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Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars

Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars
© Washington Post

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.

DOJ STEPS INTO THE SECTION 230 RING: The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday rolled out a proposal for Congress to revise the law that gives tech companies a legal liability shield for content posted by third parties.

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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.

The proposal from the DOJ would amend the law to remove legal immunity from platforms that facilitate or fail to report criminal activity.

It would also remove protections from companies that do not follow their own content-moderation policies, a proposal also made in Republican-led Section 230 bills.

And the DOJ's proposal would open up platforms to civil lawsuits over content that promotes terrorism or online child sexual abuse material.

“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Steele dossier source insists he is not Russian agent: 'It's slander' Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation MORE said in a statement. "We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”

The DOJ request for a legislative change adds to a pile of Section 230 reform proposals.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE in May signed an executive order targeting the law, which is considered foundational to the modern internet.

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Read more here.

‘PUTIN’S CHEF’ HAS A BAD DAY: The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against eight individuals and seven groups related to efforts by Russia to spread malign influence around elections and to evade sanctions. 

Sanctions were levied against two groups and three employees that do business in the Central African Republic due to their ties to Russian operative Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an individual who was previously indicted by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE for his interference efforts in the 2016 presidential election.

Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” due to the Kremlin’s use of his catering service for official functions, is the leader and main source of funding for the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that was also indicted by Mueller for spreading disinformation ahead of the 2016 elections.  

Both Prigozhin and the Internet Research Agency were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018 for election interference. The agency took further actions last year against Prigozhin by targeting his physical assets, including planes and a yacht, along with other companies associated with him. 

“Yevgeniy Prigozhin has an international network of supporters to spread his malign political and economic influence around the globe,” Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE said in a statement Wednesday. “The United States will continue to target the ability of Prigozhin to conduct operations globally.” 

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Okeanos, a Russian-based underwater technology company; Finland-based group Optima Freight OY, a freight forwarding company; three groups associated with Optima Freight OY; and five employees of the companies for efforts to evade U.S. sanctions against Russia and for working with Russia’s Federal Security Service. 

Read more here.

WHEELS ROLLING ON AV BILL: Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) on Wednesday introduced legislation to set standards for the safety and security of autonomous vehicles (AVs).

The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act, or Self Drive Act, would provide standards for the testing and deployment of self-driving cars — including those on cybersecurity — along with improving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) ability to adapt federal driving regulations to autonomous vehicles.

Latta, who serves as the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology, along with Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' MORE (R-Ore.) on Wednesday pointed to the legislation as necessary for the U.S. to win the “global race” on AVs.

“There is a clear global race to AVs and for the U.S. to win that race, Congress must act to create a national framework that provides developers certainty and a clear path to deployment,” Latta and Walden said in a joint statement. “From increasing mobility for seniors and self-sufficiency for those with disabilities to providing contactless deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, AVs have limitless potential to drastically improve the lives of Americans.”

“We cannot allow the U.S. to be outpaced and this effort strikes a critical balance of ensuring safe development and deployment of AVs while keeping the U.S. at the forefront,” they added. 

The bill was previously passed by the House unanimously in 2017 but stalled out in the Senate during the last Congress, along with a similar Senate bill, due to opposition by a group of Democrats over safety and security language in the bills. 

According to Axios, which first reported the bill’s introduction, the new version of the Self Drive Act contains changes to language that make self-driving car standards more inclusive for those with disabilities. 

Read more here.

WHEELS NOT ROLLING FOR TESLA: Tesla reportedly suffered a network outage Wednesday morning as hundreds of car owners filed complaints they were unable to connect their vehicles through the company's mobile app.

Reports on DownDector.com saw rising spikes in Tesla owners claiming they could not use their mobile apps or get through Tesla's customer service lines, MSN reported.

One Tesla owner said he accidentally locked his keys inside his car and could not access the remote app on his phone to open the door.

Robert Vogt, a Model S owner from Ann Arbor, Mich., told MSN his mobile app was down around 11:30 a.m. EDT.

"If you're unable to unlock your car and drive, that's a problem," he said.

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FACEBOOK IN HOT WATER: Several residents of Kenosha, Wis., are accusing Facebook of allowing its platform to be used by right-wing militias to commit violence in the city last month during demonstrations against the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

BuzzFeed News reported that a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that Facebook's platform “empowered right wing militias to inflict extreme violence and deprive Plaintiffs and protestors of their rights” by allowing the militias to recruit members and plan operations.

The four plaintiffs include three Kenosha residents and one activist from Milwaukee who traveled to Kenosha to march with a church group, according to BuzzFeed. One of the plaintiffs is the partner of an individual who was fatally shot during the protests, allegedly by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois.

“There is a failure on the part of Facebook to act based upon warnings that result in armed militias violating state law and in the case of Rittenhouse going to a peaceful protest to violently repress and deter American citizens from engaging in their constitutional rights,” attorney Jason Flores-Williams told BuzzFeed.

The allegations center around an Aug. 25 event posted on Facebook's platform titled "Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property,” created by a right-wing militia group in which participants openly joked about shooting protesters. Facebook should have taken down the event once violent threats were made towards protesters, the suit alleges.

“Facebook, where most of the conspiring took place, failed to act to prevent this harm,” reads the lawsuit. “Despite over 400 reports of the Kenosha Guard’s event page and its call to arms, as well as the violent rhetoric throughout, Facebook failed to remove the page from its site until after several deaths, injuries, and extensive harassment occurred.”

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A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill in an email that they had not seen evidence linking Rittenhouse to the Kenosha Guard's page.

Read more here.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN CONCERNS: Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoDemocratic Senate campaign arm outraises GOP counterpart in September Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars Senators introduce bipartisan bill to mandate digital apps disclose country of origin MORE (D-Nev.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would mandate digital apps to list their country of origin.

The legislation, titled the American Privacy Protection (APP) Act, would require the Federal Trade Commission to direct companies to release where the app was created and where data collected by the app is stored. 

Scott said in a press release that the legislation comes amid security concerns about apps made by adversaries to the U.S., listing China and Russia as examples. 

"Apps backed by our adversaries, including TikTok and WeChat, pose huge security risks to Americans’ data and security,” Scott said. 

“American consumers should know where the apps they download are created, and where the data being collected is stored,” he continued. “I’m proud to join Senator Cortez Masto today to introduce the APP Act and make sure Americans have the information available to protect themselves from this risk.”

The legislation comes after President Trump issued an order to require U.S. app stores stop offering Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat beginning last Sunday. Both apps managed to avoid the ban for now after TikTok reached an agreement with Walmart and Oracle, and a judge temporarily blocked the restriction of WeChat. 

Previously, Trump signed a restrictive executive order stating that TikTok be bought by a U.S. company within 45 days or be banned from the country. 

Read more here.

An op-ed to chew on: Three steps to safeguard our national security supply chain

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Mark in the Middle (The Verge / Casey Newton)

How a marked-up term sheet and messy rollout threw TikTok deal into disarray (Reuters / Stephen Nellis, David Shepardson, Echo Wang)

Former QAnon followers explain what drew them in — and got them out (RollingStone / EJ Dickson)

The futile quest for hard numbers on child sex trafficking (HuffPost / Michael Hobbes)

TikTok chief says Trump’s threats are crushing the app — before a ban even begins (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)