Hillicon Valley: FCC Republicans backing T-Mobile, Sprint merger | Tech giants to testify on election security | GOP senator offers 'Do Not Track' bill | Researchers find coordinated anti-Trump campaign on Instagram
Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).
ALL OF THE G'S: President Trump on Thursday said in a pair of tweets that he wants the U.S. to beat other nations to rolling out next-generation wireless technology, known as 5G.
"I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind," Trump wrote.
"There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future," he continued. "I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology."
Context: The president appears to be referring to an executive order that he had reportedly been expected to sign that would block Chinese telecom companies like Huawei from U.S. 5G networks, citing national security concerns.
A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond when asked if Trump was backing off the rumored executive order. The tweets came as U.S. and Chinese officials were beginning another round of trade talks in Washington.
Full 5G is still years away while 6G is a still undefined standard.
SILENT AS A STONE: The federal judge presiding over Roger Stone's criminal case banned him Thursday from saying anything publicly about his case or the special counsel's investigation.
The ruling, which modifies a limited gag order U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued last week, comes after Stone posted an inflammatory photo of the judge on his Instagram account over the weekend.
Before Jackson's ruling from the bench Stone took the stand to beg for forgiveness.
"I abused the order for which I'm heartfully sorry," he said. "I'm kicking myself over my own stupidity."
Jackson called Thursday's hearing to decide if she should change Stone's conditions of release or impose harsher restrictions on his ability to talk to the press after he posted a headshot of her with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a rifle scope in the background.
The photo was accompanied by a critique of Jackson.
"Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again [sic] Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. #fixisin Help me fight for my life at @StoneDefenseFund.com," the since-deleted post read.
Stone tried to convince Jackson that the photo was selected by one of his volunteers and that he never meant for it to be viewed as a threat against her.
But Jackson wasn't buying it.
"Thank you, but the apology ranks quite hollow," she said.
GOOGLE ENDS FORCED ARBITRATION: Google on Thursday said that it will soon allow its employees to sue the company over discrimination and harassment claims, a policy change that comes a campaign by its workers.
The tech giant confirmed to The Hill that it will end its "mandatory arbitration" policy on March 21, meaning Google employees will no longer be forced to resolve discrimination and harassment complaints through arbitration. The change will apply to Google's full-time employees, but it is less clear how the policy will apply to its temporary workers, contractors and vendors.
Critics say arbitration, a method of dealing with disputes outside the courts, favors employers because it prevents workers from taking their issues before a judge or jury. Many Silicon Valley employment contracts including arbitration clauses.
Workers' groups react: "We commend the company in taking this step so that all its workers can access their civil rights through public court," activist group Googles for Ending Forced Arbitration said in a Medium post on Thursday. "We will officially celebrate when we see these changes reflected in our policy websites and/or employment agreements."
The group also wants the changes extended to all employees, including contractors. And they are turning their attention to Congress to address other companies with similar practices.
"We're calling on Congress to make this a law to protect everyone," the group said. It did not specify which lawmakers, but the group has previously praised the Arbitration Fairness Act, which Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced in the previous Congress, and the Restoring Justice for Workers Act introduced by House Democrats led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) last year.
"Today was a good day," the group wrote. "Now keep going."
ADVERTISERS BAIL ON YOUTUBE: Several major companies have reportedly pulled advertisements on YouTube following a report that the comment sections on the site have been used to facilitate "a soft-core pedophile ring."
Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that Walt Disney Co. has joined Nestle and video game maker Epic Games in pulling advertising from YouTube, days after a YouTube user named Matt Watson uploaded a video explaining how YouTube comment sections are used to identify and share exploitative videos of young girls.
Watson said in his video that YouTube's algorithm has helped facilitate the ability of pedophiles to trade social media contacts, provide links to "actual child porn" and trade "unlisted videos in secret."
Bloomberg News cited "people with knowledge of the matter" in reporting that Disney has since withheld its advertising spending from YouTube.
A spokesperson for Nestle told CNBC that "all Nestle companies in the U.S. have paused advertising on YouTube."
A spokesperson for Epic Games told CNBC that the company has "paused all pre-roll advertising."
FACEBOOK IS A FULL-TIME JOB FOR THE FTC: Public interest groups are accusing Facebook of deceiving children as young as 5 into unknowingly spending their parents' money on in-game purchases on the social network's platform.
A coalition of child and privacy advocates filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday after court documents that were unsealed last month revealed employees were aware that young children were playing games on the Facebook app and that the company was making it harder for their parents to obtain refunds. The documents were first reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
"There is no benefit to consumers here -- not to the parents being charged without permission, nor to the kids who do not realize the digital 'sword' they click on in a game costs actual money," the groups wrote in their FTC complaint. "The only benefits accrue to Facebook and the developers who have designed a system to dupe children and take their families' money."
Among the groups filing the complaint are the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Common Sense Media and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
FTC woes: Facebook was hit with another complaint before the FTC earlier this week, when patients groups accused the company of exposing users' health data.
GOOGLE TAKES ON OPIOID CRISIS: Google is launching a new effort Thursday to make it easier for people to dispose of opioids.
Federal agencies, state governments and local pharmacies helped Google identify 3,500 drug drop-off locations across the country where people are invited to dispose of leftover pain pills and other addictive drugs. Now, using Google Maps or search, users can look up phrases similar to "drug drop off near me" or "medication disposal near me" and find directions to the nearest permanent disposal locations.
"By bringing opioid disposal site information to Google Maps, Americans are only a search away from helping to address the opioid crisis," Health and Human Services (HHS) chief technology officer Ed Simcox said in a statement. "This type of consumer empowerment--providing easily accessible data--is the kind of innovation needed to improve healthcare."
Google says it partnered with agencies and companies including HHS, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), CVS and Walgreens to determine drop-off locations across seven states.
The company partnered with state governments in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania - some of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic - and it says it hopes to continue expanding.
Other tech companies have also been launching tools to help fight the opioid epidemic, including data analytics tools that track how many painkillers are being prescribed and wristbands that detect when a person could have overdosed on opioids.
CYBER HEALTH CHECK-UP: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter to several major healthcare groups on Thursday asking what they have done to prevent cyberattacks and how the federal government can help them address cyber issues.
"The increased use of technology in health care certainly has the potential to improve the quality of patient care, expand access to care (including by extending the range of services through telehealth), and reduce wasteful spending," Warner wrote in the letter, according to a release.
"However, the increased use of technology has also left the health care industry more vulnerable to attack."
Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, cited in the letter a Government Accountability Office report that found that more than 113 million health care records were stolen in 2015 through cyberattacks.
The letter was sent to organizations like the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the National Rural Health Association and the Healthcare Leadership Council.
Warner asked the groups how they track connected systems in their facilities, how they have made their staff more aware of security issues and whether there are any federal laws that need to be changed to help them address cybersecurity issues.
A LIGHTER CLICK: TFW you get the joke.
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Artificial intelligence helps salespeople get back to what they do best -- selling.
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Google exec reorganizes policy shop as global threats loom. (Axios)
Bowser to take over Nintendo's U.S. division. (The Washington Post)
How an investigation of fake FCC comments snared a prominent D.C. media firm. (Gizmodo)