Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Election workers face rising threats

A rise in threats against election workers has pushed many to quit over concerns for their safety ahead of the November elections.

Meanwhile, we’ll dive into one woman’s journey to help women of color get their start in cybersecurity.

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.

Rise in threats sparks shortage of election workers

Officials warn the U.S. is facing a shortage of election workers ahead of the November midterms due to a rise in threats against those performing such jobs that experts link to false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. 

In an interview last month, Kim Wyman, senior election security lead at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said because of those threats 1 in 3 elections officials and poll workers have quit their positions over fears for their safety, and state officials are having a hard time hiring for such positions. 

Experts attribute this problem to inflammatory rhetoric stemming from unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and elections officials were complicit. 

  • “Our elections have become very contentious,” said Jamil Jaffer, founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
  • Jaffer said the country is witnessing a situation where conflict between political parties is now affecting the work of election workers, many of whom are retirees volunteering their time to count votes.
  • “Instead of respecting that civic duty, now people are taking out their frustrations and anger in politics on these election workers,” Jaffer said. “And that’s a real problem.” 

Read more here.

Google engineer carves path for Black women in tech

The cybersecurity workforce famously lacks diversity, but for Talya Parker, constantly seeing herself on pandemic-era video conferences as one of the few — if not the only — Black woman was a wake-up call.   

“You always know that you’re the minority in the room, but there’s something different about being reminded of it visually every day,” Parker said.   

“And so, I said to myself, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’” she added in a recent interview with The Hill. 

Parker, currently a privacy engineer at Google, said she started conducting a Facebook Live series called “Black Girls in Cyber” where she would invite other Black women in security, privacy and other STEM industries to share their journeys and experiences.  

The Facebook events became popular, garnering a lot of attention, prompting one of her peers to suggest that she start a nonprofit organization to address the diversity challenges in the cyber workforce.    

Read more here

SUPREME COURT TO TAKE UP SECTION 230 

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear two cases this term on whether social media companies can be held financially responsible for hosting terrorist content.   

  • The family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen killed during a 2015 series of Islamic State terror attacks in Paris, sued YouTube parent company Google, arguing the video sharing site not only provided a platform for videos containing terrorist content, but also recommended the videos to users.  
  • The family alleges that YouTube algorithms allowed “hundreds of radicalizing videos inciting violence and recruiting potential supporters” to be targeted to users of the platform.  

Section 203(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act says companies like YouTube, Google and Twitter are generally shielded from liability for information uploaded by their users, but the case, Gonzalez v. Google, asks whether it should apply when tech companies make “targeted recommendations.” 

  • A judge dismissed the case, and the family appealed to the Supreme Court.   
  • The second case the Supreme Court agreed to hear, Twitter v. Taamneh, involves the 2017 death of Jordanian citizen Nawras Alassaf during an ISIS-affiliated attack in Istanbul.

Read more here.  

KEEPING UP WITH CRYPTO SETTLEMENTS 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday announced a $1.26 million settlement with Kim Kardashian for promoting a cryptocurrency while not disclosing the company paid her for the promotion. 

  • The SEC said online cryptocurrency company EthereumMax paid Kardashian $250,000 for publishing an Instagram post on June 13, 2021, touting the company’s selling of “Emax tokens,” but Kardashian did not disclose the payment, in violation of the Securities Act. 

“This case is a reminder that, when celebrities or influencers endorse investment opportunities, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean that those investment products are right for all investors,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement.

“We encourage investors to consider an investment’s potential risks and opportunities in light of their own financial goals.” 

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: What Hurricane Ian shows us about news, real and manufactured 

Notable links from around the web: 

Silicon Valley County Battles With Uber Over Reporting of Sexual Assault (The New York Times / Cade Metz) 

U.S. crafting new rules aimed at curbing China’s advanced computing (The Washington Post / Ellen Nakashima and Jeanne Whalen) 

Inside Sam Bankman-Fried’s flirtation with Elon Musk and Twitter (Axios / Lucinda Shen) 

🔌  Lighter click: Not wrong

One more thing: Google cuts translation in China 

Google has shut down its translation services in China, citing low usage in the mainland country.  

Google confirmed the move in a statement to The Hill on Monday after CNBC reported that the website dedicated to the translation service now redirects users to the Hong Kong version of the service.  

“We are discontinuing Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage,” Google told The Hill in a statement.  

Bloomberg News also reported that the Hong Kong version of the translation service isn’t accessible in the area without a virtual private network.  

Google has struggled to gain traction in China amid competition from other web search engines, such as China-based Alibaba, and pulled its search engine from the country in 2010 due to strict censorship rules. 

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 cryptocurrency election security election workers STEM women in the workforce

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