Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Senate bill expands disclosure rules for online political ads | Sex trafficking bill faces resistance from Silicon Valley | Twitter to crack down on harassment, abuse | Privacy shield passes annual review

Greg Nash

NEW BILL WOULD REQUIRE MORE TRANSPARENCY FOR ONLINE POLITICAL ADS: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) will unveil legislation on Thursday to increase transparency about digital political ads in hopes of preventing future election interference.

The Honest Ads Act would make political ads on social media subject to the same transparency and disclosure laws as TV and radio ads.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped draft the legislation, is a co-sponsor.

In a statement, Warner and Klobuchar blamed a lack of disclosure laws for ads on social media as a contributing factor to Russian interference in 2016.


Facebook revealed that a Kremlin-linked group purchased $100,000 worth of ads around the 2016 election.

Warner and Klobuchar have floated new Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations that would force social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to disclose who is buying political ads on their platforms.

“As much as I dislike Citizens United, at least someone can look at the TV ads being run for or against somebody,” Warner said in September. “Why those rules don’t apply to social media companies?”

According to a draft letter circulated in September to other lawmakers, the bill would require digital platforms with over one million users “to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $10,000 aggregate dollars for online political advertisements.”

Also, broadcast, cable and satellite providers would need to take additional steps to keep foreign actors from potentially using their platforms to influence elections.

Read more here.


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TWITTER TO CRACK DOWN ON HARASSMENT, ABUSE: Twitter plans to strengthen its rules on online bullying and sexual harassment, following long-standing criticism that the company isn’t doing enough to stop abuse on its platform.

The San Francisco-based company will now impose more hefty penalties on violators according to an email the company sent to safety advocates and researchers and obtained by Wired.

The rollout follows a tweet series by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, in which he said Twitter would be beefing up its safety policies.

“We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We’ve been working to counteract this for the past 2 years. We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn’t enough,” Dorsey wrote on Oct. 13.

Under the new guidelines, Twitter will now immediately and permanently ban accounts who the company identifies as the source of non-consensual nudity or “revenge porn.”

The company will also introduce new rules on hate symbols and violent groups. Twitter will now “take enforcement action against organizations that use violence as a means to advance their cause.”

Read more here.


TECH FIGHTS SEX-TRAFFICKING BILL: Internet companies are fighting for changes to an online sex trafficking bill that they warn could have sweeping consequences for their industry.

The bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate would make it easier to prosecute and sue websites that enable sex trafficking, eroding part of the legal immunity internet platforms now enjoy.

The legislative effort has put tech companies, backed by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in the uncomfortable position of squaring off against law enforcement officials, victims’ advocates and a growing number of lawmakers.

At a time when large platforms Google and Facebook are already facing scrutiny over Russian election meddling and other issues, the industry is struggling with how to fight the bills without being seen as impeding efforts to stop sex trafficking.

Read more here.


ACLU WANTS FBI’S DOCS ON ‘BLACK IDENTITY EXTREMIST’: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pushing for the FBI to release documents on its surveillance of black individuals reportedly labeled by the agency as “extremists.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Wednesday alongside the Center for Media Justice to obtain the documents, questioning the constitutionality of a leaked report.

The groups pointed to an FBI “Intelligence Assessment” document leaked to Foreign Policy in August titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.”

The document, which says that some black individuals are an increasing threat to police, has been criticized as racist and caused alarm among advocacy groups.

Read more here.


FCC PAUSES CLOCK ON SINCLAIR-TRIBUNE MERGER DEAL: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is allowing more time for the public to weigh in on the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed takeover of Tribune Media.

The FCC’s Media Bureau said Wednesday that it would be halting its “shot clock” for approval for the deal’s broadcast license transfers.

The commission said it will pause its shot clock for 15 days, offering a new deadline of Nov. 2 for the public to submit additional comments.

Read more here.


PRIVACY SHIELD PASSES ANNUAL REVIEW: The European Union determined that the so-called Privacy Shield, a deal allowing U.S. firms to store EU citizen’s data stateside, had performed ‘adequate[ly],’ according to its first annual report. 

The report, released Wednesday, found that the deal “ensures an adequate level of protection for personal data that has been transferred from the European Union to organisations in the U.S.”

Privacy Shield is the second attempt at a framework to exempt U.S. companies from EU privacy laws requiring all data to be stored within the EU without a contract guaranteeing protections. Around 2,400 companies currently operate through Privacy Shield. 

The deal grew from the ashes of the first framework, known as Safe Harbor, which activist Max Schrems dismantled through the EU courts.

The report notes that while the current system works, it could be tweaked to work better. 

Read more here.


FDA UPDATES TO THE CLOUD: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is joining the list of government agencies who are moving their digital systems to the cloud. The agency decided to go with Box for its update. We spoke with Sonny Hashmi, managing director of global government at Box, about government agencies updating their systems to the cloud.


On why the FDA updated its systems to the cloud:

Hashmi: “Over the past year we’ve been having conversations with the FDA on how they want to modernize their digital strategy. They’re recognizing as consumers use apps, other channels to engage with private sector businesses, the FDA’s mission could also benefit from that kind of an approach. They’ve been in conversations with many technology companies to help them see what their future digital strategy looks like. They’re looking for a platform that they can scale as they grow over time.”

On cybersecurity and cloud computing:

Hashmi: “The concept of cybersecurity used to be ‘as long as it’s in my data center and I have control over my servers, then it’s secure.’ Over and over again, it’s been proven that that isn’t the right cybersecurity framework. Many of the breaches we’re seeing are related to legacy IT systems that don’t have data encryption, two-factor authentication, automatic patching, automatic upgrades. Agencies are increasingly looking at cloud solutions as a better model. Box and other companies have a vested interest in making sure these companies make sure these solutions stay up to do date.”

On government agencies increasingly turning to the cloud:

Hashmi: “The last couple of years we’ve seen tremendous change in the government market when it comes to cloud mobility. We started off in pockets of agencies and now we’re seeing wholesale agencies moving to the cloud. We see the work that the FTC is doing. We see the work that the Department of Justice, the FBI is doing. Two or three years ago, it used to be particularly bureaus within agencies. We’re very encouraged by that. There’s a lot of work left to be done. [But] There’s a lot of disincentives on trying anything new across local and state governments.

On the cloud as a window to new technologies:

Hashmi: “The challenge for agencies moving forward is going to be the acceleration in technology in this space is moving faster. Agencies that aren’t … [thinking] about cloud — it’s going to be hard for them to take advantage of things like blockchain and AI. A lot of these technologies rely on cloud as the backend of the core capabilities.”



Brookings will host an event on Amazon’s second headquarters at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

The Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) will hold a seminar on rural wireless broadband at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday

TheBridge and WeWork are hosting a tech and politics networking happy hour at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.



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Tags Amy Klobuchar John McCain Mark Warner

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