With help from John Hendel
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— Veep highlights: In a wide-ranging discussion that was a departure from the chaos of the Trump-Biden debate, the square-off for second-in-command hit on innovation, China, trade, infrastructure and election integrity.
— Misinfo monitor: Although President Donald Trump is widely viewed as a top spreader of misinformation, more than a quarter of Americans also think members of Congress and Joe Biden play a considerable role in its spread, a Gallup/Knight Foundation study finds.
— Pile-on continues for Amazon: Less than 24 hours after one House panel dropped its blockbuster antitrust report on Amazon et. al, leaders of another House panel wrote to CEO Jeff Bezos demanding answers on dangerous Amazon-brand products for sale on the site.
GREETINGS, TECHLINGS: IT’S THURSDAY. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
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VICE PRESIDENTIAL TECH TALK — What a difference a week makes: Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris had a far more productive debate than their bosses did, getting into several issues of concern for the tech world like the economy and American global competitiveness.
— Harris more than once accused the Trump administration of not believing in science, suggesting that the U.S. has, as a result, fallen behind as a leader in innovation: “There was a time when our country believed in science and invested in research and development so that we were an innovation leader on the globe,” she said.
— Pence more than once referred to Joe Biden as a longtime “cheerleader” for Communist China, even as “China is to blame for the coronavirus,” he said. He warned that “Biden wants to go back to the economic surrender to China… [and] to repeal all of the tariffs that President Trump put into effect to fight for American jobs and American workers.” Harris, meanwhile, criticized the Trump administration’s trade war with China.
“Leaders of all of our formerly allied countries have now decided that they hold in greater esteem and respect Xi Jinping, the head of the Chinese Communist Party, than they do Donald Trump. … This is where we are today, because of a failure of leadership by this administration.”
— Other passing tidbits: Pence snubbed the Senator for voting against the USMCA. (At one point a fly landed in his hair, setting Twitter aflame.) Harris touted Biden’s planned investments in infrastructure. And, accusing Trump of having more allegiance to dictators like Vladimir Putin than to his own country and intelligence personnel, she warned that Russia’s election interference in 2016 is again playing in 2020.
IS MISINFORMATION OKAY IF IT MEANS WINNING AN ELECTION? — Most Americans, regardless of political leaning, agree that it’s wrong to spread misinformation for the sake of getting a candidate elected, according to a Gallup/Knight Foundation study out this morning. (Just 2 percent support such a strategy.) Even so, four out of five Americans fear that internet misinformation will affect the results of the November elections, per the survey. More than half of those polled see Donald Trump and social media platforms as the top culprits — but more than a quarter also worry that Republican and Democratic members of Congress, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and major newspapers are responsible for spreading “a great deal” of misinformation on current events.
— Social media’s latest on misinformation: In a move to better protect the integrity of the election, Facebook Wednesday evening announced plans to block all political and issue ads after polls close on Nov. 3, Nancy reports. (Google recently decided to do the same.) The update comes a month after the social network said it would block new political and issue ads in the week leading up to Election Day — at which point CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there would be no further changes to its election-related policies.
— On that cheery note: The Democratic National Committee’s chief technology officer, Nellwyn Thomas, is joining the Institute for Security and Technology today for a conversation on disinformation, political warfare and election security. You can register here to tune in live.
GAO: TRUMP 5G SECURITY STRATEGY FALLS SHORT — The Government Accountability Office on Wednesday gave a mixed review to the 11-page 5G wireless security plan that President Trump released in March. GAO suggested more work remains as the executive branch fine-tunes its approach. The Trump administration has long faced pressure to shore up its 5G goals in the face of perceived security threats from China and its telecom giant Huawei.
— One big piece is missing, the government watchdog told lawmakers: the 5G strategy’s cost and details about needed “resources and investments.” GAO said the administration needs to help fill those in. Although GAO spoke with administration officials in the Commerce Department and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Security Council officials declined to meet with GAO or answer any questions about the interagency strategy effort, according to GAO.
— And a deadline blown: Trump was also supposed to submit an implementation plan for this strategy to Congress by Sept. 23, according to a law, S. 893 (116), he signed in March. Commerce Department officials, who collected public input on developing one this summer, told GAO they hope to wrap up the implementation plan by the end of this month.
HOUSE LEADERS WANT ANSWERS ON AMAZON PRODUCT RECALLS — The day after the House antitrust subcommittee dropped its blockbuster report on alleged abuses by tech giants including Amazon, another powerful House panel fired off a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos over product safety concerns. After a recent CNN investigation revealed how malfunctioning electronics from Amazon’s product line, AmazonBasics, were endangering customers while still being sold on the site, House Energy and Commerce leaders are pressing the company to formally investigate and recall defective products.
— ”We have long been concerned with the proliferation of recalled, defective, mislabeled, counterfeit, and fundamentally unsafe products sold on Amazon.com,” Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and consumer protection subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wrote Wednesday to Bezos. “The new concerns regarding Amazon’s own product line add to mounting questions about Amazon’s priorities and oversight of its sprawling platform. … Amazon has turned a blind eye to these problems, prioritizing sales at the expense of safety.” They also said the CNN report captured “just the tip of the iceberg” on safety issues with Amazon’s own goods, asking for answers to a number of related queries by Oct. 21.
MT EXCLUSIVE: SPARKNOTES FOR THE LOOMING GOOGLE ANTITRUST SUIT — The Justice Department and state attorneys general are gearing up to sue Google any day now for alleged antitrust abuses. This could be the first significant monopolization case DOJ has filed under Section 2 of the Sherman Act in two decades. While Washington waits, the American Economic Liberties Project has put out an explainer on what that means, how it works, and what will happen after DOJ files its complaint.
— Spoiler alert: A Section 2 case won’t necessarily fix Google’s allegedly anti-competitive behavior, according to the group, which champions stronger antitrust enforcement. “Antitrust litigation is only one of the many actions enforcers and policymakers need to take to restructure Google’s monopoly power,” the organization writes. Read its hot take here.
Former Senate staffer Riki Parikh, who most recently worked in corporate communications at LinkedIn, has joined Facebook to lead comms for Nick Clegg, the company’s joint head of policy and communications. … Scientist Thomas J. Fuchs was appointed Co-Director of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Health at Mount Sinai, Dean of Artificial Intelligence and Human Health, and Professor of Computational Pathology and Computer Science at Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine.
The FCC announced Karen Peltz Strauss, Claude L. Stout and Tom Wlodkowski as this year’s winners of the Chairman’s Awards for Advancements in Accessibility, which honor individuals who’ve made strides to improve tech and telecom access for those with disabilities.
SCOTUS watch: “The Supreme Court justices appeared highly aware Wednesday that their decision in a copyright dispute between Google and Oracle could have far-reaching consequences for Silicon Valley,” Steven reports, “but after an hour and a half of arguments it was not clear which company’s dire warning they most seemed to believe.”
City limits: “Civil-rights organizations and activists sued San Francisco Wednesday,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “alleging police illegally tapped into a network of more than 400 surveillance cameras to keep track of police-brutality protesters this spring.” More here from the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
ICYMI: A new report from the Anti-Defamation League found that “Jewish members of Congress are facing anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter in the lead-up to the November election,” WSJ reports.
Taking on QAnon, continued: As tech companies one-by-one move to crack down on QAnon, Etsy is now banning merch touting the fringe conspiracy theory, Insider reports.
Across the pond: “A low-profile investment firm is trying to entice the head of TikTok’s parent company with a long-shot alternative bid, as the popular video-sharing app remains caught in a standoff between the U.S. and China,” WSJ reports.
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