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Congress looks to push 911 calls into the 21st century with texts, videos and photos

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A next-generation 911 would allow the nation’s 6,000 911 centers to accept texts, videos and photos.

The big picture: U.S. emergency communications have remained stubbornly analog, but Congress is about to take another run at dragging 911 into the digital age.


Why it matters: Giving people ways to reach 911 beyond voice calls could save citizens’ and first responders’ lives.

Driving the news: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Senate Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced a bill Thursday that would create a $10 billion federal grant program for upgrades to the nation’s 911 centers.

  • “In a crisis, no one should be put in danger because of outdated 9-1-1 systems, and first responders, public safety officials, and law enforcement must be able to communicate seamlessly,” said Klobuchar, who will push to include the funding in Democrats’ reconciliation spending plan.
  • Similarly, the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved its own proposal this week for a $10 billion boost for next-generation 911 as part of the $3.5 trillion spending package.

How it works: Expanding 911 to accept more kinds of digital data would add more resiliency to a system that’s still built around a copper-based telephone network.

  • According to the FCC, almost 3,000 911 centers are capable of receiving text messages. But none have full capabilities to take data from smartphones, said Harriet Rennie-Brown, executive director of the National Association of State 911 Administrators.
  • “You have this amazing device in your hand, and we can’t use all of the information it’s capable of sending us,” Rennie-Brown told Axios.

What they’re saying: “Right now Americans are enduring the most frequent and severe natural disasters in recorded history — meanwhile our country’s 9-1-1 operators are being asked to respond with outdated technology from a bygone era,” House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “Next generation 9-1-1 is about saving lives.”

The other side: Republicans opposed the House proposal during a marathon markup session Monday after Democrats voted against Republican amendments.

  • One amendment from Republicans would have prohibited the new funding to go to 911 centers in cities that voted on defunding their police departments.
  • “Our amendment simply says let’s not waste any of it,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said. “You don’t want police support. You don’t want to fund the police, deal with it yourself.”

The intrigue: The House proposal would not allow the funding to go to states that divert funds from the 911 fees on consumer phone bills to non-911 purposes.

  • The Federal Communications Commission, in an annual report spotlighting fee diverters, said 5 states used a portion of their 911 funds to support public safety programs unrelated to 911.
  • The FCC said Pallone’s home state of New Jersey, and New York, home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also used a portion of their funds for either non-public safety or “unspecified” uses.
  • The FCC this year created a “strike force” to recommend ways to end 911 fee diversion, and that group is expected to vote on its report Friday.

Source: https://www.axios.com/congress-911-calls-digital-update-emergency-services-f1d575c6-bf6a-42f6-a707-29e848cab8cd.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Margaret Harding McGill

Biden’s cybersecurity summit shows interdependence of government and industry

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After assembling a team of tough-minded regulators to take on big technology companies, the Biden administration on Wednesday called on many of those same companies to work with the federal government to address a growing wave of cyberattacks.

Driving the news: A White House summit between President Biden and tech leaders Wednesday, including the CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, concluded with a raft of announcements of new cybersecurity projects and spending plans.


  • Microsoft said it would spend an additional $20 billion over five years on “security by design” and offer $150 million in technical services to federal, state and local governments.
  • Google plans to spend $10 billion over five years on zero-trust programs and other measures to bolster software supply chains and open-source security.
  • Amazon said it would offer the public free access to the same “security awareness training” it provides its employees.
  • IBM said it would train 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills over three years and partner with 20 historically Black colleges and universities to create cybersecurity leadership centers.
  • Apple said it was starting a new program to enhance supply chain security.

Why it matters: Defending the U.S. against cyberattacks and cybercrime is too big a problem for either government or industry to solve on their own.

Yes, but: It’s an awkward moment for the White House to be trying to partner with tech companies that the executive branch is also pursuing with antitrust lawsuits and investigations.

Of note: Facebook was the one tech giant without a seat at the White House table Wednesday.

  • The company is fresh off a confrontation with the Biden administration over the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.
  • But Facebook is also the primary online touchpoint for tens of millions of Americans in their personal lives, and any broad cybersecurity project might benefit from the company’s participation.

Between the lines: Some observers saw the White House meeting as a signal from Washington to the industry that it needed to take strong voluntary action or face a new wave of regulatory or legislative mandates.

  • Many in industry believe that baked-in government rules could hamstring companies trying to adapt to a rapidly changing cybersecurity environment.
  • But others view some additional regulation as inevitable.
  • IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Axios Today he supports new cybersecurity disclosure requirements for private companies. “Disclosures will go a long way because once it’s transparent, everyone will improve,” he said.

Our thought bubble: This needn’t be an either/or scenario. Rules can help set minimum security standards, while direct action against cyberattacks will likely need both the industry’s technical prowess and the government’s international reach and offensive capabilities.

The summit also covered ways to protect supply chains and critical infrastructure, cyber insurance for businesses, and a pressing shortage of workers in the sector, where “nearly half a million public and private cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled,” according to a White House statement.

The bottom line: The most successful cyber defense plans are the ones you don’t hear much about, because the attacks and disasters they foil never become news. That’s why it will take a while before we know whether this week’s announcements have any impact — and the less news you see, the more you can assume they’re working.

Source: https://www.axios.com/cybersecurity-summit-biden-government-industry-e8185e32-0346-40e5-af4f-6cd79f93cbb9.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Scott Rosenberg

How the FCC got boxed out of the broadband push

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As the federal government readies to spend tens of billions of dollars on broadband upgrades, the Federal Communications Commission — the agency that has traditionally doled out subsidies for internet connections — is on the sidelines.

Driving the news: The bipartisan infrastructure bill recently approved by the Senate commits $42.5 billion to broadband deployment and related projects, but the money would flow to the states, with oversight from the Commerce Department.


The intrigue: The broadband money got routed around the FCC for several reasons, according to insiders familiar with the process.

  • The White House will be able to exert greater control over how the money is awarded if the Commerce Department is in charge rather than an independent agency like the FCC.
  • Sources noted that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo was a key player in the infrastructure negotiations.
  • The FCC has also come under fire recently for how it handled awarding $9 billion for broadband in rural areas in 2020.

What happened: Critics say the program, known as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), was rushed in order to begin before the end of the Trump administration.

  • Problems with the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband maps led to complaints about funds being awarded to provide broadband in parking lots.
  • There are also concerns that the agency did not thoroughly vet companies before allowing them into the auction, leading to questions about whether providers who won subsidies will be able to deliver service.
  • “If the RDOF had been more successful, I think the FCC would’ve had a very significant role [in the new funding],” Blair Levin, a non-resident fellow with Brookings Institution, told Axios. “On the other hand, I think if we’re talking about this magnitude of money, the senators, many of whom are former governors, wanted governors to have more power.”

What’s next: The FCC said in July it’s taking steps to “clean up” the program.

  • The agency sent letters to 97 companies that won funding in questionable locations to allow them to withdraw without penalties.
  • “For those applicants who are dragging their feet or can’t meet their obligations, follow the rules or we will disqualify you and move on,” acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement last month.
  • The agency budgeted up to $16 billion for the program, but only awarded $9 billion. The extra money can be spent on a second phase of the program.

What they’re saying: “The FCC stands ready to help get 100% of Americans connected in any way that Congress sees fit,” an FCC spokesperson told Axios Tuesday.

What’s next: House Democrats are expected to approve the bill as is rather than blow up the Senate’s hard-won compromise — but not until after they also pass a much bigger, Democrats-only “soft infrastructure” bill.

Source: https://www.axios.com/fcc-broadband-infrastructure-bill-b5fa310d-2a32-4866-861b-1eba0915b394.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Margaret Harding McGill

YouTube says content policing is good for business

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While critics allege YouTube puts profits over public safety, product head Neal Mohan insists that the Google-owned video site is working to be a better content moderator, in part because it is good for business.

Why it matters: Users spend billions of hours watching videos on YouTube, and the site’s content recommendations shape how that time is spent. Facebook and Twitter tend to get more attention on content moderation, but YouTube remains an equally important information battleground.


Driving the news: YouTube is announcing Monday that it now has two million people in its programs that enable creators to get paid. Mohan said a huge part of his focus is trying to find ways to make sure those who play by the rules are rewarded.

  • “99.9% of creators are looking to do the right thing,” Mohan told Axios, noting that YouTube has paid out $30 billion over the last three years.
  • In addition to the 14-year-old program that shares ad money for popular videos, YouTube has also added ways for creators to sell merchandise or be directly compensated by users.

Between the lines: YouTube still faces challenges in making sure it is the creators “doing the right thing” who are benefiting the most, rather than spreaders of viral misinformation.

  • It’s not just those getting paid by Google who can benefit from gaming the system. Creators with a large enough following can make money indirectly even if they’ve been “demonetized” — removed from YouTube’s own payment programs.
  • In the “vast, vast majority of cases that’s a good thing,” Mohan said, though he acknowledges that it does create opportunities for some creators to profit from borderline content that doesn’t meet YouTube’s bar.

The big picture: On one of the biggest topics at the moment, COVID-19 misinformation, Mohan pointed to both the work that the company has done to enforce its policies and collaborations between creators and health authorities, as well as the dedicated spots YouTube has set aside for authoritative information.

  • “I hope that we are perceived as ultimately a positive voice here,” Mohan said.
  • Critics, though, point to a vast array of videos that have promoted hesitancy around masks and vaccines. Some were eventually taken down, others have been allowed to remain on the site.
  • Mohan noted that the landscape is ever-changing and the company’s work around COVID-19 misinformation is ongoing.
  • “The work is never done,” Mohan said. “I have learned that there is always a new vector of misinformation that will pop up.”

By the numbers: YouTube has recently started sharing the rate of policy-violating content that is being shown to visitors. Tech companies and critics agree that this is a more important metric than the total amount of content being removed.

  • As of the fourth quarter, YouTube said that rate was 0.16–0.18%, meaning that out of every 10,000 views on YouTube, only 16–18 come from rule-violating content.

Meanwhile: Mohan said he continues to put a lot of effort into YouTube Shorts, which he says is more than just a TikTok competitor.

  • Mohan notes that he is trying to add features that take advantage of YouTube’s existing strengths, including making it easy for creators to create short remixes of existing YouTube videos.
  • “You should look for more of those,” Mohan said.

Source: https://www.axios.com/youtube-mohan-content-policing-good-for-business-97a87848-4b71-4fa4-a6b0-963c5b027d48.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Ina Fried

OnlyFans has tons of users, but can’t find investors

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OnlyFans, the online creator platform known for its adult content, is struggling to find outside investors, according to multiple sources.

Between the lines: Sex sells, based on company financials leaked to Axios, but it also scares off venture capitalists.


OnlyFans remains in market, seeking what a source close to the company refers to as a “strategic partner.”

  • The Raine Group, a merchant bank focused on tech and telecom, this past spring began helping OnlyFans to solicit investors.
  • Several deep-pocketed firms quickly passed, not even engaging in serious due diligence.
  • The money it’s hoping to raise would partially cash out majority owner and porn mogul Leo Radivinsky, while providing management with what one venture capitalist calls “more legitimacy.”
  • OnlyFans declined to comment for this story.

By the numbers: Any other company with growth like OnlyFans would be able to raise big money in a matter of minutes.

What follows is rounded data from a pitch-deck that was compiled at the end of March. The 2021 figures are based on run-rate through the end of Q1, while 2022 figures are OnlyFans projections:

Gross merchandise value (GMV):

  • 2020: $2.2 billion
  • 2021: $5.9 billion
  • 2022: $12.5 billion

Net revenue:

  • 2020: $375 million
  • 2021: $1.2 billion
  • 2022: $2.5 billion
  • Over 50% of OnlyFans revenue in March came from paid subscriptions, while more than 30% came via chats. The rest was a combination of tips/streams and paid posts for free accounts.

Free cash flow:

  • 2020: $150 million
  • 2021: $620 million
  • 2022: $1.2 billion

Total amount paid to creators since inception: $3.2 billion

  • More than 300 creators earn at least $1 million annually.
  • Around 16,000 creators earn at least $50,000 annually.
  • More than seven million “fans” spend on OnlyFans each month. It has even more users who only consume free content.

In short, OnlyFans has a porn problem, even though it never once mentions porn in its pitch-deck (something that multiple investors called “disingenuous.”).

  • Some VC funds are prohibited from investing in adult content, per limited partnership agreements.
  • Several investors are concerned about minors creating subscription accounts, although the company says it has controls in place to prevent that.
  • Some investors say they could get past the porn, but worry that the company’s reputation would prevent it from attracting brand partners (despite this week announcing a “safe for work” product that features its growing number of clothed creators).
  • A counterargument is that Snap is now plastered with advertising, and valued at $115 billion, even though it began as a way for teens to share nudes.

The bottom line: OnlyFans is one of the creator economy’s largest and most successful platforms. And investors are content to watch its success from afar.

Source: https://www.axios.com/onlyfans-investors-struggle-9cc92523-6607-40ad-9893-4175e7966b52.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dan Primack

YouTube bars Murdoch-owned news outlet from uploads over COVID-19 misinformation

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YouTube has barred Sky News Australia, owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, from posting content on the platform over violating YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. The platform …

Source: https://thehill.com/policy/technology/565895-youtube-bars-murdoch-owned-news-outlet-from-uploads-over-covid-19
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Rebecca Klar

State Department monitoring internet outages in Iran amid protests

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The State Department on Wednesday said it was monitoring reports of internet outages and slowdowns in Iran amid ongoing anti-government protests spurred by a water shortage in the country. State …

Source: https://thehill.com/policy/international/565321-state-department-monitoring-internet-outages-in-iran-amid-protests
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Celine Castronuovo

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