Hillicon Valley — Big Tech bills left out of spending package

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A swath of bills aimed at revamping antitrust laws and kids’ online safety rules were left out of the $1.7 trillion government spending bill, after months of fierce pushback from the tech industry.  

Meanwhile, Twitter’s potential for a viable future under Elon Musk appears to have reached its bleakest point yet after a brutal weekend and the CEO indicating he may step down from the top spot.  

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Antitrust, kids’ safety bills don’t make the cut

Bipartisan bills targeting the nation’s largest tech firms failed to make it into the
$1.7 trillion government spending bill, squelching what supporters said was the best effort to pass the bills before House Republicans take control in the new year.  

Supporters of efforts to revamp antitrust laws, as well as update kids’ online safety regulations, hoped to add such measures to the omnibus funding bill in a last-ditch effort to pass them this year, but a swath of tech bills was left out, according to text released early Tuesday.  

  • A couple of less controversial antitrust reform bills, including one to update merger filing fees and another to let states choose the venue for antitrust enforcement cases, made it into the text. But on the whole, the multiyear bipartisan effort to reform competition bills to target tech giants appears to have failed as the current Congress winds down. 
  • Supporters had been pushing for two other antitrust bills, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which aims to limit tech companies from preferencing their own products and services, and the Open App Markets Act, which aims to impose additional regulations on dominant app stores. The proposals came out of a House Judiciary Committee investigation into the market power of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, now under the parent company name Meta.  

Both of the bills advanced out of the House and Senate Judiciary committees with bipartisan support but appear to be falling by the wayside without coming up for a vote on the floor of either chamber as the 117th Congress comes to a close. 

TikTok ban makes it in: Some less controversial tech bills did make it into the omnibus text, including a proposal to ban TikTok on government devices. The federal proposal follows momentum among GOP states to put in place the same ban on state government devices. 

Read more here.  

Twitter’s brutal weekend raises questions

Twitter’s potential for a viable future under Elon Musk appears to have reached its bleakest point in the course of his roughly seven-week run as its owner. 

Over the weekend, Musk faced a familiar chorus of criticism from politicians, pundits and regulators in the U.S. and abroad over his ever-changing Twitter policies and suspensions of journalists. But even some of Musk’s Silicon Valley supporters changed their tune and balked at Musk’s latest decisions as “Chief Twit.” 

Musk isn’t beholden to a board, after taking the company private when closing his $44 billion deal in October, but he indicated Sunday he may “step down” after polling his 122 million followers and broader Twitter community.  

  • More than 57 percent of the 17.5 million poll respondents told Musk he should relinquish his role as Twitter CEO. 
  • The poll lacks any substance to require Musk to follow through, but so far in his less than two months serving as Twitter CEO, he has abided by the results of the Twitter polls that have guided several of his controversial policy changes.  

The policy-by-poll process seems to be part of the reason Musk is facing a multipronged battle. The quick changing policies and seemingly erratic decisions are leading to pushback from the business community, regulators and users.  

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said the poll results are not a surprise, calling the state of Musk-run Twitter a “disaster of epic proportions.” 

“I think even he is reading the room, recognizing the clock struck 12. The patience has worn thin,” Ives told The Hill. 

Read more here.  


TikTok is planning to add its reasoning for why videos are recommended for users as part of a push for transparency amid rising scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and state governments. 

The company said in a post on Tuesday it is rolling out a new tool in the upcoming weeks to add context to the content that is recommended in users’ “For You” feeds. 

It said the system recommends content based on a variety of factors from a user’s activity on the app and adjusts for what they indicate they are not interested in.  

The tool will allow users to press the “share” button to reveal a menu with a question mark icon called “Why this video.” Pressing the icon will reveal the reasons the video was recommended, such as explaining a video is based on a user’s interactions, is from an account they follow or is suggested for them, is content posted recently in their region or is content that is popular in their region. 

Read more here.


An op-ed to chew on: The rich and powerful: What’s the state of oligarchs in 2022? 

Notable links from around the web: 

Big Tech Divided and Conquered to Block Key Bipartisan Bills (Bloomberg / Emily Birnbaum) 

Tired, Filthy, and Overworked: Inside Amazon’s Holiday Rush (Wired / Anna Kramer)

🎄 Lighter click: Nothing to see here

One more thing: Musk says Warren has harmed US

Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Tuesday that the United States has “definitely” been harmed by having Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) serve in the Senate. 

Musk made the comment in response to a tweet from former Tesla program manager Farzad Mesbahi, who is now a content creator, according to his LinkedIn profile. Mesbahi retweeted a post about a letter that Warren sent to the chairman of the board of Tesla, of which Musk is the majority shareholder, asking if shareholders have been hurt financially by Musk’s time running Twitter. 

“Elizabeth Warren is the last person I would ever want anywhere close to Tesla,” Mesbahi posted

Tesla stock has lost almost a third of its value since Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter at the end of October. 

Warren wrote in her letter that she is concerned Tesla’s board has “failed to meet” its “legal duty” to ensure Musk is not treating the company as his “private plaything.” She also asked how the board is handling “conflicts of interest, misappropriation of corporate assets, and other actions by Mr. Musk that appear not to be in the best interests of Tesla and its shareholders.”

Read more here. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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