Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump

Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump
© Getty Images

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.

 

INTERFERENCE, INFLUENCE, WHATEVER: A senior administration official confirmed Wednesday that a foreign influence campaign targeting next week's midterm elections would trigger an executive order imposing sanctions on foreign actors who try to interfere with U.S. elections.

The senior official, speaking on a call with reporters, said that both an influence campaign or an attack on election infrastructure would set off the executive order's parameters. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE signed the order last month, authorizing the sanctions if a foreign entity is determined to have interfered in a U.S. election.

ADVERTISEMENT

The official said that both attacks on voting systems and the influence campaigns fall under the scope of Trump's order and "could result in sanctions being ordered."

Some officials have been careful to not conflate election interference -- an attack on an elections system like a voter registration database -- with influence operations, which can take place outside of an election and are designed to sway the opinions of Americans.

The Department of Justice earlier this month charged a Russian national with interfering in next month's midterms. It's not clear if that would set off the executive order, but The Hill has reached out to DOJ and the Office of the Director for National Intelligence for comment.

 

ZUCKERBERG CALLED ABROAD: Members of Parliament from Great Britain and Canada are pushing to have Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergTop antitrust Dem calls on FTC to probe Facebook's market dominance Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech's censorship expands Actually, consumers love Big Tech, even if they say they don't MORE testify before them and answer questions about his company's data privacy practices and disinformation being spread on the social media platform.

"Given your self-declared objective to 'fix' Facebook, and to prevent the platform's malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing," Damian Collins, chairman of Great Britain's Commons Digital Culture Committee, and Bob Zimmer, chairman of the Canadian parliament's Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, wrote in a letter to Facebook.

The two requested in their letter that Zuckerberg appear before their committees in a joint hearing in London on Nov. 27

It's unclear why the two countries are teaming up, but the move is unprecedented. The two parliaments have never before held a joint hearing.

Zuckerberg has already appeared in front of the U.S. Congress and European Parliament but has sent other representatives to speak to members of the British and Canadian parliaments, who have both requested his testimony. 

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE EXEC OUT AFTER NYT REPORT: Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized to employees on Tuesday following a damning New York Times article that detailed how the company's leadership gave exit packages or turned a blind eye to male executives accused of sexual misconduct.

In a company-wide email first reported by Axios, Pichai said he realized his previous apology after the report's publication was not enough.

"So first, let me say that I am deeply sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees," Pichai wrote. "Larry [Page] mentioned this on stage last week, but it bears repeating: if even one person experiences Google the way the New York Times article described, we are not the company we aspire to be."

The Times story reported that Google had given Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system and a high-level executive at the time, a $90 million exit package when he resigned following an investigation into an allegation he coerced an employee into performing oral sex on him in a hotel room in 2013.

Axios also reported on Tuesday that one of the executives named in the article who was accused of harassment, Richard DeVaul, had resigned. 

Read more here.

 

T-MOBILE, SPRINT CRAFT THEIR PITCH FOR THE TRUMP ERA: T-Mobile and Sprint are tailoring the pitch for their $26 billion merger for the Trump era, claiming it will push the U.S. closer to a 5G future and help the country beat China economically.

In previous administrations, the deal combining two of the nation's four wireless providers would likely have long odds of being approved, but the companies' message may have a receptive audience this time around.

The Trump administration increasingly sees 5G, the next generation of wireless networks, as a top economic and national security priority, especially when it comes to its rivalry with China. Experts say China has been racing ahead of the U.S. on 5G.

T-Mobile and Sprint have seized on those concerns, touting the combination as essential to achieving a widespread 5G deployment, which many believe is years away from being fully realized. Building out that new network could also require large numbers of workers, appealing to President Trump's push for jobs. 

Read more here.

 

SO... DID THEY?? Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans MORE (D-Ore.) hit Director National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE on Wednesday after officials gave an entirely classified response to senators' request for the evidence behind President Trump's claims that China is interfering in the midterm elections.

Wyden, along with Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College MORE (D-Calif.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Senate Dems seek to turn tables on GOP in climate change fight Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-N.M.), have twice sent letters to Coats over the past month, requesting that he provide intelligence backing Trump's claims of Chinese election meddling.

Coats responded to the senators on Wednesday, but the letter was fully classified.

Wyden said in a statement Wednesday that Coats "has an obligation to the American people to provide a public response to our questions, particularly since this is about America's elections and the security of our democracy."

"I'm not asking for every word of the letter to be declassified," Wyden said. "But at the very least, the DNI should say publicly whether or not the president's statements are consistent with the government's intelligence assessments." 

Read more here.

 

BRADY TROUBLED BY UK DIGITAL TAX: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradySmaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive Key author of GOP tax law joins Ernst and Young Lawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday criticized the United Kingdom's plans for a digital services tax, arguing that the tax would unfairly target American technology companies.

"The United Kingdom's introduction of a new tax targeting cross-border digital services -- which mirrors a similar proposal under consideration in the European Union -- is troubling," Brady said in a statement. "Singling out a key global industry dominated by American companies for taxation that is inconsistent with international norms is a blatant revenue grab."

The U.K. on Monday announced plans to introduce a digital services tax in 2020 that would have large technology companies paying a tax of 2 percent of revenues in the country. Other European countries have also expressed interest implementing a similar type of tax, frustrated with the fact that internet companies largely are not paying taxes in their jurisdictions.

Read more here.

 

SOFTBANK BEEFS UP PR TEAM: The Japanese telecom giant SoftBank has hired a public relations veteran to beef up its communications department as it fights for approval for its subsidiary Sprint to merge with T-Mobile and amid scrutiny of the firm's ties with Saudi Arabia.

Gary Ginsberg is joining SoftBank from Time Warner, after helping sell that company's merger with AT&T. Ginsberg, who also served in the Clinton administration and at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., will be SoftBank's global head of communications. 

Read more here.

 

AT&T UNDER PRESSURE OVER Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingHateful words demand stronger response from Congress, President Trump Ex-Bush ethics chief calls for Steve King expulsion after he posted meme of potential civil war Steve King deletes Facebook post asking who would win new US civil war MOREAT&T said Wednesday that it will "take all concerns very seriously" when considering whether to make future campaign contributions to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

The AT&T statement comes with King under fire in recent days for past comments in support of parties and people linked to white nationalists.

"Our PAC contributions are managed and approved by a committee of employees who represent various levels and business units throughout the company. Since the 2018 contribution cycle is completed, we will not be making any further contributions to Congressman King this year," an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more here.

 

GAB CEO DEFENDS HIS PLATFORM: The CEO of Gab.com is defending the social media platform after it was revealed that the suspected shooter in Saturday's massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue posted anti-Semitic messages on the site.

"It disgusted me. This is a clear act of terror, 11 people are dead, and I was horrified to find that this terrorist, this alleged terrorist, was on our site," Andrew Tobra told WBRE-TV in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

"I fundamentally believe in the free expression and individual liberty and fundamental human rights for everyone to speak freely. Obviously threats of violence are not included in that and there are other regulations around freedom of speech and the First Amendment, of course, but I do think that more speech is always going to be the answer to combat bad speech or hate speech," he added.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP: Fifth Domain is hosting its CyberCon on Thursday. Jacqueline will be there – come say hi and tell her your news!

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Happy Halloween!

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

How an internet meme became a Trump campaign slogan (Politico)

From Silicon Valley elite to social media hate: The radicalization that led to Gab. (The Washington Post)

Samsung chalks up another record profit, but phones are a worry. (The Wall Street Journal)

Inside the Trump administration's rudderless fight to counter election propaganda (Politico)