On Wednesday, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced that the company would begin showing users in its app “crypto sentiment scores” for members of Congress, rating lawmakers on how “negative” or “positive” they have been toward cryptocurrency.
Armstrong said the ratings were partly based on a scorecard created by the Coinbase-backed Crypto Action Network, an advocacy group that recently released grades for policymakers based on the positivity or negativity of their statements, policies and votes on the issue.
Two of Congress’s most outspoken cryptocurrency skeptics, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), rebuffed the lobbying campaign.
“The only two F’s that I’ve ever been proud to receive: one from the [National Rifle Association] and now one from Coinbase,” Sherman, who has called for outlawing cryptocurrency, told The Technology 202. “Just another example of the crypto industry wading into politics to stay as lightly regulated as possible and protect their billions in profits.”
“Receiving a grade of F from the crypto lobbying group is a badge of honor,” said Warren, who has called for tighter consumer protection regulations against cryptocurrency. Warren said receiving a “positive” crypto score shouldn’t mean “wanting to protect a system in which people get cheated out of their money … or a system in which insiders rake in all the profits and leave all the losses for individuals who don’t have the big bucks to play.”
The Crypto Action Network gave its highest A grades to Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), among others. Gillibrand and Lummis introduced a proposal empowering the industry’s preferred regulator, and Wyden has pushed back on calls for heavy regulation. Warren and Sherman received the only F grades.
According to Coinbase, “The crypto sentiment rating was compiled using publicly available data including legislative records, media statements, social media posts, caucus membership, and public letters.” The company did not offer comment on the lawmakers’ remarks.
Coinbase’s move notably marks a far more direct approach to trying to influence voters and lawmakers than much of the tech sector has taken in recent years.
Major tech companies have increasingly shied away from overtly public lobbying campaigns, relying instead on networks of trade associations and armies of lobbyists to blitz Washington.
They rarely endorse specific legislative proposals, and their political campaign donations tend to be evenly divided between moderates in both parties and major PACs. Some prominent companies, including Apple and Twitter, famously shut down their PACs, while others have at times halted donations due to political developments, including the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While many advocacy groups grade lawmakers on how much their policies align, it’s exceedingly rare for a company to publicly rate them, including in the tech sector.
The move signals an aggressive lobbying posture by the crypto community. Armstrong said the company eventually plans to “help pro-crypto candidates solicit donations [in crypto] from the crypto community.”
While some of its lobbying tactics appear uncommon, the crypto industry has also increasingly invested in the same playbook as many of its Silicon Valley peers — starting trade associations to push for its preferred policies and hiring lobbyists to launch on Capitol Hill.
Despite an uptick in spending, crypto lobbying is still dwarfed by industry giants.
As my colleague Tory Newmyer reported, “The industry shelled out $8.9 million on lobbying through the first half of this year, surpassing the $7.7 million it spent all of last year, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.”
By comparison, Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook parent-company Meta have spent almost $95 million on lobbying since 2021 as they face regulatory threats in Congress. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
White House announces efforts by tech companies to counter violent extremism
Social media services including Facebook parent Meta, Microsoft, Twitch and YouTube announced new initiatives to limit the spread of hateful rhetoric as the White House convened a summit on hate-fueled violence, Cat Zakrzewski reports. It comes after pressure on the companies in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., where shooters posted violent rhetoric online.
“YouTube will update its policies to remove videos glorifying acts for the purpose of inspiring others or fundraising, even when the creators don’t have links to terrorist groups,” Cat writes. “Twitch, an Amazon-owned streaming service, soon will roll out new tools to help its creators improve safety and limit harassment on their channels. And Microsoft will launch online safety education for students and families within its popular game Minecraft.”
The FTC says it will scrutinize gig companies’ practices
In a policy statement, the Federal Trade Commission said gig companies have to be honest with potential workers about costs and benefits, need to keep their promises to gig workers and can’t have illegal contracts with workers. The FTC also said it would investigate “evidence of agreements between gig companies to illegally fix wages, benefits, or fees for gig workers that should be open to competition” and “exclusionary or predatory conduct that could cause harm to customers or reduced compensation or poorer working conditions for gig workers.”
The statement passed 3-2 with the support of all three of the commission’s Democrats.
“No matter how gig companies choose to classify them, gig workers are consumers entitled to protection under the laws we enforce,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said in a statement. “We are fully committed to coordinating our consumer protection and competition enforcement efforts within the FTC as well as working with other agencies across the government to ensure gig workers are treated fairly.”
California’s governor signs law aimed at protecting children online
The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act requires tech platforms to assess whether their new products could harm children before releasing them and offer privacy guardrails by default to their younger users. The bill, which California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed Thursday, overwhelmingly passed California’s Senate and State Assembly.
The law could increase pressure on lawmakers in Washington to act on legislation focusing on privacy and children.
It came under fire from tech trade groups, which lobbied against the bill and argued that it would stifle innovation and violate free speech protections while not adequately protecting families. In a statement Thursday, Newsom’s office said the bill “strikes a balance that protects kids, and ensures that technology companies will have clear rules of the road that will allow them to continue to innovate.”
TikTok revealed TikTok Now, a new feature that lets users post daily photos or videos at spontaneous times, Bloomberg News’s Sabiq Shahidullah reports. It’s similar to social media app BeReal. Reporter Herb Scribner:
Editor and reporter Aoife Barry:
Writer Amanda Silberling:
- Bruce Miller joined BSA | The Software Alliance as its senior director for legislative strategy. Miller previously worked as Kyndryl’s director of federal legislative affairs.
- A House Oversight and Reform Committee panel holds a hearing on federal IT today at 9 a.m.
- Rep. Michael R. Turner (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, speaks at a Heritage Foundation event on countering foreign misinformation and disinformation while protecting civil liberties Monday at 1 p.m.
- Dragos Tudorache, a member of the European Parliament who is the co-rapporteur of the E.U. AI Act, speaks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Monday at 3:30 p.m.
- A Senate Judiciary Committee panel holds a hearing on antitrust enforcement Tuesday at 3 p.m.
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