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Hillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account

Hillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account
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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. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

TECH CEO-PALOOZA: The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will testify before Congress on Wednesday in what will be a crucial hearing for the future of both antitrust law and Big Tech’s relationship with Washington.

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It will be the first time that Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosElon Musk passes Bill Gates to become world's second-richest person in Bloomberg rankings How space exploration will help to address climate change Bezos makes first donations from billion Earth Fund MORE, Tim Cook, Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Hillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote MORE and Sundar Pichai appear for questioning together and comes as the congressional panel hosting the hearing enters the final stretch of its investigation into digital marketplace competition.

For Democrats on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, led by Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-R.I.), Wednesday’s testimony will be one of the last major components of that exhaustive process, which started in June 2019 and included hundreds of hours of calls, meetings and briefings, as well as the review of 1.3 million documents. No release date has been announced for the panel's report.

A few Republicans on the subcommittee have signaled they will use the hearing to grill the nation’s top tech CEOs on content moderation, pursuing persistent yet unsubstantiated allegations that social media platforms discriminate against conservatives.

Amazon: Bezos will likely face questioning about Amazon’s dual role as the operator of an online marketplace and a seller of goods on that market.

A bipartisan group of members from the House Judiciary Committee has wanted Bezos to testify ever since The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the company used information from other sellers on the platform to make decisions regarding its private label business, which includes more than 243,000 products.

The article directly contradicted testimony last year from Amazon associate general counsel Nate Sutton, who told the committee that “we do not use any seller data to compete with them.”

Apple: Cicilline has indicated his questioning of Cook will focus on Apple’s App Store and allegations that the company buries apps that could displace its own products.

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“Because of the market power that Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents — highway robbery, basically — bullying people to pay 30 percent or denying access to their market,” the Rhode Island lawmaker said on a podcast with The Verge last month.

Facebook: The company’s acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 are likely to feature heavily in Wednesday’s testimony.

The company claims that concerns about dominating social media because of those purchases are overblown, emphasizing that the two platforms were not that big before being purchased by Facebook and that it still has to compete with apps like TikTok. Zuckerberg will likely point out that his company’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp were approved by federal regulators at the time.

Another concern is how Facebook treats data collected by its different apps. Germany’s top court ruled last month that the social media giant illegally combined data it collected about users across different platforms it owns.

Google: The biggest competition concerns with Google are tied to its dominance in search and the ad tech market.

The company has been accused of self-preferencing in search results, burying vertical search competitors far down the page. The European Commission fined Google $2.7 billion in 2017 for boosting its own shopping results over competing services.

Google has strengthened its position in the ad tech space in recent years with acquisitions of companies like DoubleClick and AdMob that give it dominance in nearly every step of the online advertising chain.

Read more about the historic hearing.

 

ZUCKERBERG PREVIEW: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will describe his company as being "proudly American" while warning about China's model for the internet during his testimony before Congress, according to a copy of his opening remarks reviewed by The Hill Tuesday.

Zuckerberg, along with the chief executives of Amazon, Apple and Google, are set to testify before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust Wednesday as part of the group's investigation into competition in the digital marketplace.

In his opening remarks, Facebook's CEO will emphasize that the company continues to grow because of competition. He will also argue that the platform is founded on American values.

“Although people around the world use our products, Facebook is a proudly American company. We believe in values — democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression — that the American economy was built on," Zuckerberg is set to say.

"Many other tech companies share these values, but there’s no guarantee our values will win out."

Read more about Zuckerberg's testimony here.

 

The Future of Human Connectivity -- The Hill's event on Wednesday, July 29
 
Connectivity is not just about machines and sensors. People lie at the heart of this technology. On July 29, The Hill Virtually Live hosts The Future of Human Connectivity to imagine how America can tie technology and this incredible moment of transition of ultra-connectivity to today’s societal needs. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Rep. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeLawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Top tech executives testify in blockbuster antitrust hearing MORE (D-N.Y.), Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFormer GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings Democrats slam DHS chief for defying subpoena for testimony on worldwide threats Remembering 9/11 as we evaluate today's emerging threats MORE and an incredible line-up of speakers join The Hill's Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Election Day has arrived Law enforcement braces for unrest after Election Day The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association -Trump enters debate week after NYT obtains his tax returns MORE and Steve Clemons. Watch on TheHill.com starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
 

ELECTION FUNDS A NO SHOW: Senate Republicans left out funding for mail-in and early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic in their stimulus bill rolled out Monday, prompting backlash from Democrats, election officials and advocacy groups. 

With less than 100 days to go before Election Day, these officials are concerned that without a new injection of federal funds, state and local officials facing budget shortfalls may struggle to carry out safe and secure elections that ensure every American can vote. 

The concerns come as the pandemic has upended the primary process, leading most states to postpone their contests, while results in a handful, including New York, have been delayed by a surge in mailed-in ballots.

“This isn’t in anyone’s budget, no one budgeted for a pandemic, and you can see state and local budgets are cratering, they don’t have funding to put into this, and certainly it’s going to be a challenge,” Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Chairman Benjamin Hovland, who was nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE, told The Hill Tuesday. 

The roughly $1 trillion stimulus proposal, announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R-Ky.) and other top Republicans, did not include election funds for states, despite months of strong advocacy for the inclusion of these funds. 

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McConnell said during a press conference that he was concerned that including the funds would “federalize” elections, adding that Congress had previously appropriated election funds to states in other funding bills. 

Congress appropriated $400 million to states as part of the CARES Act stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March. These funds were in addition to over $800 million sent to states to boost election security as part of appropriations packages since 2018. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (R-Mo.), the chairman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, told The Hill Tuesday that he was “open” to additional election funds being sent to states in the future, but also wanted to examine ways “to increase flexibility for states to use the current funding they have available.” 

Read more about the backlash here.

 

DON JR. SHADOWBANNED?: Twitter temporarily limited Donald Trump Jr.'s account after the president's son shared a video that broke the platform's coronavirus misinformation policies, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.

Some functionality — like being able to tweet or retweet — will be limited for 12 hours. Trump Jr. is not suspended from the platform, although his spokesperson claimed otherwise in a statement.

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"Twitter suspending Don Jr. for sharing a viral video of medical professionals discussing their views on Hydroxychloroquine is further proof that Big Tech is intent on killing free expression online and is another instance of them committing election interference to stifle Republican voices," Andy Surabian said.

Surabian also said in a tweet that Twitter is playing "BS word games" and the limits still amount to a suspension.

The video in question has been taken down for violating Twitter rules. The video spread like wildfire on social media platforms Monday, racking up millions of views before being taken down.

Read more here. 

 

MORE CONCERNS WITH TIKTOK: A group of Republican senators led by Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection More conservatives break with Trump over election claims MORE (R-Ark.) on Tuesday raised concerns that popular social media app TikTok could be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to spread disinformation around U.S. elections.

The GOP lawmakers wrote to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence raising concerns that the app could be used by China to interfere in American elections. 

“TikTok has become a popular forum for Americans—particularly younger Americans—to engage in political conversations,” Cotton and his colleagues wrote. “I’m greatly concerned that the CCP could use its control over TikTok to distort or manipulate these conversations to sow discord among Americans and to achieve its preferred political outcomes.”

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which is subject to Chinese intelligence laws, an issue that has increasingly led to questions over the security and privacy of American data stored by the app. The company has taken steps to separate itself from China, including hiring an American CEO and moving the storage of American data to the U.S. 

But the senators still warned that the CCP could use the app for its purposes, noting that TikTok temporarily locked a teen’s account last year after the individual posted a video critical of the CCP’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. 

They asked that the agencies respond to questions around whether TikTok could be subject to sanctions if disinformation efforts are found on its platform, and whether the app could serve as a tool for the CCP to interfere in U.S. elections. 

Biden campaign also takes action: Staffers on the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE were told Tuesday to either delete TikTok from their phones and to not download the app in the future.

Read more about TikTok concerns here.

 

HAWLEY TACKLES 230… AGAIN: Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' MORE (R-Mo.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would condition legal protections for online platforms that utilize behavioral advertising, the use of browsing habits to serve tailored ads to users.

The Behavioral Advertising Decisions Are Downgrading Services (BAD ADS) Act would take Section 230 protections away from the biggest tech companies that use the advertising method.

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which has come under increased scrutiny since President Trump targeted it in an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.

The law is considered foundational for online companies, and the threat of having it revoked has increasingly been proposed as a cudgel to compel platforms to make changes by lawmakers.

Only companies with either 30 million users in the U.S. or 300 million worldwide and $1.5 billion in global revenue would be affected by Hawley's bill.

“Big Tech’s manipulative advertising regime comes with a massive hidden price tag for consumers while providing almost no return to anyone but themselves," Hawley said in a statement.

Read more.

 

CYBERSECURITY GETS A BOOST: The coronavirus relief package rolled out by Senate Republicans on Monday includes $53 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to defend coronavirus vaccine development against malicious hackers.

According to a summary of the roughly $1 trillion bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee, the funds for CISA were included in an effort to “remediate vulnerabilities and enhance Federal network security as a result of increased attacks targeting Federal networks for agencies involved in coronavirus vaccine development.”

The $53 million is a marked increase from the $9.1 million given to CISA in the CARES Act stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March, reflecting the increase in concerns around criminals stepping up cyberattacks during the pandemic. 

Read more about the funds here.



Lighter click: I want to have one

An op-ed to chew on: Hong Kong spotlights why China cannot be trusted on technology

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

‘A Permanent Nightmare’: Pinterest Moderators Fight to Keep Horrifying Content Off the Platform (OneZero / Sarah Emerson)

This Bumbling New Start-Up Helps Conservative Websites Store User Names, Postal Addresses of Anonymous Readers (Jezebel / Molly Osberg and Dhruv Mehrotra)

Don’t Ban TikTok. Make an Example of It. (New York Times / Kevin Roose)

Democrats want a truce with Section 230 supporters (The Verge / Adi Robertson)