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Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom

Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

TRUMP MULLS PUSHING OUT ELECTION: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE on Thursday suggested delaying the 2020 elections, something he does not have the power to do unilaterally, as he levied fresh attacks against mail-in voting.

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Trump, who is badly trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE in national polls, framed the suggestion as a question and argued that with more mail-in ballots there would be more fraud.

There is no evidence to support the idea that either absentee or mail-in ballots increases voter fraud. It also does not appear that there will be universal mail-in voting this fall, though some states require mail-in ballots.

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump tweeted. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

The tweet, which came on the heels of a dire report on the state of the economy, marked the first time Trump has raised the idea of delaying the November elections, an idea he previously rejected amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

But the president has for weeks railed against the expansion of mail-in voting, which more and more states are embracing as an alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

Republicans break ranks: The prospect of delaying the election was swiftly rebuffed by Republican lawmakers.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) shot down the idea of moving the election back during an interview with a Kentucky radio station, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country The Memo: Harris moves signal broad role as VP Former US attorney asks for probe of allegations Graham pressured Georgia official MORE (R-S.C.), a reliable Trump ally, said delaying it "wouldn't be a good idea."

“We’re going to have an election. It’s going to [be] legitimate, it’s going to be credible,” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Pressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal MORE (R-Fla.) said. “It’s not going to change. We’re going to have an election in November and people should have confidence in it.”

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus Biden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House committee that has jurisdiction over elections, tweeted that the date of November's election "should not be changed."

Read more about pushback against Trump’s suggestion here. 

 

BIG TECH EARNINGS REPORTS RELEASED:

AMAZON SALES SURGE: Amazon reported Tuesday a surge in revenue during the second quarter of the year as the COVID-19 pandemic led people to boost their online purchases.

The online retailing giant reported net sales of $88.9 billion compared to the $75.5 billion from the first three months of the year. 

Meanwhile, Amazon doubled its net income during the past three months compared to the first quarter of 2020, increasing from $2.5 billion to $5.2 billion, with company shares doubling as well. 

“This was another highly unusual quarter, and I couldn’t be more proud of and grateful to our employees around the globe,” Amazon CEO and founder 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 said in a statement. 

Bezos also noted that the company had spent more than $4 billion on efforts to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, including for purchasing personal protective equipment, increased cleaning of facilities, and a $500 million program to give bonuses to employees and delivery partners during the pandemic. 

He added that the company had also created 175,000 new jobs since March, and was in the process of moving 125,000 of these employees into full-time roles. 

Read more about Amazon’s earnings results here. 

FACEBOOK ALSO HAS GREAT QUARTER: Facebook on Thursday reported an 11 percent increase in revenue during the second quarter of 2020, even as the company weathers a deteriorating economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The company's earning report said it netted roughly $18.7 billion in revenue between April and June, marking an 11 percent increase year-over-year.

While the revenue growth marked a slower pace than the first quarter of the year, the figure beat analysts’ expectations and sent shares of the company surging in after-hours trading.

Facebook also reported a profit of $5.2 billion in net income, a 98 percent year over year increase. 

The positive earnings came as the economy cratered, and as an advertising boycott demanding that Facebook take greater steps to combat hate speech took form.

But the last quarter also showcased a sustained surge in usage of Facebook and the apps it owns as the coronavirus outbreak caused nations around the world to implement lockdown orders.

Read more about Facebook’s earnings here. 

APPLE HAS A GOOD FEW MONTHS, TOO: Apple on Thursday reported a historically strong third quarter, claiming $59.7 billion in revenue — an 11 percent increase from the same time last year. 

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The company also announced it plans to give investors three additional shares of the company per each share they already own at the end of August as part of a 4-1 stock split. 

The company's growth comes as more people flock to their products and services as schools and businesses move to digital platforms. 

Despite widespread retail closures across the country that have impacted Apple, product sales increased substantially. Year-over-year, iPad sales increased by 31 percent and other products, including AirPods and Apple Watch, were up 14.8 percent. 

Revenue the company made from services was up 14.8 percent from the same time last year. The company is on track to meet its goal of $50 billion in services sales this year. 

“In uncertain times, this performance is a testament to the important role our products play in our customers’ lives and to Apple’s relentless innovation,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. 

Read more about Apple’s earnings here. 

BUT GOOGLE STUMBLES SLIGHTLY: Alphabet, the parent company of Google, announced Thursday that its sales had dropped for the first time in the company’s history, as ad revenue took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The company rolled out its earnings report for the second quarter of the year, reporting revenues of $38.3 billion, a two percent decrease from the same time period in 2019. The company also reported a dip in operating income, with over $6 billion in income during the second quarter of 2020 as compared to over $9 billion during the second quarter of 2019. 

“We’re working to help people, businesses and communities in these uncertain times,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said in a statement on Thursday. “As people increasingly turn to online services, our platforms — from Cloud to Google Play to YouTube — are helping our partners provide important services and support their businesses.”

Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, acknowledged that the company was continuing to cope with the changes to the online market from the pandemic. 

“In the second quarter our total revenues were $38.3B, driven by gradual improvement in our ads business and strong growth in Google Cloud and Other Revenues,” Porat said in a statement. “We continue to navigate through a difficult global economic environment.”

Read more about Google’s earnings here. 

 

ZOOM AND TIKTOK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump doubles down on Section 230 repeal after GOP pushback Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Thursday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open investigations into social media platform TikTok and video conferencing service Zoom, citing concerns over potential security threats from ties to the Chinese government. 

In a letter to Justice Department Assistant Attorney General John Demers, Hawley and Blumenthal wrote that they were “extremely concerned” that Zoom and TikTok had potentially disclosed private American information to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and censored content on the CCP’s behalf. 

“As tens of millions of Americans turn to Zoom and TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic, few know that the privacy of their data and their freedom of expression is under threat due to the relationship of these companies to the Chinese government,” the senators wrote. “Of particular concern, both Zoom and TikTok have sought to conceal and distract from their meaningful ties to China, holding themselves out as American companies.”

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which is headquartered in Beijing, though TikTok is taking steps to move storage of American data to the U.S. this year. 

Zoom is headquartered in the U.S., but the senators cited a report from Citizen Lab that found Zoom was developed through three companies in China that employ at least 700 workers to develop software. 

Read more about the proposed investigation here. 

 

THE EUROPEANS TAKE ACTION: The European Union (EU) on Thursday imposed sanctions on six hackers and three groups behind some of the most significant and wide-reaching international cyberattacks in history.

The EU froze the assets and imposed a travel ban on individuals involved in the “WannaCry,” “NotPetya,” and “Operation Cloud Hopper” attacks, along with those responsible for a cyberattack against the Dutch Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental group based in The Hague. 

The 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks were some of the most devastating ransomware attacks in history.

North Korean group Chosun Expo was sanctioned by the EU for involvement in the WannaCry attack, which encrypted or locked down over hundreds of thousands of computer systems across 150 countries, seriously impacting the United Kingdom’s general medical practices and targeting companies including Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority. 

The NotPetya ransomware attack targeted Ukrainian and other international companies, with the attack successfully switching off parts of the Ukrainian power grid in the middle of winter.

The CIA attributed the attack to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, with the GRU’s Main Center for Technologies one of the groups sanctioned by the EU on Thursday due to the attack. 

Chinese nationals Gao Qiang and Zhang Shilong, along with the Tianjin Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Co. in China, were sanctioned for carrying out Operation Cloud Hopper.

Read more about the sanctions here. 

 

MEMES AGAINST TRUMP: The group Meme 2020 is partnering with The Lincoln Project, a prominent Republican group opposing President Trump’s reelection, with a new campaign targeting young voters through popular Instagram accounts. 

Meme 2020 made its first foray into politics earlier this year with a push backing Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE’s presidential campaign, but its latest project, which launched this week, is instead focusing on a broader voter mobilization effort. 

“Meme 2020 is laser focused on building out this new medium that has been largely undeveloped in political advertising,” said Ryan Patrick Kelley, chief of staff of Meme 2020.

Partnering with The Lincoln Project, he said, seemed natural given the spotlight the anti-Trump GOP group has garnered in recent months. The Lincoln Project is run by Republicans opposed to Trump, including George ConwayGeorge ConwayLack of influence means it's time to dismiss the Lincoln Project Sirota: Lincoln Project election efforts to swing GOP votes from Trump 'epic failure' Raccoon that 'attacked' news crews on White House lawn sparks viral jokes MORE, the Washington, D.C., lawyer married to White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE

“It's no secret that the Lincoln Project has been just an absolute juggernaut in this area,” Kelley said. 

Read more here. 


Lighter click: Can’t trust anyone

An op-ed to chew on: Big is not necessarily bad

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Democrats just made their case against Big Tech. Here’s what comes next (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum and Issie Lapowsky)

‘This is a new phase’: Europe shifts tactics to limit tech’s power (The New York Times / Adam Satariano) 

Hackers broke into real news sites to plant fake stories (Wired / Andy Greenberg) 

Chinese AI is creating an axis of autocracy (The Atlantic / Ross Andersen)