Supreme Court Arguments May Be Turning Point for N.C.A.A.

“It would be easy for schools to label such internships ‘related to education,’ even if a star athlete was given, say, a six-month ‘internship’ at a sneaker company or auto dealership that paid $500,000,” a brief filed in February said. “But fans, student-athletes and everyone else would recognize the reality: that student-athletes were being paid large sums in cash for their athletic play — with the ‘internships’ a thinly disguised vehicle for funneling them quintessentially professional salaries.”

The Supreme Court last considered how antitrust laws applied to the association in 1984, ruling that its restrictions on television coverage of college football games were unlawful. But the decision, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, included an influential passage on student-athletes.

“The N.C.A.A. plays a critical role in the maintenance of a revered tradition of amateurism in college sports,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. “There can be no question but that it needs ample latitude to play that role, or that the preservation of the student-athlete in higher education adds richness and diversity to intercollegiate athletics and is entirely consistent with the goals of” the antitrust laws.

The Biden administration filed a brief supporting the athletes in the new case, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, No. 20-512, saying that the Ninth Circuit had struck the right balance.

“Promoting amateurism widens consumer choice, and thereby enhances competition, by maintaining a distinction between college and professional athletics,” the brief said. But “some of the challenged rules did not actually foster consumer demand.”

Besides the coronavirus pandemic, no issue has recently demanded more of the N.C.A.A.’s attention than the rights of student-athletes, especially whether they should be able to profit from their fame. College sports executives have long feared that loosening age-old rules would effectively professionalize students and open a different array of challenges, but they have faced mounting pressure over the past few years from Congress and many of the nation’s statehouses. Most crucially, a Florida law that directly challenges the N.C.A.A.’s policies is scheduled to take effect this summer, and California legislators are considering a proposal to speed up a similar measure there.

Although the N.C.A.A. has vowed to rewrite its rules, it delayed final approval over the winter after the Trump administration’s Justice Department raised misgivings. And Congress has not rushed to give the association the kind of political and legal cover it craves.

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Lawmakers Grill Tech C.E.O.s on Capitol Riot, Getting Few Direct Answers

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers grilled the leaders of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday about the connection between online disinformation and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, causing Twitter’s chief executive to publicly admit for the first time that his product had played a role in the events that left five people dead.

When a Democratic lawmaker asked the executives to answer with a “yes” or a “no” whether the platforms bore some responsibility for the misinformation that had contributed to the riot, Jack Dorsey of Twitter said “yes.” Neither Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook nor Sundar Pichai of Google would answer the question directly.

The roughly five-hour hearing before a House committee marked the first time lawmakers directly questioned the chief executives regarding social media’s role in the January riot. The tech bosses were also peppered with questions about how their companies helped spread falsehoods around Covid-19 vaccines, enable racism and hurt children’s mental health.

It was also the first time the executives had testified since President Biden’s inauguration. Tough questioning from lawmakers signaled that scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s business practices would not let up, and could even intensify, with Democrats in the White House and leading both chambers of Congress.

tweeted a single question mark with a poll that had two options: “Yes” or “No.” When asked about his tweet by a lawmaker, he said “yes” was winning.

The January riot at the Capitol has made the issue of disinformation deeply personal for lawmakers. The riot was fueled by false claims from President Donald J. Trump and others that the election had been stolen, which were rampant on social media.

Some of the participants had connections to QAnon and other online conspiracy theories. And prosecutors have said that groups involved in the riot, including the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, coordinated some of their actions on social media.

ban Mr. Trump and his associates after the Jan. 6 riots. The bans hardened views by conservatives that the companies are left-leaning and are inclined to squelch conservative voices.

“We’re all aware of Big Tech’s ever-increasing censorship of conservative voices and their commitment to serve the radical progressive agenda,” said Representative Bob Latta of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the panel’s technology subcommittee.

The company leaders defended their businesses, saying they had invested heavily in hiring content moderators and in technology like artificial intelligence, used to identify and fight disinformation.

Mr. Zuckerberg argued against the notion that his company had a financial incentive to juice its users’ attention by driving them toward more extreme content. He said Facebook didn’t design “algorithms in order to just kind of try to tweak and optimize and get people to spend every last minute on our service.”

He added later in the hearing that elections disinformation was spread in messaging apps, where amplification and algorithms don’t aid in spread of false content. He also blamed television and other traditional media for spreading election lies.

The companies showed fissures in their view on regulations. Facebook has vocally supported internet regulations in a major advertising blitz on television and in newspapers. In the hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested specific regulatory reforms to a key legal shield, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that has helped Facebook and other Silicon Valley internet giants thrive.

The legal shield protects companies that host and moderate third-party content, and says companies like Google and Twitter are simply intermediaries of their user-generated content. Democrats have argued that with that protection, companies aren’t motivated to remove disinformation. Republicans accuse the companies of using the shield to moderate too much and to take down content that doesn’t represent their political viewpoints.

“I believe that Section 230 would benefit from thoughtful changes to make it work better for people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in the statement.

He proposed that liability protection for companies be conditional on their ability to fight the spread of certain types of unlawful content. He said platforms should be required to demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it. Reforms, he said, should be different for smaller social networks, which wouldn’t have the same resources like Facebook to meet new requirements.

Mr. Pichai and Mr. Dorsey said they supported requirements of transparency in content moderation but fell short of agreeing with Mr. Zuckerberg’s other ideas. Mr. Dorsey said that it would be very difficult to distinguish a large platform from a smaller one.

Lawmakers did not appear to be won over.

“There’s a lot of smugness among you,” said Representative Bill Johnson, a Republican of Ohio. “There’s this air of untouchable-ness in your responses to many of the tough questions that you’re being asked.”

Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting.

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Biden nominates Lina Khan, a vocal critic of Big Tech, to the F.T.C.

President Biden on Monday nominated Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission, installing a vocal critic of Big Tech into a key oversight role of the industry.

If her nomination is approved by the Senate, Ms. Khan, 32, would fill one of two empty seats earmarked for Democrats at the F.T.C.

Ms. Khan became recognized for her ideas on antitrust with a Yale Law Journal paper in 2017 called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” that accused Amazon of abusing its monopoly power and put a critical focus on decades-old legal theories that relied heavily on price increases as the underlying measure of antitrust violations.

She served as a senior adviser to Rohit Chopra when he was F.T.C. commissioner. Most recently, she was a leading counsel member to a 16-month-long investigation of online platforms and competition by the House antitrust subcommittee. As a result, Democratic leaders on the subcommittee called for the breakup of Big Tech and legislation to strengthen enforcement of competition violations across the economy.

said in an interview with The New York Times in 2018. “But as citizens, as workers, and as entrepreneurs, we recognize that their power is troubling. We need a new framework, a new vocabulary for how to assess and address their dominance.”

Ms. Khan is the second prominent advocate of breaking up the large tech companies placed by the Biden administration in top antitrust roles. Also this month, Mr. Biden picked Tim Wu, a prominent critic of Google, Facebook and Amazon, as special assistant to the president on competition policy.

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Microsoft takes aim at Google as it supports bill to give news publishers more leverage over Big Tech.

Lawmakers on Friday debated an antitrust bill that would give news publishers collective bargaining power with online platforms like Facebook and Google, putting the spotlight on a proposal aimed at chipping away at the power of Big Tech.

At a hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, emerged as a leading industry voice in favor of the law. He took a divergent path from his tech counterparts, pointing to an imbalance in power between publishers and tech platforms. Newspaper ad revenue plummeted to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005, he said, while ad revenue at Google jumped to $116 billion from $6.1 billion.

“Even though news helps fuel search engines, news organizations frequently are uncompensated or, at best, undercompensated for its use,” Mr. Smith said. “The problems that beset journalism today are caused in part by a fundamental lack of competition in the search and ad tech markets that are controlled by Google.”

The hearing was the second in a series planned by the subcommittee to set the stage for the creation of stronger antitrust laws. In October, the subcommittee, led by Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, released the results of a 16-month investigation into the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The report accused the companies of monopoly behavior.

This week, the committee’s two top leaders, Mr. Cicilline and Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, introduced the Journalism and Competition Preservation Act. The bill aims to give smaller news publishers the ability to band together to bargain with online platforms for higher fees for distributing their content. The bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of that chamber’s antitrust subcommittee.

Global concern is growing over the decline of local news organizations, which have become dependent on online platforms for distribution of their content. Australia recently proposed a law allowing news publishers to bargain with Google and Facebook, and lawmakers in Canada and Britain are considering similar steps.

Mr. Cicilline said, “While I do not view this legislation as a substitute for more meaningful competition online — including structural remedies to address the underlying problems in the market — it is clear that we must do something in the short term to save trustworthy journalism before it is lost forever.”

Google, though not a witness at the hearing, issued a statement in response to Mr. Smith’s planned testimony, defending its business practices and disparaging the motives of Microsoft, whose Bing search engine runs a very distant second place behind Google.

“Unfortunately, as competition in these areas intensifies, they are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests,” wrote Kent Walker, the senior vice president of policy for Google.

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Lina Khan Would Bring a Tough Antitrust Voice

The Teamsters asked the F.T.C. to pause review of the deal. In a letter sent today to the agency’s acting chairwoman, Rebecca Slaughter, the union requested that the agency wait for one of two things:

There are other issues at play. Marathon has locked out 200 union workers at a refinery in Minnesota. And unions have had an often tense relationship with activist hedge funds like Elliott, whom they have accused of calling for layoffs that affect union members. (In its letter to the F.T.C., the Teamsters union criticized what it called “Elliott’s singular desire to liquidate Marathon’s assets to fund enormous share buybacks and special dividends.”)

But the agency is already far along in its review. Marathon executives, who hope to close the deal by the end of the first quarter, confirmed on a call with analysts last month that they had responded to a second request for information from the F.T.C. and were working on solutions. (The proposed buyer of Speedway, Seven and I, is reportedly looking to sell up to 300 gas stations to ease the agency’s concerns.)


David Nussbaum, the investment banker who co-created the SPAC in 1993, on how his financial innovation has become a hot trend on Wall Street


Companies are increasingly under public pressure to be more open, with political spending getting particular attention since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Proponents of greater transparency say that demand is growing: “The disclosure train will be leaving the station,” Bruce Freed, the president of the nonprofit Center for Political Accountability, told DealBook.

The SEC is all about E.S.G. Transparency around political giving is considered a governance issue. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission said it would form a task force focused on issues around climate and environmental, social and governance concerns, making both priorities for its examinations division. And corporate disclosures — particularly around political spending — were a recurring theme in the testimony of Gary Gensler, President Biden’s pick to lead the S.E.C., in his Senate confirmation hearing.

This year “is going to be really transformative,” said Josh Levin, the C.E.O. of the investment platform OpenInvest, which lets financial advisers adjust client portfolios based on companies’ openness on political spending. The platform uses an annual ranking of S&P 500 companies based on their politics and lobbying disclosure policies.

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Lina Khan, a Big Tech critic, is expected to be nominated to the Federal Trade Commission.

WASHINGTON — President Biden is expected to name Lina Khan, a law professor and leading critic of the tech industry’s power, to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission, a person with knowledge of the decision said on Tuesday.

An appointment of Ms. Khan, the author of a breakthrough Yale Law Journal paper in 2016 that accused Amazon of abusing its monopoly power, would be the latest sign that the Biden administration planned to take an aggressive posture toward tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Last week, the administration said Tim Wu, another top critic of the industry, would join the National Economic Council as a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

Ms. Khan recently served as legal counsel for the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee and was among aides who conducted a 19-month investigation into the tech giants’ monopoly power. The committee produced a report advocating major changes to antitrust laws. Before that, she served as an aide to a member of the Federal Trade Commission, Rohit Chopra, a champion of her ideas on antitrust policy.

Ms. Khan, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, would fill one of three Democratic seats on the five-member F.T.C. In December, the commission sued Facebook, accusing it of antitrust violations, and called for breaking up the company. The agency is also investing Amazon for antitrust violations.

Rumors of Ms. Khan’s appointment, which were reported earlier by Politico, immediately sparked strong reactions on Tuesday. Public Citizen, a left-leaning nonprofit public advocacy group, cheered the possibility. The organization and many progressive groups have denounced the F.T.C.’s history — particularly during the Obama administration — for lax enforcement of technology companies. They argue that the federal government’s permissive attitude toward mergers by the tech giants, including Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, helped the Silicon Valley companies grow quickly and dominate their rivals.

“The F.T.C. has failed to take on corporate abuses of power including rampant antitrust violations, privacy intrusions, data security breaches and mergers, and Khan’s appointment as a commissioner at the agency hopefully will herald a new day,” Public Citizen said in a statement.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate antitrust subcommittee, said Ms. Khan would be a bad fit for the job, however.

“Her views on antitrust enforcement are also wildly out of step with a prudent approach to the law,” Mr. Lee said in a statement. “Nominating Ms. Khan would signal that President Biden intends to put ideology and politics ahead of competent antitrust enforcement, which would be gravely disappointing at a time when it is absolutely critical that we have strong and effective leadership at the enforcement agencies.”

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A Leading Critic of Big Tech Will Join the White House

His role, with a focus on competition policy, will be a new one in the National Economic Council. Mr. Wu will also focus on competition in labor policy, such as noncompete clauses enforced by companies, and concentration in power in agriculture and the drug industry. The job does not require Senate approval.

Mr. Biden has not yet named nominees to officially lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Trade Commission — the main agencies overseeing competition in commerce. Progressives have vociferously fought for the appointments of left-leaning advocates like Mr. Wu over individuals with histories of working for tech companies and law firms that represent them.

“Tim has been a longtime antitrust advocate, and he has pushed public officials to break up and rein in Big Tech,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “I’m glad to see him in this role.”

Mr. Wu has left academia at various times to work in government. He was a special adviser to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 and 2012 and then joined the National Economic Council to work on competition policy during the Obama administration, which was known for its kid-glove treatment of tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon. Mr. Wu has since expressed some regret.

“I worked in the Obama administra­tion, and I worked in antitrust, so I will take some personal blame here, but we have not provided the merger oversight we should have,” Mr. Wu said in an interview at the Aspen Ideas festival in 2019. He added that “maybe sometimes we had an overly rosy view” of the tech sector.

Relatively unbridled by regulations, those companies greatly expanded through mergers and acquisitions during President Barack Obama’s two terms. Mr. Wu has talked about the pivot of many Democrats since those days, with the realization that the tech giants have failed to live up to promises to protect user data, treat small competitors fairly and root out misinformation from their platforms.

Mr. Wu is best known for advocacy against powerful telecom companies and for coining the term “net neutrality,” the regulatory philosophy that consumers should get equal access to all content on the internet. More recently, he has turned his attention to the gatekeepers — like Facebook, Google and Amazon — that dominate speech, search and retail online.

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