With help from Cristiano Lima and John Hendel
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— Apple and Epic Games throw down today: The companies are in federal court over Fortnite’s removal from the App Store and Apple’s decision to cut off Epic’s access to developer tools.
— Match Group mounting up: The Tinder and OKCupid parent fills out its safety council and lobbying ranks.
— That’ll be $430 million, please: FCC Chair Ajit Pai says the agency needs more money for coronavirus telehealth programs.
IT’S MONDAY! WELCOME BACK TO MORNING TECH. I’m your guest host, Leah Nylen, filling in for Alexandra Levine. TIL there’s a word for what’s going on with my face: Maskne. The Republican National Convention starts today. Check out the speaker lineup and Tuesday’s MT for a full rundown on what to expect from Republicans on tech and telecom. And don’t forget to follow along for a daily download each morning at 9 a.m. from Ryan Heath on POLITICO Minutes.
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EPIC AND APPLE TO DUKE IT OUT — Fortnite creator Epic Games and Apple will make their first federal court appearances late today in their high-profile antitrust fight. Epic is asking U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, an Obama appointee, to reinstate Fortnite in Apple’s App Store and bar the iPhone-maker from cutting off its access to developer tools. For the full overview, including how this may affect a DOJ or state AG probe, see my piece out this morning.
— Unreal Engine: While Fortnite’s removal from the App Store is painful for Epic, the bigger fight involves Apple’s threat to cut off developer tools for the Unreal Engine, Epic’s 3D tool and game engine. Unreal Engine is used by thousands of smaller developers to build games across platforms, but also for film and television — most prominently in Disney’s recent series “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” — and architecture and automotive design. NASA, Boeing, Ford and Audi have all used the Unreal Engine for products. Epic’s vice president of engineering, Nicholas Penwarden, said on Sunday that some Unreal Engine users have already told the company they may need to use alternatives for upcoming projects because of the uncertainty raised by Apple’s threat.
— Microsoft backs Epic: The Redmond, Wash., tech giant offered support for Epic. In a filing on Sunday, Microsoft executive Kevin Gammill said Apple’s decision to cut off access for the Unreal Engine would put game creators at a “substantial disadvantage.” Gammill, who heads Microsoft’s gaming development for Xbox, said the cut-off would devastate games about to be released and harm existing ones built with Unreal Engine because the game engine could no longer develop updates to fix bugs or security flaws for iOS or Mac.
FIRST IN MT: MATCH GROUP ADDS D.C. VETS TO SAFETY COUNCIL — Match Group, the parent company of popular dating apps including Tinder and OKCupid, is expanding its D.C. presence today with two additions to its safety advisory council: Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Natalie Ludaway, former chief deputy attorney general for the District of Columbia. The Match Group Advisory Council, formed in 2018, counsels the company on how to prevent sexual assault, abuse and online harassment across its platforms.
— What they are saying: “As industry leaders, safety and a positive user experience has always been a critical focus of our businesses,” Match Group CEO Shar Dubey said in a statement to MT. She added, “Alphonso and Natalie have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to justice and making society more equitable for all people.” Before joining HRC, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S., David served as chief counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Ludaway is now a partner at the D.C.-based Crowell & Moring law firm.
— A growing D.C. footprint: Match recently expanded its lobbying shop in Washington by hiring the firm Mercury Strategies to lobby on the EARN IT Act, S. 3398 (116), a fiercely contested bill to remove liability protections for online businesses that host child pornography. Match Group in March became the first tech company to publicly back the measure, which has faced intense backlash from tech industry groups and some advocacy groups.
ANTITRUST AS…FUNDRAISER? — The Biden campaign is set to hold a fundraiser this evening with the Hill’s two leading Democrats on antitrust, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. A discussion between the pair will be moderated by three Obama-era antitrust veterans: Bill Baer and Renata Hesse, who both helmed the Justice Department’s antitrust division; and former FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, who also worked for Biden when he was VP.
— Biden’s approach to antitrust remains a question mark. Unlike his former presidential rivals Klobuchar and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Biden hasn’t spoken much about how his administration might approach antitrust or corporate concentration. But a campaign spokesperson said in a statement that “Biden is strongly committed to enforcing antitrust rules and fostering a competitive economy that benefits workers and businesses alike.
“He’ll take meaningful action as President to bolster competition across all industries, including in agriculture, technology, and health care,” the spokesperson added. “Vice President Biden views tough antitrust enforcement and a competitive labor market as a cornerstone of rebuilding America’s economy.”
TIKTOK TAKES TO THE COURTS — The Chinese video app will file a lawsuit this week over President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting transactions with the company, a company spokesperson confirmed.
— “For nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution,” the company said in a statement to MT. “What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the Administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses. To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the Executive Order through the judicial system.”
— The suit is expected to target Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order, but not the Aug. 14 order requiring ByteDance to sell off the company on national security grounds. Reuters first reported the news late Friday.
PAI TO CONGRESS: $430M FOR FCC TELEHEALTH, PLEASE — Pai is pushing Congress to make “more funding available for connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic — including at least $430 million in funding for the highly successful but underfunded COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” a spokesperson told John on Friday, noting that the commission has conveyed these requests for months. Congress in March slated $200 million for the Covid-19 Telehealth Program, and the FCC has since awarded that cash to subsidize connectivity for 539 health care entities across the country.
— Pai’s office mentioned the GOP agency chief’s requests in response to a letter on Friday from 16 Senate Democrats who lashed out at him in unusually harsh terms over how he’s handled telehealth during the outbreak. Its sharpness is at odds with the pride Pai has shown over the issue. He had requested creating the coronavirus program and, his office notes, set it up within weeks.
— But Democrats blamed Pai for an “unwillingness to take decisive action” under FCC authority: “Specifically, the Commission has not made sufficient funding available, has delayed rural health care funding decisions, and has not been transparent about its operations,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and including Commerce ranking member Maria Cantwell of Washington state. They singled out operations of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program, complaining of backlogs and delays affecting health care entities trying to tap the connectivity subsidies.
— Pai’s office disagreed, noting he’s increased the program’s funding for the first time in its history. “It’s disappointing that Congressional Democrats continue to prioritize partisan politics over legislative action that would give the FCC the funds it needs to extend its record of success,” the agency spokesperson added.
— Despite Pai’s requests, Senate Republicans included no such boosts in Leader Mitch McConnell’s coronavirus relief proposal at the end of July, and it’s still unclear whether lawmakers will secure any further relief for consumers, as John has reported for Pros.
MEANWHILE: HOUSE DEMOCRATS SEEK FCC WILDFIRE BRIEFING — Three California representatives say they “are concerned about how the wildfires and rolling blackouts may be impacting the ability of our constituents and all Californians to stay connected in these emergencies, especially given that these events are taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
David Clark, Amazon’s head of global operation, will take over as chief of consumer business next year when Jeff Wilke retires, the company said.
Disinformation in Cambodia: A prominent Buddhist cleric and human rights activist was forced into exile after a disinformation campaign linked to the Cambodian government went viral on Facebook, the New York Times reports.
Zuckerberg played up Tiktok threat: The Facebook CEO told D.C. officials and Trump that Chinese tech companies are a risk to American values and supremacy, the Wall Street Journal reports.
California can’t get government tech right: The state is the world’s tech capital, but still has rickety technology that underpins its public services, POLITICO’s Debra Kahn reports.
WeChat users unite: A group of users unaffiliated with the Tencent-owned app has sued Trump over his ban, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Twitter tags Trump on ballot boxes: In the tweet, now hidden behind a notice, the president claimed that boxes set up to collect ballots aren’t being sanitized and will be susceptible to fraud.
FTC gets called to the principal’s office: Trump has personally pushed the head of the Federal Trade Commission to aid his crusade against alleged political bias in social media, POLITICO’s Betsy Woodruff Swan, John and I report.
5 ways algorithms already rule our lives: POLITICO Europe writes about “the creeping influence of algorithms in our lives — and the subsequent pushback.”
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