Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley — Feds seeks to block Microsoft’s big merger

People walk past a Microsoft office in New York.
AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall, File
People walk past a Microsoft office in New York.

Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard hit another roadblock Thursday, with the Democrats on the Federal Trade Commission suing to block the deal.  

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice filed a brief to the Supreme Court warning against the justices using an “overly broad” interpretation of Section 230 in a case involving Google.  

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? Sign up here or in the box below.

FTC sues Microsoft to prevent acquisition 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted Thursday to sue to block Microsoft’s
$69 billion acquisition
of gaming company Activision Blizzard, adding to the aggressive antitrust action taken under Democratic Chairwoman Lina Khan.  

The FTC argued that if Microsoft closes the deal, it would have the power to harm competition by being able to change terms to withhold access to Activision’s content, such as the popular “Call of Duty” game, as well as to manipulate pricing and degrade game quality. 

  • The agency alleged Microsoft suppressed competition from rival consoles by acquiring companies in the past, including by deciding to make games like “Starfield” and “Redfall” exclusive to Microsoft devices after acquiring game developer ZeniMax. 
  • “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition said in a statement. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.” 

Read more here

DOJ issues 230 warning in Google case

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is warning the Supreme Court against using an “overly broad” interpretation of a provision that provides tech companies a legal liability shield over content posted by third parties. 

The DOJ issued the warning in a brief about a case relating to Google that could change how digital content is hosted online, with the department effectively undermining the tech giant’s argument in the case. 

The dispute centers on whether the liability shield — Section 230 of the Common Decency Act — protects Google in a case alleging the company recommended ISIS recruitment videos to users on its YouTube subsidiary. 

A lower appeals court said the liability shield protects Google, a ruling the DOJ is urging the Supreme Court to vacate. 

Read more here


A slew of changes implemented by Elon Musk after his purchase of Twitter is shifting views of the platform along partisan lines

Under its previous ownership, Twitter faced frequent criticism from the GOP over its content moderation policies, which Republicans have long asserted were biased against them and led to the accounts of several prominent members of the party — including former President Trump — being removed from the platform. 

In recent weeks, Musk has rolled back those policies and restored a number of previously banned users as he pursues his vision of a “free speech” platform, moves that have earned him cheers from conservatives and public scorn from many liberals.  

In what experts and observers of the tech and media industries say is the latest attempt by Musk to woo right-wing users back to Twitter amid a largely chaotic revamp of the company, the eccentric billionaire last week shared with an independent journalist a series of documents about Twitter’s previous content moderation procedures, seemingly in a bid to show bias at the highest level of the company’s leadership against the political right before his arrival.

Read more here


Two House Democrats have called on Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Thursday to take action against the rise of hate speech on Twitter

In a letter sent to Musk, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) wrote that there has been an “extreme spike” in the number of tweets with slurs, and engagement with those tweets, since the billionaire took over the social media app.

The letter cited data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) showing that the number of tweets containing slurs has grown exponentially when compared to the 2022 average.  

  • “Slurs against Black people have tripled in daily mentions. Slurs against women have increased 33 percent from the 2022 average mentions, and slurs against gay men have increased by 58 percent,” the letter said. 
  • “Before you assumed the role of CEO, engagement with these tweets averaged 13.3 replies, retweets, or likes. Now, engagement with slurs has increased
    273 percent, with the average number of replies, retweets, or likes averaging 49.5 on tweets containing hate speech.” 

Read more here


An op-ed to chew on: An open, unfiltered internet could be the key to toppling autocrats 

Notable links from around the web: 

How Estonia is helping Ukraine take on Russian cyber threats (Politico/Maggie Miller) 

Apple makes it easier to keep your data secret from hackers, cops, and even Apple (Vox / Sara Morrison)  

Tech companies fueled the rise of Homeland Security and domestic surveillance, report finds (The Verge / Mitchell Clark) 

One more thing: DC sues Amazon over tips

Washington, D.C.’s attorney general is suing Amazon, alleging the company stole tips from delivery drivers and deceived consumers about who their money would benefit.  

“This suit is about providing workers the tips they are owed and telling consumers the truth. Amazon, one of the world’s wealthiest companies, certainly does not need to take tips that belong to workers,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said in a release Thursday. 

  • The lawsuit accuses the shipping giant of lying to consumers about the tipping process for Amazon Flex delivery drivers in what the attorney general’s office called a “deceptive, illegal scheme” to boost the company’s profits.   
  • Consumers were allegedly prompted to tip their Amazon Flex delivery person under the promise that the full tip would benefit the driver, but the tipping money was instead used to pay off what the company had already promised to the employee — not tacked on as a tipped bonus. 

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 Elon Musk Lina Khan

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