Hillicon Valley: Facebook and Instagram both offline | Commerce adds to blacklist | Major DC insurance provider hacked | Over half turn out for Amazon union vote in Alabama

Hillicon Valley: Facebook and Instagram both offline | Commerce adds to blacklist | Major DC insurance provider hacked | Over half turn out for Amazon union vote in Alabama
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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 by clicking HERE. 

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

Facebook and Instagram are both offline as we send this out. The cause of the current outage is unknown. Also today, the Commerce Department added seven Chinese supercomputing groups to its “entity list”; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s Community Health Plan District of Columbia (CHPDC) told customers it suffered a data breach carried out by a “foreign cybercriminal” group in January; and more than half of the employees at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse voted in the hotly anticipated union election. 



BLACKLISTED: The Commerce Department on Thursday blacklisted seven Chinese supercomputing groups, adding the companies to its "entity list” as potential national security threats. 

The agency in its announcement said that the groups were involved in building supercomputers for Chinese military activities, “destabilizing” modernization efforts and the nation’s weapons of mass destruction programs. 

The groups added to the entity list: Tianjin Phytium Information Technology, Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, the National Supercomputing Center Jinan, the National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen, the National Supercomputing Center Wuxi and the National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou. 

“Supercomputing capabilities are vital for the development of many – perhaps almost all – modern weapons and national security systems, such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons,” Commerce Secretary Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water MORE said in a statement Thursday. “The Department of Commerce will use the full extent of its authorities to prevent China from leveraging U.S. technologies to support these destabilizing military modernization efforts."

Read more about the Commerce actions here.



HEALTHCARE HACKING: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s Community Health Plan District of Columbia (CHPDC) suffered a data breach carried out by what it described as a “foreign cybercriminal” group in January that potentially impacted sensitive data, the company told customers this week.

The insurance provider notified customers in writing through a letter obtained by The Hill and through an online announcement on Monday.

What happened: The company wrote that the breach had taken place Jan. 28, and that the company had notified both the FBI and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and was working with cybersecurity group CrowdStrike in responding to the security incident. 

After analysis, CHPDC assessed the attack was likely carried out by a “sophisticated, foreign cybercriminal enterprise,” and that it was too early to say how many customers had been impacted or what data was taken.

A written notification to customers went further, with the company noting that some of the stolen information may have included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, Medicaid identification numbers, and other medical information. 

Read more about the incident here.


THE VOTES ARE IN: More than half of the employees at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse voted in the high-stakes union election, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Turnout exceeded the labor group's expectations, with more than 3,200 ballots submitted to the National Labor Relations Board. More than 5,800 workers were eligible to vote.

But the turnout does not give any clear indication of whether a majority of workers cast ballots to unionize.

The public portion of the vote count started Thursday afternoon.

Read more here


FACEBOOK FACES NEW SUIT: A new lawsuit from civil rights group Muslim Advocates claims Facebook deceived Congress and users over its commitment to remove content that violates the platform's policies, thus fueling anti-Muslim rhetoric.


The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday alleges that over the past three years Facebook’s top executives have violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act by falsely testifying to Congress and promising civil rights leaders that the company removes content that violates its policies when it is flagged.

The bold allegation: The complaint alleges that despite what Facebook executives have claimed, the platform “routinely fails” to follow through on the promise.

A spokesperson for Facebook denied the allegations in the lawsuit. 

"We do not allow hate speech on Facebook and regularly work with experts, non-profits, and stakeholders to help make sure Facebook is a safe place for everyone, recognizing anti-Muslim rhetoric can take different forms. We have invested in AI technologies to take down hate speech, and we proactively detect 97 percent of what we remove," the spokesperson said in a statement. 

Read more about the lawsuit


TWITTER’S NEW MILK TEA ALLIANCE EMOJI: Twitter has launched a new emoji in honor of the online pro-democracy movement Milk Tea Alliance that has gained popularity among protesters in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Myanmar. 


The Twitter Public Policy account announced the emoji late Wednesday in a thread to “celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance.” 

Tweets that include the hashtag will now also feature an image of a white cup set against a background that features “3 different types of milk tea colours from regions where the Alliance first formed online,” the platform wrote. 

Read more here


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The quiet war to be China’s next WeChat (Protocol / Shen Lu)