Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Trump holds meeting on video game violence | Tech companies seek last-minute changes to sex trafficking bill | Russian trolls promoted anti-Clinton online game

TRUMP HOLDS VIDEO GAME SUMMIT: Video game executives and critics convened at the White House today for a meeting with President Trump on gun violence and whether video games are to blame for violent crimes like last month’s school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people.

There’s little evidence that violent video games lead to violent behavior but the White House called for the meeting last week after Trump expressed concern amid growing calls for gun control.


During a meeting with lawmakers last month following the shooting, Trump gave a nod to some ideas put forth by gun control advocates but also suggested violent video games and movies were partly to blame. He said that the industries should be subjected to ratings systems, which they already are.

Attendees described today’s meeting as a listening session for the president, who apparently spent the time asking questions rather than putting forth solutions.

Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “Today’s meeting with the president and leaders of the video game industry was informative. While to date there is no evidence linking violent video games to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, as both a father and a policy maker I have an interest in making sure parents are aware of the resources available to them to monitor and control the entertainment their children are exposed to.”

Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council (PTC): “What I heard in today’s meeting is that the entertainment industry is still fighting to maintain the status quo and is not ready or willing to confront the impact that media violence has on our children. But time is up for the entertainment industry to put a stop to marketing graphic, explicit, and age-inappropriate content to our children.”

“The video game representatives pulled out their same old talking points that have long been refuted. During the meeting, I was able to interject and say just how untrue their excuses are.

Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center: “The president seems genuinely concerned about the problem of violence in schools. “He was clearly concerned about some of this imagery that you’re seeing in these ultra-violent video games that are being watched by children.”

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA): “We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House. We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices. We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.): “Today’s meeting was an opportunity to learn and hear from different sides about concerns and possible solutions to violence in schools. I believe significant progress was made today, and my hope is that we can build on this progress in the future.”


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NEW ‘CALL OF DUTY’ GAME ANNOUNCED AHEAD OF VIDEO GAME MEETING: Video game giant Activision announced the latest installment of the widely popular “Call of Duty” franchise — just hours before video game executives and critics met with President Trump to discuss the effect of violence in video games.

VentureBeat reports that “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” will launch on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on Oct. 15. The popular shooting franchise usually releases a game every year, with the games generating over $1 billion in revenue so far.

The news comes the same day Trump met with top executives in the video game industry, including Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Rockstar Games, maker of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, and Robert Altman, the chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media, which publishes popular games such as the “Fallout” series and the massively popular “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”

Read more here.


KALANICK’S NEW VENTURE: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on Wednesday announced a new investment fund that will focus on real estate, e-commerce and other tech in China and India.

Kalanick’s fund, called 10100, will encompass both his for-profit and nonprofit ventures, all tied together by the “overarching theme of large-scale job creation,” according to his announcement on Twitter.

Kalanick was pushed out as the ride-hailing company’s CEO in July, but still maintains a presence at the company with board positions that he controls. Kalanick left Uber after it dealt with a series of public relations disasters and scandals over its treatment of women, Kalanick’s own behavior and a slew of other issues.

Former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has since taken helm of the company, guiding it through PR crises linked to Kalanick’s tenure that are continuing to bubble up.

Read more here.


TECH COMPANIES SEEK LAST-MINUTE CHANGES TO SEX TRAFFICKING BILL: A coalition of internet companies is urging last-minute changes to an online sex trafficking bill that’s headed for the Senate floor.

In a letter to Senate leaders this week that was obtained by The Hill, the startup advocacy group Engine and tech companies including Twitter and Yelp expressed their concerns over the legislation that they believe could hurt online platforms.

“We are eager to work with the Senate to improve the bill, particularly to make it feasible for smaller companies to implement,” the letter reads.

Last month, the House passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, which would make it easier for internet platforms to be held liable for content posted on their platforms. The bill cuts into the broad legal protections that websites enjoy under a law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields them from liability for content posted by third parties.

Many platforms worry that carving out exceptions to Section 230 will hurt free speech online and burden smaller companies, while doing little to effectively combat online sex trafficking.

Read more here.


RUSSIAN TROLLS TARGETED ROMNEY DURING SECRETARY OF STATE TRYOUT: Russian-backed trolls took to social media following President Trump’s 2016 victory in an attempt to prevent Mitt Romney from being appointed as Secretary of State, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper’s analysis found that Kremlin linked accounts pushed messages calling Romney a “two-headed snake” and “globalist puppet” and also spread a petition to stop him from being nominated to the high-profile post.

The Wall Street Journal’s findings come after a New Yorker report suggesting that Russia attempted to push Trump toward a more pro-Russia State Department head.

Read more here.


RUSSIAN TROLLS ALSO PROMOTED ANTI-HILLARY VIDEO GAME: A Russian software developer with ties to a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” reportedly created an anti-Hillary Clinton computer game and released it just weeks before her loss in the 2016 presidential election.

In the game, “Hilltendo,” the user operates an animated Clinton, helping her to delete classified emails, collect money from Arab states and “throw the Constitution as far as possible” in three different levels.

Starting in May 2016, the IP address for Hilltendo was only used for two other websites, both which have been shown to be connected to a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, according to CNN.

Read more here.


LONGREAD OF THE DAY: Since taking down the infamous Silk Road, authorities have played a cat and mouse game with other dark websites where contraband is sold — shutting one down just before another pops up to replace it. Wired details how Dutch law enforcement took things a step further, hijacking a dark web marketplace and allowing it to run as they collected information on its users.



The Congressional Internet Caucus will hold an event on data privacy policy in Europe at noon on Capitol Hill



The Guardian: Two Australian Government IT officials are being investigated for potentially mining cryptocurrency at work.

CNBC: Elon Musk, who stepped down from the President’s advisory council last year, takes Trump’s side on trade tariffs with China, citing Chinese tariffs on cars.

Bloomberg Businessweek: One candidate backed by Peter Thiel has his crosshairs on Google.

Reuters: Amazon is on its way to overtaking Apple as the largest publicly traded company  

WSJ: A look into the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons of China

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Mitt Romney Vicky Hartzler
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