This Robot Performs Amazing Jumps and Flips by Swinging Its Cyber-Penis Around

When you’re designing a robot to emulate the moves of an agile animal that can leap across gaps and carefully tip-toe across uneven terrain, it only makes sense to copy Mother Nature’s designs. It’s why you often see robots with tails, which help improve balance and agility. But staring at Tencent Robotics’ Ollie, I confess that I don’t see a tail swinging aroundbut rather a different appendage altogether.


The two-legged Ollie trades feet for a pair of powered wheels and appears to take its design inspiration from devices like the self-balancing Segway. It also follows in the footsteps of human-like robots such as Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS or Agility Robotics’ Digit, which both use a pair of articulated legs to traverse difficult terrain or obstacles. It’s a best of both worlds approach that makes Ollie appear impressively nimble in a video shared on the YouTube channel BotJunkie, in which the robot effortlessly rolls over uneven hills and steps onto a raised platform with just one of its rolling legs, keeping its main body level the entire time.

If I was at a pub in the year 2030, this is the kind of robot I’d want waiting on tables. There seems to be little risk of Ollie spilling a drop, even in the middle of a raucous brawl. Where the bot’s design becomes even more impressive is the extra appendage it keeps tucked away between its legs when not in use. It’s a tail, which is more obvious when the robot is performing acrobatics, but I can’t be the only one who sees a robo-penis the rest of the time.

In a demonstration involving two raised platforms a couple of feet apart, Ollie reveals some truly remarkable abilities facilitated by its powerful legs working in tandem with the tail-not-a-penis. With a minimal amount of space to accelerate forward, the robot is able to quickly swing that appendage back and transfer enough momentum to perform a perfect forward flip with its entire body, and then stick the landing.

It’s an Olympic-caliber performance worthy of being lauded on a box of Wheaties cereal, and it shows there’s a lot of potential in a hybrid approach. As capable as Boston Dynamics’ dog-inspired Spot robot is, were it to come across a gap that it couldn’t span with the limited reach of its limbs, it would have to plan an alternate route to get around the obstacle. Ollie, on the other hand, could literally spring into action, clear the gap, and then keep on rolling on the other side, potentially saving time during a critical mission.

The tail has other uses too, like lowering Ollie to the ground and serving as a third leg that provides more stability when the bot is upgraded with a payload or other robotic accessories on top, like an articulated arm that can reach and grasp objects. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a design feature that’s probably going to be popping up on more and more robots in the future. Get used to it.


Big Tech Antitrust Crusader Lina Khan Joins the FTC

Illustration for article titled Big Tech Antitrust Crusader Lina Khan Joins the FTC

Photo: Graeme Jennings (AP)

Today the senate overwhelmingly confirmed tech critic and 32-year-old Columbia professor Lina Khan to join the Federal Trade Commission by a vote of 69-28. They can agree on reforming big tech; given their track record of bitching and moaning and proposing terribly uninformed and/or nefarious proposals to do it themselves, it’s nice to see them band together to do the bare minimum.


Khan, a Biden appointee, is a promising problem-solver who’s floated specific proposals to update antitrust law in order to give Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook’s competitors a fighting chance. In a well-known paper, she’s proposed broadening traditional antitrust policy and applying carrier rules to regulate Amazon. She’s also proposed reigning in tech companies by revisiting structural separations that would prevent Apple (eg) from both controlling the market and competing with businesses that depend on the App Store. As counsel to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, Khan contributed to an investigation into the tech oligopolies’ business practices.

Biden might be building a cross-departmental academic A-team of big tech critics. In March, he appointed Columbia professor Tim Wu, author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age,” as a presidential advisor on technology and competition.

This makes a 3-2 majority Democratic commission, though Democratic commissioner Rohit Chopra might relocate to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a Biden-appointed head. As the Wall Street Journal has noted, it could take months to fill his seat. Additionally, Biden has yet to nominate an FTC head as well as the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general who would work with the FTC to enforce penalties against tech companies.

The FTC is already looking into tech companies’ acquisitions of small companies which hadn’t previously been reported to regulators. It has also launched a joint investigation with New York and California attorneys general into Amazon, Bloomberg reported last year. Over an up to seven-year term, Khan will be empowered to help craft rules, enforce regulations, and launch investigations.

In another positive change, the FTC will no longer be harangued to enforce a personal vendetta against social media companies for perceived censorship.

Space Force Rocket Launch Should Be Visible From Eastern U.S. on Tuesday Morning

The Minotaur 1 rocket ready for launch.

The Minotaur 1 rocket ready for launch.
Image: NASA

A Northrop Grumman Minotaur 1 rocket is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at 7:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 15. Conditions permitting, the launch will be visible from New York City and other locations along America’s northeast.


The four-stage solid fuel rocket will be launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B, which is located on Wallops island in Virginia. Launch services for this mission, designated NROL-111, are being provided by the U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise. The Minotaur 1 will be delivering three “national security payloads” to space (and yeah, that’s all the detail we get).

“Viewing locations on Chincoteague Island include Robert Reed Park on Main Street or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands,” NASA noted in a statement, adding that the visitor center at Wallops will not be open. “The launch may be visible, weather permitting, to residents throughout the mid-Atlantic region and possibly the East Coast of the United States.”

Visibility map for Tuesday’s scheduled launch.

Visibility map for Tuesday’s scheduled launch.
Image: NASA

For people located in New York City, New Jersey, and parts of Pennsylvania including Philadelphia, the rocket should be visible between 30 and 60 seconds after liftoff, which is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Views of the rocket from 60 to 120 seconds after launch may also be possible in outlying areas, including parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Canadians living in southern Ontario might also be able to catch a glimpse of the four-stage solid fueled space launch vehicle.

The launch will also be made available on NASA TV (feed below), with coverage starting at 6:30 a.m. ET.

To date, Minotaur 1 rockets have conducted 11 missions with a perfect success rate, in which 62 satellites have been delivered to Earth orbit, according to Northrop Grumman. The launch on Tuesday will be the third small launch from Wallops for the U.S. Space Force in the past year.


More: Northrop Grumman blamed from loss of mysterious Zuma spy satellite.

DOJ Forced Apple to Reveal Data from Two House Democrats as Part of Trump’s Leaker Crusade

Illustration for article titled DOJ Forced Apple to Reveal Data from Two House Democrats as Part of Trump's Leaker Crusade

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

It recently came to light that the Trump-era Department of Justice quietly seized phone records of journalists at the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times to suss out their sources as part of the administration’s rabid crackdown on leakers. Well, apparently the witch hunt didn’t stop there: In 2017 and 2018, a grand jury compelled Apple to fork over metadata from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, according to a Thursday report from the New York Times.


The subpoena also covered records from at least a dozen people connected to the committee members, including aides, family members, and one minor. Records of Representative Adam Schiff of California, committee chairman and a frequent target of Trump’s playground insults, were among those seized, sources familiar with the matter told the Times.

Apple provided the agency with metadata and account information, but did not share photos, emails, or other content, a person familiar with the inquiry told the Times. But that’s hardly a comfort given the well-demonstrated fact that you can still learn a shit ton about a person from their metadata—where they are, what they’re up to—especially when combined with publicly available info such as their social media posts.

All told, prosecutors found no evidence within the seized data that tied the committee members to leakers. Apple was under a gag order from the DOJ that prohibited the company from publicly discussing the matter, according to the Times. That order expired this year, at which point Apple contacted the committee members, who purportedly did not know they were even being investigated. The Post, Times, and CNN similarly had no clue their reporters had been under federal investigation until the DOJ notified each outlet in recent weeks.

Over the years, administrations from both sides of the aisle have relied on court orders to obtain journalists’ records as part of leak investigations. Even still, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry told the Times that they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers were also seized in these cases.

In the wake of the report, Schiff called for the Inspector General to investigate Trump’s “weaponization of law enforcement” in what he denounced as a “terrible abuse of power.”

“It also makes the Department of Justice just a fully owned subsidiary of the president’s personal legal interests and political interests,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday.


The DOJ promised to stop secretly obtaining the records of journalists on Saturday after coming under fire from media outlets, lawmakers, and President Joe Biden, who condemned the practice as “simply, simply wrong” in response to the agency’s latest disclosures.

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Faces Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over Branded Tech School

Illustration for article titled Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Faces Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over Branded Tech School

Photo: Hannes Magerstaedt (Getty Images)

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is facing a million-dollar lawsuit for allegedly stealing the idea to create a Woz-branded tech school, according to a weekend Insider report.


Connecticut business professor Ralph Reilly claims he and Wozniak agreed to establish a “tech university” and sealed the deal with an on-camera handshake in 2011. The educational platform, which was aimed at teaching adults computer and other technical skills, would lean heavily on Wozniak’s name and reputation as a key engineering force in Apple’s early days for branding purposes.

However, the partnership never got off the ground, Reilly said in court filings reviewed by Gizmodo and Insider. Wozniak went on to launch virtually the same idea under the name Woz U in 2017 after partnering with the code-learning firm Coder Camps. In response, Reilly reached out to Wozniak via email asking to be a part of the venture, according to court filings.

“It’s exactly what I envisioned for Woz Institute of Technology when I first approached you with the idea,” Reilly wrote at the time.

“You are right on the mark,” Wozniak responded. “You had the right idea… I doubt it would have happened without your initial idea!”

But when Reilly pushed back asking for partial ownership in the project, he was met with radio silence. Reilly went on sue Wozniak for alleged intellectual property theft and copyright infringement. He’s seeking at least $1 million in relief and damages. Other accusations Reilly’s brought against Wozniak such as breach of contract have already been dismissed by a judge.

Insider reports that Reilly first approached him with the idea via email in September 2010. As the two corresponded over the next few months, at one point Reilly asked if Wozniak would consider endorsing him to launch “the Woz Institute of Technology,” according to court filings. Wozniak agreed to both the idea and the use of his name for the project in an emailed response.


At the aforementioned photo op in 2011, Reilly presented Wozniak with a contract granting an online school in Connecticut willing to work with them the right to use Wozniak’s name and image for the “Woz School of Technology” in exchange for quarterly payments. In a screenshot shared by Insider, what looks like Wozniak’s signature appears on an image of the contract presented in court filings. In his deposition, Wozniak claimed he didn’t remember signing the document but didn’t dispute it was his signature.

However, that deal eventually fell through, as did several others Reilly pursued with additional institutions, at which point Wozniak’s team began to distance itself from the project. When Reilly launched a mock-up website for the Woz Institute of Technology in 2013, Wozniak’s manager, Ken Hardesty, demanded it be taken down and told him to stop contacting Wozniak directly. Since Reilly obtained copyright protection for this website, it’s now at the center of his million-dollar copyright lawsuit.


For his part, Wozniak’s team claims the two never reached a real deal on the proposal and the aforementioned on-camera handshake was just one of countless photo-ops he regularly conducts with fans. According to a legal deposition reviewed by Insider, a key component of Wozniak’s defense is that he takes a hands-off approach to his business dealings and instead leaves contract negotiations to other members of his team. Even in his deal with Coder Camps, Wozniak didn’t provide “any curriculum, ideas on programs, schedules or anything else” to Woz U, his lawyers wrote in the filing.

To wit, when asked by lawyers whether Coder Camps paid him $1 million for his association with Woz U, Wozniak claimed he couldn’t recall whether he was paid for the deal, though his manager later confirmed he received the cash.


“One thing I avoid in life is anything having to do with money,” Wozniak said according to the filing. “I just don’t look at it… I wouldn’t know how much is in our bank account. My life is very different than most people.”

The copyright infringement case goes to trial next month in Arizona, and Wozniak has been called to the stand to testify, Insider reports. The three-day jury trial is scheduled to start on June 7.


FCC Curbs Price-Gouging on Phone Calls for Incarcerated People

Illustration for article titled FCC Curbs Price-Gouging on Phone Calls for Incarcerated People

Photo: Megan Jelinger (Getty Images)

The FCC today unanimously voted to cut cruelly overpriced prison and jail phone call rates, imposed by telecom companies that have creatively fished for every last penny from incarcerated people and their families. In an announcement, the FCC said that interstate calls will no longer exceed $0.12 per minute for prisons and $0.14 for jails: about the hourly minimum prison wage ($0.12) for a job with the Federal Prison Industries corporation.


The wide-ranging exploitation has hurt hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of families. According to research compiled by human rights organizations, 34% of incarcerated people’s families have gone into debt in order to pay for calls and visits.

Unfortunately, the order will only cover a slim minority of calls, since it only applies to out-of-state and international calls. The FCC has been hamstrung by both telecoms’ legal pushback and the Trump FCC itself. In 2015, the FCC attempted to cap rates for all calls; prison telecoms sued; and in 2017, a U.S. Court of Appeals for DC decided that in-state calls fell outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction. Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, unsurprisingly, dropped the fight. As the Brennan Center for Justice reported in 2020, the FCC lacks the ability to regulate 80% of calls.

The Prison Policy Initiative, which has been assiduously fighting this battle for years, has a helpful timeline.

Rates are highest in county and city-run jails, where rates are highest—up to, in Arkansas, $25 for a 15-minute in-state call in 2018. A 2019 report from the Prison Policy Initiative found that a 15-minute in-state prison call could run as high as $4.80. (You can even scroll to the middle of this page where a live ticker shows the rising cost of a call from your local county correctional facility.) Meanwhile, some of us can get basic service as low as $10 per month.

Telecoms with exclusive contracts such as Global Tel Link have been blatantly rent-seeking, at every available opportunity. Free tablets on which you have to pay for everything, for instance. Making family members travel to the facility just to be stuck with a paid video visit.

With contracts at a combined 5,400 correctional facilities in North America, Global Tel Link and Securus Technologies LLC dominate, each claiming to control communications for 1.2 million incarcerated people. According to the Los Angeles Times, Securus collected nearly $700 million in revenue in 2018. Global Tel Link claims to have processed $1.1 billion in transactions last year.


Congress can help put an end to the scheme. Last year, Congressperson Bobby L. Rush introduced the Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act, which would cap costs to intrastate calls at $0.04 per minute for prepaid calls and $0.05 for collect calls. It died in the last session.

Even that wouldn’t be enough. Calls from prison should be free.


A Notorious Ransomware Gang Claims to Have Stolen Apple’s Product Designs

Illustration for article titled A Notorious Ransomware Gang Claims to Have Stolen Apple's Product Designs

Photo: Eric Thayer (Getty Images)

Cybercriminals claim to have stolen blueprints for some of Apple’s newest products and are now attempting to extort the tech giant by threatening to publish the documents online.


On Tuesday, the ransomware gang REvil publicly claimed that it had hacked Quanta Computer, a third-party supplier in Taiwan that has partnerships with over a dozen large U.S. tech firms, including Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Blackberry, and several others.

Quanta, which is one of the largest laptop manufacturers in the world, works to assemble Apple’s products based on designs supplied by the Cupertino company, meaning there is a logical basis for the theft claims.

On REvil’s “leak site” (where the gang posts samples of stolen data to bully targeted companies into meeting extortion demands), the hackers posted a select number of product blueprints, timing the release to coincide with Tuesday’s much-anticipated Spring Loaded product launch. A message on the site reads:

“In order not to wait for the upcoming Apple presentations, today we, the REvil group, will provide data on the upcoming releases of the company so beloved by many.Tim Cook can say thank you Quanta.From our side, a lot of time has been devoted to solving this problem. Quanta has made it clear to us that it does not care about the data of its customers and employees, thereby allowing the publication and sale of all data we have.”

The gang has demanded that Apple “buy back” the stolen documents “by May 1,” or else “more and more files will be added [to the leak site] every day.” BleepingComputer reports that the gang is extorting Quanta for $50 million—giving the company a deadline of April 27 to pay for the alleged stolen data.

The hackers also mention that they are “negotiating the sale of large quantities of confidential drawings and gigabytes of personal data with several major brands,” implying that Apple may not be the only company affected by the hack. When you look at how widely Quanta’s services are used, the ripple effect here could (hypothetically) be large:


Neither Apple nor Quanta immediately responded to multiple requests for comment.


At the moment, it’s difficult to say whether the alleged documents REvil has are actually all that important. The designs visible on the leak site look like basic blueprints for a Macbook—and don’t appear to be super “TOP SECRET” stuff. Brett Callow, a threat analyst with security firm Emsisoft, said it’s not necessarily the case that the hackers are telling the truth about the severity of the hack.

“The REvil operators have been responsible for a number of high profile attacks and also some of the highest demands to have become publicly known,” Callow said in an email. “That said, ransomware groups have lied about the strength of their hand in other incidents, so it would be a mistake to assume that REvil has all the data they claim to have and that other parties are interested in buying it.”


On the other hand, REvil is a prominent ransomware gang—one that has actively sought to foster a fearsome reputation by ruthlessly targeting high-profile companies. The gang recently took responsibility for hacking large electronics firm Acer, demanding a then-record-breaking ransom of $50 million in return for its stolen files.

Boston Dynamics’ New Box Grabbing Bots Can Roam a Warehouse Looking For Work

It won’t be long before brick and mortar stores will be a distant memory, replaced by entire neighborhoods of warehouses facilitating our obsession with shopping online. And when that time comes, Boston Dynamics wants us all to know it’s got a roaming robotic arm called Stretch that’s ready and willing to schlep boxes all day long.


As Boston Dynamics’ creations go, Stretch isn’t going to have anyone predicting the fall of humanity at the hands of a frighteningly adept army of robots doing backflips or performing elaborately choreographed numbers. Stretch instead follows Spot as a robot that Boston Dynamics can actually sell as a practical tool so that one day the company can sustain its own ground-breaking research, instead of continually finding itself being sold from one company to the next.

Stretch takes advantage of the many advancements that have come from Boston Dynamics’ more capable bots like ATLAS and Handle, and integrates them into a mobile platform that’s optimized for use in distribution centers and warehouses where there’s a constant stream of packages and cargo entering and exiting the facilities. It’s essentially a lightweight but strong and agile robotic arm with a suction-powered smart gripper on the end that can “handle a large variety of boxed and shrink-wrapped cases” without the risk of it causing physical damage in the process.

Robotic arms like Stretch already exist in distribution centers or facilities where products are packaged, but they’re always static, permanently installed, and part of a larger set of infrastructure that’s extremely costly to make changes to. These robots are usually programmed for one specific repetitive task and expect the materials they’re working with to always be delivered in the exact same spot. What Stretch offers is flexibility. The arm is attached to a compact omnidirectional rolling base so it can not only drive to wherever help loading, stacking, or unloading boxes is needed, it also uses smart computer vision so that minimal training or programming is required to get started on a new task.

Those interested in trying out Stretch in their own facilities early can apply for Boston Dynamics’ Stretch Early Adopter Program through the company’s website, while the official commercial deployment of the robot is expected to happen sometime in 2022.

Watch Live as NASA Performs a Second Hotfire Test of Its New Megarocket

The hotfire test of the core stage, conducted on January 16 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The hotfire test of the core stage, conducted on January 16 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Image: NASA Television

The second hotfire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is scheduled for Thursday. You can watch a livestream of the action right here.


The window for today’s test opens at 3:00 p.m. ET and ends sharply two hours later. NASA’s coverage will begin around 30 minutes prior to ignition. The space agency will provide more precise times and updates throughout the day, which you can track through NASA’s Twitter and Artemis blog.

This will be the second hotfire test of the SLS core stage, the first having been (partially) completed on January 16, 2021. The core stage won’t go anywhere, but the test should generate an impressive plume of smoke around NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hotfire test, in which all four RS-25 engines will ignite, should last around 8 minutes—or at least we hope. The previous hotfire test ended prematurely after just 67 seconds. A computer shut down the whole thing when a key parameter having to do with the hydraulics required for gimbaling, or pivoting, went out of whack. Hence the need for a second test, which will be the ninth, and hopefully last, of the Green Run testing regime.

And it’s so far, so good for today’s test, according to NASA. A “go” for the hotfire test was granted during a team meeting held this morning, and preparations are now underway to load more than 700,000 gallons of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the 212-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket stage, which is anchored to the B-2 test stand.

Infographic explaining the Green Run test series.

Infographic explaining the Green Run test series.
Graphic: NASA

For today’s test, NASA will seek to emulate the demands of a real launch to the greatest extent possible, and then some. A countdown will commence at T-10 minutes once the “go” for the hotfire test is issued. The ensuing launch sequence will closely approximate the protocols and conditions of an actual SLS launch. Ignition of all four engines should happen around 6 seconds prior to T-0.


“Recording data on how the stage performs at T-0 and as the engines ramp up to 109 percent power is one critical test operation,” according to NASA. “Another is when the engines are throttled down to 95 percent, just as they are throttled down in flight at Max-Q, or maximum dynamic pressure when aerodynamic forces put the greatest stress on the rocket.”

The RS-25 engines will gimbal during the test to simulate its steering abilities, and they’ll be pushed harder than what’s needed for an actual launch. Known as a “frequency response test,” this is being done to ensure that the “thrust vector control system’s response is demonstrated under a variety of flight-like conditions,” says NASA.


Assuming all goes well today, the next time NASA lights up this thing it’ll be the real deal—the Artemis 1 mission, in which an uncrewed SLS rocket will go for a ride into space. That could happen later this year. This rocket, with its 1.6 million pounds of thrust, is a big deal for NASA, as it’s the vehicle that will deliver astronauts to the Moon, and possibly Mars.


The Guy Who Literally Coined ‘Net Neutrality’ Now Works for Biden

Illustration for article titled The Guy Who Literally Coined ‘Net Neutrality’ Now Works for Biden

Photo: Mike Groll (AP)

The reign of telecoms shills meddling in internet regulations seems to be coming to a close, at least for now. The New York Times reports that Joe Biden has chosen Tim Wu, who’s credited with defining foundational concepts like net neutrality, to serve on the National Economic Council in a new role as a special assistant for technology and competition policy. While the extent of Wu’s power in an advisory role is still somewhat undefined, it’s represents a considerable step away from the corporate favor-trading that defined the Trump era.

As Protocol has pointed out, policymakers perpetually recite Wu’s writings on antitrust and rights to equitable access. His 2003 paper believed to have coined the term “network neutrality” catalyzed extremely popular and hard-fought net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from deliberately slowing speeds, disadvantaging sites and services that can’t afford to pay as much as larger ones for bandwidth. Trump’s FCC Chairman/telecoms’ government rep Ajit Pai repealed net neutrality in 2017, despite sparking what was likely the largest-ever online protest.

Here’s Wu explaining why net neutrality matters in the New Yorker, 2014:

Acting together, the Internet service providers could destroy Netflix by slowing its data to a crawl, making movies impossible to watch.

Such obvious outrages are unlikely; the firms will surely promise to behave themselves. But they might, instead, slowly begin bleeding money out of the Internet economy with quiet threats and expensive carrots, extracting fees and tolls wherever they can. “You better pay for ‘turbo’ access, Mr. Blogger, otherwise who knows how long it will take readers to reach your content.” Or, to a new video-streaming service, it might say, “We’re going to put Hulu ahead of you, unless you pay up”—meaning that its customers would have an easier time watching Hulu videos than content from the new guy. A.T. & T., Verizon, and Comcast already collect more than three hundred billion dollars in revenues every year. But, like any good corporate citizen, they’d like more.


Wu translated words into action as a senior enforcement lawyer under New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2015, with an investigation into Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision for allegedly making consumers pay for slower than promised speeds. It ended with a $174.2 million settlement from Charter Communications (which bought Time Warner.)

Under Obama, Wu served as an FTC advisor and, briefly, on the National Economic Council in order to help design antitrust policy. But he had some regrets. In a talk with WIRED on antitrust, he said that he didn’t go hard enough on Mark Zuckerberg:

I don’t think anyone in the Obama administration was taking money, but we had this kind of rosy view. And when Mark Zuckerberg came to the Federal Trade Commission saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry about these privacy violations, but like, I’m a young man; I didn’t know what I was doing. We’ll never do it again,” everybody believed it and dropped individual charges against him. But in fact, we were fooled.

Since then he’s seemed less receptive to excuses. Last year, he applauded the FTC and 40 states for filing an antitrust suit against Facebook, accusing the company of illegally buying out competition. Specifically, Wu said Zuckerberg has taken the strategy of kill-or-conquer “to a smirking and egregious extreme.” He made a similar case for breaking up Google, accusing it of using monopoly powers to “shamelessly” harvest its users’ personal activity.

He also recognizes that politicians involved in the bipartisan crusade to kill Section 230 (Biden included) don’t understand how Section 230 works and why killing it would likely only further harm small players. “Repealing 230 would inflict pain, through private litigation, not just on big tech, but the entire tech sector,” he wrote last year on Medium.


Wu has also supported a TikTok ban, not as a trade war chip but as a stance for an uncensored surveillance-free internet.

And some cherry-picked fun proposals Wu has pitched over the years: Facebook paying us for our data, eliminating extraneous tasks so everyone can work less, and perhaps even a universal basic income. For a better sense of his ideas, generally, peruse some of his books, like The Curse of Bigness and The Attention Merchants (though consider buying them somewhere other than Amazon, another tech giant of which Wu has been highly critical.)


While there’s more than enough imbalance and abuse in the tech sector alone, the Times reports that Wu’s also expected to weigh in on other industries like big pharma and agriculture.