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Week ahead: Tech flocks to SXSW festival

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Week ahead: Tech flocks to SXSW festival

Technology and political leaders are heading to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival.

The 10-day showcase draws some of the biggest names from technology, films and music, and gives policy makers a chance to weigh in on some of the industry’s biggest issues.

Topping the docket this year are cybersecurity and Russian election meddling.

Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is headlining two events on Saturday. At the first panel, he’ll discuss the “new battlefield” and the efforts to create a cyber strategy for the 21st century.

At the second panel, Warner will address Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and how to prevent foreign interference in the coming midterms.

Also on Saturday, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) will join a panel to discuss his Startup Act and how government can help entrepreneurs. It will be a bipartisan gathering, with Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D) joining the discussion.

On Sunday, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) will headline an event with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on how technology firms can help innovation in legacy industries, such as energy and manufacturing.

Texas Rep. Will Hurd will to speak at the event on the future of the transatlantic alliance between the U.S. and Europe. Hurd has been a vocal voice in the House on tech issues as the chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on information technology. Expect tech to be an issue at the panel, as the European Union takes a tougher stance on regulation of American technology companies.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) will be doing a doubleheader as he speaks at events on how tech is changing the workforce.

Fellow California Rep. Darrell Issa (R) will speak about “the persistence of patent trolls” in the technology industry at a panel alongside Evan Engstrom of the startup trade association Engine.

Administration officials will also be at SXSW. Matt Lira, from the White House Office of American Innovation, will join a discussion titled “Tech Under Trump: A 2017/2018 Scorecard” with Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro and others.

New U.S. Patent Office Director Andrei Iancu will unveil a new patent design at the festival as well.

Other federal regulators will also be represented, including from the Federal Communications Commission: Commissioners Mignon Clyburn (D) and Brendan Carr (R).

Carr will discuss bridging the urban and rural digital divide, an issue FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has vowed to make a priority. Clyburn will speak about the importance of diversity in tech and of emergency response during disasters.

Back in Washington, there will also be plenty of tech-related action with both the House and the Senate in session.

All eyes will be on a sex-trafficking bill as some tech groups push for last-minute changes before a Senate floor vote.

The bill would make tech companies responsible for content published on their platforms. Supporters say it will help prevent online sex trafficking but tech companies worry it would make them liable for any content posted by third parties.

Tensions are running high after groups including startup advocate Engine and prominent companies like Twitter and Yelp urged lawmakers to make changes to the legislation.

Other groups like the Internet Association, Oracle, IBM and Facebook signed onto a different letter supporting the bill.

It’s only the latest salvo in a long fight over the bill, which has divided the tech world.

The Internet Association which represents some of the web’s biggest companies has been supportive of the bill, while Engine, which represents smaller tech startups has been critical.

There are also a number of tech hearings on the docket on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the Senate Commerce subcommittee on technology will hold a hearing on infrastructure and efforts to build 5G networks.

Later that afternoon, the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity will examine the “cyber posture of the services” at 2:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee will consider legislation to modernize the Department of Energy’s cybersecurity practices at 10 a.m.

Simultaneously, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on space warfighting capabilities.

And the House Foreign Affairs Committee will examine export controls for “cutting-edge technology” at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Rounding out the Wednesday morning House hearings, the House Financial Services Committee will host a hearing on the cryptocurrency markets.

Later on Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will examine the state of federal IT programs.

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on how hackers use stolen data on Thursday at 2 p.m.


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