Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Europe’s turn to hear from Zuckerberg | Last Dem commish at FTC steps down | Study details 2016 Russian influence on Facebook | Commerce bars US companies from selling to Chinese phone maker


NOW IT’S EUROPE’S TURN: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ran the gauntlet with ten hours of congressional testimony over two days last week.

Now it’s Europe’s turn.

Across the Atlantic, Facebook is also facing scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers. In Europe, they have been less reluctant than their American counterparts to take on Silicon Valley. And the new controversy over Cambridge Analytica has them again zeroing in on Zuckerberg.

Here is a taste of what Zuckerberg has ahead…

First up: Zuckerberg will meet with the European Union’s digital chief to discuss matters of data privacy on Tuesday. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg already spoke with a European official last week.

Also: British politicians said that they still want Zuckerberg to appear before members of Parliament, to shed more light on how Cambridge Analytica obtained data on Facebook users. Zuckerberg has not given a firm answer yet on whether he will appear before U.K. lawmakers.

New rules: Facebook and other tech companies are facing sweeing new data regulations in Europe. The tightened data privacy rules in Europe that are set go into effect on May 25 would give consumers more control over the data that is collected and how it is used and force companies to be more transparent about their policies.

New taxes: The European Union is considering new taxes that would hit digital firms much harder.

Take away: The 30,000 foot view is that while Zuckerberg did enough to hold off U.S. lawmakers frustrated by the data scandal, he won’t have as easy a time with European lawmakers or regulators. Regulation and targeting private companies doesn’t carry the same stigma in Europe


Welcome to Overnight Tech! Please send your tips, comments and playoff LeBron GIFs to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland and @hneidig. We’re also on Signal and WhatsApp. Email or DM us for our numbers.


DOWN TO ONE AT THE FTC: Democratic Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Terrell McSweeny is stepping down, leaving the agency with one commissioner: Republican Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.  

McSweeney’s departure comes amid the agency’s investigation of Facebook over potentially violating a consent decree over being transparent with its users data. The company could face huge fines depending on the FTC’s ruling.


POINT, COUNTER-POINT: ProPublica’s Julia Angwin puts Terrell McSweeney’s departure from the FTC in context.


ANOTHER LOOK AT RUSSIAN INFLUENCE ON FACEBOOK: A new study detailing foreign influence on Facebook ahead of the 2016 election found that one-sixth of 122 “suspicious” advertisers who purchased issue and political ads on the platform were Russian trolls.

The 122 were culled from a group of 228 advertisers analyzed in the study by University of Wisconsin Professor Young Mie Kim, who works with the Campaign Legal Center (CLC).


Other key findings:

-The pages appeared to target swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on hot-button issues like abortion, LGBT rights, gun control, immigration, terrorism, race and scandals involving candidates.

-Groups which never filed a report with the Federal Election Commission placed four times as many ads as groups that filed.


What’s the answer? Kim and the CLC believe it’s The Honest Ads Act, a bill that would regulate political ad transparency on internet platforms in a manner similar to print, radio and TV political ads.

Twitter and Facebook both announced their support the legislation this month.


US HITS CHINES PHONE MAKER HARD: The U.S. Department of Commerce has banned American firms from selling components to the Chinese phone maker ZTE for seven years for violating the terms of a sanction. 

The ban could significantly impact ZTE, which purchases 25 percent to 30 percent of components in its phones from U.S. companies. The U.S. government had previously granted temporary sanctions relief to ZTE before issuing the ruling.

A larger trend:  ZTE has been a target of the U.S. government for many different reasons. Recap here.


RUSSIA BLOCKING TELEGRAM: The Russian government has begun blocking access to the Telegram messaging app after the company refused to provide access to the encrypted messages of its users.

The Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement released on Monday that it had notified telecommunication operators about blocking access to Telegram within Russia.

The good news for Telegram?: In a way, the ban may be a badge of honor for Telegram in its commitment to user privacy and security and could help it with consumers who prioritize those features. Telegram has also been banned and/or temporarily restricted in countries Iran and China (the usual suspects) over its unwillingness to turn over information to their governments.


FCC REACHES $40 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH T-MOBILE: The Federal Communications Commission said Monday they had reached a $40 million settlement with T-Mobile over whether the company failed to fix problems with calls to rural consumers.

The FCC opened the probe after complaints that T-Mobile customers were unable to reach people served by three rural carriers in Wisconsin. The agency continued to receive complaints even after T-Mobile claimed the issue had been fixed and found issues with at least seven other rural areas.

“It is a basic tenet of the nation’s phone system that calls be completed to the called party, without a reduction in the call quality–even when the calls pass through intermediate providers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement Monday.

“The FCC is committed to ensuring that phone calls to all Americans, including rural Americans, go through.”


LONGREAD OF THE DAY: New York Times Magazine’s Robert Draper profiles Dan Scavino, who constructs and manages the White House’s unique social media presence.

Scavino declined to speak for the interview, but Draper manages to shed some light on the man who manages one of the most powerful social media accounts in the world.


CYBER ROUNDUP: The U.S. and U.K. blamed Russia for what they said was a coordinated series of global attacks on internet infrastructure and connected devices. Senators and state officials are meeting to break the deadlock on an election cybersecurity bill

The top cyber official is leaving the White House.



NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association, will host day two of its three-day policy conference starting at 7:45 a.m.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on data prioritization at 10:15 a.m.

The FCC will hold its monthly open meeting at 10:30 a.m.

The Open Technology Institute will hold an event on data privacy at noon



With all this scrutiny of Facebook, the public must want the government to regulate tech companies right? The answer might be no, reports The Wall Street Journal.

CNN Money: Pharmacies surge over reports that Amazon is backing away from prescription drugs

Bloomberg: The Chinese government is wading into its technology industry

Op-ed: A case against Colorado’s net neutrality legislation

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