Musk attacks Apple; SF oks killer police bots – Tech Law & Policy this Week

Tech Policy Leaders

Dec 3 2022 • 5 mins

Hey everybody, I’m Joe Miller and here’s what’s going on in the world of tech law & policy this week.

The Federal Election Commission has adopted rules to regulate political advertising online.

  • Why is it important? For years, the FEC has required certain disclosures for political advertisements appearing in on broadcast media outlets. The updated rules will apply the same rules to online advertising.
  • What doesn’t it cover? These new rules do not cover social media posts promoted for a fee.
  • Who supports the new rules? This measure is bipartisan and passed the Federal Election Commission unanimously.
  • What are advocates saying? Some are saying the rules were rushed through and that not including the provision covering promoted posts creates a loophole. Others say the rules aren’t clear. But either way, most seem to think some rules applying to political advertisements on social media are necessary.

China cracks down on Tiktok posts about protests over President Xi Jinping’s COVID lockdowns.

  • Why is China involved in telling Tiktok what to do? TikTok is owned by ByteDance – a company based in China and, unlike in the United States, government officials have seats on company boards and more discretion to direct corporate activities.
  • What does this mean for US-based users? The answer isn’t clear but U.S. officials have long been concerned about potential data collection by the Chinese government about what U.S.-based TikTok users do on the platform. This could help China make insights about how to run propaganda campaigns like we saw during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
  • What does this mean for public policy? Well, president Biden met with President Xi in mid-November amidst growing concerns in the administration about China’s aggression towards Taiwan and other issues the U.S. finds threatening to democracy in the region. President Xi’s new oversight over what’s happening on TikTok indicates he isn’t really all that interested in loosening his grip over Chinese citizens and the global media ecosystem.

The Justice Department considers rules barring companies from using messaging apps.

  • Why? The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are the two federal agencies that have expressed the most concern regarding what companies are doing to engage in required monitoring of company communications. External apps with disappearing messages features, like WhatsApp, may be tempting to corporate executives looking to break the law without leaving a paper trail.

Musk and Republicans fight Apple over its alleged threats to pull Twitter from its app store.

  • What’s happening? Elon Musk went on a tirade against Apple for allegedly threatening to remove Twitter from the app store. Republicans, who have expressed concerns over an alleged “anti-conservative bias” on Twitter, have teamed up with Musk to fight what they call Google and Apple’s app store duo poly.
  • Where does the dispute stand? On Wednesday, according to the Washington Post, Musk met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday where they apparently had a chance to clear the air. Musk tweeted that there had been a simple misunderstanding and that Apple hadn’t actually been planning to remove Twitter from the app store.
  • What’s next? Well, Republicans will have control over the House in the next Congress so it’s foreseeable that there will be some sort of antitrust measure to prohibit app stores from favoring certain apps or requiring developers to use Apple or Google’s payment systems. But what’s less clear is how a Democratic-controlled Senate would receive those proposals.

In other tech law & policy news …

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a measure that would allow robots to kill suspects. Advocates say this will have a disparate impact on communities of color.

A group of female truck drivers has filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook, Instagram, and WhatApp’s parent company, Meta. The group alleges that Meta discriminates against them because they say the company shows most ads for trucking jobs to men.

Twitter has lifted its ban on COVID-related mis- and disinformation.