Hillicon Valley: Judge rules Trump can't block Twitter users | ISIS content finds a home on Google Plus | Rubio rips ZTE demands as 'terrible deal' | Bill would protect kids' data

Hillicon Valley: Judge rules Trump can't block Twitter users | ISIS content finds a home on Google Plus | Rubio rips ZTE demands as 'terrible deal' | Bill would protect kids' data
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The Cyber and Tech Overnights are joining forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's new comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers), and the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), on Twitter. 



TODAY ON THE HILL - RUBIO GOES OFF ON ZTE: "Do not feel bad for #ZTE or any Chinese company going out of business," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' Graham vows GOP will accept election results after Trump comments MORE (R-Fla.) tweeted. "They have put plenty of American companies out of business by stealing from them."

Rubio on Wednesday unleashed on the Chinese tech company.

"Democracies are morally superior to dictatorships, and if we allow China to cheat and steal their way into dominance, there will be more dictatorships and less democracies on this planet, and we will all pay a price," he said added during a lengthy speech from the Senate floor.

"Most of us here do not want to live in a world [where] in 10 or 15 years ... some other country dominates the world ... because when they were displacing us, your policymakers were too busy arguing with each other and playing dumb, ridiculous games," he said.


Context: Rubio's aggressive remarks come amid a big fight over how to ZTE, after the Commerce Department slammed it with heavy penalties for violating sanctions with Iran. The company had to shut down in response to measures.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE frustrated lawmakers like Rubio, as well as Democrats. when he said floated easing up on the company.



Rubio was also tough on the administration, hitting a floated deal on ZTE as "terrible." "Are you kidding me? $1.3 billion? And the other sanction, guess what it is? We're going to force you to buy more things from America. Well, that's not a punishment. That's a reward. That's exactly what they want. ... That's a terrible deal," Rubio said from the Senate floor.


Background: Trump said on Tuesday that he had has not reached a deal with Beijing to help save ZTE, but added that he may ask for a fine of roughly $1.3 billion, new management for the telecom giant and for China to buy more American products.


Lawmakers are already taking action: On Tuesday a Senate panel passed a measure to stop Trump from easing ZTE restrictions.

"If the president and his team won't follow through on tough sanctions against ZTE, it's up to Congress to ensure that it happens," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.


Who's next?: Huawei, maybe. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Chinese company Huawei is under investigation as well. Hitting both of China's biggest telecommunication companies would be a huge blow for the country.


ISIS'S FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM: Scores of pro-ISIS accounts and communities have found a home on Google Plus despite being purged from other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, according to a review by The Hill.

The Hill found dozens of pages across Google's social media platform that explicitly show Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda, give news updates directly pulled from ISIS media, spread messages of hate towards Jews and other groups or show extremist imagery.

The Google Plus accounts and communities sharing ISIS-linked content did little to hide their affiliation. Many openly professed their support of the terrorist group. In many cases, accounts featured the ISIS flag and pictures of ISIS fighters.

Some posts showed overt calls to violence, according to Ty Joplin, a Middle East research analyst based in Amman, Jordan, who reviewed and translated many of the posts for The Hill. One image, posted in 2017, reads "Kill them where you find them" in Arabic and English, accompanied by text in Arabic supporting the 2017 Barcelona terror attack.



Google's defense: "Google rejects terrorism and has a strong track record of taking swift action against terrorist content. We have clear policies prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence and we quickly remove content violating these policies when flagged by our users." a spokesperson said.


The prolific volume of pro-terror content on its platform suggests otherwise though.

Check out our review here.


JUDGE SAYS TRUMP CAN'T BLOCK PEOPLE ON TWITTER: A federal judge ruled today that it's unconstitutional for President Trump to block people on Twitter over their political views.


Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said President Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

Buchwald wrote in the 75-page opinion that the president could have just ignored his critics online instead of blocking them.

"No First Amendment harm arises when a government's 'challenged conduct' is simply to ignore the [speaker], as the Supreme Court has affirmed 'that it is free to do,' " she wrote. "Stated otherwise, 'a person's right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others,' or when the government 'amplifies' the voice of one speaker over those of others."

Buchwald explained that blocking someone on Twitter goes further than just muting them.


Is this the end of the case? A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency disagrees with the decision and is considering its next steps.

Read more here from our colleague Lydia Wheeler.



HACKERS RAMP UP ATTACKS ON UKRAINE: Cybersecurity experts are warning that hackers are ramping up malware attacks against Ukraine, infecting thousands of devices ahead of an upcoming national holiday in the country.

Experts at Cisco's threat intelligence arm Talos say the dangerous malware, dubbed "VPNFilter," has code that overlaps with BlackEnergy, malware the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already attributed to Russia.

The firm says it is releasing their findings on VPNFilter early in the hopes that affected parties can begin taking steps to protect themselves.

"While this isn't definitive by any means, we have also observed VPNFilter, a potentially destructive malware, actively infecting Ukrainian hosts at an alarming rate, utilizing a command and control infrastructure dedicated to that country," Talos wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

The firm said that while it is seeing a "sharp spike" in VPNFilter activity geared toward Ukrainian hosts, the malware has also infected devices around the globe. To read more of our coverage, click here.


TWITTER'S NEW ELECTION SECURITY TOOL: Twitter on Wednesday announced a new feature aimed at increasing election security on its platform in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

The social media platform will begin labeling general election candidates in gubernatorial races and congressional races at the federal level.

"U.S. Election labels" will display more information about the candidate, including what office they're running for, the state the race is in and the district number in House races accompanied by a small icon of a government building.


The trend: Every major internet company is now trying to cover their backs after lawmakers went in hard at them over how it easy it was for Russian trolls to manipulate their platforms.

Facebook and Google over the past several months have touted new tools that would make it harder for foreign actors to buy political ads. Twitter has made other announcements on this as well.

The companies are working under the threat of increased regulation that lawmakers have said they would impose if they don't see improvements.

Read more here.


UBER ENDS SELF-DRIVING TESTS IN ARIZONA: Uber announced on Wednesday that it would end its self-driving car testing in Arizona.

The company told its roughly 200 Arizona workers involved in the self-driving program that they would be let go, reports the Arizona Republic.

The company had previously suspended its self-driving car operations in Arizona after one of its cars struck and killed a pedestrian.

Uber is still planning on restarting its self-driving car operations in other cities like Pittsburgh and San Francisco.


D.C. connection: The further Uber gets from the incident the more likely it becomes that Senate Commerce's bill to ease restrictions on self-driving car requirements can get back on track. The bill had caught some momentum but stalled in the wake of the accident.  

Read more here.


DEMS SAY FCC CHIEF EVADING OVERSIGHT: A group of House Democrats called out FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for not fully answering their oversight questions throughout his chairmanship.

In a letter sent Wednesday, the 13 Democrats on the House Commerce subcommittee on communications accused Pai of trying to evade congressional oversight.

"While we appreciate your continued willingness to testify before our Committee, we are concerned that you have been unable to give complete responses to verbal questions, questions for the record or oversight letters from our members," the Democrats wrote. "We take our oversight responsibilities very seriously, and we expect witnesses before the Committee and recipients of our letters to treat their responses the same way."

The members also included 26 letters to the FCC that they say have not been answered fully.

"We have already responded to twenty-one of the letters in question and look forward to responding to the remaining few in the near future," FCC spokesman Brian Hart said in a statement.

To read more, click here.


BILL AIMS TO PROTECT KIDS' DATA: A bipartisan group of lawmakers are trying to revive the "Do Not Track Kids Act," a bill that would prohibit internet companies from delivering targeted ads to children. It would also require parental consent for websites to collect data on kids under 13.

"Our kids and teens are growing up in a digital world, surrounded by online and mobile technology. With this technology comes concerns about children's online privacy," Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLobbying world Bottom line Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement Wednesday. "I believe this legislation is an important step in protecting minors from online and mobile tracking, targeted advertising and data collection."


KASPERSKY HARD TO SHAKE: Federal agencies are having a hard time getting Kaspersky Labs software off their computers after Congress passed legislation mandating that they do so, reports the Daily Beast.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress last November requires agencies to stop using products created by Kaspersky Labs, a Russian security software company.

As agencies have tried to remove Kaspersky software and hardware from their computers and servers by the October 2018 deadline, they have found that it can be tricky.

Read more here.


WYDEN PRESSES FBI ON NUMBER OF ENCRYPTED PHONES: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Democratic senators ask inspector general to investigate IRS use of location tracking service MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday called on the FBI to provide more information regarding the inflated figures on encrypted cellphones that federal investigators were unable to access last year as part of ongoing investigations.

"I write to you today to express my concern regarding recent reports that the FBI has repeatedly misled the public and elected officials both in Congress and in states with respect to the number of electronic devices rendered inaccessible by strong encryption," Wyden wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The FBI said they weren't able to access 7,800 devices last year, when, according to a Tuesday Washington Post report, the actual number was closer to 1,000 or 2,000 devices. The bureau said the miscalculation resulted from using three distinct databases, where the same device could be counted more than once for the tally.

Wyden blasted the error as being either "sloppy" or an attempt to push their "legislative agenda," while requesting more information like how many devices they actually were unable to access, how many of those instances affected ongoing investigations, among other questions.

To read more, click here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Yanny or Laurel? Starbucks has an opinion



The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity risks in the financial sector at 10 a.m.

Georgetown University will hold an event discussing 5G competition at 10 a.m.



ZTE could see $3.1 billion in losses from U.S. penalties (Bloomberg)

Unlike Amazon, Apple is keeping quiet about its location search for a new campus. (The Wall Street Journal)

The New York Times thinks you should read all those new privacy updates you're seeing. (The New York Times)

A Bay Area pastor's battle with Silicon Valley elites. (The Guardian)

Yelp, TripAdvisor and some internet advocacy groups are going after Google in a new campaign.