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Congress passes spending bill with TikTok ban on government devices

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Researchers on the University of Vermont analyzed 1,000 TikTok videos under the most well-liked hashtags related to body image and eating

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Under the bipartisan spending bill that passed each chambers of Congress on Friday, TikTok will likely be banned from government devices, underscoring the growing concern in regards to the popular video-sharing app owned by China’s ByteDance.

The bill, which still must be signed into law by President Joe Biden, also calls on e-commerce platforms to do more vetting to assist deter counterfeit goods from being sold online, and forces corporations pursuing large mergers to pay more to file with federal antitrust agencies.

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Congress didn’t pass a lot of essentially the most aggressive bills targeting tech, including antitrust laws that will require app stores developed by Apple and Google to offer developers more payment options, and a measure mandating recent guardrails to guard kids online. And though Congress made more headway this yr than up to now toward a compromise bill on national privacy standards, there stays only a patchwork of state laws determining how consumer data is protected.

Center-left tech industry group Chamber of Progress cheered the exclusion of several antitrust bills that will have targeted its backers, which include Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta.

“What you do not see on this yr’s omnibus are the more controversial measures which have raised red flags on issues like content moderation,” Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said in an announcement following the discharge of the package text earlier this week. The group earlier raised concerns a few distinguished antitrust measure, the American Innovation and Alternative Online Act.

One other industry group, NetChoice, also applauded Congress for “refusing to incorporate radical and unchecked progressive proposals to overhaul American antitrust law on this omnibus.”

However the bills lawmakers passed within the spending package will still make their mark on the tech industry in other ways.

TikTok ban on government devices

The banning of TikTok on government devices may gain advantage rival platforms like Snap and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram that also fight for young consumers’ attention. The bill includes an exception for law enforcement, national security and research purposes.

Lawmakers on each side of the aisle, in addition to FBI Director Christopher Wray, have voiced fear that TikTok’s ownership structure could make U.S. user data vulnerable, since corporations based in China could also be required by law at hand over user information. TikTok has repeatedly said its U.S. user data just isn’t based in China, though those assurances have done little to alleviate concern.

The corporate has been working toward a cope with the administration to assuage national security fears through the Committee on Foreign Investment within the U.S.

“We’re disillusioned that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices — a political gesture that can do nothing to advance national security interests — fairly than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an announcement following the discharge of the package text. “The agreement under review by CFIUS will meaningfully address any security concerns which were raised at each the federal and state level. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies — plans that we’re well underway in implementing — to further secure our platform in the USA, and we are going to proceed to transient lawmakers on them.”

Deterring online counterfeit sales

The spending package also includes the INFORM Consumers Act, which seeks to discourage counterfeit, stolen or harmful products from being sold online. The bill requires online marketplaces like Amazon to promptly collect information like bank and phone details from “any high-volume third party seller” and to confirm that data.

Though Amazon initially opposed the bill last yr, writing that it was “pushed by some big-box retailers” and claiming it will punish small businesses that sell online, the corporate ended up supporting a version of the bill, saying it was necessary to have a federal standard fairly than a patchwork of state laws. Etsy and eBay had earlier supported the bill.

“Passing the bipartisan INFORM Act could be a serious victory for consumers, who should know who they’re buying from after they visit a web based marketplace,” Kovacevich said in an announcement. “This laws has been through years of hearings and markups and has earned the support of each parties in addition to brick-and-mortar stores and online marketplaces.”

Etsy’s head of Americas advocacy and public policy, Jeffrey Zubricki, said in an announcement the bill “will achieve our shared goal of protecting consumers from bad actors while avoiding overly broad disclosure requirements that will harm our sellers’ privacy and hinder their ability to run their creative businesses.”

Higher fees for giant mergers

While more ambitious antitrust measures targeting digital platforms didn’t make it into the end-of-year laws, there may be one bill to assist raise money for the antitrust agencies that scrutinize mergers. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act will raise the price corporations pursuing large mergers must pay to file with the antitrust agencies, as they’re required to do under the law. The bill also lowers the price for smaller deals and allows the fees to be adjusted every year based on the buyer price index.

The measure is supposed to assist fund the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which have seen a big uptick in merger filings over the past few years without adequate budget increases.

While it fell in need of antitrust advocates’ hopes, the inclusion of the merger filing fee bill still gained praise.

“That is a serious milestone for the anti-monopoly movement,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, backed partly by the Omidyar Network. Miller said the bill will “significantly strengthen antitrust law for the primary time since 1976.”

“Big Tech, Big Ag and Big Pharma spent extraordinary sums in an unprecedented effort to maintain Congress from delivering on antitrust reform and undermine the power of state and federal enforcers to uphold the law — and so they lost,” Miller added.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who sponsored the bill, said in an announcement earlier this week its inclusion “is a very important step to restructure merger fees after a long time of the established order so we will provide our antitrust enforcers with the resources they should do their jobs.”

“That is clearly the start of this fight and never the tip,” she said. “I’ll proceed to work across the aisle to guard consumers and strengthen competition.”

Empowering state AGs in antitrust cases

One other antitrust bill included within the package was a version of the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act. The bill gives state attorneys general the identical power as federal enforcers in antitrust cases to decide on the district by which they create their cases and stop them from being consolidated in a special district.

Under the laws, corporations defending against claims of antitrust violations won’t have the option to choose what they perceive to be a more favorable venue to fight the case.

That is what happened in an antitrust case against Google brought by a gaggle of state attorneys general accusing the corporate of illegally monopolizing the digital promoting market. The corporate transferred the case from Texas to Recent York, to be heard alongside private antitrust complaints against the corporate within the pretrial proceedings.

Last yr, attorneys general from 52 states and territories wrote Congress in support of the laws.

Transparency on ransomware attacks

The bipartisan RANSOMWARE Act also made it into the spending bill, requiring the FTC to report back to Congress on the number and sorts of foreign ransomware or other cyberattack complaints it receives.

The FTC also must report back to Congress trends in numbers it sees in these complaints, including people who come from individuals, corporations or governments of foreign adversaries like China, North Korea, Iran and Russia. And it must share information on its litigation actions related to those cases and their results.

The FTC can even share recommendations for brand new laws to strengthen resilience against these attacks in addition to for best practices that companies can follow to guard themselves.

Research into tech impacts on kids

A version of the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act is included within the package, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct or support research on the consequences of media and technology on infants, kids and adolescents.

Those effects could include the impact on cognitive, mental and physical health by technologies like social media, artificial intelligence, video games or virtual reality, in response to the laws. The director of the National Institutes of Health must deliver a report back to Congress on its work inside two years of the law’s enactment.

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