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Hillicon Valley: FBI, DHS warn that foreign hackers will likely spread disinformation around election results | Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day | Trump to meet with Republican state officials on tech liability shield

Hillicon Valley: FBI, DHS warn that foreign hackers will likely spread disinformation around election results | Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day | Trump to meet with Republican state officials on tech liability shield
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

THE FOREIGN CYBERCRIMINALS ARE COMING: The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned Tuesday that foreign malicious hackers will likely attempt to spread disinformation around election results later this year. 

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The agencies put out a public service announcement warning that delays in final tallies caused by a larger number of mail-in ballots and other factors could fuel the disinformation efforts online. 

“State and local officials typically require several days to weeks to certify elections’ final results in order to ensure every legally cast vote is accurately counted,” the agencies wrote. “The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night.”

The agencies warned that “foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

The FBI and CISA noted that the foreign malicious actors could carry out their interference through a variety of online tools. 

“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions,” the agencies wrote. 

Read more here. 

SOCIAL MEDIA ON VOTER REGISTRATION: Election officials, advocacy groups, and social media platforms mobilized Tuesday to get out the vote on National Voter Registration Day, urging U.S. residents to be proactive about casting their ballot as voter registration numbers dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Major social media groups including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram engaged users to register to vote, while celebrities and election officials participated in virtual events to spread awareness of the issue. 

“National Voter Registration Day is a great way to check your registration, the only better day was every day before that, you cannot check your registration too many times or too soon,” David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), told The Hill. 

Efforts to register voters have taken on new urgency given the pandemic, as registration rates have nosedived compared to 2016 with people staying at home.

According to an analysis of voter registration rates in 21 states released by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice this week, registration numbers in 17 of the states examined are an average of 38 percent lower than they were in 2016. 

The Brennan Center’s findings were similar to those published by CEIR, which saw a major dip in voter registration numbers post-March.

“In all of the states we saw at least a 50 percent reduction in new voter registrations comparing April 2020 and April 2016, and in states like California and Texas, the reductions were even more drastic,” Becker said.

“Overall the new voter registration activity is in significant decline, at least through July,” Becker added. 

Read more.

TRUMP + STATE AGS ON 230: President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE is set to meet with a group of Republican state attorneys general about revising a law that gives tech companies a legal liability shield for content posted by third parties.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which also gives platforms the ability to do good-faith content moderation — has increasingly come under fire from Republicans, who baselessly claim it allows the censoring of conservative viewpoints.

"Online censorship goes far beyond the issue of free speech, it’s also one of protecting consumers and ensuring they are informed of their rights and resources to fight back under the law," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement to The Hill.

"State attorneys general are on the front lines of this issue and President Trump wants to hear their perspectives."

The Washington Post first reported on the meeting.

Trump in May signed an executive order targeting the law, which is considered foundational to the modern internet.

Read more.

BYE BYE BYE: Facebook announced Tuesday that it took down two networks promoting government propaganda.

The first, located in China, primarily targeted the Philippines and South East Asian countries.

The network used fake accounts to spread messaging about China's naval actions in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and support of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

It also posted content in the U.S. in support of or against presidential contenders Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability MORE, Donald Trump and Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Biden town hall questioner worked as speechwriter in Obama administration: report MORE. However, the network "focused the least and gained almost no following" in the U.S.

The individuals behind the network tried to conceal their identities, but Facebook found links to people in the Fujian province of China.

Facebook took down 155 Facebook accounts, 11 Pages, nine Groups and six Instagram accounts affiliated with the network.

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Read more.

THE WHITE HOUSE MIGHT BE HIRING: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded Tuesday that confusion over cybersecurity leadership is undermining the ability of the federal government to fully address cybersecurity challenges, recommending the establishment of a federal cyber czar. 

The watchdog agency wrote in a report that “clarity of leadership” was “urgently needed” in order to implement the Trump administration’s 2018 National Cyber Strategy, citing concerns around the wide array of federal agencies involved in combating cyber threats, and the lack of a White House leader to help coordinate these actions.

“Without effective and transparent leadership that includes a clearly defined leader, a defined management process, and a formal monitoring mechanism, the executive branch cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation’s cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge,” GAO wrote. 

The agency zeroed in on the elimination of the White House cybersecurity coordinator position in 2018 as being a major factor in leadership confusion at the federal level. The position was eliminated by former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' Demand for Trump-related titles sparks expected record year for political books MORE in an effort to decrease bureaucracy.

“In light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan, but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented,” GAO wrote. 

The report was released in the midst of an ongoing effort by bipartisan members of Congress to push through legislation establishing a national cyber director position at the White House, which would be an expanded version of the previous position and would help coordinate cybersecurity efforts at the federal level.

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A bipartisan bill establishing the position was included in the House version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in July, but was left out of the Senate version. 

GAO recommended Tuesday that Congress “consider legislation” that would establish a position at the White House with the authority “to implement and encourage action in support of the nation’s cyber critical infrastructure.”

Read more here. 

JEWISH GROUP WARNS ABOUT QANON: The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a report Tuesday detailing the origins of the QAnon conspiracy theory and warning about its anti-Semitic nature.

The organization named after the Nazi death camp survivor highlights just how much of the theory can be traced back to other well known conspiracies.

"[T]here is very little original about QAnon’s conspiratorial core," the center wrote in a blog post. "QAnon perpetuates the canard that has been retold for hundreds of years of the Rothschilds controlling banks along with the baseless blood libel against the Jewish people."

Followers of QAnon believe, without evidence, that a secret cabal of Democrats and Hollywood elites are engaged in large scale child trafficking and pedophilia.

They also also believe that President Trump is working with the military to expose and execute that shadowy network.

The Wiesenthal report points out the conspiracy theory is also deeply anti-Semitic.

The theory casts Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros as the puppeteer behind politicians and takes inspiration for its “global cabal” from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fake document historically used to smear the Jewish community, the report says.

Read more. 

Lighter click: Who painted the Mona Lisa? Mona Lisa!

An op-ed to chew on: We have hurricane warnings. Where are the COVID-19 beacons?

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

The High Privacy Cost of a “Free” Website (The Markup / Aaron Sankin and Surya Mattu)

The Cruel New Era of Data-Driven Deportation (Slate / Alvaro Bedoya)

Ten Years Later, Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats Chairman: Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Mark Zuckerberg MORE Is Still Trying to Overcome ‘The Social Network’ (The Ringer / Alyssa Bereznak)

Telehealth for opioid addiction boomed during COVID-19. That may change (Protocol / Izzie Lapowsky) 

What happens when Americans join the global internet (The New York Times / John Herrman)