Hillicon Valley: GOP leader wants Twitter CEO to testify on bias claims | Sinclair beefs up lobbying during merger fight | Facebook users experience brief outage | South Korea eyes new taxes on tech

Hillicon Valley: GOP leader wants Twitter CEO to testify on bias claims | Sinclair beefs up lobbying during merger fight | Facebook users experience brief outage | South Korea eyes new taxes on tech
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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

 

GOP LEADER WANTS TWITTER CEO TO TESTIFY: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the chairman of the House Commerce Committee calling for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify on the company's filtering practices as top conservatives accuse the platform of silencing right-wing voices.

Twitter denies that it's engaged in "shadow-banning" of conservatives, a process that makes certain accounts harder for users to come across. When certain GOP accounts became inaccessible through the platform's search engine last week, Twitter faced accusations that it's censoring Republicans.

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The company maintains that the incident was a glitch. But the explanation is unlikely to satisfy GOP lawmakers like McCarthy who are hoping to capitalize on conservatives' anxieties about socially liberal Silicon Valley.

"Any solution to this problem must start with accountability from companies like Twitter, whose platforms have enormous potential to impact the national conversation -- and unfortunately, enormous potential for abuse," McCarthy wrote in the letter to Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-Ore.), which was first reported by Axios.

"In particular, I would like to request a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so that the American people can learn more about the filtering and censorship practices on his platform," he continued.

How Twitter is responding: Twitter declined to comment on the letter. In a blog post last week, though, the company said that the scope of the issue was confined to auto-populating search terms and that Democratic politicians were also affected.

"Hundreds of thousands of accounts were impacted by this issue," the post reads. "This impact was not limited to a certain political affiliation or geography. And, to be clear, these accounts were only impacted within search auto-suggestions-- they still appeared in search results.

Is it going to happen? Walden, who has called for more tech CEOs to appear before Congress in the wake of Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergChina may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon Facebook announces verification to images and video on platform Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE's Hill testimony, appears receptive to the idea.

"Twitter is an incredibly powerful platform, filtering and shaping the information consumers see with the tweak of an algorithm," Walden said in a statement. "As policymakers, it's important we continue to examine the greater consumer protection implications of algorithms and platforms' decisions about content and data. Even well-intentioned algorithms can have unintended consequences. I look forward to welcoming Mr. Dorsey to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee at a date and time to be agreed upon."

The problem with conservatives' claims: While many do believe that there are issues with bias on tech platforms, journalists and experts have been extremely critical of the Vice report on shadow banning that likely motivated McCarthy's call for a hearing.

Reporter Mike Isaac from The New York Times has a tweet thread that sums up the criticisms of the Vice piece.

Conservatives, though, want this hearing badly: Republican lawmakers have been trying to find whatever ammo they can to hit tech companies over allegations of bias. They've held two hearings on the matter so far, and McCarthy has lobbed other attacks at tech firms besides Twitter for alleged bias against conservatives.

Read more here.

 

SINCLAIR ADDS LOBBYING FIREPOWER TO SAVE MERGER: Sinclair Broadcast Group hired a group of Republican lobbyists last month as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put its proposed merger with Tribune Media in jeopardy, according to disclosure forms released this week.

The filings show that Sinclair tapped the lobbyists to advocate for the embattled merger on June 19, three days after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (R) said he had "serious concerns" about the deal and would be referring it to an administrative law proceeding.

The group of five lobbyists from the S-3 Group included three aides to former House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorFake political signs target Democrat in Virginia Hillicon Valley: GOP leader wants Twitter CEO to testify on bias claims | Sinclair beefs up lobbying during merger fight | Facebook users experience brief outage | South Korea eyes new taxes on tech Sinclair hired GOP lobbyists after FCC cracked down on proposed Tribune merger MORE (R-Va.), including his one-time chief of staff, Rob Collins.

The hire is notable for the conservative-leaning media company, which had not hired an outside lobbyist since 2000. Sinclair typically relies on industry trade groups like the National Association of Broadcasters to advocate for its interests.

The hires may be too late to save the $3.9 billion Tribune deal.

On the day that Sinclair hired the group, the FCC released an order accusing the company of trying to mislead regulators about several proposed sidecar deals aimed at bringing the combined broadcasting giant into compliance with media ownership restrictions.

Read more here.

 

NEW TECH TAXES IN SOUTH KOREA: South Korea is exploring measures to collect taxes from major technology companies including Apple, Google and Facebook, according to the Korea Times.

Korean lawmakers are reportedly working to implement new taxes on the companies, which currently pay no corporate taxes despite earning billions in the country.

"Under the current law, preliminary or ancillary places of business are not regarded as global companies' offices in Korea, and this has played a role in their tax avoidance," Ahn Jeong-sang, a policy advisor to the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, told the Times.

"Considering the characteristics of the digital economy, the concept of fixed places of business needs to be expanded so that the government can secure authority to impose taxes on them," he continued.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK'S FAIL WHALE: For a few minutes on Friday, Facebook's website appeared to be down.

Users flocked to Twitter to post screenshots of their blank Facebook desktop newsfeeds, displaying the platform's template of content boxes and spaces for profile pictures and text, but without any words or pictures.

The outages do not appear to be universal. The Hill was still able to access the site as other users were reporting the social media platform was down for them.

Facebook's response: "Earlier today, a technical issue caused some people to have trouble connecting to Facebook and it has since been resolved," a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Read more here.

 

SENATOR PRESSES DHS ON EMAIL SECURITY TOOL: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-Ore.) is asking the Department of Homeland Security what "actional cyber intelligence" officials have gained since they ordered federal agencies to adopt a key email security tool.

The tool, known as the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conference (DMARC), allows organizations to report fraudulent emails or, when the strongest settings are enabled, block these messages from reaching recipients entirely.

In a letter to Christopher Krebs, who leads the Department of Homeland Security's cyber and infrastructure protection wing, Wyden asked the department to expand on what it has learned from agencies' adoption of DMARC. 

"Requiring agencies to transmit email impersonation threat data to DHS is only the first step. DHS must then collate and analyze those reports in order to understand the scope of the threat and to determine how best to protect federal agencies from impersonation," Wyden wrote.

"I would like to understand what steps DHS has taken to analyze this information and to turn it into actionable cyber intelligence."

Agencies were required to begin adopting DMARC in January. They face an October deadline to begin implementing the tool on its strongest setting, to help prevent individuals from falling victim to emails masquerading as those coming from government agencies.  

 

NEW DOCUMENTS ON DOSSIER AUTHOR: The FBI on Friday released 71 pages of heavily redacted documents tied to the bureau's relationship with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled the Trump-Russia dossier.

The documents offer little information because of the redactions, and are largely comprised of payment request forms for Steele.

They do, however, indicate that Steele was told to stop gathering intelligence on behalf of the FBI in November 2016 -- building on information already known as a result of the Justice Department's recent release of surveillance warrant applications on former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Politics Twitter is a mess.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The trouble with a $1 trillion Apple. (NYT)

 

ON TAP:

The Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences kick off next week in Las Vegas.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Campaigns are going it alone to fight misinformation on social media. (Associated Press)

The new NSA director will soon weigh in on potentially splitting U.S. Cyber Command from the spy agency. (Fifth Domain)

Criminals are trying to recruit employees at U.S. telecom companies to hack victims. (Motherboard)

Not unlike other federal agencies, the FBI is having difficulty retaining cyber talent. (Politico)

City officials banned Facebook from serving free food to help local restaurants. (The Guardian)

Tech trade association, CompTia goes after Trump's tariffs in a letter to lawmakers.

 

Enjoy your Friday. It's been a long week.