Overnight Tech: Facebook, Twitter to testify before Senate | EU orders Amazon to pay $300M in back taxes | Reddit hires first lobbyists

Overnight Tech: Facebook, Twitter to testify before Senate | EU orders Amazon to pay $300M in back taxes | Reddit hires first lobbyists
© Greg Nash

FACEBOOK, TWITTER TO TESTIFY AT SENATE HEARING: Facebook and Twitter have agreed to testify at an upcoming Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference during the 2016 elections, the companies confirmed Wednesday.

Both companies have already briefed House and Senate Intelligence Committees on their findings regarding Russian actors using their platforms to influence the presidential election.

Google was also invited to testify but has not confirmed whether it will send a representative to the hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 1.

The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week MORE (Calif.), says a Google briefing with his committee is "imminent," but has not shared a date. That committee plans to hold a hearing with the company in October but there is no set date.


Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday said they are proactively working with lawmakers to cooperate in their investigations.

"As we noted in our blog post last week, we are cooperating with these investigations in Russian interference in the 2016 election," a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

"Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, and will continue to both work with the investigations and to share details of our findings with the public as we are able."

Facebook revealed last month that Russian linked groups spent $100,000 on election ads.

But the companies have also faced criticism from lawmakers who say expect more cooperation.

Read more here.

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MORE ON FACEBOOK... HOW THE COMPANY IS SHIFTING STRATEGY UNDER LAWMAKER PRESSURE: Facebook is shifting its strategy with Congress, signaling that it intends to be more cooperative with lawmakers investigating whether groups with Russian ties used the social media giant's ad platform to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Still, lawmakers say they don't completely trust Facebook after the company rebuffed their initial demands for details about potential Russian influence. Instead, they say Facebook is only cooperating because of the pressure it faces.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Facebook is only cooperating because of pressure from lawmakers. On Monday, Facebook gave the committee 3,000 ads connected to Russia's election interference efforts.

"I do think that our probe has certainly prompted more thorough internal investigation by the technology companies, which is positive," echoed Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The pressure from lawmakers also comes as the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting raises new questions about how the social network can be manipulated by scammers and rumormongers, adding to Facebook's evolving dilemma over user content.

Read more here.


EU HITS AMAZON WITH $300M BILL: The European Union is ordering Amazon to pay 250 million euros, or $294 million, in back taxes, saying that the company had been given improper tax breaks.

"Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon," Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition chief, said in a statement Wednesday. "As a result, almost three quarters of Amazon's profits were not taxed. In other words, Amazon was allowed to pay four times less tax than other local companies subject to the same national tax rules."

The European Commission, the EU's enforcement branch, concluded after a three-year investigation that Luxembourg had allowed Amazon in 2003 to shift assets from a subsidiary that's subject to taxation to another that's not.

In a statement, Amazon denied that it had received "special treatment" from Luxembourg and insisted that it had followed the law.

Read more here.


...AND TAKES IRELAND TO COURT OVER APPLE TAXES: The European Union said on Wednesday that it would be taking Ireland to court for failing to collect 13 billion euros, or $15.3 billion, in back taxes from Apple.

More than a year after it concluded that Ireland had been offering illegal tax breaks to Apple, the European Commission, the EU's enforcement arm, said that the nation still has not collected the money.

"We of course understand that recovery in certain cases may be more complex than in others, and we are always ready to assist," Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition chief, said in a statement.

Read more here.


CFTC PROBING CRYPTOCURRENCY OPERATION: A federal financial watchdog is reportedly probing one of the most prominent cryptocurrency trading platforms over a "flash crash" involving one of the most popular digital currencies.

The crash in question hinges on a $12.5 million sell order for 39,300 ether, a crytpocurrency, issued on June 21, which caused the price of ether on the Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), to fall from $317.81 to just 10 cents in less than a second.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sent a letter to GDAX's owner, Coinbase, the Financial Times reported.

Read more here.


SENATE PANEL APPROVES DRIVERLESS CAR BILL: A Senate panel approved bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to pave the way for driverless cars, representing the latest congressional step to address the emerging technology.

After months of debate over whether to include trucks and buses in the measure, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee agreed to advance a bill that would only remove certain obstacles for getting self-driving cars on the roads.

The measure, authored by Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneNo deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline Parnell exit threatens to hurt Trump's political clout Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US mulls Afghan evacuees' future Senators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures MORE (D-Mich.), would help the car industry speed up the deployment and testing of autonomous vehicles by gradually waiving traditional automobile standards -- like steering wheels and brake pedals -- for up to 80,000 vehicles per manufacturer after three years.

Read more here.


EQUIFAX EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBLE FOR UPGRADING SOFTWARE HAS STEPPED DOWN: Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith said Wednesday that the employee responsible for not updating the company's security software had stepped down in the weeks after the massive data breach was revealed.

Smith made the revelation in a hearing before a Senate Judiciary privacy subcommittee, his third appearance before Congress this week.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Smith had told lawmakers that the breach could be attributed to a "combination of human error and technological error." According to Smith's testimony, an employee had failed to patch software, leaving Equifax's consumer data vulnerable, and scanning software had failed to detect the vulnerability later on.

Read more here.



The IRS defended a controversial fraud-prevention contract with Equifax, saying it is just a stopgap measure as they switch venders.

Senators grilled the former Equifax CEO on stock sales reportedly made by executives after the hack but before the public learned about the breach.


REDDIT HIRES FIRST LOBBYISTS: The message board site Reddit has hired its first federal lobbyists, according to disclosure forms obtained this week.

The move comes while lawmakers are increasingly scrutinizing web platform use by political entities.

The disclosure filings show that Reddit hired the Franklin Square Group back in July to lobby on "Internet issues, including net neutrality and liability protections for online platforms."

Read more here.


FACEBOOK TAKES OUT FULL-PAGE ADS AMID RUSSIA PROBE: Facebook took out full-page ads in major newspapers Wednesday promising to fight "election interference" as investigators probe whether Russia used the platform to try to influence the 2016 presidential election.

"We take the trust of the Facebook community seriously," reads the ad, which appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. "We will fight any attempt to interfere with elections or civic engagement on Facebook."

The ads also included a nine-point list of steps the company says it is taking to fight attempts to meddle in elections, including hiring 1,000 people to review the content of ads around the world and expanding its security teams.

Read more here.



A city in Georgia has reportedly offered to change its name to Amazon in its bid to be the location of the company's new corporate headquarters.

"There are several major U.S. cities that want Amazon, but none has the branding opportunity we are now offering this visionary company," said Jason Lary, the mayor of Stonecrest, Ga., according to Newsweek.

"How could you not want your 21st century headquarters to be located in a city named Amazon?" he said.

Last month, Amazon posted a request for proposals from cities wanting to host what the company calls its second North American headquarters.

Read more here.



The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Equifax breach at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday

New America will hold an event on big tech at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday



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