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In some ways, anything hyped as high as the Silicon Valley fairy tale was bound to face a reputational fall eventually. But the blemishes driving that backlash were also plentiful, and varied. There was bro culture, sexism and sexual harassment. Data breaches — lots of data breaches. Broken laws. Allegations of theft. Ripped-off employees and independent contractors. Privacy violations, disinformation, fake accounts and other user abuses, and changing stories about how much firms knew about them. Lobbying. Lying. Leaching. There was too little gatekeeping in toxic social-media environments. Or too much of the sort of gatekeeping that threatens free speech, depending on your political persuasion. The amplification of outrage culture, but also of white nationalism, xenophobia and conspiracy theories. The radicalization of young men worldwide into terrorists, evidenced most recently — though hardly exclusively — in the horrific slaughters at two New Zealand mosques. The list goes on, and the outcome is plain. A sector once seen as a bunch of plucky underdogs has become viewed by many as a greedy, parasitic monolith, indifferent to its effects on democracy, civility, human rights.
Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple might not get away as cleanly as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, released proposals this month that would force tech breakups and impose severe restrictions on what remained. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, covered more briefly some of the same ground, saying, “We have a major monopoly problem.” At a moment when nearly everything in America seems wildly contentious, antitrust action against tech is getting a sober look. Antitrust is the nuclear bomb of regulatory policy, but the reaction to Ms. Warren’s and Ms. Klobuchar’s ideas was surprisingly receptive.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is banning a deadly chemical, often used in paint strippers, from being sold to consumers after a long campaign from safety advocates. The EPA said Friday that it was putting forth a final rule to remove the chemical methylene chloride from the retail consumer marketplace and prohibit the manufacturing, importation and processing of the chemical for consumer use. Consumer advocates and environmentalists have long argued that methylene chloride is dangerous for humans to handle, linking it to a number of child and worker deaths.
An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is probing the reported spike in injuries related to the use of electric scooters. The devices, among the latest transportation fads, have become ubiquitous on many U.S. streets and sidewalks. The CDC is working in collaboration with the Austin Public Health Department in “developing and evaluating methods to find and count the number of injuries related to dockless electric scooters,” a CDC spokeswoman said.
Cargo ships are so big that crews often have no idea they struck a whale unless they see a carcass when they reach port. Many container ships that enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are more than 1,000 feet long. Recovery rates are low because struck whales tend to sink upon death. Others are never spotted because of ocean currents and decomposition. Ship strikes alone kill more than 80 whales off the West Coast each year, according to 2017 estimates made by Point Blue Conservation Science and Cascadia Research Collective.
Federal prosecutors and Department of Transportation officials are scrutinizing the development of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jetliners, according to people familiar with the matter, unusual inquiries that come amid probes of regulators’ safety approvals of the new plane. A grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a broad subpoena dated March 11 to at least one person involved in the 737 MAX’s development, seeking related documents, including correspondence, emails and other messages, one of these people said.
Some of the country’s most powerful state attorneys general are signaling they’re willing to take action against Facebook, Google and other tech giants, warning that the companies have grown too big and powerful -- and that Washington has been too slow to respond. For many of these top law enforcement officials, the fear is that Silicon Valley has amassed too much personal information about web users and harnessed it in a way that’s jeopardized people’s privacy and undermined competition, often without much oversight. Federal regulators have the primary responsibility for keeping watch over Silicon Valley -- they can break up monopolies, for example, and penalize companies for privacy abuses. But some state officials feel that Washington bears some of the blame for the tech industry’s string of scandals in the first place. In response, states like Arizona and Mississippi now are taking aim at Google for the way it collects and monetizes web users’ data. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, is challenging Facebook’s business practices in court.
State laws create a patchwork of measures that fill the void created by a lack of federal regulations that seems unlikely to come anytime soon. They also fill a need for certainty in how the government collaborates with the private sector on security and help companies learn from best practices that raise overall cybersecurity standards. Businesses, their customers and their shareholders prefer certainty over hype, even if that certainty varies from state to state. Companies at least have an understanding of what’s expected of them through a blueprint of cybersecurity policies that have been vetted and enforced by others. Moving forward, state leaders must continue to push the boundaries with their own cybersecurity laws and must work together to share best practices. Meanwhile, federal agencies would do well to see beyond the confines of their organization to promote more standardized versions of national cybersecurity regulations and guidelines.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent political interference with public science research amid what they called "President Trump's multi-agency assault." The lawmakers said in a press release that political interference has been a "longstanding concern that has taken on newfound urgency" in the current administration. Provisions in the "Science Integrity Act" intend to make it so that political considerations do not factor into scientific conclusions, to prohibit the suppression of scientific findings and to allow scientists to answer media inquiries about their work without prior agency approval.
The top securities agency in the United States has accused Volkswagen of undertaking a “massive fraud” and lying to investors, the latest in an ongoing diesel emissions scandal that has beleaguered the German carmaker. The Securities and Exchange Commission said late Thursday that it was suing Volkswagen and Martin Winterkorn, its former chief executive, in a case related to a decade-long scheme undertaken by one of the world’s biggest carmakers to fudge its diesel emissions testing. The agency is seeking to bar Mr. Winterkorn from being an executive director of any publicly listed company in the United States. It is also seeking to recover what it called “ill-gotten gains” from Volkswagen.
Emergency call centers sometimes have a hard time pinpointing an address when a person dials 911 from their cellphone. Sussing out where inside a building the caller is located is even tougher. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday is set to vote on a new standard that would for the first time specify how precise the in-building vertical location data that wireless carriers send 911 call centers must be.
Friday’s slaughter in a New Zealand mosque, like mass shootings before it, had its seeds on one of the darkest corners of the Internet, a chat room where anonymous people appeared to talk openly about the attack before, during and after it happened. But technology played a more visible -- and arguably more troubling -- role in publicizing the violence itself and, by extension, the hate-filled ideology behind it. And yet again, the biggest players in America’s rich, massive and sophisticated technology industry -- YouTube, Twitter and Facebook -- failed to rapidly quell this spread as it metastasized across platforms, bringing horrific images to Internet users in a worldwide, dystopian video loop.
That tobacco companies once sold sugar-sweetened drinks like Tang, Capri Sun and Kool-Aid is not exactly news. But researchers combing through a vast archive of cigarette company documents at the University of California, San Francisco stumbled on something revealing: Internal correspondence showed how tobacco executives, barred from targeting children for cigarette sales, focused their marketing prowess on young people to sell sugary beverages in ways that had not been done before.
President Trump’s executive order on Wednesday afternoon to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8s was a necessary step. But it is a step that should have been taken directly by the federal agency responsible for aviation safety. That it came from the White House instead speaks to a profound crisis of public confidence in the F.A.A. The roots of this crisis can be found in a major change the agency instituted in its regulatory responsibility in 2005. Rather than naming and supervising its own “designated airworthiness representatives,” the agency decided to allow Boeing and other manufacturers who qualified under the revised procedures to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft. This is a worrying move toward industry self-certification. Since this new “regulatory” scheme took effect, the aviation industry has introduced two new aircraft types, both of which have encountered serious problems.
Within the past week alone, it has been revealed that Wells Fargo agreed to refund customers more than $17 million for selling them on high-fee mutual funds while neglecting to adequately inform them about less costly options. A New York Times investigation published Saturday detailed how bank employees are still challenged to meet sales quotas. This comes on top of such additional revelations as the fact that Wells Fargo improperly foreclosed on several hundred homes, and saddled unwitting customers with pet insurance. Anything for a sale, I guess. As for the CFPB, it was the subject of a semiannual review in the Senate on Tuesday, one taking place at the same time House members were grilling Sloan. The agency that once brought Wells Fargo to public attention is now, under the Trump administration, all but gutted.
The Trump administration stood firm behind Boeing and its troubled 737 MAX — until it didn’t. For two days, the nation’s top transportation safety regulators didn’t sway from their decision to let Boeing’s money-making workhorse continue carrying passengers across the U.S., even as governments including China, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the European Union and finally Canada declared it too dangerous to fly. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao rode in a 737 MAX back to Washington, D.C. from Austin on Tuesday. President Donald Trump kept his silence, aside from griping on Twitter that planes are becoming too complicated for pilots to handle. Then Trump reversed course Wednesday afternoon — preempting his own aviation regulators and appearing to surprise at least one airline with an announcement that all 737 MAX planes operating in the U.S. would be grounded immediately, and indefinitely.
Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, intensifying scrutiny of the social media giant’s business practices as it seeks to rebound from a year of scandal and setbacks. A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform.
A bipartisan pair of U.S. senators want to give Wall Street’s top cop more power to recover funds for burned investors. The legislation, to be introduced on Thursday, would allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to recover money for harmed investors based upon wrongdoing that occurred as much as a decade ago.
With a showman’s sense of the dramatic, Katie Porter bent under her desk and brought up a poster with the blowup of a quote from Wells Fargo’s response to a federal lawsuit that appeared to contradict Sloan’s promises. Why were the bank’s lawyers arguing in court that Sloan’s statements in the 2017 document were examples of “corporate puffery,” she asked. On Porter’s Twitter account, clips of the exchange were quickly retweeted, becoming the kind of gotcha moment for which the congresswoman is becoming known.
Automobile maker Fiat Chrysler has agreed to recall 862,520 vehicles in the U.S. that don't meet emissions standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday. The recall is the result of an EPA emissions investigation and follows testing conducted by Fiat Chrysler, the EPA said. The EPA said the recall will affect 2011-2016 Dodge Journeys, 2011-2014 Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers, 2011-2012 Dodge Calibers and 2011-2016 Jeep Compass/Patriots..
The number of workplace safety inspectors has fallen during the two-plus years of the Trump administration, leading to fewer in-depth investigations of on-the-job dangers, according to a new analysis of Labor Department records. The National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, said staffing and inspection data show the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has “dramatically reduced” its pursuit of complex cases that typically lead to big fines. That, the group argues, indicates the agency is being less proactive in enforcing the law and keeping workers safe.
Thirty-five Congressional mandates sit unanswered, on everything from minimum seat space to secondary barriers protecting cockpits. The top job at the Federal Aviation Administration has been open for 14 months. Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines have dropped 88% in the past two years, even as three-hour tarmac delays have more than doubled. The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao has seemingly been delayed on a number of issues important to travelers. Even with airlines begging for rules on emotional-support animals, and both Republicans and Democrats expressing concerns about swollen fees, shrunken seating and punitive airline policies, the DOT has been loath to issue new regulations.
Tasked with protecting Americans against harmful financial practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken a less aggressive approach under the Trump Administration, according to a pair of new reports, one given exclusively to USA TODAY. The CFPB doled out 35 enforcement actions with fines of $5,000 and above against corporations in the first two years of the Trump Administration, down from 64 in the last two years of the Obama Administration, according to Public Citizen, using a database compiled by Good Jobs First, an advocacy group promoting corporate and government accountability.
Democratic 2020 presidential candidates will meet in rural Iowa later this month to debate monopolies and approaches to antitrust enforcement, The Hill has confirmed. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former Rep. John Delaney (Md.) and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro will participate in the presidential forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, on March 30, according to a spokeswoman for the event. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) will also attend. The event is being hosted by HuffPost, the Storm Lake Times, the Open Markets Institute and the Iowa Farm Bureau.
House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters said regulators should consider removing Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan from his job, declaring that the giant bank has made little progress in overhauling itself after a raft of abuses affecting millions of consumers. “This hearing has revealed Wells Fargo has failed to clean up its act, it’s too big to manage, and the steps regulators have taken to date are inadequate,” Waters, a California Democrat, said Tuesday at the end of a four-hour session where Sloan was grilled by lawmakers.