Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland

Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland
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The Cyber and Tech overnights have joined forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's new comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers), and the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), on Twitter.

Contact us with tips, comments, and good vibes for the Houston Rockets.

 

FIGHTING TERRORISM ONLINE: This week Facebook touted its efforts against extremist content, noting that it deleted 99 percent of all terrorist content before being flagged by a user.

But a new report finds that there's still a lot of extremist content on the platform.

The report by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) details how graphic images of people being burned to death in cages and thrown off buildings still reside on Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus.

gallery of screenshots from the tech giants' platforms included in the report show an array of terror-related content, including violent images of beheadings and pro-ISIS propaganda.  

Images and videos of similar pro-terror content reviewed by The Hill dating back to 2017 still remained on the site as of Friday. Some several-months-old posts had been removed from Facebook at some point between Thursday and Friday.

DCA worked with the Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center (GIPEC) to find SUCH content.

Tom Galvin, executive director of DCA, said that GIPEC's ability to find THAT content using methods similar to those Silicon Valley companies claim they use, casts doubt on how serious they actually are about cracking down on terror content.

"I think what we see is that the platforms are stuck in a loop when it comes to offensive content. There have promised to fix it, and it's not really going away," Galvin told The Hill on Friday. "Either their systems aren't as good as they say collectively or it's not the priority that they claim it is."

Galvin blames it on their business model: "Their business model is to collect as much information as possible. No matter what, they'll always be in conflict with trying to correct bad content on their platform," he said.

Lawmakers are concerned too: The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the issue earlier this spring.

Expect tech execs to be grilled about this again.: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenTop Republicans concerned over impact of potential Trump drug rule Apple jabs ‘other companies’ in defending customer data policies to lawmakers Right ramps up battle with Facebook after Jones, Infowars pages are struck down MORE (R-Ore.) wrote an open letter to tech CEOs imploring them to come to Capitol Hill to address consumer protections and data security. While that seems to be the focus these days, expect more attention to the problem of extremist content. Walden discussed some of those problems with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Thursday.  

We have more here on the struggle to block extremist content.

 

WATCHDOG TO PROBE HOW EPA HANDLES EMAILS: The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) internal watchdog is looking into how the agency preserves email and text messages sent and received by employees.

The project, announced Friday by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), came in response to Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate panel spars with Trump administration over treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children Senate study: Trump hasn’t provided adequate support to detained migrant children Overnight Energy: Trump elephant trophy tweets blindsided staff | Execs of chemical plant that exploded during hurricane indicted | Interior to reverse pesticide ban at wildlife refuges MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure Overnight Defense: Senate sends 7B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (D-Ore.), who asked for an investigation into revelations that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittJudge rules against Trump attempt to delay Obama water rule Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler, please listen to your boss and approve year-round E15 Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain MORE has four email addresses.

Investigators plan to look into both preservation systems and policies and what those policies mean for how the EPA responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

"The anticipated benefits of this project are ensuring the effectiveness of EPA processes for preserving electronic records and responding to FOIA requests," the OIG said.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins first told Carper and Merkley earlier this week that he had accepted their request to probe Pruitt's email setup.

Why they requested it: The senators discovered that the EPA had four email addresses for Pruitt: one public one in the standard EPA format, one for use in calendars, one for Pruitt to actually use for communication and one that was never used beyond three test emails.

What Dems want: Democrats say the setup raises the possibility that the EPA is hiding Pruitt's correspondence, and that workers responding to FOIA requests do not search in all of his addresses.

We break down the email controversy down here.

 

DEMS QUESTION LACK OF RUSSIA SANCTIONS: A trio of key Democratic senators is calling on agency watchdogs to investigate why the Trump administration has not fully implemented mandated sanctions on Russia. The lawmakers sent a letter Friday asking the inspectors general of the State Department, Treasury Department and the intelligence community to examine the administration's failure to impose financial penalties on Russia. The penalties, they say, should fall under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a bipartisan piece of legislation that passed Congress last year with overwhelming support.

"In light of these apparent violations and the lack of corresponding sanctions, we are concerned about whether the sanctions implementation process within the administration is fulfilling CAATSA's mandate and intent," the senators wrote Friday.

The letter was signed by Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Sherrod Brown(Ohio.), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee. The Trump administration told Congress in late January that CAATSA was already "serving as a deterrent" and there was no need to actually implement the penalties. To read more of our piece, click here.

 

LATEST ON TRUMP'S FEUD WITH AMAZON: President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL players stand in tunnel during anthem, extending protests 12 former top intel officials blast Trump's move to revoke Brennan's security clearance NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes MORE reportedly urged the U.S. postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon.com and other companies. The report comes as Trump has repeatedly hammered the online retailer, claiming that it is costing the Postal Service "billions" of dollars in revenue.

Trump has personally met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan multiple times since 2017 to petition her for a hike on rates for Amazon and other firms that ship packages, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the conversations.

The president's demands came despite counsel from close advisers and top Postal Service employees that Amazon, the largest shipper of packages through USPS, actually helps keep it afloat financially.

--This follows reports that Trump has it out for Amazon. He's repeatedly attacked the company and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

--Taking Amazon down a peg, thought, might be harder than Trump is thinking.

Trump's administration is on the verge of handing Amazon a multi-billion dollar cloud computing contract.

Read more about Trump's pressure on the post office here.

 

BANKRUPT: Cambridge Analytica, a British data firm hired by the Trump campaign, on Thursday officially filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for its U.S. branch.

The firm, whose data collection methods have come under scrutiny by Congress, filed the petition to a Manhattan court along with its parent company SCL Group, according to BuzzFeed News.

The filings were expected after the company announced earlier this month that it had begun bankruptcy proceedings in the United Kingdom.

 

APPLE FORKS OVER BIG BUCKS: Apple paid the first 1.5 billion euros of the $15.3 billion it owes to Ireland in back taxes, the country's finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, said Friday.

The EU decided that Apple owed Ireland the multibillion-dollar sum in 2016 after establishing what it deemed to be unfair tax arrangements with the country.

Apple is set to keep making payments that will sit in an escrow account as the tech giant and Ireland try to appeal the European Union (EU) ruling that Apple pay back the country.

More on the big payout here.

 

YIKES! FIRM EXPOSED CELL PHONE LOCATION DATA ON AMERICANS: A U.S.-based company called LocationSmart inadvertently exposed data on the precise location of mobile phones on its website as a result of a software vulnerability.

The company, based in California, partners with wireless carriers to collect real-time data on the location of cellphones that it then sells to other companies for marketing and other purposes.

LocationSmart, until Thursday, offered a free demo service on its website that allowed a user to enter their name, email address and cellphone number to test out how the company determines their precise location.

However, Robert Xiao, a security researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, recently discovered that a flaw in the demo service allowed an individual to abuse it to obtain location data on any mobile number, not only their own. Krebs on Security first reported the bug on Thursday.

LocationSmart took the demo service offline after being notified of the flaw. In a statement to The Hill, the company said that the vulnerability had been "resolved" and the demo service disabled.

The company said it has confirmed the vulnerability was not exploited to reveal sensitive location data before May 16, the day Xiao tested out the service.

Some context: The revelation of the bug comes days after The New York Times reported that Securus Technologies, a firm that provides telephone services to prisons, had been providing data on customers to a former Mississippi County sheriff without court orders.

That firm has attracted scrutiny from Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGroup files lawsuit to force Georgia to adopt paper ballots Treasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (D-Ore.), who wrote to the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month to request an investigation into the "abusive and potentially unlawful practices" of wireless carriers that allowed the company access to the location data.

A subsequent report from ZDNet suggested that Securus Technologies had obtained the location data from LocationSmart. Check out more here.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Who spends $140,000 on a CryptoKitty?

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act at 5 p.m. on Monday. The committee will ultimately decide which amendments will be considered when the bill goes to the full House for a vote later next week. More on the cyber and tech amendments to the bill here and here.

The sweeping European data protection and privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) officially goes into effect next Friday, May 25.

The House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing  Wednesday on the Islamic State post-caliphate, which is expected to delve into the terror group's online presence following its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Robocalls are getting worse -- for two reasons. (Slate)

ICE is no longer looking for machine-learning technology to help with 'extreme vetting.' (Washington Post)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai met with AT&T lobbyists in Barcelona around the time of AT&T's payments to Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen. (DSL Reports)

LGBT groups seethe as Apple eyes North Carolina site. (Axios)

Former lawyer for Facebook and Equifax is now in charge of investigating them. (Gizmodo)

Tesla shareholders are waging a culture war of their own. (Pando)

A congressional candidate forum was hacked ... with porn.