Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley — Democrats request Twitter investigation

The Twitter application is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Senate Democrats, concerned with the way Elon Musk is running Twitter, are urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the social media platform. 

Meanwhile, we’ll take a look at the Big Tech firms that recently announced massive layoffs. 

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? 

Senate Democrats increase Twitter scrutiny 

Senate Democrats urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday to investigate Twitter over potential consumer protection violations after changes made to the platform in recent weeks under the helm of new CEO Elon Musk. 

The senators said “alarming steps” taken under Musk’s control, including allowing users to pay for verification check marks and laying off key staff, undermined the integrity and safety of the platform and may have already violated the FTC’s consent decree for the company.  

“We fear that Mr. Musk’s reported changes to internal reviews and data security practices further put consumers at risk and could directly violate the requirements of the consent decree,” they wrote in a letter that was led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn).  

The senators noted that Twitter was “already on notice” before Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition in October, over accusations by whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko who alleged the company had inadequate security practices. 

“We urge the Commission to vigorously oversee its consent decree with Twitter and to bring enforcement actions against any breaches or business practices that are unfair or deceptive, including bringing civil penalties and imposing liability on individual Twitter executives where appropriate,” the senators added. 

Read more here.  

Widespread layoffs hit tech industry

Big Tech companies have announced tens of thousands of layoffs in recent weeks amid stock losses, jumbo interest rate hikes implemented by the Federal Reserve and consumers’ pivot away from goods in the aftermath of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

At the height of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to near-zero levels, both former President Trump and President Biden signed COVID-19 stimulus bills into law and consumer spending on goods skyrocketed while most of the world was under lock down. 

As a result, Silicon Valley saw an enormous spike in growth and stock gains. 

But more recently, return to in-person, pre-pandemic lifestyles have led to revenue declines for these companies. The Federal Reserve has also increased interest rate hikes six times and stock performance has fallen.   

In the past month, Big Tech firms have announced a rash of layoffs citing revenue decline and a grim economic outlook. 

Read more here.  

FBI ENGAGES IN OFFENSIVE CYBER OPERATIONS

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Senate lawmakers on Thursday that his agency has been conducting offensive cyber operations against state and non-state cyber actors. 

Wray said offensive operations are one of many tactics the agency employs to counter various cyber threats. 

“Offense is a critical part of our overall effort to push back against cyber adversaries,” Wray said during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing in which he was testifying. 

Wray was responding to a question from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who wanted to know whether the agency has sufficient offensive measures to push back against cyber threats and whether it should do more of it. 

“It strikes me that the only effective way to stop the attacks that come from a cyber nature is to attack back; that the best defense is a good offense,” Romney said as he was asking the question. 

Read more here

MARKEY BILL AIMS TO IMPROVE TECH ACCESS 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Thursday introduced new legislation that aims to improve access to communications technology for Americans with disabilities to ensure they have equal opportunities in an increasingly online world. 

The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA) will update policies for television programming and online video streaming platforms. 

Markey, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said the disabled, including the deaf and blind, face barriers in accessing essential online communication and video tools because policies have not evolved with technology. 

“What hasn’t changed is our obligation to make sure that everyone — including people who are deaf, blind, or DeafBlind — has equal access to the services and technologies they need to thrive,” said Markey in a statement, adding the bill will “update current laws on the books so that we can meet the technological moment and ensure opportunity, independence, and equal access for all.” 

Read more here.  

KLOBUCHAR TO LIVENATION: HI, IT’S YOU, YOU’RE THE PROBLEM

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent a letter on Thursday to the head of Live Nation Entertainment, accusing the company of abusing its market positions and violating a consent decree amid widespread criticism of Ticketmaster as fans struggle to purchase tickets for an upcoming Taylor Swift tour. 

Klobuchar, who chairs the competition, antitrust and consumer rights subpanel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Live Nation Entertainment, the result of a merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster, holds power in the ticket market that “insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services.” 

“That can result in dramatic service failures, where consumers are the ones that pay the price,” the senator wrote. 

Klobuchar noted Live Nation Entertainment is beholden to an antitrust decree that prevents it from abusing its position in the market. The decree was entered into after the 2010 merger between venue-hosting company Live Nation and ticket-sales business Ticketmaster. 

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Improved broadband maps to deliver more connectivity 

Notable links from around the web

  • Twitter’s Moderation System Is in Tatters (Wired / Vittoria Elliot and Chris Stokel-Walker) 
  • SpaceX Employees Say They Were Fired for Speaking Up About Elon Musk (The New York Times / Noam Scheiber and Ryan Mac) 
  • What the FTX implosion means for crypto regulation (Vox / Rebecca Heilweil)

One more thing: Astronomer allowed back on Twitter

A British astronomer whose Twitter account was locked for three months after a video she posted of a meteor was labeled “intimate” has had her account restored after a BBC story drew attention to her situation.  

Mary McIntyre tweeted a video of the trail from a meteor of the Perseid meteor shower in August. Her account was locked soon after, with Twitter telling her the clip contained “intimate” content that she shared without a participant’s consent.  

She initially received a 12-hour ban, according to The Guardian, but her account was not unlocked until Thursday after a BBC story put a spotlight on her situation and Twitter users tweeted at the platform’s support team. 

Read more here.  

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Tags Christopher Wray Ed Markey Elon Musk
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