Hillicon Valley: Trump raises antitrust concerns for tech giants | Google faces new scrutiny from GOP | Twitter updates rules for political ads | Snapchat apologizes after map calls NYC 'Jewtropolis'

Hillicon Valley: Trump raises antitrust concerns for tech giants | Google faces new scrutiny from GOP | Twitter updates rules for political ads | Snapchat apologizes after map calls NYC 'Jewtropolis'
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland). And CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

'A VERY ANTITRUST SITUATION': President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE in a new interview Thursday said that Facebook, Google and Amazon may be in a "very antitrust situation," but declined to elaborate on whether the companies should be broken up.

"I won't comment on the breaking up, of whether it's that or Amazon or Facebook," Trump said in an with Bloomberg News. "As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation, the three of them. But I just, I won't comment on that."

Trump has accused the tech giants as being anti-conservative and for allegedly stifling conservative speech.

More on what his remarks could mean here.

 

HATCH JOINS THE ANTI-GOOGLE CAUCUS: Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Judiciary Dems say GOP treating Kavanaugh accuser worse than Anita Hill Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Utah) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether Google's search and digital advertising practices are stifling the marketplace.

Hatch sent a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern about reports in recent years ranging from Google restricting competing advertising services to collecting data from users' Gmail inbox contents.

"Needless to say, I found these reports disquieting," Hatch wrote. "Although these reports concern different aspects of Google's business, many relate to the company's dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data."

The letter comes at a time when critics of Google's market power are gaining momentum, helped along by growing concerns over data privacy. But most of the lawmakers echoing those concerns have been Democrats and Hatch, the longest-serving member of the Senate, may be the highest-profile Republican to call for the government to take antitrust action against Google.

"We take all correspondence from members of Congress very seriously," FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said in an email to The Hill. "However, we have no comment beyond that." Read more here.

 

TWITTER UNVEILS NEW POLITICAL AD POLICIES: Twitter is letting news outlets apply for exemptions to its political and issue advertising policies, part of an update to the social media platform's political ad rules.

The company plans to implement an ad policy that would include new standards, such as archiving all political ads, in an effort to increase transparency. Other steps would include clearly labeling promoted tweets as containing "issue" or "political" content and requiring a certification process for accounts running those types of ads.

The policy changes will affect advocacy groups and candidates seeking public office.

Twitter said that news publishers meeting certain requirements can apply for an exemption from the new policies.

Publications eligible to apply for exemption must meet criteria such as having more than 200,000 monthly unique visitors to their site, displaying available contact and "about" information online and having a searchable archive.

Read more here.

 

FBI GETS A FOREIGN INFLUENCE BLOG: The FBI announced Thursday that it had launched a new website to share information on and mitigating the effects of foreign influence campaigns.

The site is designed "to educate the public about the threats faced from disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, and the overall impact of foreign influence on society" and was created as part of the Foreign Influence Task Force formed last fall, according to an agency release.

"Foreign influence operations--which include covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment or public discourse--are not a new problem," the FBI release stated.

"But the interconnectedness of the modern world, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, have changed the nature of the threat and how the FBI and its partners must address it. The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values."

Read more here.

 

IS THERE A 'YIKES' FILTER? – SNAP APOLOGIZES FOR RENAMING NYC 'JEWTROPOLIS:' Snap, the company behind Snapchat, apologized on Thursday after its map feature mislabeled New York City as "Jewtropolis."

Snap said that the incident was due to vandalism of data from OpenStreetMap, a service that allows users to edit and submit information to build its maps.

"Snap Map, similar to other apps, relies on third-party mapping data from OpenStreetMap, which unfortunately has been vandalized," a Snap spokesperson said in a statement. "This defacement is deeply offensive and entirely contrary to our values, and we want to apologize to any members of our community who saw it. As soon as we were alerted to this, we began working with our partner Mapbox to fix it, and it is now corrected on the Snap Map."

But according to Buzzfeed News, OpenStreetMap's site was not showing the name "Jewtropolis" for New York on Thursday morning, while a demo map from Mapbox was. Mapbox partners with companies like Snap to provide location data platforms, according to its website.

"This morning, the label of 'New York City' on our maps was vandalized," the company said in a blog post on Medium. "Within an hour, our team deleted and removed that information. The malicious edit was made by a source that attempted several other hateful edits. Our security team has confirmed no additional attempts were successful." Read more here.

 

THE HILL'S PREVIEW OF THE FALL AGENDA: It's been a rough year for Silicon Valley and the industry can expect more scrutiny and controversy this fall from Washington.

Tech companies have been under pressure from lawmakers who want answers on data privacy and efforts to prevent foreign influence and election interference. Social media has found itself under fire from both sides of the political divide. Those on the left say it needs to do more to crack down on abusive behavior online, while Republicans, including President Trump, are raising concerns that conservative voices could be censored.

Here are the key issues on tech and telecom we'll be keeping an eye on as 2018 draws to a close.

 

As for cybersecurity, officials and the tech world are looking to prevent any repeat of foreign adversaries interfering in U.S. elections. Tech giants and social media companies will be under enormous pressure ahead of the midterms to push back on foreign interference efforts on their platforms and services.

Here's a look at the cyber agenda for this fall.

 

TRUMP JR. WANTS A CONSERVATIVE SOCIAL NETWORK: Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDershowitz: Trump's lawyers could force Rosenstein to recuse himself from Mueller probe On The Money: Trump signs first 2019 'minibus' spending package | Mueller probing transactions by Russian organizers of Trump Tower meeting | Stocks brush off trade fears Trump Jr. slams Rosenstein report: 'No one is shocked' MORE said in a new interview that he would back a conservative version of Facebook.

"I'd love to do it. But what I prefer is, take one of the two Silicon Valley conservatives and let them start it," Trump Jr. told Axios when asked if President Trump's 2020 campaign might create such a platform. "And then I'd help promote the platform and be all over that."

Trump Jr.'s comments come on the heels of a report from The New York Times that more than 100 Facebook employees are forming a group to challenge what the group's founder, senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige, terms the company's "political monoculture."

Read more here.

 

MICROSOFT'S NEW FAMILY LEAVE POLICY: Microsoft Corp. on Thursday reportedly announced that it will only partner with contractors and suppliers that offer their employees 12 weeks of paid family leave.

"We want to focus our resources on doing business with companies that share our values," Dev Stahlkopf, Microsoft's corporate vice president and general counsel, told The Washington Post.

The policy means that service providers partnering with the tech giant will be required to offer mothers and fathers 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their wages or up to $1,000 weekly, according to The Post.

Read more here.

 

RUSSIA ISN'T MAILING IT IN ON TELEGRAM: Russia is reportedly exploring new measures to block online apps, the latest step in authorities efforts to crack down on the messaging app Telegram.

The country is having a difficult time shutting down Telegram in Russia without inadvertently shutting down other digital services as well, including another messaging app, Viber, as well as apps for Volvo cars and video camera apps. To get around this, since early August, Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor and state security agency the FSB have been testing more precise blocking systems.

Russian officials had previously tried to block IP addresses of sites being hosted by Amazon Web Services and Google, but because IP addresses can host traffic for different sites, more services than the intended target were often affected.

Read more here.

 

FOREIGN PARTNERS AGAINST FOREIGN INTERFERENCE: Leaders from the U.S.'s four intelligence-sharing partner countries have agreed to work together to fight against foreign interference.

Homeland Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFEMA head to reimburse government for use of federal vehicles: report US to prioritize attacks against foreign adversaries under new cyber strategy Paddlers sue Trump over frequent golf visits shutting down the Potomac River MORE was among the representatives from the five nations known as the "Five Eyes" -- including Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- who met in Australia for a summit this week.

The leaders wrote in a joint communique that they "condemned foreign interference" that sought to "sow discord, manipulate public discourse, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets for the purpose of undermining our nations and our allies."

"Foreign interference threatens a nation's sovereignty, values and national interests -- it can limit or shape the polity's ability to make independent judgements, erode public confidence in our political and government institutions, and interfere with private-sector decision making," the joint statement read. "We agreed the five countries would work collectively to counter foreign interference, protect our individual sovereignty, and ensure our values and interests are upheld."

 

SAFE...FOR NOW: President Trump in an interview Thursday that Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE will remain in his position until at least the upcoming midterm elections.

"I just would love to have him do a great job," Trump told the publication in an interview, before departing for a rally in Indiana. The president declined to comment when asked if he would keep Sessions on after the November elections.

The tensions between Trump and his attorney general appeared to reach a pivotal point last week after Trump again criticized Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation during an appearance on Fox News.

Trump claimed he only appointed Sessions, a key member of his campaign, because he "felt loyalty" and blamed the attorney general for failing to crack down on "corruption" at the Justice Department. In a rare statement in response, Sessions said that he would "not be improperly influenced" by political pressure.

The strains in their relationship, which have percolated for months, have given way to broad speculation that Sessions could be fired or quit. Last week, some senators raised the prospect of replacing Sessions after the midterm elections.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: When you bend over backwards to deal with new security threats.

Pope Francis and Bitcoin? Oh dear.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Uber is getting into the scooter game. (Bloomberg)

SoftBank pulls plug on investment in Chinese Tesla competitor. (The Wall Street Journal)

SoFi's rough year. (CNN)

What a conservative social media platform looks like. (Vanity Fair)

Facebook is closer to being Yahoo than Amazon. (Pando)

Every generation gets the beach villain it deserves. (The New York Times)