Archive for the ‘congress’ Category

Congress at SXSW: Yes, we’re dumb about tech, and here’s what we should do

March 13th, 2019
The United States Capitol Building, the seat of Congress, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Enlarge / The United States Capitol Building, the seat of Congress, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (credit: Omar Chatriwala / Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas—Some legislators have an easier time attracting a sexy headline at an arts-and-tech conference like South By Southwest. Famous Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren did just that over the weekend with their respective, radical suggestions about government oversight.

Meanwhile, other members of Congress sat in poorly attended panels, and their low numbers weren't helped with snooze-worthy names like "Politicians Yell at the Cloud" and "Politicians in Tech: When the Bubble Bursts." But what these panels lacked in pizzazz, they made up for with fascinating context, direct from three House Representatives, on how starved our American Congress is in terms of staffing and support for understanding and tackling America's biggest tech priorities.

The Senate is “woefully uninformed”

Conveniently for Congress's most tech-fluent members, they had an easy reference point to use for their messaging. "There was a glaring lack of knowledge from Senators when they interviewed [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg," Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said on Sunday, in reference to a 2018 Congressional hearing. "They were woefully uninformed."

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Posted in congress, elizabeth warren, Policy, SXSW, SXSW2019 | Comments (0)

Bipartisan carbon-tax bill introduced in the Senate offers glimpse at future

December 20th, 2018
Senators Flake and Coons

Enlarge / US Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced a senate bill to impose a carbon tax on major industrial carbon emitters throughout the US. The Senate bill is a version of a bipartisan House bill that was introduced in late November. Although most analysis agrees that neither bill stands any chance of becoming law, they are important as concrete examples of avenues that US lawmakers are taking to explore bipartisan climate-change policy.

Traditionally, Republicans have resisted addressing climate change in any way whatsoever, with current Republican President Donald Trump baselessly calling climate science into question and hiring agency secretaries, advisors, and administrators who repeat similarly empty claims. But some Republicans in the House and the Senate have pushed back on this, especially in Florida where sea-level rise and increasingly violent hurricanes threaten the economy more directly than in other parts of the US.

The carbon-tax idea was re-introduced this year by Florida's Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo. (Curbelo lost his seat to a Democrat in the midterm election this year.) The idea of a carbon tax is attractive to many Republicans because it discourages carbon emissions via a market mechanism and protects big companies like Exxon from other kinds of government intervention. A carbon tax is a predictable, monetary lever with uniform increases over several decades; in other words, it's easy for companies to plan for in their balance sheets.

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Posted in carbon tax, congress, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Republicans in Congress grill Google CEO over liberal bias

December 12th, 2018
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before House Judiciary Committee.

Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before House Judiciary Committee. (credit: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, members of Congress grilled Google CEO Sundar Pichai about a variety of topics, from user privacy to the possibility of a censored Chinese search engine. But the focus of the hearing was political bias.

"A while back Republicans passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare," said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH). During the debate over that legislation, Chabot said, he Googled the Republican legislation and "virtually every article was an attack on our bill. It wasn't until you got to the third or fourth page of search results before you found anything remotely positive."

Chabot was just one of several Republican committee members who charged that Google's search algorithms—and its employees—were biased against conservatives. But Pichai stood firm, insisting that Google has rigorous procedures in place to ensure that the personal political views of Google employees doesn't undermine the objectivity of search results.

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Posted in congress, google, house judiciary committee, Policy | Comments (0)

Net neutrality bill 38 votes short in Congress, and time has almost run out

December 11th, 2018
The dome of the United State Capitol Building against a deep blue sky in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / The dome of the United State Capitol Building in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Phil Roeder)

Legislation to restore net neutrality rules now has 180 supporters in the US House of Representatives, but that's 38 votes short of the amount needed before the end of the month.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, already approved by the Senate, would reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules. But 218 signatures from US representatives (a majority) are needed to force a full vote in the House before Congress adjourns at the end of the year.

Net neutrality advocates previously said they needed 218 signatures by December 10 to force a vote. But an extension of Congress' session provided a little more time.

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Posted in congress, FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

Congress: Amazon didn’t give “sufficient answers” about facial recognition

November 29th, 2018
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, in May 2018.

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, in May 2018. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Seven members of the House of Representatives and one United States senator have now sent a second letter to Amazon's CEO, asking for more clarification about the company's use of facial-recognition technology.

Although two House members in the group sent a similar letter to CEO Jeff Bezos back in July, the larger group now says that Amazon "failed to provide sufficient answers" about its commercial facial-recognition program, known as Rekognition. Prior to the July letter, the American Civil Liberties Union used the service in a demonstration of its inadequacy—the service falsely matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots.

The new letter, issued on Thursday, was signed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), among others. The document states that the legislators have "serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans' willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public."

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Posted in amazon, congress, Edward Markey, Jeff Bezos, jimmy gomez, Policy, rekognition | Comments (0)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai will face lawmakers at a hearing next week

November 28th, 2018
Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (credit: Chesnot/Getty Images)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to testify before Congress next Wednesday, December 5. The hearing will give members of the House Judiciary Committee a long-awaited opportunity to grill Pichai about a wide range of issues, from user privacy to free speech in China.

Google angered some members of Congress in September when the company refused to send either one of its two most senior executives—Pichai or Alphabet CEO Larry Page—to testify before a September hearing on election security before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That hearing featured Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg—as well as an empty chair marked "Google."

According to the Washington Post, next week's hearing is occurring at the request of House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who has raised concerns that Google may be biased against conservatives—and that this bias may be seeping into the policies of Google's search engine, YouTube, and other products. A recently-leaked video showed Google executives openly mourning Hillary Clinton's loss after the 2016 election.

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Posted in Bob Goodlatte, congress, google, Kevin McCarthy, Policy, Sundar Pichai | Comments (0)