Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Media brace for impact amid Twitter verification

The Twitter logo is shown
Associated Press/Mary Altaffer
The Twitter logo is seen on the awning of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York on Oct. 26, 2022.

Elon Musk’s announcement of a new Twitter verification fee has media companies and journalists concerned about how they will be able to accurately fact-check information posted on the social media platform. 

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said Russian cyber forces “underperformed expectations” in Ukraine and were unprepared for the conflict to drag on as long as it has.

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 Kagubare.


Twitter verification raises concerns among media

Elon Musk’s short-lived rollout of a process allowing users to pay for blue verification check marks wreaked havoc on Twitter, especially for journalists, celebrities and other news makers on the site. 

With Musk indicating the process is likely to return soon, journalists and media companies are being forced to consider how to maintain credibility, verify information put out on Twitter and connect with audiences on a platform that appears to be changing by the day. 

The change to the verification system is part of Musk’s larger vision, after closing his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, to retool the platform so information is allowed to flow more freely. 

  • As he begins to implement those plans, accounts from media companies, entertainment personalities and other top influencers face what the eccentric billionaire has said would be “increased competition from citizens” in the information space — and users are dealing with new challenges in parsing the legitimacy of sources on the platform as a result.
  • “Under the old verification system, Twitter had fairly clear standards of who you had to be in order to be a verified user,” said John Silva, senior director of professional and community learning at the News Literacy Project.
  • “That check mark was a signal to us that we know it’s coming from an authentic source. … There are lots of people who were verified that were prolific posters of misinformation and such, but it just meant that we knew exactly who it was coming from,” Silva added. 

Read more here

US cyber official: Russia ‘underperformed’ in Ukraine

A senior cyber official at the Department of Defense said on Wednesday that Russian forces “underperformed expectations” in both the cyber and military space, as the West fears the Kremlin would unleash destructive cyberattacks against Ukraine as part of its invasion. 

Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy at the Department of Defense, said there were a lot of assumptions that Russia would effectively carry out massive cyberattacks against Ukraine, given its prior history. 

  • “I think we were expecting much more significant impacts than what we saw,” Eoyang said.
  • “I think it’s safe to say that Russian cyber forces as well as their traditional military forces underperformed expectations,” she added. 

Eoyang made her remarks at an annual cyber summit in New York hosted by the Aspen Institute, during a session that focused on the cyber lessons learned from the war in Ukraine.

Read more here

BIG TECH FACES MASSIVE LAYOFFS AMID MARKET SHIFTS

Major technology companies that saw an explosion of growth during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic are bleeding thousands of jobs as high interest rates and a slowing economy turn against the industry.  

Amazon, Meta, Twitter, Stripe and a slew of other Big Tech firms have announced layoffs over the past month, all citing a decline in revenue and a deteriorating outlook for the global economy.   

Silicon Valley powerhouses saw their stock prices and payrolls soar throughout most of the past two years. Propelled by low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve and a glut of pandemic stimulus, tech companies rode a steady wave of consumer spending in online retail, streaming services and other products to major stock gains.  

But the heyday for Big Tech has come crashing down, along with the values of some its high-flying stocks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite is down 28 percent on the year after reaching record highs before the Fed began hiking rates in March.  

“As the market is going back and forth between if the U.S. economy will actually fall into a recession or not, people are taking a look at the more economically sensitive sectors and trying to understand what could do well and what may not do well if a recession is coming,” said Callie Cox, an investment analyst at online investment platform eToro. 

Read more here

MUSK’S ULTIMATUM TO STAFF

Elon Musk gave remaining Twitter employees a Thursday deadline to respond to an ultimatum: staff can commit to working with a “hardcore” company or leave with three months of severance pay, multiple outlets are reporting.

  • Musk gave his employees until 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday to make the call and accept an online form, signing a pledge of allegiance to the revamped version of the social media platform, according to The Washington Post.
  • Musk told staff at the company he recently acquired they will need to commit intensely to their roles in order to mesh with “Twitter 2.0,” according to an email to employees first reported on by the Post. 

“Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore. This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade,” Musk said in the email, according to the Guardian.

Read more here

Former cyber official credits gov for securing election

Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said the government and elections officials did a “good job” at securing the midterm elections and communicating with voters on what is accurate information. 

Krebs, who spoke on Wednesday at an annual cyber summit in New York hosted by the Aspen Institute, said the key is to effectively convey accurate information and debunk misinformation and disinformation narratives ahead of elections.  

“You can do all this stuff in the background, but you have to continue to communicate, communicate, communicate on what is happening and what [voters] should be thinking about as information is teed up,” Krebs said.  

“The key here is that the prebunking is dependent on identifying the potential areas that could be exploited,” he added. 

  • In 2020, CISA created a page on its website called the Rumor Control that debunks common misinformation and disinformation narratives.
  • Testifying before a House panel in April, CISA Director Jen Easterly told lawmakers that the website provides accurate information regarding the election, including facts about absentee ballots, so that voters “have the information they need to maintain confidence in the integrity of elections.” 

Read more here.


PARENTS PUSH CONGRESS TO ACT ON KIDS’ ONLINE SAFETY 

Congress has a busy itinerary in the lame duck session, but some grieving parents believe lawmakers should have a clear legislative priority: protecting minors from the harms they say led to their children’s deaths.

A group of mothers whose children’s deaths were tied to social media are meeting with lawmakers this week, and sent a letter to congressional leaders, to push Congress to pass two bills that would add additional regulations governing how tech companies operate for children and teens. 

The group includes parents of kids who died by fentanyl-laced drugs purchased on apps, by suicide after being cyberbullied online and by participating in a dangerous viral “choking challenge.”  

“I want social media companies to be held accountable for their products,” Kristin Bride, one of the parents, said Tuesday on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” 

Read more here

👾 BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: FTX crash illustrates Congress’s weakness on tech. Here’s a solution 

Notable links from around the web: 

How to Prepare for Life After Twitter (The New York Times / Brian Chen) 

Sam Bankman-Fried tries to explain himself (Vox / Kelsey Piper) 

What is behind the big tech companies’ job cuts? (CNN / Shiona McCallum) 

One more thing: NASA’s exploration of the moon

NASA’s new mega moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), soared into space early Wednesday morning, lighting up the night sky above the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.   

The mission, which is many years and multiple billions over budget, aims to send an Orion crew capsule on a journey around the moon. 

“We are all part of something incredibly special,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the launch director, told her team after the successful liftoff. “The first launch of Artemis and the first step in returning our country to the moon and [eventually] on to Mars.” 

For NASA, the launch begins a new era of lunar exploration that intends to culminate in astronauts returning to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years. 

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 Amazon Chris Krebs Elon Musk Elon Musk Google Meta Russian cyber threats Twitter Twitter takeover

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