Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley — Invasion complicates social media policy

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Follow The Hill’s tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), and cyber reporter Ines Kagubare (@ineskagubare) for more coverage. 

Social media platforms have struggled to deal with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and have made content moderation decisions that have exposed how pliable they really are. 

In other news, House Republicans are divided over how to handle tech, a question that will become more important if they retake control of either chamber. 

Let’s jump into the news. 

 

The challenges of wartime moderation 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked an information war that has turned social media into a key battlefield, placing a spotlight on inconsistencies in how tech platforms respond to life-or-death crises. 

The handling of posts about the war has shown how content moderation policies can turn on a dime during a crisis, and forced social media companies to take divisive positions on what speech is allowable during war times.  

Even before Russian troops moved across eastern Ukraine in late February, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government was flooding channels with information casting Ukraine as an aggressor and pedaling the narrative that the country needed to be denazified. 

Ukraine has also taken advantage of digital communications to build up broad support. 

“Social media has been absolutely instrumental for the Ukrainian government,” Emerson Brooking, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told The Hill. “Their ability to draw international attention and galvanize Western action in those first days was extraordinary, and I think it contributed significantly to their ability to resist now.”  

Faced with the prospect of both sides in the war seeking to control online narratives, social media companies have sprung into action. 

Read more about their reactions. 

 

Republicans split over Big Tech agenda

House Republicans met to outline priorities for their plans for taking on tech giants during a task force meeting Wednesday, but left without a clear consensus on which issues to prioritize, according to lawmakers in the room.  

Members of the Big Tech Censorship and Data Task Force, assembled in August, previewed their agenda on addressing tech giants for Republicans during the closed-door meeting.  

But the members’ recommendations focused on reforming privacy and tech companies’ liability, and were “lacking” in “recognition that antitrust needs to be part of the solution,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told The Hill. 

“Antitrust is one of the answers that task force and Republican members should consider,” Buck, ranking member of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said.  

Read more here.

 

AMAZON CLOSES MGM DEAL 

Amazon on Thursday announced it has completed its $8.45 billion purchase of MGM, massively expanding the e-commerce giant’s streaming media collection. 

“We welcome MGM employees, creators, and talent to Prime Video and Amazon Studios, and we look forward to working together to create even more opportunities to deliver quality storytelling to our customers,” Amazon senior vice president Mike Hopkins said in a statement. 

The acquisition, which was announced nearly a year ago, immediately drew more antitrust scrutiny to Amazon. 

Multiple outlets reported the Federal Trade Commission was considering a challenge to the deal, but an official probe has not materialized despite lawmaker calls for an investigation. 

Read more here

 

KREMLIN TARGETS INFLUENCER 

The Russian government is reportedly targeting an influencer after her online posts turned political following the invasion of Ukraine.  

Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who goes by the handle “Belonika” on Instagram normally posts about her glitzy lifestyle on the social media platform. However, her posts became increasingly political after the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.  

One of her first posts into the political foray included her standing in front of a yellow door with a blue dress on, an apparent nod to Ukraine’s national colors. 

Read more here.  

 

RUSSIA HIT HARD

Russia’s digital development and communications ministry said in a statement on Thursday it is “recording unprecedented attacks” on government websites and state-run news outlets amid Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, The Washington Post reported. 

“We are recording unprecedented attacks on the websites of government authorities,” the Russian ministry said, according to the newspaper. “If their capacity at peak times reached 500 GB earlier, it is now up to 1 TB. That is, two to three times more powerful than the most serious incidents of this type previously recorded.”  

The Russian ministry said traffic from outside of the country was being filtered, but it did not go into specifics about how this was being done, The Post noted.  

Internet regulator Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Ministry of Culture and the Federal Penitentiary Service all had their websites hacked earlier this month, in addition to others. 

Read more. 

 

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: The US needs open ocean data to avoid an innovation wipeout 

Lighter click: I would give up every computer 

Notable links from around the web

If you’re a Russian YouTuber, how do you get paid now? (The Verge / Elizabeth Lopatto) 

How Life as a Trucker Devolved Into a Dystopian Nightmare (The New York Times / Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein) 

China’s DJI And Its Billionaire Chief Put In An Awkward Spot As Both Sides In Ukraine War Use Its Drones (Forbes / Thomas Brewster) 

 

One last thing: Sharing is caring

Streaming platform Netflix announced plans on Wednesday to curb free password sharing between different users’ households, starting with a trio of countries in Central and South America.  

In a statement on Wednesday, Netflix said that it will begin testing new ways to make sure users sharing an account with different households pay additional fees. 

“We’ve always made it easy for people who live together to share their Netflix account, with features like separate profiles and multiple streams in our Standard and Premium plans. While these have been hugely popular, they have also created some confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared,” Netflix said in its statement. “As a result, accounts are being shared between households — impacting our ability to invest in great new TV and films for our members.” 

Read more here.

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Friday.

 
Tags Ken Buck Vladimir Putin

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