Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — News competition bill dropped after tech pushback

A journalism competition bill targeting dominant tech platforms was left out of must-pass defense legislation after pushback from the tech industry.

In other news, Democrats pressed Twitter over reports of video evidence of protests in China being suppressed on the platform. 

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 or in the box below.

Journalism competition bill excluded from NDAA

A bill that would allow news outlets to bargain collectively with dominant tech firms to distribute their content was left out of must-pass defense spending legislation Tuesday following pushback from the tech industry.

  • Silicon Valley giants, as well as advocacy groups often on opposite battle lines from the companies, joined together earlier this week to push Congress not to add the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
  • Meta went so far as to threaten to pull news content from Facebook if the “ill-considered” bill was added to the text, rather than “submit to government-mandated negotiations.”

Text of the NDAA released Tuesday did not appear to include the JCPA.

The journalism competition bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September with bipartisan support.

Proponents say it would help the news industry, especially smaller, local outlets, survive in an environment increasingly reliant on tech giants like Facebook and Google for distributing their content.

The proposal would provide a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers that would allow them to participate in joint negotiations. 

Read more here.

Dems concerned about Twitter censorship

Three House Democrats sent a letter to Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday to express “deep concern” following reports of video evidence of protests in China being suppressed on the platform.

Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.), Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Jackie Speier (Calif.) sent the letter to request information about recent “malicious” activities in China and any indication if the actions were directed by the Chinese government.

  • The letter comes after some of the largest protests in decades have happened across the country for the past few weeks against the government’s strict “zero-COVID” policy, which tries to keep the number of COVID-19 cases to as close to zero as possible.
  • The policy has resulted in entire neighborhoods and even cities being shut down as a result of cases.

The lawmakers said that Chinese officials have cracked down on protests as they have spread, beating and dragging protesters, but Chinese Communist Party censors removed videos of these incidents from the internet.

They said Chinese-language accounts and bots spammed Twitter with various links to suppress news about the protests.

Read more here

EMAIL HOSTING PROVIDER HIT WITH RANSOMWARE 

Email hosting provider Rackspace Technology confirmed on Tuesday that a ransomware attack is behind an outage that has been disrupting its email service since Friday.  

The company said it has retained a cyber defense firm to investigate the attack and has since discovered that the incident only affected its Hosted Exchange business while its other products and services are fully operational. 

Following the discovery of the ransomware attack, Rackspace said it took measures to contain the incident from spreading to other services. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, Rackspace Technology has put additional security measures in place and will continue to actively monitor for any suspicious activity,” Rackspace said. 

Read more here

APPLE ROLLS OUT MORE ENCRYPTION 

Apple announced plans to offer users added encryption of data stored in iCloud accounts.

Apple’s end-to-end encryption service, called Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, will allow users to protect their most important data in their iCloud accounts, according to a news release on Wednesday.

  • The company said the new feature will be available for 23 data categories, including iCloud backup, notes and photos.
  • Mail, contacts and calendar applications will not feature the end-to-end encryption service due to applications’ need to interoperate with the global email, contacts and calendar systems.  

Apple also introduced the iMessage contact key verification method, where users can verify that they are messaging only with the people they intend to communicate with, and the security keys feature, where users have the option to use a physical security key to sign in to their Apple ID accounts. 

Read more here.

TECH LEADERS LAUD AI BENEFITS

Leaders in tech on Wednesday touted advances in artificial intelligence that they say can assist with smoother customer service experiences while sounding a hopeful tone that such technology won’t come at a human cost.

Andrei Papancea, the CEO and chief product officer at NLX, told The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack at the “A More Perfect Union” event that he’s optimistic about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and the ways in which it can transcend the way businesses and their customers interact with each other.

He said it challenges “the mindset for consumers that you don’t have to call up or chat with a brand in order to get service.”

“Rather, wherever you are and whatever your most convenient channel of communication is, you can engage in brands and with various different organizations in the most natural way possible, which is conversation,” Papancea said. 

Read more here.

👾 BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Authorize State Department programs so we can truly lead with diplomacy 

Notable links from around the web: 

We don’t need another Twitter (Vox / Sara Morrison) 

Twitter’s Rivals Try to Capitalize on Musk-Induced Chaos (The New York Times / Kalley Huang) 

FTX held talks with Taylor Swift over $100mn sponsorship deal (FT / Joshua Oliver, Nikou Asgari, Anna Nicolaou and Antoine Gara) 

One more thing: Wordle most-searched term in 2022

Popular puzzle game Wordle was the most searched term on Google in 2022, beating out other search topics such as election results and Ukraine.  

In a news release on Wednesday, Google Trends shared that the word puzzle game came in first ahead of terms such as election results, Ukraine and late actress Betty White (the second, third and sixth most popular terms searched, respectively) in total U.S. searches.

Wordle also leads the pack in total searches globally, leading other searched terms such as the late Queen Elizabeth II, the FIFA World Cup and convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (the fourth, sixth and ninth most popular terms searched globally, respectively). 

Google Trends Data editor Simon Rogers noted to The Washington Post that Wordle became an obsession with many people this year, being a daily “pick-me-up” for those who want to steer away from darker, more serious news trends.

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!

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