tech platforms need greater scrutiny under our antitrust laws, either as a matter of. Greater enforcement of existing law or greater enforcement plus changing underlying statutes in order to facilitate findings of liability.

And the platforms we typically refer to are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Sometimes Microsoft is included in that list. And the basic idea is that these are technology platforms that have become so important to the technology ecosystem or to society in general or so dominant in their respective fields with a lot of power that antitrust theory has been brought to bear both at the state level and at the federal level.

And then in Congress, we have an active consideration in the House, and very soon the Senate, have a number of bills that would change underlying antitrust laws. And again, make it easier for plaintiffs to find liability with respect to those larger platforms I just mentioned. So that's the antitrust side and it's a pretty hot topic. Over on the Commerce side

I mentioned the other set of committees that, that Congress exercises oversight over the relevant agencies. On the Commerce side I think the biggest issue, the hottest issue right now is whether to amend. Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which in that year established a liability shield for websites and other platforms that facilitate communications by other individuals, the platform itself being held

free of liability by statute. The courts have interpreted that statute very broadly to the point where now we're seeing calls for reform to narrow it. There's already been one fairly narrow change to Section 230, which is taking away the liability shield for human trafficking. Okay. Nobody likes human trafficking and there was bipartisan support between Senator Blumenthal and some Republicans to get that done.

Blumenthal being the Democrat from Connecticut. Now we're hearing calls for a much more comprehensive approach to section 230 reform. And the most timely example I can give you is the very recent testimony by a former Facebook employee before this Commerce committee. It was the Sub Committee on Consumer Protection chaired by Senator Blumenthal, again, Democrat of Connecticut in which the former Facebook employee said, you know what?

Breaking up Facebook is not gonna solve the problem here. And the problem she was referring to in her estimation was that Facebook was hiding from the public information it had about the harmful effects of one of its services on teenagers in particular teenage girls. This former employee said breaking up big tech is not the answer.

Instead of having one problem with Facebook, you'll have 10 problems. The answer she said is in section230 reform, but she made an interesting distinction. She said the trouble so far has been under the First Amendment, how do you say which speech is protected and which speech isn't, and then you kind of get into a real problem with trying to pick when the platform can be an editor, when it can't. In her view, the way to treat this is you take the algorithms that amplify certain information. That amplification by algorithms designed by the platform is that she described it as a kind of act that is subject to regulation, or should be subject to regulation?

So for example, She's calling for an amendment to Section 230, that would make it so that the platform is not shielded from liability if its own algorithms, amplify certain speech that is found to be harmful like I don't know an insurrection in the United States Capitol. So that seems to gain a lot of momentum and a lot of traction.

And that was the assessment. A lot of the senators after that, hearing that this seems to be a place we can focus some attention and get some bipartisan support and actually change the law. So I think I'll stop with that and hand it back to you, Anne.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thank you so much, David. I'm now going to introduce our other two panelists today and kick off some conversation. So first I'm joined, we're joined by Kate Tummarello. Kate is the Executive Director of Engine, a nonprofit that works with a community of thousands of high tech growth-oriented startups across the nation to support technology entrepreneurship.

Prior to Engine, Kate worked on surveillance reform issues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And before joining the advocacy community, Kate spent years as a technology policy reporter in DC, including at Politico, The Hill, and Communications Daily. Hi Kate, thanks so much for being here. And I also would now like to introduce Zaki Barjini.

Zaki is a program director for Aspen Digital, where he oversees a range of projects at the intersection of tech policy, equity and justice for underrepresented communities. Zaki's writing and commentary have appeared in Politico, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, CNN and a variety of other platforms.

So thank you all for being here today. I, why don't we start with David, you've already introduced Section 230 and we know this is a conversation that we've been talking a lot about in the news. And it does sound like there are multiple interpretations of its implications on social media platforms.

So, Kate, I'll turn it over to you if you can. Through the breakdown right now, what Section 230 actually does and the full landscape of what we can think about in terms of interpreting it and changing it going forward.

Understanding Section 230

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So David did a good job outlining kind of the basics of Section 230.

You know, where the conversation stands today. One of the most important things about Section 230 that I think often gets overlooked in DC broadly is the applicability of the law, not just to kind of the tech companies that everyone loves to hate, but to every internet interaction that we do every day.

So like for instance, this platform that we're speaking on right now is protected by Section 230. It is, you know if I say something defamatory right now which I won't do, but if I did, the platform that's hosting this speech won't get sued. And I think that's, that's really important. You know, it, I understand when people are frustrated at Big Tech and kind of some of the outcomes that big Tech has participated in.

But 230 is about much more than Big Tech. And so for us Engine, we work with startups. We're really concerned about, you know, startups that host photos or startups that create community message boards, places on the internet that you know, is kind of integral to the way that we use the internet

but couldn't exist without Section 230. You know, the average startup we found has about $55,000 a month to spend, and that's the average successful startup. So a startup that's already brought in outside funding. Without Section 230, one lawsuit could wipe them out. That would be the end of the company.

So Facebook, right. If we changed 230 Facebook could get sued more. Probably could navigate most of those lawsuits pretty well. In fact, they probably win most of them because a lot of the underlying speech that we're complaining about or DC lawmakers are complaining about, isn't actually illegal. It's protected by the First Amendment, whether or not we'd like it as a community.

It is. And so Facebook right, could navigate those lawsuits and come out the other end. But for a startup that is not the case. They cannot spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in court. And so from our view, Section 230 is kind of one of the most important legal frameworks that have created the internet of user-generated content.

And sometimes that gets lost. So I appreciate the chance to add that to the debate.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks, Kate. And I have a question from our audience here, digging more into Facebook and 230, perhaps I'll turn this to David to start. Do you think that the use of AI and algorithms will decrease as Section 230 regulation increases? And what are the implications for Mark Zuckerberg? His metaverse.

David Goodfriend: Ah, Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse. Yes. Keeps me up at night, worrying about his metaverse. I will, I will get right to the point. I think the answer is yes. And it's going to have to be done in a very careful manner. So as to address the issue that Kate just raised. This probably cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, and there's precedent for that in the bills that are being considered today.

If you look at some of the bills that were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, they apply to only certain companies of a certain market cap or a certain revenue and above. So there really are very straightforward ways to do reform that protects the startup, protects innovation, protects speech, but then holds companies responsible that have market power.

And I'll use that term broadly. Market power, sufficient power basically, to change the rules of the game on their own and to hold them responsible for things that may be causing harm. Again, the former Facebook employee who spoke before Congress pointed out that there's a difference between what is said

and how it's amplified. And you know, if you think about First Amendment jurisprudence I can stand on a street corner and express my views, but if I got a giant megaphone and sent it out like really loud at 10 o'clock at night, the police would come and arrest me for disturbing the peace. It's not because of what I said is because of how I was using, the manner in which I was transmitting my speech.

And I think that that will become a focus as a result of this recent testimony. Yes. We're having a conversation online, but then what does the platform do with various content? Picking and choosing which gets amplified and which does not, it's not enough, by the way, to say, I didn't do anything. The algorithm did it.

I think that that's an important distinction. We should probably discuss here, this intent. Well, I designed an algorithm and then the algorithm evolved and then the algorithm did it. So it can't be me. It was some machine that did it. That will become an interesting issue of liability. And I think it kind of cuts to the core of

whether or not someone can distance themselves from an outcome by virtue of an algorithm operating machine learning and artificial intelligence taking place. At what point is the human who set it up, become liable for the actions. I think that's going to be one we're going to put you on for.

Kate Tummarello: Can I add something there and if that's okay. I think we know when we talk about Facebook and algorithms, it's really easy to conceptualize, like, okay, the algorithm is maximizing for engagement, which often means maximizing kind of contentious and controversial and potentially harmful content. And I think that's, that's like one specific example, but I also like to remind folks.

The internet without algorithms would probably be very difficult to navigate. Algorithms can actually be quite useful and important. And just because you're using an algorithm to maximize for something doesn't necessarily mean the algorithm in itself is the problem. I definitely agree with David that algorithms aren't like a good distancing pressure.

You can't say, well, the algorithm did it not meet somebody built the algorithm. But in a lot of ways, We want algorithms and they play a really important role in how we consume information to our benefit as consumers. I, I don't want to search through 300 pages of search. I want to know the most relevant stuff is at the top.

Same thing with social media. I want to, I want to see the relevant stuff. That's, that's why I'm there. I don't have time to go through 300 pages. And so I just think it's an important distinction. Algorithms can maximize usefulness. Algorithms can maximize attention. They all can do different things.

And each one needs to be thought of a little differently.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much Kate and you know, walking that back even a step further you're you've said, you know, we rely on our algorithms and our Google search and everything to really function in our virtual workplace. And Zaki we know that you know, so according to Pew, 14% of adults living in households, earning less than $30,000 a year, don't even have access

to the internet to access these algorithms and all of the things that we rely on today. So if you could talk about what's happening to make sure to increase access to the internet across all communities.

Tech Policy's Impact on Underrepresented Communities

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, sure. And first I wanted to tag on to the Section 230 competition real quick. My job at the Aspen Institute is to focus on the intersection of technology and underrepresented communities.

And I think a big part of many communities of color and others that feel marginalized, underrepresented when it comes to Section 230, is that there are not a lot of protections for the usage of technology and social media platforms when they are weaponized against communities in the sense that, you know, hate speech and speech alone is one thing.

But speech that leads directly to real-world violence or real-world actions against communities is another thing entirely. And I think a lot of communities will say that the way, the way that Section 230 is written right now, it gives way too much immunity for tech companies, basically to get away with posting all kinds of speech that leads directly to action that leads directly to harm against these communities.

So I will throw that out through this from another angle to the conversation to answer your other question. Yes. I mean, one of the biggest issues that we have right now, obviously we have a crumbling infrastructure as a country, which is why we have the infrastructure bill coming up, but we also have a crumbling, digital infrastructure.

And COVID, I think has as unearth this. COVID, didn't create the digital divide, but it's generally exacerbated and highlighted for everybody to see what now more than ever, you have so many people working from home, learning from home, and you see more than ever that the divide between those has access to the internet and those things are, it is truly life-changing and it is presenting challenges that are greater than ever before to, to allow everybody to kind of have the same access to opportunity and economic success. We've also seen at a state-level a lot of these human services that people have depended on for years are themselves failing because of the overload of people trying to access the services for the first time ever.

You've seen state by state. So many employment agencies collapsed because they couldn't handle the usage, the surge of traffic, and usage for people trying to claim their unemployment benefits. You saw that in New Jersey, for example, some of them, some unemployment, their data centers were still running on Qubole.

They were running on coding languages from decades, decades ago. So fixing our digital infrastructure is as important as fixing our physical infrastructure and coupling digital infrastructure. It doesn't just affect, I mean, even more so than, you know, the average American affects, disproportionately affects communities of color, especially people who already have extra barriers to access, whether it's language barriers or cultural barriers, they're even more shut out and prevented from advancing within our economy because they don't have access to not just internet and not just technology, but also digital literacy skills.

Access to protections from different online threats that might threaten their communities more so than the average user. So it's a very complex issue. It's promising to see the infrastructure bill, at least as it stands now, as I think David kind of mentioned, there's a sizable chunk of money that's going to go towards expanding broadband and expanding a lot of infrastructure. But I think where the rubber meets the road is when that federal money gets to the states are gonna have a lot of say in how that money is actually used to expand that infrastructure and expand access. And that can make all the difference in whether that access actually is equitably distributed for all the communities that need it. Or if it just sorts of goes into projects that don't necessarily serve everyone they're supposed to serve. So I'm curious to see kind of where that implementation space goes.

Anne Dolan: Great. And a followup on that, Zaki, what would, if you could say generally, what would an equitable, you know, use of resources look like and a state program to prioritize a digital infrastructure.

Zaki Barzinji: It's difficult and it's going to be different from state to state because what you're dealing with are different communities are dealing with different geographies where the needs aren't always the same. I think that you know, especially during COVID, when there was this focus on remote learning, people were looking for kind of cookie-cutter solutions like this idea of giving everybody a hotspot and that'll be fine and that'll kind of help close the digital divide.

The truth is it doesn't always work like that. It works in certain geographies, but not others. What we also need to invest in enterprise-level solutions for an enterprise-level problem, which is digital, the digital divide. In my previous job, I worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We spent a lot of time focusing on how to expand wireless connectivity for communities that could not access it. When you're dealing with a rural community, the expansion of broadband is the number one issue. But when you're dealing with an urban community that is densely populated, low-income, connectivity is the number one issue. And so we started looking at more innovative solutions, like for example putting hotspots on buses and driving them into neighborhoods

so the entire neighborhoods could have access to could have wireless access. So I think what we need to do is expand the different types of solutions that we're investing in that we're investing federal and state money into because it's not just a one size fits all solution and understanding those issues and those different types of populations we're serving at a granular level is the only way that we're going to actually have equitable access for everybody.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks so much for elaborating. As we continue here, I would encourage all of our audience members to check out that Q and feature on the sidebar. If you've got questions that you'd like to hear from the panelists today, please do type those in and let us know as we can continue the discussion.

Continuing, you know, along that line of thinking about what do individuals need when it comes to internet access. And at the digital divide, I'm curious, Kate, if you could speak to you know, what startups need and what are, you know, smaller technology companies need to thrive in the year after.

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. We always say startups like everyone else need accessible, affordable, reliable internet. That feels really basic. And yet we still have some policy gaps. Lots of people in this country don't have that. We think kind of an increase in broadband connectivity overall is an increase in opportunities for innovation.

One of the things we hear about from startups a lot is, you know, I had to relocate to a city that has fiber internet, or I had to relocate to a place that has better internet or even to a coworking space that has better internet. Cause I can't get it at home. And that's, that's a huge missed opportunity for the, you know, next source of paychecks and jobs and economic growth in the country.

These are people that we want to be supporting. And we want policies that allow them to launch creative, innovative businesses, and a lot of the country, they just don't have the technical internet connectivity. They need to do that. And that's, I think a really yeah, a missed opportunity and one that I hope policymakers, you know, continue to work towards fixing. I will say connectivity is one of the major policy issues we hear about from startups, that and access to capital.

Those are kind of the two first things you run into when you're trying to launch a business is the ability to like, you know, pay for a hosting provider and a coworking space and any equipment you need and then the ability to get online. And so I think you know, we should be prioritizing that voice, especially when we think about how to best help small businesses.

It's, it's pretty straightforward. They need to be on the internet.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. That makes sense. And you know, building on this idea, I, you know, growing companies and growing jobs, like we know that information technology is the fastest-growing sector in the country for job creation. As, as we get more folks connected across the country we'd love to hear from the whole panel, you know, what, what do you think the future of technology jobs look like?

How do we make sure they're open to all?

Future of Technology Jobs

David Goodfriend: Well, I'd love to jump in on this one because I didn't mention this at the top, but I represent labor unions in addition to having worked with technology companies. And there's a very important intersection between these two issues of protecting workers and facilitating a healthy growing digital economy.

I mentioned that former Facebook worker who blew the whistle and came forward. I represent a union, the Communications Workers of America that's now starting to organize workers at Alphabet. And what they say is this is really good for consumers because if tech workers are actually protected by a union, they will feel empowered to raise a flag.

If there's something bad going on that, if consumers, just like what this former Facebook employee did. And if you want a really good example of that, look at what happened when unionized bank tellers at Wells Fargo were the ones to raise their hand and alert the world about a checking account scandal that was being pushed down the throats of employees.

And that was actually harming consumers horribly. So the first thing I'll say on this subject is yes, there is going to be an evolving workforce. There are going to be. Our jobs and our economy and the information age, but don't think for a minute that if you wear a suit to work instead of a jumpsuit, that you are somehow not facing the same problems that workers have faced for a long, long time.

And there's a really simple answer, which is workers getting together collectively, and that the law in the United States allows that the second thing I'll say real quickly is you also have these related labor markets that may not be programmers, but they are people working in very, you know, challenging jobs that are related to technology.

And here's a really good example, Amazon. Amazon typically in the past has used third-party transportation, logistics companies like FedEx or UPS to deliver a package. But increasingly Amazon is internalizing its own logistics function. And then what we believe is happening is Amazon is leveraging its market power in the online retail space

in order to force the use of its own logistics. Of course, you can imagine driving a truck for Amazon, you get paid a lot less than driving a truck for UPS. That's a way that our workforce and technology are intersecting. I might even say colliding is that you have a real impact from technology on traditional industries and the brick and mortar world and workers are definitely being impacted by that.

But again, there's a really straightforward answer to this and that is giving workers a voice and giving work as an opportunity to get together in order to present their issues collectively.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much for that, David. Zaki do you have anything to add as it relates to your work and you know, inclusive tech, technological jobs?

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what David's saying is, right, obviously we're just generally across the board, we're seeing a massive shift in such a short amount of time in what our workforce is looking like, and it's going to look like but a big component of that is also making sure

in this new workforce, it's as inclusive as possible. So the Aspen Institute just last month put out a report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in cybersecurity. And this coming week, as many of you know, we are in Hispanic Heritage Month, so we'll be releasing an additional report that focuses on Latinos and technology and the types of gaps and challenges that face those communities.

I think that one of the biggest sort of takeaways is I think the tech industry is acknowledging and realizing that it has an issue of it as a diversity issue when it comes to talent. I think especially with the past year or two as our country, as we reckoned with issues of race more so than ever, a lot of tech companies had come forward and made pretty big commitments and ensuring that they become better spaces for justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I think it's sort of, we're at a time right now with tech industries is really buying into that and doing more than just lip service. But I think that we have to look at it as more than just like a talent pipeline issue. Like the solution is not just to hire more brown people. The solution is to help empower entire communities to be able to be active members of the digital economy.

And what that means is a multifaceted approach to ensuring that from an early age, educational opportunities are consistent for all communities that these types of jobs and industries are socialized with young people at an early age, that they even know that this is a potential career opportunity for them to take on.

It also means understanding and acknowledging people who are entering the tech workforce can have a variety of different backgrounds. You're seeing a lot of companies now take more proactive steps in looking at a holistic candidate for these jobs, rather than just kind of what's on their resume. A couple of companies have even started making commitments,

I believe IBM is one of them to make a certain percentage of all the jobs that hires moving from not require a four-year degree, because the idea is that a four-year degree is less and less relevant and less and less necessary from a wide variety of these tech jobs. So I think that as the workforce itself, and as the types of jobs changed, the way that we hire and the way that we create pipelines for talent has to also change.

And I think it's happening, but it has to happen in a more kind of holistic and targeted way. The other thing is that you have to also different communities face different types of barriers to entering into the workforce, especially, and that's doubly true Florida tech workforce as well. So taking a more targeted, tailored approach to understanding that every community is different, has different needs.

Even sub-industries under the tech industry are different in terms of what they need and matching that talent to that job in a way that meshes well in terms of the actual skills that are needed is an important step that has to happen. And I think that there's a lot more work to be done on that front.

Kate Tummarello: So we think about this, not just from the employee perspective, but also from the founder perspective and, you know, want to make sure that you know, anybody with a good idea can launch a company no matter where they live or what they look like.

I think that's a really important thing about making our startup ecosystem resilient and successful. And so we think a lot about policies that could encourage, not just a robust tech and cybersecurity workforce, but a robust and diverse one. And there's a couple of things the government can and should be doing right, boosting STEM education programming, especially in communities that haven't historically seen an emphasis on that. So like HBCUs use or community colleges, those are really fertile grounds for getting more people involved in this field. And then I also think there's a really important role that government plays when it controls the purse strings.

So when the government is you know, issuing grants or you know, signing government contracts, those are both places where the government can be focusing on, you know, founders and companies that are diverse and inclusive. And I think a big step of that is just having more diverse folks, making the decisions in the government to begin with.

Right. This has to kind of start from the top. And it's hard to, you know, we know diverse teams produce better products. They produce products that work for more people. And so making sure that that's you know, conscious effort throughout the whole process is really important.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. David, you're un-muted I'll let you take it away.

David Goodfriend: I just wanted to give a verbal high-five Kate for that one and underscore one of the points that she made. It's appalling how bad Congress is at the staff level at hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. Appalling. And it leads to all kinds of criticisms of hypocrisy.

When Congress is saying, Hey America, we need a more diverse workforce and they turn out and look at their own staff and they're failing miserably. It's, it's a problem. And one of the things, I don't think this is limited only to Congress. I mean, I have a son who went to work at a talent agency in New York City that ran at the same thing, really low pay for the entry-level jobs.

So the point where only certain kids from certain families who can get an extra check from mom and dad can even afford to do it. That's how it happens. So, if you want to diversify our workforce in powerful places, well make it affordable for people of lesser means to go start a career there, because at the moment we are absolutely setting up, you know, unrelated barriers to entry, but unrelated, I mean, it's not based on talent.

It's based on what zip code you come from.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. And thinking about, you know, one, you know, who, who is staffing in Congress and, and you know, who are the decision-makers in their support staff, as they think about the full you know, breadth of information and knowledge that Congress needs to have as it relates to quickly changing and complex technology policy.

Can Congress keep up with this rapid change and how, how can they stay informed and make decisions?

How Congress Can Keep Up With Rapidly Changing Tech

David Goodfriend: I think it's safe to say that Congress is an inherently reactive institution. So by definition, lawmakers respond to pressure or events, and yet some of the best laws, the most longstanding, you know, stand the test of time type law.

Are the ones that speak in terms of principles. This is the outcome we desire, not micromanaging how to get there because inevitably that is going to become outdated. But good legislation will respond to a problem with articulating a principle that has to be met as opposed to, you know, writing something that looks like a contract that was negotiated in the backroom.

Federal Champions of Tech Policy

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. I think that makes it makes good sense. Right? Don't force them to get in the weeds with something that will become out of date. As you think about those members of Congress and leaders would love to hear from each of our panelists one or two policymakers that you see as the major influencers in this space, I will start with maybe Kate, I'll start with you.

Kate Tummarello: Sure. I mean, first, that comes to mind is Senator Wyden. He wrote 230 back in the day, 1996. And I think had the, really, just the ability to see into the future and appreciate that evolving case law at the time. And the early nineties would not have led to an internet where moderation was incentivized.

Case law in the nineties directly incentivized companies not to moderate. And so 230 was written to kind of provide an incentive to moderate and the responsibility on behalf of the speaker, not the platform. I think that was a very, it's a very smart framework and I don't know we would have the internet we have today without it.

So appreciate his ability to, to look into the future that way. And I think, you know, On privacy, another big issue that we haven't gotten into yet. There's a lot of lawmakers who are advancing kind of really thoughtful versions of the same thing. So like Maria Cantwell has a bill.

Senator Wicker has a bill. There's a bunch of bills from Energy and Commerce members. I think we're all kind of coalescing around one set of ideas. And I think that's a sign that people are being thoughtful in wanting to come to the table when everyone, everyone has smart thoughts.

Anne Dolan: Zaki, a policy leader that you'd like to add to who is charting the way here.

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah. I'm a little biased because I'm from Virginia, but I would say Senator Mark Warner for better, for worse has been doing quite a lot in the space. I mean, on several of the topics we've been talking about Senator Mark Warner I think I for better or worse has seen himself as being a tech leader himself, even though the tech company he was a part of, is several decades old by now.

And when it comes to, for example, Section 230, the issue that I was talking about before, where you have some communities raising issues of social media platforms, not being held accountable for civil rights, abuse, and human rights abuses Senator Warner was one of the senators have introduced, I think it was called the safety.

I don't know, I can't comment on the merits of that actual act, but the problem it was meant to address was one of making sure that communities of color and other marginalized communities have better protections under 230 because those platforms could be used to violate civil rights and human rights.

And so he was very instrumental in introducing that topic of conversation into the open 230 debate. Also, Senator Warner is one of the people who talk the most about the gig economy and the need for changes in labor laws and practices to ensure that this whole new class of workers that we have, whether they're Uber drivers, DoorDashdrivers, et cetera, having a more robust framework of regulation and support as essential contractor employee, that he's been one of the people I think leading the fights

against deregulation when it comes to labor laws for these newer types of workers. So Senator Mark Warner for better or for worse, I think has been a leader on these issues.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. And David had a member of Congress that you'd like to add to, for our folks to, to keep following.

David Goodfriend: Only one. I only get one member. Oh my God.

Well, in addition to all the ones that have already been mentioned, I think we have to name the chairs of the Antitrust Subcommittee. David Cicilline the Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar on the Senate. Of course, Amy Klobuchar also sits on the Commerce Committee in the Senate. They are moving bills that if passed would have a tremendous impact on the technology sector. The question is whether they become law.

On the Republican side Congressman Buck from Colorado, who's the ranking member of the House Antitrust sub-committee. Can't overstate the importance of a Republican joining with a Democrat on anything these days. I mean, that happens. Everybody's head should snap back and be like, what's that.

That's kind of important. And finally, I just want to point out that in the hearings, on the House side, when the tech platforms CEOs were brought in instead of the laughable train wreck that had happened in the past when tech CEOs came to testify in front of Congress and the members clearly had no idea what they're talking.

We saw some star performances by some young new House members Congressman Neguse from Colorado, Congresswoman Jayapal from Washington, Congresswoman McBath from Georgia. Anyway, they asked some great incisive questions that showed a lot of sophisticated understanding of technology and legal principles. And I think those, that sort of group of young bloods that gets it, watch out they are going to only gain an influence. I think as the years, go by.

[post_title] => Tech Policy Deep Dive with David Goodfriend, Kate Tummarello, and Zaki Barzinji [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tech-policy-deep-dive-wonk-week-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5770 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 5770 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'tech-policy-deep-dive-wonk-week-2021' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5770 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_content] => Here from tech experts as they speak at Quorum's Wonk Week virtual conference: Anne Dolan: Hi everyone. My name is Anne Dolan. I am a Customer Success Manager here at Quorum. So I have the pleasure of working with some of the folks on this call and am excited to have you know, everyone who's listening and joining us today.

Thank you for coming to our deep dive on technology policy. Obviously, we're at a virtual conference here, so I don't need to tell you that technology is impacting every aspect of our lives and is really a large topic to dive into today. So that said we have 45 minutes for our discussion, so we won't cover every nook and cranny of the topic.

We're joined by a slated stack of policy experts who are ready to give us their views on today's tech policy landscape. So to kick us off I'd like to introduce David Goodfriend, the president of Goodfriend Group. David served as Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton, Media Legal Advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, and as a professional staffer in the US House and Senate. He also teaches technology and telecommunications policy at Georgetown University Law Center and the George Washington University Law School. So I will turn it over to David.

Introduction to Committees and Agencies of Jurisdiction Over Federal Tech Policy

David Goodfriend: Thanks Ann, can you hear me okay now? Sorry about that. Yes. Technology lawyers who don't unmute themselves, it's an epidemic right now. Thanks for the introduction and, and don't worry. I will not be quizzing you at the end. Like I do. At Georgetown GW law schools, this is all just pure benefit.

As Ann mentioned, I have for a long time working in the fields of technology, telecommunications, and media. That seems to be the grouping that we define ourselves within this category, technology, telecommunications, and media, and really, they all boil down to a couple of basic principles and a couple of basic points within government where policy is made and where policy can be influenced.

For starters in telecommunications, there's the Communications Act or the Telecommunications Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. And the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation committee in the Senate, each of those full committees, in turn, has a subcommittee with jurisdiction over telecommunications and technology, although they give those subcommittees different names.

And then expanding out a little bit into media and technology. The Judiciary Committees have an awful lot to say about these fields, not only with respect to copyright because all technology involves the transmission of information, either as a common carrier or as a platform, or as a content provider.

So there's a copy of intersection with the field, but also an increasingly these days, antitrust. Antitrust falls within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate. So with respect to policy on the Hill, Congress in addition to leadership both chambers there's the Judiciary committees and Commerce committees.

And then with respect to agencies, the Federal Communications Commission obviously is near and dear to my heart cause as Anne mentioned that it was a legal advisor to a commissioner there, and that involves a lot of subjects with respect to wireless spectrum, broadband, cable, and broadcast media.

And then the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which is really for our purposes, at least in much of telecommunications in technology, the focal point for antitrust enforcement. There's also the Federal Trade Commission, which is, probably the other most important antitrust enforcement agency with respect to technology.

And in fact, DOJ and FTC have divided their respective portfolios. Oftentimes telecommunications mergers, such as sprint T-Mobile will be reviewed by the Department of Justice while mergers involving technology platforms may more likely be reviewed by the FTC, but the two agencies have divided their responsibilities to the point where today the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division handles Google and Apple and their related antitrust issues

while the FTC handles Facebook and Amazon. As always there is also the White House, which has oversight as you, as we say, overall, all the agencies except the independent ones. It has the ability to influence, but not direct independent agencies. It does have the ability, at least through the Office of the White House Council to give direction to the Department of Justice with some very important notable exceptions, which I won't go into here.

And then also under the White House, under the administration, you have the Commerce Department and its sub-agency NTIA and NTIA is about to be handed assuming that the infrastructure bill becomes law is about to be handed an enormous responsibility for doling out tens of billions of dollars for broadband support to the states.

So I think we'll see a lot of broadband and telecommunications focus in Washington on NTIA. That's kind of a broader overview of the mechanisms for technology, telecommunications, media with respect to federal jurisdiction, federal oversight. I just want to mention now a couple of major hot topics in the field that I'm sure we'll end up talking about more on this call.

First of all, in the field of antitrust, I think we have to acknowledge that we are in a moment now of rare bipartisan agreement that the largest tech platforms need greater scrutiny under our antitrust laws, either as a matter of. Greater enforcement of existing law or greater enforcement plus changing underlying statutes in order to facilitate findings of liability.

And the platforms we typically refer to are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Sometimes Microsoft is included in that list. And the basic idea is that these are technology platforms that have become so important to the technology ecosystem or to society in general or so dominant in their respective fields with a lot of power that antitrust theory has been brought to bear both at the state level and at the federal level.

And then in Congress, we have an active consideration in the House, and very soon the Senate, have a number of bills that would change underlying antitrust laws. And again, make it easier for plaintiffs to find liability with respect to those larger platforms I just mentioned. So that's the antitrust side and it's a pretty hot topic. Over on the Commerce side

I mentioned the other set of committees that, that Congress exercises oversight over the relevant agencies. On the Commerce side I think the biggest issue, the hottest issue right now is whether to amend. Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which in that year established a liability shield for websites and other platforms that facilitate communications by other individuals, the platform itself being held

free of liability by statute. The courts have interpreted that statute very broadly to the point where now we're seeing calls for reform to narrow it. There's already been one fairly narrow change to Section 230, which is taking away the liability shield for human trafficking. Okay. Nobody likes human trafficking and there was bipartisan support between Senator Blumenthal and some Republicans to get that done.

Blumenthal being the Democrat from Connecticut. Now we're hearing calls for a much more comprehensive approach to section 230 reform. And the most timely example I can give you is the very recent testimony by a former Facebook employee before this Commerce committee. It was the Sub Committee on Consumer Protection chaired by Senator Blumenthal, again, Democrat of Connecticut in which the former Facebook employee said, you know what?

Breaking up Facebook is not gonna solve the problem here. And the problem she was referring to in her estimation was that Facebook was hiding from the public information it had about the harmful effects of one of its services on teenagers in particular teenage girls. This former employee said breaking up big tech is not the answer.

Instead of having one problem with Facebook, you'll have 10 problems. The answer she said is in section230 reform, but she made an interesting distinction. She said the trouble so far has been under the First Amendment, how do you say which speech is protected and which speech isn't, and then you kind of get into a real problem with trying to pick when the platform can be an editor, when it can't. In her view, the way to treat this is you take the algorithms that amplify certain information. That amplification by algorithms designed by the platform is that she described it as a kind of act that is subject to regulation, or should be subject to regulation?

So for example, She's calling for an amendment to Section 230, that would make it so that the platform is not shielded from liability if its own algorithms, amplify certain speech that is found to be harmful like I don't know an insurrection in the United States Capitol. So that seems to gain a lot of momentum and a lot of traction.

And that was the assessment. A lot of the senators after that, hearing that this seems to be a place we can focus some attention and get some bipartisan support and actually change the law. So I think I'll stop with that and hand it back to you, Anne.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thank you so much, David. I'm now going to introduce our other two panelists today and kick off some conversation. So first I'm joined, we're joined by Kate Tummarello. Kate is the Executive Director of Engine, a nonprofit that works with a community of thousands of high tech growth-oriented startups across the nation to support technology entrepreneurship.

Prior to Engine, Kate worked on surveillance reform issues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And before joining the advocacy community, Kate spent years as a technology policy reporter in DC, including at Politico, The Hill, and Communications Daily. Hi Kate, thanks so much for being here. And I also would now like to introduce Zaki Barjini.

Zaki is a program director for Aspen Digital, where he oversees a range of projects at the intersection of tech policy, equity and justice for underrepresented communities. Zaki's writing and commentary have appeared in Politico, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, CNN and a variety of other platforms.

So thank you all for being here today. I, why don't we start with David, you've already introduced Section 230 and we know this is a conversation that we've been talking a lot about in the news. And it does sound like there are multiple interpretations of its implications on social media platforms.

So, Kate, I'll turn it over to you if you can. Through the breakdown right now, what Section 230 actually does and the full landscape of what we can think about in terms of interpreting it and changing it going forward.

Understanding Section 230

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So David did a good job outlining kind of the basics of Section 230.

You know, where the conversation stands today. One of the most important things about Section 230 that I think often gets overlooked in DC broadly is the applicability of the law, not just to kind of the tech companies that everyone loves to hate, but to every internet interaction that we do every day.

So like for instance, this platform that we're speaking on right now is protected by Section 230. It is, you know if I say something defamatory right now which I won't do, but if I did, the platform that's hosting this speech won't get sued. And I think that's, that's really important. You know, it, I understand when people are frustrated at Big Tech and kind of some of the outcomes that big Tech has participated in.

But 230 is about much more than Big Tech. And so for us Engine, we work with startups. We're really concerned about, you know, startups that host photos or startups that create community message boards, places on the internet that you know, is kind of integral to the way that we use the internet

but couldn't exist without Section 230. You know, the average startup we found has about $55,000 a month to spend, and that's the average successful startup. So a startup that's already brought in outside funding. Without Section 230, one lawsuit could wipe them out. That would be the end of the company.

So Facebook, right. If we changed 230 Facebook could get sued more. Probably could navigate most of those lawsuits pretty well. In fact, they probably win most of them because a lot of the underlying speech that we're complaining about or DC lawmakers are complaining about, isn't actually illegal. It's protected by the First Amendment, whether or not we'd like it as a community.

It is. And so Facebook right, could navigate those lawsuits and come out the other end. But for a startup that is not the case. They cannot spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in court. And so from our view, Section 230 is kind of one of the most important legal frameworks that have created the internet of user-generated content.

And sometimes that gets lost. So I appreciate the chance to add that to the debate.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks, Kate. And I have a question from our audience here, digging more into Facebook and 230, perhaps I'll turn this to David to start. Do you think that the use of AI and algorithms will decrease as Section 230 regulation increases? And what are the implications for Mark Zuckerberg? His metaverse.

David Goodfriend: Ah, Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse. Yes. Keeps me up at night, worrying about his metaverse. I will, I will get right to the point. I think the answer is yes. And it's going to have to be done in a very careful manner. So as to address the issue that Kate just raised. This probably cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, and there's precedent for that in the bills that are being considered today.

If you look at some of the bills that were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, they apply to only certain companies of a certain market cap or a certain revenue and above. So there really are very straightforward ways to do reform that protects the startup, protects innovation, protects speech, but then holds companies responsible that have market power.

And I'll use that term broadly. Market power, sufficient power basically, to change the rules of the game on their own and to hold them responsible for things that may be causing harm. Again, the former Facebook employee who spoke before Congress pointed out that there's a difference between what is said

and how it's amplified. And you know, if you think about First Amendment jurisprudence I can stand on a street corner and express my views, but if I got a giant megaphone and sent it out like really loud at 10 o'clock at night, the police would come and arrest me for disturbing the peace. It's not because of what I said is because of how I was using, the manner in which I was transmitting my speech.

And I think that that will become a focus as a result of this recent testimony. Yes. We're having a conversation online, but then what does the platform do with various content? Picking and choosing which gets amplified and which does not, it's not enough, by the way, to say, I didn't do anything. The algorithm did it.

I think that that's an important distinction. We should probably discuss here, this intent. Well, I designed an algorithm and then the algorithm evolved and then the algorithm did it. So it can't be me. It was some machine that did it. That will become an interesting issue of liability. And I think it kind of cuts to the core of

whether or not someone can distance themselves from an outcome by virtue of an algorithm operating machine learning and artificial intelligence taking place. At what point is the human who set it up, become liable for the actions. I think that's going to be one we're going to put you on for.

Kate Tummarello: Can I add something there and if that's okay. I think we know when we talk about Facebook and algorithms, it's really easy to conceptualize, like, okay, the algorithm is maximizing for engagement, which often means maximizing kind of contentious and controversial and potentially harmful content. And I think that's, that's like one specific example, but I also like to remind folks.

The internet without algorithms would probably be very difficult to navigate. Algorithms can actually be quite useful and important. And just because you're using an algorithm to maximize for something doesn't necessarily mean the algorithm in itself is the problem. I definitely agree with David that algorithms aren't like a good distancing pressure.

You can't say, well, the algorithm did it not meet somebody built the algorithm. But in a lot of ways, We want algorithms and they play a really important role in how we consume information to our benefit as consumers. I, I don't want to search through 300 pages of search. I want to know the most relevant stuff is at the top.

Same thing with social media. I want to, I want to see the relevant stuff. That's, that's why I'm there. I don't have time to go through 300 pages. And so I just think it's an important distinction. Algorithms can maximize usefulness. Algorithms can maximize attention. They all can do different things.

And each one needs to be thought of a little differently.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much Kate and you know, walking that back even a step further you're you've said, you know, we rely on our algorithms and our Google search and everything to really function in our virtual workplace. And Zaki we know that you know, so according to Pew, 14% of adults living in households, earning less than $30,000 a year, don't even have access

to the internet to access these algorithms and all of the things that we rely on today. So if you could talk about what's happening to make sure to increase access to the internet across all communities.

Tech Policy's Impact on Underrepresented Communities

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, sure. And first I wanted to tag on to the Section 230 competition real quick. My job at the Aspen Institute is to focus on the intersection of technology and underrepresented communities.

And I think a big part of many communities of color and others that feel marginalized, underrepresented when it comes to Section 230, is that there are not a lot of protections for the usage of technology and social media platforms when they are weaponized against communities in the sense that, you know, hate speech and speech alone is one thing.

But speech that leads directly to real-world violence or real-world actions against communities is another thing entirely. And I think a lot of communities will say that the way, the way that Section 230 is written right now, it gives way too much immunity for tech companies, basically to get away with posting all kinds of speech that leads directly to action that leads directly to harm against these communities.

So I will throw that out through this from another angle to the conversation to answer your other question. Yes. I mean, one of the biggest issues that we have right now, obviously we have a crumbling infrastructure as a country, which is why we have the infrastructure bill coming up, but we also have a crumbling, digital infrastructure.

And COVID, I think has as unearth this. COVID, didn't create the digital divide, but it's generally exacerbated and highlighted for everybody to see what now more than ever, you have so many people working from home, learning from home, and you see more than ever that the divide between those has access to the internet and those things are, it is truly life-changing and it is presenting challenges that are greater than ever before to, to allow everybody to kind of have the same access to opportunity and economic success. We've also seen at a state-level a lot of these human services that people have depended on for years are themselves failing because of the overload of people trying to access the services for the first time ever.

You've seen state by state. So many employment agencies collapsed because they couldn't handle the usage, the surge of traffic, and usage for people trying to claim their unemployment benefits. You saw that in New Jersey, for example, some of them, some unemployment, their data centers were still running on Qubole.

They were running on coding languages from decades, decades ago. So fixing our digital infrastructure is as important as fixing our physical infrastructure and coupling digital infrastructure. It doesn't just affect, I mean, even more so than, you know, the average American affects, disproportionately affects communities of color, especially people who already have extra barriers to access, whether it's language barriers or cultural barriers, they're even more shut out and prevented from advancing within our economy because they don't have access to not just internet and not just technology, but also digital literacy skills.

Access to protections from different online threats that might threaten their communities more so than the average user. So it's a very complex issue. It's promising to see the infrastructure bill, at least as it stands now, as I think David kind of mentioned, there's a sizable chunk of money that's going to go towards expanding broadband and expanding a lot of infrastructure. But I think where the rubber meets the road is when that federal money gets to the states are gonna have a lot of say in how that money is actually used to expand that infrastructure and expand access. And that can make all the difference in whether that access actually is equitably distributed for all the communities that need it. Or if it just sorts of goes into projects that don't necessarily serve everyone they're supposed to serve. So I'm curious to see kind of where that implementation space goes.

Anne Dolan: Great. And a followup on that, Zaki, what would, if you could say generally, what would an equitable, you know, use of resources look like and a state program to prioritize a digital infrastructure.

Zaki Barzinji: It's difficult and it's going to be different from state to state because what you're dealing with are different communities are dealing with different geographies where the needs aren't always the same. I think that you know, especially during COVID, when there was this focus on remote learning, people were looking for kind of cookie-cutter solutions like this idea of giving everybody a hotspot and that'll be fine and that'll kind of help close the digital divide.

The truth is it doesn't always work like that. It works in certain geographies, but not others. What we also need to invest in enterprise-level solutions for an enterprise-level problem, which is digital, the digital divide. In my previous job, I worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We spent a lot of time focusing on how to expand wireless connectivity for communities that could not access it. When you're dealing with a rural community, the expansion of broadband is the number one issue. But when you're dealing with an urban community that is densely populated, low-income, connectivity is the number one issue. And so we started looking at more innovative solutions, like for example putting hotspots on buses and driving them into neighborhoods

so the entire neighborhoods could have access to could have wireless access. So I think what we need to do is expand the different types of solutions that we're investing in that we're investing federal and state money into because it's not just a one size fits all solution and understanding those issues and those different types of populations we're serving at a granular level is the only way that we're going to actually have equitable access for everybody.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks so much for elaborating. As we continue here, I would encourage all of our audience members to check out that Q and feature on the sidebar. If you've got questions that you'd like to hear from the panelists today, please do type those in and let us know as we can continue the discussion.

Continuing, you know, along that line of thinking about what do individuals need when it comes to internet access. And at the digital divide, I'm curious, Kate, if you could speak to you know, what startups need and what are, you know, smaller technology companies need to thrive in the year after.

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. We always say startups like everyone else need accessible, affordable, reliable internet. That feels really basic. And yet we still have some policy gaps. Lots of people in this country don't have that. We think kind of an increase in broadband connectivity overall is an increase in opportunities for innovation.

One of the things we hear about from startups a lot is, you know, I had to relocate to a city that has fiber internet, or I had to relocate to a place that has better internet or even to a coworking space that has better internet. Cause I can't get it at home. And that's, that's a huge missed opportunity for the, you know, next source of paychecks and jobs and economic growth in the country.

These are people that we want to be supporting. And we want policies that allow them to launch creative, innovative businesses, and a lot of the country, they just don't have the technical internet connectivity. They need to do that. And that's, I think a really yeah, a missed opportunity and one that I hope policymakers, you know, continue to work towards fixing. I will say connectivity is one of the major policy issues we hear about from startups, that and access to capital.

Those are kind of the two first things you run into when you're trying to launch a business is the ability to like, you know, pay for a hosting provider and a coworking space and any equipment you need and then the ability to get online. And so I think you know, we should be prioritizing that voice, especially when we think about how to best help small businesses.

It's, it's pretty straightforward. They need to be on the internet.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. That makes sense. And you know, building on this idea, I, you know, growing companies and growing jobs, like we know that information technology is the fastest-growing sector in the country for job creation. As, as we get more folks connected across the country we'd love to hear from the whole panel, you know, what, what do you think the future of technology jobs look like?

How do we make sure they're open to all?

Future of Technology Jobs

David Goodfriend: Well, I'd love to jump in on this one because I didn't mention this at the top, but I represent labor unions in addition to having worked with technology companies. And there's a very important intersection between these two issues of protecting workers and facilitating a healthy growing digital economy.

I mentioned that former Facebook worker who blew the whistle and came forward. I represent a union, the Communications Workers of America that's now starting to organize workers at Alphabet. And what they say is this is really good for consumers because if tech workers are actually protected by a union, they will feel empowered to raise a flag.

If there's something bad going on that, if consumers, just like what this former Facebook employee did. And if you want a really good example of that, look at what happened when unionized bank tellers at Wells Fargo were the ones to raise their hand and alert the world about a checking account scandal that was being pushed down the throats of employees.

And that was actually harming consumers horribly. So the first thing I'll say on this subject is yes, there is going to be an evolving workforce. There are going to be. Our jobs and our economy and the information age, but don't think for a minute that if you wear a suit to work instead of a jumpsuit, that you are somehow not facing the same problems that workers have faced for a long, long time.

And there's a really simple answer, which is workers getting together collectively, and that the law in the United States allows that the second thing I'll say real quickly is you also have these related labor markets that may not be programmers, but they are people working in very, you know, challenging jobs that are related to technology.

And here's a really good example, Amazon. Amazon typically in the past has used third-party transportation, logistics companies like FedEx or UPS to deliver a package. But increasingly Amazon is internalizing its own logistics function. And then what we believe is happening is Amazon is leveraging its market power in the online retail space

in order to force the use of its own logistics. Of course, you can imagine driving a truck for Amazon, you get paid a lot less than driving a truck for UPS. That's a way that our workforce and technology are intersecting. I might even say colliding is that you have a real impact from technology on traditional industries and the brick and mortar world and workers are definitely being impacted by that.

But again, there's a really straightforward answer to this and that is giving workers a voice and giving work as an opportunity to get together in order to present their issues collectively.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much for that, David. Zaki do you have anything to add as it relates to your work and you know, inclusive tech, technological jobs?

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what David's saying is, right, obviously we're just generally across the board, we're seeing a massive shift in such a short amount of time in what our workforce is looking like, and it's going to look like but a big component of that is also making sure

in this new workforce, it's as inclusive as possible. So the Aspen Institute just last month put out a report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in cybersecurity. And this coming week, as many of you know, we are in Hispanic Heritage Month, so we'll be releasing an additional report that focuses on Latinos and technology and the types of gaps and challenges that face those communities.

I think that one of the biggest sort of takeaways is I think the tech industry is acknowledging and realizing that it has an issue of it as a diversity issue when it comes to talent. I think especially with the past year or two as our country, as we reckoned with issues of race more so than ever, a lot of tech companies had come forward and made pretty big commitments and ensuring that they become better spaces for justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I think it's sort of, we're at a time right now with tech industries is really buying into that and doing more than just lip service. But I think that we have to look at it as more than just like a talent pipeline issue. Like the solution is not just to hire more brown people. The solution is to help empower entire communities to be able to be active members of the digital economy.

And what that means is a multifaceted approach to ensuring that from an early age, educational opportunities are consistent for all communities that these types of jobs and industries are socialized with young people at an early age, that they even know that this is a potential career opportunity for them to take on.

It also means understanding and acknowledging people who are entering the tech workforce can have a variety of different backgrounds. You're seeing a lot of companies now take more proactive steps in looking at a holistic candidate for these jobs, rather than just kind of what's on their resume. A couple of companies have even started making commitments,

I believe IBM is one of them to make a certain percentage of all the jobs that hires moving from not require a four-year degree, because the idea is that a four-year degree is less and less relevant and less and less necessary from a wide variety of these tech jobs. So I think that as the workforce itself, and as the types of jobs changed, the way that we hire and the way that we create pipelines for talent has to also change.

And I think it's happening, but it has to happen in a more kind of holistic and targeted way. The other thing is that you have to also different communities face different types of barriers to entering into the workforce, especially, and that's doubly true Florida tech workforce as well. So taking a more targeted, tailored approach to understanding that every community is different, has different needs.

Even sub-industries under the tech industry are different in terms of what they need and matching that talent to that job in a way that meshes well in terms of the actual skills that are needed is an important step that has to happen. And I think that there's a lot more work to be done on that front.

Kate Tummarello: So we think about this, not just from the employee perspective, but also from the founder perspective and, you know, want to make sure that you know, anybody with a good idea can launch a company no matter where they live or what they look like.

I think that's a really important thing about making our startup ecosystem resilient and successful. And so we think a lot about policies that could encourage, not just a robust tech and cybersecurity workforce, but a robust and diverse one. And there's a couple of things the government can and should be doing right, boosting STEM education programming, especially in communities that haven't historically seen an emphasis on that. So like HBCUs use or community colleges, those are really fertile grounds for getting more people involved in this field. And then I also think there's a really important role that government plays when it controls the purse strings.

So when the government is you know, issuing grants or you know, signing government contracts, those are both places where the government can be focusing on, you know, founders and companies that are diverse and inclusive. And I think a big step of that is just having more diverse folks, making the decisions in the government to begin with.

Right. This has to kind of start from the top. And it's hard to, you know, we know diverse teams produce better products. They produce products that work for more people. And so making sure that that's you know, conscious effort throughout the whole process is really important.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. David, you're un-muted I'll let you take it away.

David Goodfriend: I just wanted to give a verbal high-five Kate for that one and underscore one of the points that she made. It's appalling how bad Congress is at the staff level at hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. Appalling. And it leads to all kinds of criticisms of hypocrisy.

When Congress is saying, Hey America, we need a more diverse workforce and they turn out and look at their own staff and they're failing miserably. It's, it's a problem. And one of the things, I don't think this is limited only to Congress. I mean, I have a son who went to work at a talent agency in New York City that ran at the same thing, really low pay for the entry-level jobs.

So the point where only certain kids from certain families who can get an extra check from mom and dad can even afford to do it. That's how it happens. So, if you want to diversify our workforce in powerful places, well make it affordable for people of lesser means to go start a career there, because at the moment we are absolutely setting up, you know, unrelated barriers to entry, but unrelated, I mean, it's not based on talent.

It's based on what zip code you come from.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. And thinking about, you know, one, you know, who, who is staffing in Congress and, and you know, who are the decision-makers in their support staff, as they think about the full you know, breadth of information and knowledge that Congress needs to have as it relates to quickly changing and complex technology policy.

Can Congress keep up with this rapid change and how, how can they stay informed and make decisions?

How Congress Can Keep Up With Rapidly Changing Tech

David Goodfriend: I think it's safe to say that Congress is an inherently reactive institution. So by definition, lawmakers respond to pressure or events, and yet some of the best laws, the most longstanding, you know, stand the test of time type law.

Are the ones that speak in terms of principles. This is the outcome we desire, not micromanaging how to get there because inevitably that is going to become outdated. But good legislation will respond to a problem with articulating a principle that has to be met as opposed to, you know, writing something that looks like a contract that was negotiated in the backroom.

Federal Champions of Tech Policy

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. I think that makes it makes good sense. Right? Don't force them to get in the weeds with something that will become out of date. As you think about those members of Congress and leaders would love to hear from each of our panelists one or two policymakers that you see as the major influencers in this space, I will start with maybe Kate, I'll start with you.

Kate Tummarello: Sure. I mean, first, that comes to mind is Senator Wyden. He wrote 230 back in the day, 1996. And I think had the, really, just the ability to see into the future and appreciate that evolving case law at the time. And the early nineties would not have led to an internet where moderation was incentivized.

Case law in the nineties directly incentivized companies not to moderate. And so 230 was written to kind of provide an incentive to moderate and the responsibility on behalf of the speaker, not the platform. I think that was a very, it's a very smart framework and I don't know we would have the internet we have today without it.

So appreciate his ability to, to look into the future that way. And I think, you know, On privacy, another big issue that we haven't gotten into yet. There's a lot of lawmakers who are advancing kind of really thoughtful versions of the same thing. So like Maria Cantwell has a bill.

Senator Wicker has a bill. There's a bunch of bills from Energy and Commerce members. I think we're all kind of coalescing around one set of ideas. And I think that's a sign that people are being thoughtful in wanting to come to the table when everyone, everyone has smart thoughts.

Anne Dolan: Zaki, a policy leader that you'd like to add to who is charting the way here.

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah. I'm a little biased because I'm from Virginia, but I would say Senator Mark Warner for better, for worse has been doing quite a lot in the space. I mean, on several of the topics we've been talking about Senator Mark Warner I think I for better or worse has seen himself as being a tech leader himself, even though the tech company he was a part of, is several decades old by now.

And when it comes to, for example, Section 230, the issue that I was talking about before, where you have some communities raising issues of social media platforms, not being held accountable for civil rights, abuse, and human rights abuses Senator Warner was one of the senators have introduced, I think it was called the safety.

I don't know, I can't comment on the merits of that actual act, but the problem it was meant to address was one of making sure that communities of color and other marginalized communities have better protections under 230 because those platforms could be used to violate civil rights and human rights.

And so he was very instrumental in introducing that topic of conversation into the open 230 debate. Also, Senator Warner is one of the people who talk the most about the gig economy and the need for changes in labor laws and practices to ensure that this whole new class of workers that we have, whether they're Uber drivers, DoorDashdrivers, et cetera, having a more robust framework of regulation and support as essential contractor employee, that he's been one of the people I think leading the fights

against deregulation when it comes to labor laws for these newer types of workers. So Senator Mark Warner for better or for worse, I think has been a leader on these issues.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. And David had a member of Congress that you'd like to add to, for our folks to, to keep following.

David Goodfriend: Only one. I only get one member. Oh my God.

Well, in addition to all the ones that have already been mentioned, I think we have to name the chairs of the Antitrust Subcommittee. David Cicilline the Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar on the Senate. Of course, Amy Klobuchar also sits on the Commerce Committee in the Senate. They are moving bills that if passed would have a tremendous impact on the technology sector. The question is whether they become law.

On the Republican side Congressman Buck from Colorado, who's the ranking member of the House Antitrust sub-committee. Can't overstate the importance of a Republican joining with a Democrat on anything these days. I mean, that happens. Everybody's head should snap back and be like, what's that.

That's kind of important. And finally, I just want to point out that in the hearings, on the House side, when the tech platforms CEOs were brought in instead of the laughable train wreck that had happened in the past when tech CEOs came to testify in front of Congress and the members clearly had no idea what they're talking.

We saw some star performances by some young new House members Congressman Neguse from Colorado, Congresswoman Jayapal from Washington, Congresswoman McBath from Georgia. Anyway, they asked some great incisive questions that showed a lot of sophisticated understanding of technology and legal principles. And I think those, that sort of group of young bloods that gets it, watch out they are going to only gain an influence. I think as the years, go by.

[post_title] => Tech Policy Deep Dive with David Goodfriend, Kate Tummarello, and Zaki Barzinji [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tech-policy-deep-dive-wonk-week-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5770 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5770 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-11 23:53:45 [post_content] => Here from tech experts as they speak at Quorum's Wonk Week virtual conference: Anne Dolan: Hi everyone. My name is Anne Dolan. I am a Customer Success Manager here at Quorum. So I have the pleasure of working with some of the folks on this call and am excited to have you know, everyone who's listening and joining us today.

Thank you for coming to our deep dive on technology policy. Obviously, we're at a virtual conference here, so I don't need to tell you that technology is impacting every aspect of our lives and is really a large topic to dive into today. So that said we have 45 minutes for our discussion, so we won't cover every nook and cranny of the topic.

We're joined by a slated stack of policy experts who are ready to give us their views on today's tech policy landscape. So to kick us off I'd like to introduce David Goodfriend, the president of Goodfriend Group. David served as Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton, Media Legal Advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, and as a professional staffer in the US House and Senate. He also teaches technology and telecommunications policy at Georgetown University Law Center and the George Washington University Law School. So I will turn it over to David.

Introduction to Committees and Agencies of Jurisdiction Over Federal Tech Policy

David Goodfriend: Thanks Ann, can you hear me okay now? Sorry about that. Yes. Technology lawyers who don't unmute themselves, it's an epidemic right now. Thanks for the introduction and, and don't worry. I will not be quizzing you at the end. Like I do. At Georgetown GW law schools, this is all just pure benefit.

As Ann mentioned, I have for a long time working in the fields of technology, telecommunications, and media. That seems to be the grouping that we define ourselves within this category, technology, telecommunications, and media, and really, they all boil down to a couple of basic principles and a couple of basic points within government where policy is made and where policy can be influenced.

For starters in telecommunications, there's the Communications Act or the Telecommunications Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. And the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation committee in the Senate, each of those full committees, in turn, has a subcommittee with jurisdiction over telecommunications and technology, although they give those subcommittees different names.

And then expanding out a little bit into media and technology. The Judiciary Committees have an awful lot to say about these fields, not only with respect to copyright because all technology involves the transmission of information, either as a common carrier or as a platform, or as a content provider.

So there's a copy of intersection with the field, but also an increasingly these days, antitrust. Antitrust falls within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate. So with respect to policy on the Hill, Congress in addition to leadership both chambers there's the Judiciary committees and Commerce committees.

And then with respect to agencies, the Federal Communications Commission obviously is near and dear to my heart cause as Anne mentioned that it was a legal advisor to a commissioner there, and that involves a lot of subjects with respect to wireless spectrum, broadband, cable, and broadcast media.

And then the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which is really for our purposes, at least in much of telecommunications in technology, the focal point for antitrust enforcement. There's also the Federal Trade Commission, which is, probably the other most important antitrust enforcement agency with respect to technology.

And in fact, DOJ and FTC have divided their respective portfolios. Oftentimes telecommunications mergers, such as sprint T-Mobile will be reviewed by the Department of Justice while mergers involving technology platforms may more likely be reviewed by the FTC, but the two agencies have divided their responsibilities to the point where today the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division handles Google and Apple and their related antitrust issues

while the FTC handles Facebook and Amazon. As always there is also the White House, which has oversight as you, as we say, overall, all the agencies except the independent ones. It has the ability to influence, but not direct independent agencies. It does have the ability, at least through the Office of the White House Council to give direction to the Department of Justice with some very important notable exceptions, which I won't go into here.

And then also under the White House, under the administration, you have the Commerce Department and its sub-agency NTIA and NTIA is about to be handed assuming that the infrastructure bill becomes law is about to be handed an enormous responsibility for doling out tens of billions of dollars for broadband support to the states.

So I think we'll see a lot of broadband and telecommunications focus in Washington on NTIA. That's kind of a broader overview of the mechanisms for technology, telecommunications, media with respect to federal jurisdiction, federal oversight. I just want to mention now a couple of major hot topics in the field that I'm sure we'll end up talking about more on this call.

First of all, in the field of antitrust, I think we have to acknowledge that we are in a moment now of rare bipartisan agreement that the largest tech platforms need greater scrutiny under our antitrust laws, either as a matter of. Greater enforcement of existing law or greater enforcement plus changing underlying statutes in order to facilitate findings of liability.

And the platforms we typically refer to are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Sometimes Microsoft is included in that list. And the basic idea is that these are technology platforms that have become so important to the technology ecosystem or to society in general or so dominant in their respective fields with a lot of power that antitrust theory has been brought to bear both at the state level and at the federal level.

And then in Congress, we have an active consideration in the House, and very soon the Senate, have a number of bills that would change underlying antitrust laws. And again, make it easier for plaintiffs to find liability with respect to those larger platforms I just mentioned. So that's the antitrust side and it's a pretty hot topic. Over on the Commerce side

I mentioned the other set of committees that, that Congress exercises oversight over the relevant agencies. On the Commerce side I think the biggest issue, the hottest issue right now is whether to amend. Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which in that year established a liability shield for websites and other platforms that facilitate communications by other individuals, the platform itself being held

free of liability by statute. The courts have interpreted that statute very broadly to the point where now we're seeing calls for reform to narrow it. There's already been one fairly narrow change to Section 230, which is taking away the liability shield for human trafficking. Okay. Nobody likes human trafficking and there was bipartisan support between Senator Blumenthal and some Republicans to get that done.

Blumenthal being the Democrat from Connecticut. Now we're hearing calls for a much more comprehensive approach to section 230 reform. And the most timely example I can give you is the very recent testimony by a former Facebook employee before this Commerce committee. It was the Sub Committee on Consumer Protection chaired by Senator Blumenthal, again, Democrat of Connecticut in which the former Facebook employee said, you know what?

Breaking up Facebook is not gonna solve the problem here. And the problem she was referring to in her estimation was that Facebook was hiding from the public information it had about the harmful effects of one of its services on teenagers in particular teenage girls. This former employee said breaking up big tech is not the answer.

Instead of having one problem with Facebook, you'll have 10 problems. The answer she said is in section230 reform, but she made an interesting distinction. She said the trouble so far has been under the First Amendment, how do you say which speech is protected and which speech isn't, and then you kind of get into a real problem with trying to pick when the platform can be an editor, when it can't. In her view, the way to treat this is you take the algorithms that amplify certain information. That amplification by algorithms designed by the platform is that she described it as a kind of act that is subject to regulation, or should be subject to regulation?

So for example, She's calling for an amendment to Section 230, that would make it so that the platform is not shielded from liability if its own algorithms, amplify certain speech that is found to be harmful like I don't know an insurrection in the United States Capitol. So that seems to gain a lot of momentum and a lot of traction.

And that was the assessment. A lot of the senators after that, hearing that this seems to be a place we can focus some attention and get some bipartisan support and actually change the law. So I think I'll stop with that and hand it back to you, Anne.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thank you so much, David. I'm now going to introduce our other two panelists today and kick off some conversation. So first I'm joined, we're joined by Kate Tummarello. Kate is the Executive Director of Engine, a nonprofit that works with a community of thousands of high tech growth-oriented startups across the nation to support technology entrepreneurship.

Prior to Engine, Kate worked on surveillance reform issues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And before joining the advocacy community, Kate spent years as a technology policy reporter in DC, including at Politico, The Hill, and Communications Daily. Hi Kate, thanks so much for being here. And I also would now like to introduce Zaki Barjini.

Zaki is a program director for Aspen Digital, where he oversees a range of projects at the intersection of tech policy, equity and justice for underrepresented communities. Zaki's writing and commentary have appeared in Politico, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, CNN and a variety of other platforms.

So thank you all for being here today. I, why don't we start with David, you've already introduced Section 230 and we know this is a conversation that we've been talking a lot about in the news. And it does sound like there are multiple interpretations of its implications on social media platforms.

So, Kate, I'll turn it over to you if you can. Through the breakdown right now, what Section 230 actually does and the full landscape of what we can think about in terms of interpreting it and changing it going forward.

Understanding Section 230

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So David did a good job outlining kind of the basics of Section 230.

You know, where the conversation stands today. One of the most important things about Section 230 that I think often gets overlooked in DC broadly is the applicability of the law, not just to kind of the tech companies that everyone loves to hate, but to every internet interaction that we do every day.

So like for instance, this platform that we're speaking on right now is protected by Section 230. It is, you know if I say something defamatory right now which I won't do, but if I did, the platform that's hosting this speech won't get sued. And I think that's, that's really important. You know, it, I understand when people are frustrated at Big Tech and kind of some of the outcomes that big Tech has participated in.

But 230 is about much more than Big Tech. And so for us Engine, we work with startups. We're really concerned about, you know, startups that host photos or startups that create community message boards, places on the internet that you know, is kind of integral to the way that we use the internet

but couldn't exist without Section 230. You know, the average startup we found has about $55,000 a month to spend, and that's the average successful startup. So a startup that's already brought in outside funding. Without Section 230, one lawsuit could wipe them out. That would be the end of the company.

So Facebook, right. If we changed 230 Facebook could get sued more. Probably could navigate most of those lawsuits pretty well. In fact, they probably win most of them because a lot of the underlying speech that we're complaining about or DC lawmakers are complaining about, isn't actually illegal. It's protected by the First Amendment, whether or not we'd like it as a community.

It is. And so Facebook right, could navigate those lawsuits and come out the other end. But for a startup that is not the case. They cannot spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in court. And so from our view, Section 230 is kind of one of the most important legal frameworks that have created the internet of user-generated content.

And sometimes that gets lost. So I appreciate the chance to add that to the debate.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks, Kate. And I have a question from our audience here, digging more into Facebook and 230, perhaps I'll turn this to David to start. Do you think that the use of AI and algorithms will decrease as Section 230 regulation increases? And what are the implications for Mark Zuckerberg? His metaverse.

David Goodfriend: Ah, Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse. Yes. Keeps me up at night, worrying about his metaverse. I will, I will get right to the point. I think the answer is yes. And it's going to have to be done in a very careful manner. So as to address the issue that Kate just raised. This probably cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, and there's precedent for that in the bills that are being considered today.

If you look at some of the bills that were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, they apply to only certain companies of a certain market cap or a certain revenue and above. So there really are very straightforward ways to do reform that protects the startup, protects innovation, protects speech, but then holds companies responsible that have market power.

And I'll use that term broadly. Market power, sufficient power basically, to change the rules of the game on their own and to hold them responsible for things that may be causing harm. Again, the former Facebook employee who spoke before Congress pointed out that there's a difference between what is said

and how it's amplified. And you know, if you think about First Amendment jurisprudence I can stand on a street corner and express my views, but if I got a giant megaphone and sent it out like really loud at 10 o'clock at night, the police would come and arrest me for disturbing the peace. It's not because of what I said is because of how I was using, the manner in which I was transmitting my speech.

And I think that that will become a focus as a result of this recent testimony. Yes. We're having a conversation online, but then what does the platform do with various content? Picking and choosing which gets amplified and which does not, it's not enough, by the way, to say, I didn't do anything. The algorithm did it.

I think that that's an important distinction. We should probably discuss here, this intent. Well, I designed an algorithm and then the algorithm evolved and then the algorithm did it. So it can't be me. It was some machine that did it. That will become an interesting issue of liability. And I think it kind of cuts to the core of

whether or not someone can distance themselves from an outcome by virtue of an algorithm operating machine learning and artificial intelligence taking place. At what point is the human who set it up, become liable for the actions. I think that's going to be one we're going to put you on for.

Kate Tummarello: Can I add something there and if that's okay. I think we know when we talk about Facebook and algorithms, it's really easy to conceptualize, like, okay, the algorithm is maximizing for engagement, which often means maximizing kind of contentious and controversial and potentially harmful content. And I think that's, that's like one specific example, but I also like to remind folks.

The internet without algorithms would probably be very difficult to navigate. Algorithms can actually be quite useful and important. And just because you're using an algorithm to maximize for something doesn't necessarily mean the algorithm in itself is the problem. I definitely agree with David that algorithms aren't like a good distancing pressure.

You can't say, well, the algorithm did it not meet somebody built the algorithm. But in a lot of ways, We want algorithms and they play a really important role in how we consume information to our benefit as consumers. I, I don't want to search through 300 pages of search. I want to know the most relevant stuff is at the top.

Same thing with social media. I want to, I want to see the relevant stuff. That's, that's why I'm there. I don't have time to go through 300 pages. And so I just think it's an important distinction. Algorithms can maximize usefulness. Algorithms can maximize attention. They all can do different things.

And each one needs to be thought of a little differently.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much Kate and you know, walking that back even a step further you're you've said, you know, we rely on our algorithms and our Google search and everything to really function in our virtual workplace. And Zaki we know that you know, so according to Pew, 14% of adults living in households, earning less than $30,000 a year, don't even have access

to the internet to access these algorithms and all of the things that we rely on today. So if you could talk about what's happening to make sure to increase access to the internet across all communities.

Tech Policy's Impact on Underrepresented Communities

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, sure. And first I wanted to tag on to the Section 230 competition real quick. My job at the Aspen Institute is to focus on the intersection of technology and underrepresented communities.

And I think a big part of many communities of color and others that feel marginalized, underrepresented when it comes to Section 230, is that there are not a lot of protections for the usage of technology and social media platforms when they are weaponized against communities in the sense that, you know, hate speech and speech alone is one thing.

But speech that leads directly to real-world violence or real-world actions against communities is another thing entirely. And I think a lot of communities will say that the way, the way that Section 230 is written right now, it gives way too much immunity for tech companies, basically to get away with posting all kinds of speech that leads directly to action that leads directly to harm against these communities.

So I will throw that out through this from another angle to the conversation to answer your other question. Yes. I mean, one of the biggest issues that we have right now, obviously we have a crumbling infrastructure as a country, which is why we have the infrastructure bill coming up, but we also have a crumbling, digital infrastructure.

And COVID, I think has as unearth this. COVID, didn't create the digital divide, but it's generally exacerbated and highlighted for everybody to see what now more than ever, you have so many people working from home, learning from home, and you see more than ever that the divide between those has access to the internet and those things are, it is truly life-changing and it is presenting challenges that are greater than ever before to, to allow everybody to kind of have the same access to opportunity and economic success. We've also seen at a state-level a lot of these human services that people have depended on for years are themselves failing because of the overload of people trying to access the services for the first time ever.

You've seen state by state. So many employment agencies collapsed because they couldn't handle the usage, the surge of traffic, and usage for people trying to claim their unemployment benefits. You saw that in New Jersey, for example, some of them, some unemployment, their data centers were still running on Qubole.

They were running on coding languages from decades, decades ago. So fixing our digital infrastructure is as important as fixing our physical infrastructure and coupling digital infrastructure. It doesn't just affect, I mean, even more so than, you know, the average American affects, disproportionately affects communities of color, especially people who already have extra barriers to access, whether it's language barriers or cultural barriers, they're even more shut out and prevented from advancing within our economy because they don't have access to not just internet and not just technology, but also digital literacy skills.

Access to protections from different online threats that might threaten their communities more so than the average user. So it's a very complex issue. It's promising to see the infrastructure bill, at least as it stands now, as I think David kind of mentioned, there's a sizable chunk of money that's going to go towards expanding broadband and expanding a lot of infrastructure. But I think where the rubber meets the road is when that federal money gets to the states are gonna have a lot of say in how that money is actually used to expand that infrastructure and expand access. And that can make all the difference in whether that access actually is equitably distributed for all the communities that need it. Or if it just sorts of goes into projects that don't necessarily serve everyone they're supposed to serve. So I'm curious to see kind of where that implementation space goes.

Anne Dolan: Great. And a followup on that, Zaki, what would, if you could say generally, what would an equitable, you know, use of resources look like and a state program to prioritize a digital infrastructure.

Zaki Barzinji: It's difficult and it's going to be different from state to state because what you're dealing with are different communities are dealing with different geographies where the needs aren't always the same. I think that you know, especially during COVID, when there was this focus on remote learning, people were looking for kind of cookie-cutter solutions like this idea of giving everybody a hotspot and that'll be fine and that'll kind of help close the digital divide.

The truth is it doesn't always work like that. It works in certain geographies, but not others. What we also need to invest in enterprise-level solutions for an enterprise-level problem, which is digital, the digital divide. In my previous job, I worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We spent a lot of time focusing on how to expand wireless connectivity for communities that could not access it. When you're dealing with a rural community, the expansion of broadband is the number one issue. But when you're dealing with an urban community that is densely populated, low-income, connectivity is the number one issue. And so we started looking at more innovative solutions, like for example putting hotspots on buses and driving them into neighborhoods

so the entire neighborhoods could have access to could have wireless access. So I think what we need to do is expand the different types of solutions that we're investing in that we're investing federal and state money into because it's not just a one size fits all solution and understanding those issues and those different types of populations we're serving at a granular level is the only way that we're going to actually have equitable access for everybody.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks so much for elaborating. As we continue here, I would encourage all of our audience members to check out that Q and feature on the sidebar. If you've got questions that you'd like to hear from the panelists today, please do type those in and let us know as we can continue the discussion.

Continuing, you know, along that line of thinking about what do individuals need when it comes to internet access. And at the digital divide, I'm curious, Kate, if you could speak to you know, what startups need and what are, you know, smaller technology companies need to thrive in the year after.

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. We always say startups like everyone else need accessible, affordable, reliable internet. That feels really basic. And yet we still have some policy gaps. Lots of people in this country don't have that. We think kind of an increase in broadband connectivity overall is an increase in opportunities for innovation.

One of the things we hear about from startups a lot is, you know, I had to relocate to a city that has fiber internet, or I had to relocate to a place that has better internet or even to a coworking space that has better internet. Cause I can't get it at home. And that's, that's a huge missed opportunity for the, you know, next source of paychecks and jobs and economic growth in the country.

These are people that we want to be supporting. And we want policies that allow them to launch creative, innovative businesses, and a lot of the country, they just don't have the technical internet connectivity. They need to do that. And that's, I think a really yeah, a missed opportunity and one that I hope policymakers, you know, continue to work towards fixing. I will say connectivity is one of the major policy issues we hear about from startups, that and access to capital.

Those are kind of the two first things you run into when you're trying to launch a business is the ability to like, you know, pay for a hosting provider and a coworking space and any equipment you need and then the ability to get online. And so I think you know, we should be prioritizing that voice, especially when we think about how to best help small businesses.

It's, it's pretty straightforward. They need to be on the internet.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. That makes sense. And you know, building on this idea, I, you know, growing companies and growing jobs, like we know that information technology is the fastest-growing sector in the country for job creation. As, as we get more folks connected across the country we'd love to hear from the whole panel, you know, what, what do you think the future of technology jobs look like?

How do we make sure they're open to all?

Future of Technology Jobs

David Goodfriend: Well, I'd love to jump in on this one because I didn't mention this at the top, but I represent labor unions in addition to having worked with technology companies. And there's a very important intersection between these two issues of protecting workers and facilitating a healthy growing digital economy.

I mentioned that former Facebook worker who blew the whistle and came forward. I represent a union, the Communications Workers of America that's now starting to organize workers at Alphabet. And what they say is this is really good for consumers because if tech workers are actually protected by a union, they will feel empowered to raise a flag.

If there's something bad going on that, if consumers, just like what this former Facebook employee did. And if you want a really good example of that, look at what happened when unionized bank tellers at Wells Fargo were the ones to raise their hand and alert the world about a checking account scandal that was being pushed down the throats of employees.

And that was actually harming consumers horribly. So the first thing I'll say on this subject is yes, there is going to be an evolving workforce. There are going to be. Our jobs and our economy and the information age, but don't think for a minute that if you wear a suit to work instead of a jumpsuit, that you are somehow not facing the same problems that workers have faced for a long, long time.

And there's a really simple answer, which is workers getting together collectively, and that the law in the United States allows that the second thing I'll say real quickly is you also have these related labor markets that may not be programmers, but they are people working in very, you know, challenging jobs that are related to technology.

And here's a really good example, Amazon. Amazon typically in the past has used third-party transportation, logistics companies like FedEx or UPS to deliver a package. But increasingly Amazon is internalizing its own logistics function. And then what we believe is happening is Amazon is leveraging its market power in the online retail space

in order to force the use of its own logistics. Of course, you can imagine driving a truck for Amazon, you get paid a lot less than driving a truck for UPS. That's a way that our workforce and technology are intersecting. I might even say colliding is that you have a real impact from technology on traditional industries and the brick and mortar world and workers are definitely being impacted by that.

But again, there's a really straightforward answer to this and that is giving workers a voice and giving work as an opportunity to get together in order to present their issues collectively.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much for that, David. Zaki do you have anything to add as it relates to your work and you know, inclusive tech, technological jobs?

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what David's saying is, right, obviously we're just generally across the board, we're seeing a massive shift in such a short amount of time in what our workforce is looking like, and it's going to look like but a big component of that is also making sure

in this new workforce, it's as inclusive as possible. So the Aspen Institute just last month put out a report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in cybersecurity. And this coming week, as many of you know, we are in Hispanic Heritage Month, so we'll be releasing an additional report that focuses on Latinos and technology and the types of gaps and challenges that face those communities.

I think that one of the biggest sort of takeaways is I think the tech industry is acknowledging and realizing that it has an issue of it as a diversity issue when it comes to talent. I think especially with the past year or two as our country, as we reckoned with issues of race more so than ever, a lot of tech companies had come forward and made pretty big commitments and ensuring that they become better spaces for justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I think it's sort of, we're at a time right now with tech industries is really buying into that and doing more than just lip service. But I think that we have to look at it as more than just like a talent pipeline issue. Like the solution is not just to hire more brown people. The solution is to help empower entire communities to be able to be active members of the digital economy.

And what that means is a multifaceted approach to ensuring that from an early age, educational opportunities are consistent for all communities that these types of jobs and industries are socialized with young people at an early age, that they even know that this is a potential career opportunity for them to take on.

It also means understanding and acknowledging people who are entering the tech workforce can have a variety of different backgrounds. You're seeing a lot of companies now take more proactive steps in looking at a holistic candidate for these jobs, rather than just kind of what's on their resume. A couple of companies have even started making commitments,

I believe IBM is one of them to make a certain percentage of all the jobs that hires moving from not require a four-year degree, because the idea is that a four-year degree is less and less relevant and less and less necessary from a wide variety of these tech jobs. So I think that as the workforce itself, and as the types of jobs changed, the way that we hire and the way that we create pipelines for talent has to also change.

And I think it's happening, but it has to happen in a more kind of holistic and targeted way. The other thing is that you have to also different communities face different types of barriers to entering into the workforce, especially, and that's doubly true Florida tech workforce as well. So taking a more targeted, tailored approach to understanding that every community is different, has different needs.

Even sub-industries under the tech industry are different in terms of what they need and matching that talent to that job in a way that meshes well in terms of the actual skills that are needed is an important step that has to happen. And I think that there's a lot more work to be done on that front.

Kate Tummarello: So we think about this, not just from the employee perspective, but also from the founder perspective and, you know, want to make sure that you know, anybody with a good idea can launch a company no matter where they live or what they look like.

I think that's a really important thing about making our startup ecosystem resilient and successful. And so we think a lot about policies that could encourage, not just a robust tech and cybersecurity workforce, but a robust and diverse one. And there's a couple of things the government can and should be doing right, boosting STEM education programming, especially in communities that haven't historically seen an emphasis on that. So like HBCUs use or community colleges, those are really fertile grounds for getting more people involved in this field. And then I also think there's a really important role that government plays when it controls the purse strings.

So when the government is you know, issuing grants or you know, signing government contracts, those are both places where the government can be focusing on, you know, founders and companies that are diverse and inclusive. And I think a big step of that is just having more diverse folks, making the decisions in the government to begin with.

Right. This has to kind of start from the top. And it's hard to, you know, we know diverse teams produce better products. They produce products that work for more people. And so making sure that that's you know, conscious effort throughout the whole process is really important.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. David, you're un-muted I'll let you take it away.

David Goodfriend: I just wanted to give a verbal high-five Kate for that one and underscore one of the points that she made. It's appalling how bad Congress is at the staff level at hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. Appalling. And it leads to all kinds of criticisms of hypocrisy.

When Congress is saying, Hey America, we need a more diverse workforce and they turn out and look at their own staff and they're failing miserably. It's, it's a problem. And one of the things, I don't think this is limited only to Congress. I mean, I have a son who went to work at a talent agency in New York City that ran at the same thing, really low pay for the entry-level jobs.

So the point where only certain kids from certain families who can get an extra check from mom and dad can even afford to do it. That's how it happens. So, if you want to diversify our workforce in powerful places, well make it affordable for people of lesser means to go start a career there, because at the moment we are absolutely setting up, you know, unrelated barriers to entry, but unrelated, I mean, it's not based on talent.

It's based on what zip code you come from.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. And thinking about, you know, one, you know, who, who is staffing in Congress and, and you know, who are the decision-makers in their support staff, as they think about the full you know, breadth of information and knowledge that Congress needs to have as it relates to quickly changing and complex technology policy.

Can Congress keep up with this rapid change and how, how can they stay informed and make decisions?

How Congress Can Keep Up With Rapidly Changing Tech

David Goodfriend: I think it's safe to say that Congress is an inherently reactive institution. So by definition, lawmakers respond to pressure or events, and yet some of the best laws, the most longstanding, you know, stand the test of time type law.

Are the ones that speak in terms of principles. This is the outcome we desire, not micromanaging how to get there because inevitably that is going to become outdated. But good legislation will respond to a problem with articulating a principle that has to be met as opposed to, you know, writing something that looks like a contract that was negotiated in the backroom.

Federal Champions of Tech Policy

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. I think that makes it makes good sense. Right? Don't force them to get in the weeds with something that will become out of date. As you think about those members of Congress and leaders would love to hear from each of our panelists one or two policymakers that you see as the major influencers in this space, I will start with maybe Kate, I'll start with you.

Kate Tummarello: Sure. I mean, first, that comes to mind is Senator Wyden. He wrote 230 back in the day, 1996. And I think had the, really, just the ability to see into the future and appreciate that evolving case law at the time. And the early nineties would not have led to an internet where moderation was incentivized.

Case law in the nineties directly incentivized companies not to moderate. And so 230 was written to kind of provide an incentive to moderate and the responsibility on behalf of the speaker, not the platform. I think that was a very, it's a very smart framework and I don't know we would have the internet we have today without it.

So appreciate his ability to, to look into the future that way. And I think, you know, On privacy, another big issue that we haven't gotten into yet. There's a lot of lawmakers who are advancing kind of really thoughtful versions of the same thing. So like Maria Cantwell has a bill.

Senator Wicker has a bill. There's a bunch of bills from Energy and Commerce members. I think we're all kind of coalescing around one set of ideas. And I think that's a sign that people are being thoughtful in wanting to come to the table when everyone, everyone has smart thoughts.

Anne Dolan: Zaki, a policy leader that you'd like to add to who is charting the way here.

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah. I'm a little biased because I'm from Virginia, but I would say Senator Mark Warner for better, for worse has been doing quite a lot in the space. I mean, on several of the topics we've been talking about Senator Mark Warner I think I for better or worse has seen himself as being a tech leader himself, even though the tech company he was a part of, is several decades old by now.

And when it comes to, for example, Section 230, the issue that I was talking about before, where you have some communities raising issues of social media platforms, not being held accountable for civil rights, abuse, and human rights abuses Senator Warner was one of the senators have introduced, I think it was called the safety.

I don't know, I can't comment on the merits of that actual act, but the problem it was meant to address was one of making sure that communities of color and other marginalized communities have better protections under 230 because those platforms could be used to violate civil rights and human rights.

And so he was very instrumental in introducing that topic of conversation into the open 230 debate. Also, Senator Warner is one of the people who talk the most about the gig economy and the need for changes in labor laws and practices to ensure that this whole new class of workers that we have, whether they're Uber drivers, DoorDashdrivers, et cetera, having a more robust framework of regulation and support as essential contractor employee, that he's been one of the people I think leading the fights

against deregulation when it comes to labor laws for these newer types of workers. So Senator Mark Warner for better or for worse, I think has been a leader on these issues.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. And David had a member of Congress that you'd like to add to, for our folks to, to keep following.

David Goodfriend: Only one. I only get one member. Oh my God.

Well, in addition to all the ones that have already been mentioned, I think we have to name the chairs of the Antitrust Subcommittee. David Cicilline the Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar on the Senate. Of course, Amy Klobuchar also sits on the Commerce Committee in the Senate. They are moving bills that if passed would have a tremendous impact on the technology sector. The question is whether they become law.

On the Republican side Congressman Buck from Colorado, who's the ranking member of the House Antitrust sub-committee. Can't overstate the importance of a Republican joining with a Democrat on anything these days. I mean, that happens. Everybody's head should snap back and be like, what's that.

That's kind of important. And finally, I just want to point out that in the hearings, on the House side, when the tech platforms CEOs were brought in instead of the laughable train wreck that had happened in the past when tech CEOs came to testify in front of Congress and the members clearly had no idea what they're talking.

We saw some star performances by some young new House members Congressman Neguse from Colorado, Congresswoman Jayapal from Washington, Congresswoman McBath from Georgia. Anyway, they asked some great incisive questions that showed a lot of sophisticated understanding of technology and legal principles. And I think those, that sort of group of young bloods that gets it, watch out they are going to only gain an influence. I think as the years, go by.

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Tech Policy Deep Dive with David Goodfriend, Kate Tummarello, and Zaki Barzinji

Tech Policy Deep Dive with David Goodfriend, Kate Tummarello, and Zaki Barzinji

Here from tech experts as they speak at Quorum’s Wonk Week virtual conference:

Anne Dolan: Hi everyone. My name is Anne Dolan. I am a Customer Success Manager here at Quorum. So I have the pleasure of working with some of the folks on this call and am excited to have you know, everyone who’s listening and joining us today.

Thank you for coming to our deep dive on technology policy. Obviously, we’re at a virtual conference here, so I don’t need to tell you that technology is impacting every aspect of our lives and is really a large topic to dive into today. So that said we have 45 minutes for our discussion, so we won’t cover every nook and cranny of the topic.

We’re joined by a slated stack of policy experts who are ready to give us their views on today’s tech policy landscape. So to kick us off I’d like to introduce David Goodfriend, the president of Goodfriend Group. David served as Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton, Media Legal Advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, and as a professional staffer in the US House and Senate. He also teaches technology and telecommunications policy at Georgetown University Law Center and the George Washington University Law School. So I will turn it over to David.

Introduction to Committees and Agencies of Jurisdiction Over Federal Tech Policy

David Goodfriend: Thanks Ann, can you hear me okay now? Sorry about that. Yes. Technology lawyers who don’t unmute themselves, it’s an epidemic right now. Thanks for the introduction and, and don’t worry. I will not be quizzing you at the end. Like I do. At Georgetown GW law schools, this is all just pure benefit.

As Ann mentioned, I have for a long time working in the fields of technology, telecommunications, and media. That seems to be the grouping that we define ourselves within this category, technology, telecommunications, and media, and really, they all boil down to a couple of basic principles and a couple of basic points within government where policy is made and where policy can be influenced.

For starters in telecommunications, there’s the Communications Act or the Telecommunications Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. And the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation committee in the Senate, each of those full committees, in turn, has a subcommittee with jurisdiction over telecommunications and technology, although they give those subcommittees different names.

And then expanding out a little bit into media and technology. The Judiciary Committees have an awful lot to say about these fields, not only with respect to copyright because all technology involves the transmission of information, either as a common carrier or as a platform, or as a content provider.

So there’s a copy of intersection with the field, but also an increasingly these days, antitrust. Antitrust falls within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate. So with respect to policy on the Hill, Congress in addition to leadership both chambers there’s the Judiciary committees and Commerce committees.

And then with respect to agencies, the Federal Communications Commission obviously is near and dear to my heart cause as Anne mentioned that it was a legal advisor to a commissioner there, and that involves a lot of subjects with respect to wireless spectrum, broadband, cable, and broadcast media.

And then the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which is really for our purposes, at least in much of telecommunications in technology, the focal point for antitrust enforcement. There’s also the Federal Trade Commission, which is, probably the other most important antitrust enforcement agency with respect to technology.

And in fact, DOJ and FTC have divided their respective portfolios. Oftentimes telecommunications mergers, such as sprint T-Mobile will be reviewed by the Department of Justice while mergers involving technology platforms may more likely be reviewed by the FTC, but the two agencies have divided their responsibilities to the point where today the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division handles Google and Apple and their related antitrust issues

while the FTC handles Facebook and Amazon. As always there is also the White House, which has oversight as you, as we say, overall, all the agencies except the independent ones. It has the ability to influence, but not direct independent agencies. It does have the ability, at least through the Office of the White House Council to give direction to the Department of Justice with some very important notable exceptions, which I won’t go into here.

And then also under the White House, under the administration, you have the Commerce Department and its sub-agency NTIA and NTIA is about to be handed assuming that the infrastructure bill becomes law is about to be handed an enormous responsibility for doling out tens of billions of dollars for broadband support to the states.

So I think we’ll see a lot of broadband and telecommunications focus in Washington on NTIA. That’s kind of a broader overview of the mechanisms for technology, telecommunications, media with respect to federal jurisdiction, federal oversight. I just want to mention now a couple of major hot topics in the field that I’m sure we’ll end up talking about more on this call.

First of all, in the field of antitrust, I think we have to acknowledge that we are in a moment now of rare bipartisan agreement that the largest tech platforms need greater scrutiny under our antitrust laws, either as a matter of. Greater enforcement of existing law or greater enforcement plus changing underlying statutes in order to facilitate findings of liability.

And the platforms we typically refer to are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Sometimes Microsoft is included in that list. And the basic idea is that these are technology platforms that have become so important to the technology ecosystem or to society in general or so dominant in their respective fields with a lot of power that antitrust theory has been brought to bear both at the state level and at the federal level.

And then in Congress, we have an active consideration in the House, and very soon the Senate, have a number of bills that would change underlying antitrust laws. And again, make it easier for plaintiffs to find liability with respect to those larger platforms I just mentioned. So that’s the antitrust side and it’s a pretty hot topic. Over on the Commerce side

I mentioned the other set of committees that, that Congress exercises oversight over the relevant agencies. On the Commerce side I think the biggest issue, the hottest issue right now is whether to amend. Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which in that year established a liability shield for websites and other platforms that facilitate communications by other individuals, the platform itself being held

free of liability by statute. The courts have interpreted that statute very broadly to the point where now we’re seeing calls for reform to narrow it. There’s already been one fairly narrow change to Section 230, which is taking away the liability shield for human trafficking. Okay. Nobody likes human trafficking and there was bipartisan support between Senator Blumenthal and some Republicans to get that done.

Blumenthal being the Democrat from Connecticut. Now we’re hearing calls for a much more comprehensive approach to section 230 reform. And the most timely example I can give you is the very recent testimony by a former Facebook employee before this Commerce committee. It was the Sub Committee on Consumer Protection chaired by Senator Blumenthal, again, Democrat of Connecticut in which the former Facebook employee said, you know what?

Breaking up Facebook is not gonna solve the problem here. And the problem she was referring to in her estimation was that Facebook was hiding from the public information it had about the harmful effects of one of its services on teenagers in particular teenage girls. This former employee said breaking up big tech is not the answer.

Instead of having one problem with Facebook, you’ll have 10 problems. The answer she said is in section230 reform, but she made an interesting distinction. She said the trouble so far has been under the First Amendment, how do you say which speech is protected and which speech isn’t, and then you kind of get into a real problem with trying to pick when the platform can be an editor, when it can’t. In her view, the way to treat this is you take the algorithms that amplify certain information. That amplification by algorithms designed by the platform is that she described it as a kind of act that is subject to regulation, or should be subject to regulation?

So for example, She’s calling for an amendment to Section 230, that would make it so that the platform is not shielded from liability if its own algorithms, amplify certain speech that is found to be harmful like I don’t know an insurrection in the United States Capitol. So that seems to gain a lot of momentum and a lot of traction.

And that was the assessment. A lot of the senators after that, hearing that this seems to be a place we can focus some attention and get some bipartisan support and actually change the law. So I think I’ll stop with that and hand it back to you, Anne.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thank you so much, David. I’m now going to introduce our other two panelists today and kick off some conversation. So first I’m joined, we’re joined by Kate Tummarello. Kate is the Executive Director of Engine, a nonprofit that works with a community of thousands of high tech growth-oriented startups across the nation to support technology entrepreneurship.

Prior to Engine, Kate worked on surveillance reform issues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And before joining the advocacy community, Kate spent years as a technology policy reporter in DC, including at Politico, The Hill, and Communications Daily. Hi Kate, thanks so much for being here. And I also would now like to introduce Zaki Barjini.

Zaki is a program director for Aspen Digital, where he oversees a range of projects at the intersection of tech policy, equity and justice for underrepresented communities. Zaki’s writing and commentary have appeared in Politico, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, CNN and a variety of other platforms.

So thank you all for being here today. I, why don’t we start with David, you’ve already introduced Section 230 and we know this is a conversation that we’ve been talking a lot about in the news. And it does sound like there are multiple interpretations of its implications on social media platforms.

So, Kate, I’ll turn it over to you if you can. Through the breakdown right now, what Section 230 actually does and the full landscape of what we can think about in terms of interpreting it and changing it going forward.

Understanding Section 230

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So David did a good job outlining kind of the basics of Section 230.

You know, where the conversation stands today. One of the most important things about Section 230 that I think often gets overlooked in DC broadly is the applicability of the law, not just to kind of the tech companies that everyone loves to hate, but to every internet interaction that we do every day.

So like for instance, this platform that we’re speaking on right now is protected by Section 230. It is, you know if I say something defamatory right now which I won’t do, but if I did, the platform that’s hosting this speech won’t get sued. And I think that’s, that’s really important. You know, it, I understand when people are frustrated at Big Tech and kind of some of the outcomes that big Tech has participated in.

But 230 is about much more than Big Tech. And so for us Engine, we work with startups. We’re really concerned about, you know, startups that host photos or startups that create community message boards, places on the internet that you know, is kind of integral to the way that we use the internet

but couldn’t exist without Section 230. You know, the average startup we found has about $55,000 a month to spend, and that’s the average successful startup. So a startup that’s already brought in outside funding. Without Section 230, one lawsuit could wipe them out. That would be the end of the company.

So Facebook, right. If we changed 230 Facebook could get sued more. Probably could navigate most of those lawsuits pretty well. In fact, they probably win most of them because a lot of the underlying speech that we’re complaining about or DC lawmakers are complaining about, isn’t actually illegal. It’s protected by the First Amendment, whether or not we’d like it as a community.

It is. And so Facebook right, could navigate those lawsuits and come out the other end. But for a startup that is not the case. They cannot spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in court. And so from our view, Section 230 is kind of one of the most important legal frameworks that have created the internet of user-generated content.

And sometimes that gets lost. So I appreciate the chance to add that to the debate.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks, Kate. And I have a question from our audience here, digging more into Facebook and 230, perhaps I’ll turn this to David to start. Do you think that the use of AI and algorithms will decrease as Section 230 regulation increases? And what are the implications for Mark Zuckerberg? His metaverse.

David Goodfriend: Ah, Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse. Yes. Keeps me up at night, worrying about his metaverse. I will, I will get right to the point. I think the answer is yes. And it’s going to have to be done in a very careful manner. So as to address the issue that Kate just raised. This probably cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, and there’s precedent for that in the bills that are being considered today.

If you look at some of the bills that were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, they apply to only certain companies of a certain market cap or a certain revenue and above. So there really are very straightforward ways to do reform that protects the startup, protects innovation, protects speech, but then holds companies responsible that have market power.

And I’ll use that term broadly. Market power, sufficient power basically, to change the rules of the game on their own and to hold them responsible for things that may be causing harm. Again, the former Facebook employee who spoke before Congress pointed out that there’s a difference between what is said

and how it’s amplified. And you know, if you think about First Amendment jurisprudence I can stand on a street corner and express my views, but if I got a giant megaphone and sent it out like really loud at 10 o’clock at night, the police would come and arrest me for disturbing the peace. It’s not because of what I said is because of how I was using, the manner in which I was transmitting my speech.

And I think that that will become a focus as a result of this recent testimony. Yes. We’re having a conversation online, but then what does the platform do with various content? Picking and choosing which gets amplified and which does not, it’s not enough, by the way, to say, I didn’t do anything. The algorithm did it.

I think that that’s an important distinction. We should probably discuss here, this intent. Well, I designed an algorithm and then the algorithm evolved and then the algorithm did it. So it can’t be me. It was some machine that did it. That will become an interesting issue of liability. And I think it kind of cuts to the core of

whether or not someone can distance themselves from an outcome by virtue of an algorithm operating machine learning and artificial intelligence taking place. At what point is the human who set it up, become liable for the actions. I think that’s going to be one we’re going to put you on for.

Kate Tummarello: Can I add something there and if that’s okay. I think we know when we talk about Facebook and algorithms, it’s really easy to conceptualize, like, okay, the algorithm is maximizing for engagement, which often means maximizing kind of contentious and controversial and potentially harmful content. And I think that’s, that’s like one specific example, but I also like to remind folks.

The internet without algorithms would probably be very difficult to navigate. Algorithms can actually be quite useful and important. And just because you’re using an algorithm to maximize for something doesn’t necessarily mean the algorithm in itself is the problem. I definitely agree with David that algorithms aren’t like a good distancing pressure.

You can’t say, well, the algorithm did it not meet somebody built the algorithm. But in a lot of ways, We want algorithms and they play a really important role in how we consume information to our benefit as consumers. I, I don’t want to search through 300 pages of search. I want to know the most relevant stuff is at the top.

Same thing with social media. I want to, I want to see the relevant stuff. That’s, that’s why I’m there. I don’t have time to go through 300 pages. And so I just think it’s an important distinction. Algorithms can maximize usefulness. Algorithms can maximize attention. They all can do different things.

And each one needs to be thought of a little differently.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much Kate and you know, walking that back even a step further you’re you’ve said, you know, we rely on our algorithms and our Google search and everything to really function in our virtual workplace. And Zaki we know that you know, so according to Pew, 14% of adults living in households, earning less than $30,000 a year, don’t even have access

to the internet to access these algorithms and all of the things that we rely on today. So if you could talk about what’s happening to make sure to increase access to the internet across all communities.

Tech Policy’s Impact on Underrepresented Communities

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, sure. And first I wanted to tag on to the Section 230 competition real quick. My job at the Aspen Institute is to focus on the intersection of technology and underrepresented communities.

And I think a big part of many communities of color and others that feel marginalized, underrepresented when it comes to Section 230, is that there are not a lot of protections for the usage of technology and social media platforms when they are weaponized against communities in the sense that, you know, hate speech and speech alone is one thing.

But speech that leads directly to real-world violence or real-world actions against communities is another thing entirely. And I think a lot of communities will say that the way, the way that Section 230 is written right now, it gives way too much immunity for tech companies, basically to get away with posting all kinds of speech that leads directly to action that leads directly to harm against these communities.

So I will throw that out through this from another angle to the conversation to answer your other question. Yes. I mean, one of the biggest issues that we have right now, obviously we have a crumbling infrastructure as a country, which is why we have the infrastructure bill coming up, but we also have a crumbling, digital infrastructure.

And COVID, I think has as unearth this. COVID, didn’t create the digital divide, but it’s generally exacerbated and highlighted for everybody to see what now more than ever, you have so many people working from home, learning from home, and you see more than ever that the divide between those has access to the internet and those things are, it is truly life-changing and it is presenting challenges that are greater than ever before to, to allow everybody to kind of have the same access to opportunity and economic success. We’ve also seen at a state-level a lot of these human services that people have depended on for years are themselves failing because of the overload of people trying to access the services for the first time ever.

You’ve seen state by state. So many employment agencies collapsed because they couldn’t handle the usage, the surge of traffic, and usage for people trying to claim their unemployment benefits. You saw that in New Jersey, for example, some of them, some unemployment, their data centers were still running on Qubole.

They were running on coding languages from decades, decades ago. So fixing our digital infrastructure is as important as fixing our physical infrastructure and coupling digital infrastructure. It doesn’t just affect, I mean, even more so than, you know, the average American affects, disproportionately affects communities of color, especially people who already have extra barriers to access, whether it’s language barriers or cultural barriers, they’re even more shut out and prevented from advancing within our economy because they don’t have access to not just internet and not just technology, but also digital literacy skills.

Access to protections from different online threats that might threaten their communities more so than the average user. So it’s a very complex issue. It’s promising to see the infrastructure bill, at least as it stands now, as I think David kind of mentioned, there’s a sizable chunk of money that’s going to go towards expanding broadband and expanding a lot of infrastructure. But I think where the rubber meets the road is when that federal money gets to the states are gonna have a lot of say in how that money is actually used to expand that infrastructure and expand access. And that can make all the difference in whether that access actually is equitably distributed for all the communities that need it. Or if it just sorts of goes into projects that don’t necessarily serve everyone they’re supposed to serve. So I’m curious to see kind of where that implementation space goes.

Anne Dolan: Great. And a followup on that, Zaki, what would, if you could say generally, what would an equitable, you know, use of resources look like and a state program to prioritize a digital infrastructure.

Zaki Barzinji: It’s difficult and it’s going to be different from state to state because what you’re dealing with are different communities are dealing with different geographies where the needs aren’t always the same. I think that you know, especially during COVID, when there was this focus on remote learning, people were looking for kind of cookie-cutter solutions like this idea of giving everybody a hotspot and that’ll be fine and that’ll kind of help close the digital divide.

The truth is it doesn’t always work like that. It works in certain geographies, but not others. What we also need to invest in enterprise-level solutions for an enterprise-level problem, which is digital, the digital divide. In my previous job, I worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We spent a lot of time focusing on how to expand wireless connectivity for communities that could not access it. When you’re dealing with a rural community, the expansion of broadband is the number one issue. But when you’re dealing with an urban community that is densely populated, low-income, connectivity is the number one issue. And so we started looking at more innovative solutions, like for example putting hotspots on buses and driving them into neighborhoods

so the entire neighborhoods could have access to could have wireless access. So I think what we need to do is expand the different types of solutions that we’re investing in that we’re investing federal and state money into because it’s not just a one size fits all solution and understanding those issues and those different types of populations we’re serving at a granular level is the only way that we’re going to actually have equitable access for everybody.

Anne Dolan: Great. Thanks so much for elaborating. As we continue here, I would encourage all of our audience members to check out that Q and feature on the sidebar. If you’ve got questions that you’d like to hear from the panelists today, please do type those in and let us know as we can continue the discussion.

Continuing, you know, along that line of thinking about what do individuals need when it comes to internet access. And at the digital divide, I’m curious, Kate, if you could speak to you know, what startups need and what are, you know, smaller technology companies need to thrive in the year after.

Kate Tummarello: Yeah, absolutely. We always say startups like everyone else need accessible, affordable, reliable internet. That feels really basic. And yet we still have some policy gaps. Lots of people in this country don’t have that. We think kind of an increase in broadband connectivity overall is an increase in opportunities for innovation.

One of the things we hear about from startups a lot is, you know, I had to relocate to a city that has fiber internet, or I had to relocate to a place that has better internet or even to a coworking space that has better internet. Cause I can’t get it at home. And that’s, that’s a huge missed opportunity for the, you know, next source of paychecks and jobs and economic growth in the country.

These are people that we want to be supporting. And we want policies that allow them to launch creative, innovative businesses, and a lot of the country, they just don’t have the technical internet connectivity. They need to do that. And that’s, I think a really yeah, a missed opportunity and one that I hope policymakers, you know, continue to work towards fixing. I will say connectivity is one of the major policy issues we hear about from startups, that and access to capital.

Those are kind of the two first things you run into when you’re trying to launch a business is the ability to like, you know, pay for a hosting provider and a coworking space and any equipment you need and then the ability to get online. And so I think you know, we should be prioritizing that voice, especially when we think about how to best help small businesses.

It’s, it’s pretty straightforward. They need to be on the internet.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. That makes sense. And you know, building on this idea, I, you know, growing companies and growing jobs, like we know that information technology is the fastest-growing sector in the country for job creation. As, as we get more folks connected across the country we’d love to hear from the whole panel, you know, what, what do you think the future of technology jobs look like?

How do we make sure they’re open to all?

Future of Technology Jobs

David Goodfriend: Well, I’d love to jump in on this one because I didn’t mention this at the top, but I represent labor unions in addition to having worked with technology companies. And there’s a very important intersection between these two issues of protecting workers and facilitating a healthy growing digital economy.

I mentioned that former Facebook worker who blew the whistle and came forward. I represent a union, the Communications Workers of America that’s now starting to organize workers at Alphabet. And what they say is this is really good for consumers because if tech workers are actually protected by a union, they will feel empowered to raise a flag.

If there’s something bad going on that, if consumers, just like what this former Facebook employee did. And if you want a really good example of that, look at what happened when unionized bank tellers at Wells Fargo were the ones to raise their hand and alert the world about a checking account scandal that was being pushed down the throats of employees.

And that was actually harming consumers horribly. So the first thing I’ll say on this subject is yes, there is going to be an evolving workforce. There are going to be. Our jobs and our economy and the information age, but don’t think for a minute that if you wear a suit to work instead of a jumpsuit, that you are somehow not facing the same problems that workers have faced for a long, long time.

And there’s a really simple answer, which is workers getting together collectively, and that the law in the United States allows that the second thing I’ll say real quickly is you also have these related labor markets that may not be programmers, but they are people working in very, you know, challenging jobs that are related to technology.

And here’s a really good example, Amazon. Amazon typically in the past has used third-party transportation, logistics companies like FedEx or UPS to deliver a package. But increasingly Amazon is internalizing its own logistics function. And then what we believe is happening is Amazon is leveraging its market power in the online retail space

in order to force the use of its own logistics. Of course, you can imagine driving a truck for Amazon, you get paid a lot less than driving a truck for UPS. That’s a way that our workforce and technology are intersecting. I might even say colliding is that you have a real impact from technology on traditional industries and the brick and mortar world and workers are definitely being impacted by that.

But again, there’s a really straightforward answer to this and that is giving workers a voice and giving work as an opportunity to get together in order to present their issues collectively.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much for that, David. Zaki do you have anything to add as it relates to your work and you know, inclusive tech, technological jobs?

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what David’s saying is, right, obviously we’re just generally across the board, we’re seeing a massive shift in such a short amount of time in what our workforce is looking like, and it’s going to look like but a big component of that is also making sure

in this new workforce, it’s as inclusive as possible. So the Aspen Institute just last month put out a report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in cybersecurity. And this coming week, as many of you know, we are in Hispanic Heritage Month, so we’ll be releasing an additional report that focuses on Latinos and technology and the types of gaps and challenges that face those communities.

I think that one of the biggest sort of takeaways is I think the tech industry is acknowledging and realizing that it has an issue of it as a diversity issue when it comes to talent. I think especially with the past year or two as our country, as we reckoned with issues of race more so than ever, a lot of tech companies had come forward and made pretty big commitments and ensuring that they become better spaces for justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I think it’s sort of, we’re at a time right now with tech industries is really buying into that and doing more than just lip service. But I think that we have to look at it as more than just like a talent pipeline issue. Like the solution is not just to hire more brown people. The solution is to help empower entire communities to be able to be active members of the digital economy.

And what that means is a multifaceted approach to ensuring that from an early age, educational opportunities are consistent for all communities that these types of jobs and industries are socialized with young people at an early age, that they even know that this is a potential career opportunity for them to take on.

It also means understanding and acknowledging people who are entering the tech workforce can have a variety of different backgrounds. You’re seeing a lot of companies now take more proactive steps in looking at a holistic candidate for these jobs, rather than just kind of what’s on their resume. A couple of companies have even started making commitments,

I believe IBM is one of them to make a certain percentage of all the jobs that hires moving from not require a four-year degree, because the idea is that a four-year degree is less and less relevant and less and less necessary from a wide variety of these tech jobs. So I think that as the workforce itself, and as the types of jobs changed, the way that we hire and the way that we create pipelines for talent has to also change.

And I think it’s happening, but it has to happen in a more kind of holistic and targeted way. The other thing is that you have to also different communities face different types of barriers to entering into the workforce, especially, and that’s doubly true Florida tech workforce as well. So taking a more targeted, tailored approach to understanding that every community is different, has different needs.

Even sub-industries under the tech industry are different in terms of what they need and matching that talent to that job in a way that meshes well in terms of the actual skills that are needed is an important step that has to happen. And I think that there’s a lot more work to be done on that front.

Kate Tummarello: So we think about this, not just from the employee perspective, but also from the founder perspective and, you know, want to make sure that you know, anybody with a good idea can launch a company no matter where they live or what they look like.

I think that’s a really important thing about making our startup ecosystem resilient and successful. And so we think a lot about policies that could encourage, not just a robust tech and cybersecurity workforce, but a robust and diverse one. And there’s a couple of things the government can and should be doing right, boosting STEM education programming, especially in communities that haven’t historically seen an emphasis on that. So like HBCUs use or community colleges, those are really fertile grounds for getting more people involved in this field. And then I also think there’s a really important role that government plays when it controls the purse strings.

So when the government is you know, issuing grants or you know, signing government contracts, those are both places where the government can be focusing on, you know, founders and companies that are diverse and inclusive. And I think a big step of that is just having more diverse folks, making the decisions in the government to begin with.

Right. This has to kind of start from the top. And it’s hard to, you know, we know diverse teams produce better products. They produce products that work for more people. And so making sure that that’s you know, conscious effort throughout the whole process is really important.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. David, you’re un-muted I’ll let you take it away.

David Goodfriend: I just wanted to give a verbal high-five Kate for that one and underscore one of the points that she made. It’s appalling how bad Congress is at the staff level at hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. Appalling. And it leads to all kinds of criticisms of hypocrisy.

When Congress is saying, Hey America, we need a more diverse workforce and they turn out and look at their own staff and they’re failing miserably. It’s, it’s a problem. And one of the things, I don’t think this is limited only to Congress. I mean, I have a son who went to work at a talent agency in New York City that ran at the same thing, really low pay for the entry-level jobs.

So the point where only certain kids from certain families who can get an extra check from mom and dad can even afford to do it. That’s how it happens. So, if you want to diversify our workforce in powerful places, well make it affordable for people of lesser means to go start a career there, because at the moment we are absolutely setting up, you know, unrelated barriers to entry, but unrelated, I mean, it’s not based on talent.

It’s based on what zip code you come from.

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. And thinking about, you know, one, you know, who, who is staffing in Congress and, and you know, who are the decision-makers in their support staff, as they think about the full you know, breadth of information and knowledge that Congress needs to have as it relates to quickly changing and complex technology policy.

Can Congress keep up with this rapid change and how, how can they stay informed and make decisions?

How Congress Can Keep Up With Rapidly Changing Tech

David Goodfriend: I think it’s safe to say that Congress is an inherently reactive institution. So by definition, lawmakers respond to pressure or events, and yet some of the best laws, the most longstanding, you know, stand the test of time type law.

Are the ones that speak in terms of principles. This is the outcome we desire, not micromanaging how to get there because inevitably that is going to become outdated. But good legislation will respond to a problem with articulating a principle that has to be met as opposed to, you know, writing something that looks like a contract that was negotiated in the backroom.

Federal Champions of Tech Policy

Anne Dolan: Absolutely. I think that makes it makes good sense. Right? Don’t force them to get in the weeds with something that will become out of date. As you think about those members of Congress and leaders would love to hear from each of our panelists one or two policymakers that you see as the major influencers in this space, I will start with maybe Kate, I’ll start with you.

Kate Tummarello: Sure. I mean, first, that comes to mind is Senator Wyden. He wrote 230 back in the day, 1996. And I think had the, really, just the ability to see into the future and appreciate that evolving case law at the time. And the early nineties would not have led to an internet where moderation was incentivized.

Case law in the nineties directly incentivized companies not to moderate. And so 230 was written to kind of provide an incentive to moderate and the responsibility on behalf of the speaker, not the platform. I think that was a very, it’s a very smart framework and I don’t know we would have the internet we have today without it.

So appreciate his ability to, to look into the future that way. And I think, you know, On privacy, another big issue that we haven’t gotten into yet. There’s a lot of lawmakers who are advancing kind of really thoughtful versions of the same thing. So like Maria Cantwell has a bill.

Senator Wicker has a bill. There’s a bunch of bills from Energy and Commerce members. I think we’re all kind of coalescing around one set of ideas. And I think that’s a sign that people are being thoughtful in wanting to come to the table when everyone, everyone has smart thoughts.

Anne Dolan: Zaki, a policy leader that you’d like to add to who is charting the way here.

Zaki Barzinji: Yeah. I’m a little biased because I’m from Virginia, but I would say Senator Mark Warner for better, for worse has been doing quite a lot in the space. I mean, on several of the topics we’ve been talking about Senator Mark Warner I think I for better or worse has seen himself as being a tech leader himself, even though the tech company he was a part of, is several decades old by now.

And when it comes to, for example, Section 230, the issue that I was talking about before, where you have some communities raising issues of social media platforms, not being held accountable for civil rights, abuse, and human rights abuses Senator Warner was one of the senators have introduced, I think it was called the safety.

I don’t know, I can’t comment on the merits of that actual act, but the problem it was meant to address was one of making sure that communities of color and other marginalized communities have better protections under 230 because those platforms could be used to violate civil rights and human rights.

And so he was very instrumental in introducing that topic of conversation into the open 230 debate. Also, Senator Warner is one of the people who talk the most about the gig economy and the need for changes in labor laws and practices to ensure that this whole new class of workers that we have, whether they’re Uber drivers, DoorDashdrivers, et cetera, having a more robust framework of regulation and support as essential contractor employee, that he’s been one of the people I think leading the fights

against deregulation when it comes to labor laws for these newer types of workers. So Senator Mark Warner for better or for worse, I think has been a leader on these issues.

Anne Dolan: Thanks so much. And David had a member of Congress that you’d like to add to, for our folks to, to keep following.

David Goodfriend: Only one. I only get one member. Oh my God.

Well, in addition to all the ones that have already been mentioned, I think we have to name the chairs of the Antitrust Subcommittee. David Cicilline the Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar on the Senate. Of course, Amy Klobuchar also sits on the Commerce Committee in the Senate. They are moving bills that if passed would have a tremendous impact on the technology sector. The question is whether they become law.

On the Republican side Congressman Buck from Colorado, who’s the ranking member of the House Antitrust sub-committee. Can’t overstate the importance of a Republican joining with a Democrat on anything these days. I mean, that happens. Everybody’s head should snap back and be like, what’s that.

That’s kind of important. And finally, I just want to point out that in the hearings, on the House side, when the tech platforms CEOs were brought in instead of the laughable train wreck that had happened in the past when tech CEOs came to testify in front of Congress and the members clearly had no idea what they’re talking.

We saw some star performances by some young new House members Congressman Neguse from Colorado, Congresswoman Jayapal from Washington, Congresswoman McBath from Georgia. Anyway, they asked some great incisive questions that showed a lot of sophisticated understanding of technology and legal principles. And I think those, that sort of group of young bloods that gets it, watch out they are going to only gain an influence. I think as the years, go by.