Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search fuels online vitriol

Greg Nash
The FBI seal is seen in this April 26, 2022, photo in Washington, D.C.

Backlash from the right over the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence is raising concerns about the risk of political violence, and experts are warning law enforcement and tech platforms not to dismiss incendiary online posts.

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission said Google can allow campaign emails to bypass spam filters, and Republicans pushed back on the Federal Trade Commission’s vote to review privacy protections.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines KagubareSubscribe here.

Pro-Trump backlash raises violence concerns

The stunning FBI search of former President Trump’s Florida residence this week has inspired a fierce backlash on the right, fueling concern among experts about the escalating risk of political violence.

The response among Trump supporters has ranged from sharp criticism over the Justice Department’s tactics to outright incendiary rhetoric, with Trump himself comparing the search of his home to the Nixon-era burglary of the Watergate complex.

  • Some of Trump’s most fervent backers described this week’s legal development as reflecting a country in the midst of civil war, and in isolated cases some far-right extremists called for mobilization in response to what was depicted as an act of tyranny by lawless federal agents.
  • Although the FBI’s search was based on a warrant approved by a federal judge, that did not stop Republicans from claiming the probe arose from a desire to damage President Biden’s main rival rather than potentially criminal conduct linked to Trump. 

“The GOP’s choice to turn a probe into the mishandling of classified documents into a cause célèbre is dangerous, particularly given Trump’s history of calling on private violence, mobs, and militias for support,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “A democracy cannot allow anyone to be above the law.”

Read more here.

Campaigns can bypass spam filters, FEC says

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted Thursday to allow Google to push forward a Gmail pilot program that would allow campaign emails to dodge spam filters, a move that comes after accusations from Republicans that the filters were biased against their messages.

The FEC voted 4-1 to approve the program, concluding that the test of new features is permissible under campaign law.  

  • Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who voted against the order, said she has “a hard time getting around the fact that this is a unique benefit offered to political committees, and only to political committees.”
  • Democratic Commissioner Dara Lindenbaum joined the three Republicans in voting for the program, but expressed similar hesitation.
  • “I don’t want to [support this], and it’s for the same reasons all the commenters don’t want to, but I think the law and commissioner regulations and commission precedent permits this,” Lindenbaum said. 

Read more here.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will launch an effort to review and update rules on how companies collect and use data, the agency announced Thursday.  

The FTC said it will explore rules to “crack down on harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security,” expanding on Democratic Chair Lina Khan’s aggressive action targeting tech companies.  

“The growing digitization of our economy—coupled with business models that can incentivize endless hoovering up of sensitive user data and a vast expansion of how this data is used—means that potentially unlawful practices may be prevalent,” Khan said in a statement. 

“Our goal today is to begin building a robust public record to inform whether the FTC should issue rules to address commercial surveillance and data security practices and what those rules should potentially look like,” she added. 

Read more here.

Twitter rolls out midterm misinformation plan

Twitter on Thursday said it was rolling out plans to combat misinformation on the platform ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Those plans include enforcing its civic integrity policy, which prohibits content that contains false or misleading information about the election or content that may suppress voting; preventing misleading tweets from being recommended to users; and providing protections for candidate and journalist accounts, Twitter said. 

“Twitter is the place to find real-time, reliable information about the 2022 midterms — whether you’re looking for breaking news from reporters, information on voting or policy positions from candidates,” the company said in a statement.  

“We aim to enable healthy civic conversation on Twitter, while ensuring people have the context they need to make informed decisions about content they encounter,” Twitter wrote. 

Read more here.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rescinded nearly $1 billion in rural broadband subsidies to SpaceX‘s Starlink satellite service. 

In a news release, the agency said that it determined that applications from SpaceX and another firm, LTD Broadband, failed to meet the requirements for government funding for its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.

The FCC previously awarded Space X nearly $886 million in 2020 in an effort to expand high-speed internet access to rural areas through its Starlink satellite service. 

The agency also awarded LTD Broadband $1.32 billion for the same purpose, but the Las Vegas-based business struggled to expand its service, failing to receive eligible telecommunications carrier status in seven of 15 states. 

Read more here.


The State Department announced on Thursday that it was offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the identity and location of five individuals believed to be tied to the Conti ransomware group.

The agency accused the hackers — known by their online aliases as “Target,” “Reshaev,” “Professor,” “Tramp” and “Dandis” — of participating in malicious cyber activities against U.S. critical infrastructure. 

“Stripping anonymity from key players, offering bounties, seizing illicit funds, and making public declarations of intent are important actions that may help to increase the real and perceived risks of engaging in ransomware operations,” said Jeremy Kennelly, a senior manager of financial crime analysis at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, in a statement.  

Conti, a Russia-based hacker group, have supported the Russian government following its invasion of Ukraine and have threatened critical infrastructure of countries it perceives as a threat to Russia, the State Department said. 

Read more here.


An op-ed to chew on: It’s time to double down on drones for future conflicts 

Notable links from around the web:

The Boy Bosses of Silicon Valley Are on Their Way Out (The New York Times / Erin Griffith

A shake-up could be coming for banks working with crypto (Protocol / Ryan Deffenbaugh) 

Opioid addiction treatment is collateral damage in online prescription backlash (The Verge / Nicole Wetsman)

🎧 Lighter click: A questionable time

One last thing: Conservative dating app set to launch

A dating app for conservatives called The Right Stuff will launch next month, seeking to open up a new door for the political right who hope to find more like-minded people in the romantic world.

The upcoming debut was announced in a video featuring Ryann McEnany, the younger sister of former Trump White House secretary Kayleigh McEnany. 

The Right Stuff is a free application but can be accessed by invite only, according to the promotional video. Moreover, female users can achieve a premium subscription service on The Right Stuff by inviting other people onto the app. 

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 tomorrow.


Tags data privacy Ellen Weintraub FBI raid FBI search warrant fcc commission FEC misinformation online abuse online harassment Russian hackers SpaceX Twitter
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