Hillicon Valley: Trump goes after Twitter, Facebook | House Dems call for Sinclair probe | Apple removes China gambling apps | Cryptocurrencies form self-regulatory group

Hillicon Valley: Trump goes after Twitter, Facebook | House Dems call for Sinclair probe | Apple removes China gambling apps | Cryptocurrencies form self-regulatory group
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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 Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).

 

TRUMP TAKES ON SOCIAL MEDIA: President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE on Saturday charged that social media is "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices" and argued that the platforms should allow "good & bad" content online amid an ongoing debate over social media's role in policing content online.

"Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!" he said.

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"Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices," Trump tweeted. "Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others."

Republicans in recent months have more frequently made the claim that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are biased against them, and GOP lawmakers have held multiple congressional hearings on the subject. Read more here.

Trump doubled down on Monday: Trump said he believes it's "dangerous" for companies like Facebook and Twitter to self-regulate content on their platforms, according to an interview with Reuters.

"I won't mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they're making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow," Trump told the news agency.

The President's comments come as the social media companies face blowback over allegations that their platforms are biased against conservatives.

Trump accused Twitter of censoring conservatives in a tweet last month.

Background on Republicans' ire against Twitter and Facebook: Conservatives including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-Calif.) have sharply criticized technology companies over what they perceive as an anti-conservative bias.

Facebook and Twitter are dealing with scrutiny over how they police and enforce content that violates their user policies.

Some have called for them to ramp up their enforcement of harmful pages that push hoaxes, which culminated in Alex Jones's removal from Facebook and his temporary ban on Twitter.

But that move earned both companies criticism from conservative lawmakers. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that the move threatens free speech.

What's actually going? If there is anti-conservative bias, there isn't any direct evidence yet. Other political groups including Black Lives Matter and Rohingya activists in Myanmar have also cried foul on Facebook for censorship, suggesting that if there is a problem, it's not necessarily limited to a political ideology.

 

... BILL MAHER JUMPS IN: HBO talk-show host Bill Maher spoke out in defense of controversial right-wing host Alex Jones after Jones was suspended from several social media platforms, saying that everyone has a right to free speech.

Maher, noting that Jones has "told crazy lies" about him, said on his HBO show Friday that "if you're a liberal, you're supposed to be for free speech."

"That's free speech for the speech you hate. That's what free speech means. We're losing the thread of the concepts that are important to this country," he continued. Read more here.

 

DORSEY ADMITS TWITTER HAS LEFT-LEANING BIAS: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said on Saturday that he "fully admit[s]" Twitter employees share a largely left-leaning bias after facing accusations that conservatives are discriminated against on the social media platform.

In an interview that aired Saturday on CNN, Dorsey said his company has a responsibility to be open about its political viewpoints, but to operate without bias when applying content policies to users.

"We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is ... is more left-leaning," Dorsey says.

"But the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? And we are not. Period," he added.

Dorsey went on to insist that his company only polices behavior on the platform, not content. Read more here.

 

DEM CALLS FOR FCC PROBE INTO WHITE HOUSE CALL ON SINCLAIR: A top House Democrat is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) inspector general to look into a phone call that the White House counsel made to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month about the now-dead merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneNew Trump rule would weaken Obama methane pollution standards FCC watchdog clears chairman of 'favoritism' allegations over Sinclair deal GAO report blasts Trump's handling of ObamaCare MORE (D-N.J.) sent a letter Monday to Inspector General David Hunt asking him to see whether Pai made "material omissions and failed to disclose" the July 17 call in a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee late last month.

Pai disclosed the call in a Senate hearing last week, saying White House counsel Don McGahn had asked about the status of the proceeding.

"Recent statements by Chairman Pai disclosing a call with White House Counsel Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McCain honored at US Capitol Trump didn't inform McGahn of hush-money payments in 2016: report MORE regarding the Sinclair-Tribune merger during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing last week - taken together with other relevant events - could very well constitute concealment or coverup and require further investigation," Pallone wrote to Hunt.

An FCC spokesperson dismissed the assertions made in Pallone's letter.

Read more here.

 

THE JURY IS OUT AND ABOUT: The jury in the highly publicized criminal tax and bank fraud case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHillicon Valley: Trump's exclusive interview with Hill.TV | Trump, intel officials clash over Russia docs | EU investigating Amazon | Military gets new cyber authority | Flynn sentencing sparks new questions about Mueller probe Comey: Mueller may be in 'fourth quarter' of Russia probe Flynn sentencing move spurs questions about duration of Mueller probe MORE is not being sequestered, a fact under scrutiny as jurors settle into their third day of deliberations.

Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III did not order the six men, six women and four alternates to be sequestered throughout the trial, and even allowed them to recess for the weekend shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday.

At the end of each day, he's sent them off with the same reminder: Don't talk to anyone about the case, don't read the paper or watch the news, and don't do any research on your own.

The fact that the jury in the Manafort trial -- the first test in court for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team of prosecutors -- isn't sequestered is not necessarily a surprise.

"It's very rare, it's very expensive and it's a huge burden on jurors," Seth Waxman, who worked for 13 years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, said of forcing a jury to stay together in a hotel, out of public view, for the duration of a trial.

But the Manafort trial is unusual -- in part because the president of the United States has taken a keen interest in its outcome.

On Twitter, Trump suggested Manafort is being treated worse than American gangster Al Capone and called his former campaign chairman a "good guy" when speaking to the press. Trump has also regularly derided the Mueller investigation, which is examining whether there was collusion between his campaign and Moscow, as a politically driven "witch hunt."

Such publicity could make it difficult for jurors on the trial to ignore what's being said about it. It also casts a political spotlight on the trial, creating a sense that a verdict of guilty would be a partisan blow to the president.

"In this particular case it's highly unusual these people are not sequestered," said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami. "With everyone talking about it, myself included and our president, it's hard for these jurors to keep eyes and ears closed and not pick up comments on the peripheral."

Read more here.

 

MCCARTHY MOCKED FOR TWITTER CRITICISM: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was mocked on social media for a misleading tweet complaining that Twitter was censoring conservative voices.

Twitter has been criticized by several conservative figures who say the site is "shadow banning" right-leaning voices.

McCarthy, attempting to tweet an example of such censorship, shared a screenshot of a tweet from Fox News host Laura Ingraham that was covered by a warning of "potentially sensitive content."

"Another day, another example of conservatives being censored on social media," he tweeted. "[Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey] easy fix: explain to Congress what is going on. #StopTheBias."

Twitter users were quick to point out that Ingraham's tweet was covered up due to settings in McCarthy's own Twitter account, not because of a company campaign to silence conservative voices.

Read more here.

 

APPLE REMOVES GAMBLING APPS IN CHINA: Apple has reportedly removed about 25,000 illegal gambling apps from its App Store in China after facing criticism from state media in the country.

Apple on Monday told The Wall Street Journal that it has "removed many apps" and developers who have created gambling apps.

"Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China," Apple said in its statement to the Journal. "We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store."

Read more here.

 

CRYPTO'S SELF-REG PLAY: Cryptocurrency exchanges are forming their own group to help self-regulate their growing industry.

The Virtual Commodity Association, announced Monday, includes companies Bitstamp, bitFlyer USA, Bittrex, and Gemini, which was founded by the Winkevoss twins.

It is set to hold its first meeting in September.

The companies touted the formation of their new group as a step toward improving regulation of cryptocurrency amid criticism that regulators have been too lax.

"This is the first of many steps in policing the digital asset markets and answering the call of regulators," Yusuf Hussain, Gemini's head of risk, said in a statement.

Taking a tip from Silicon Valley: Pinky-promising to self-regulate has been the hallmark of Silicon Valley firms' attempts to stave off regulation of their platforms. They insist that they'll do better on their own terms to avoid potentially onerous rules.

 

EU CONSIDERS FINING TECH OVER TERROR CONTENT: The European Union is weighing strengthening its rules against extremist content on technology platforms and could fine some of the world's largest social media firms.

Some members of its European Commission want to fine Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and other companies for failing to remove terrorist propaganda and other types of extremist content from its platform, according to the Financial Times.

The new move would be a departure from the commission's previous strategy of allowing tech companies to voluntarily remove extremist content.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Apple's products are the best.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Congress should consider small-business exception to internet sales tax.

 

ON TAP:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on U.S.-Russia relations at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism will hold a hearing on Tuesday that is focusing on "Cyber Threats to our Nation's Critical Infrastructure" at 2:30 p.m.

The Senate Rules Committee will hold a business meeting on the Secure Elections Act on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

The DroneHunter knocks killer drones out of the sky (NBC News)

Some Tesla suppliers fret about getting paid. (Wall Street Journal)

Inside the Democratic war against hacks. (Axios)

Google refused an order to release huge amounts of data. Will other companies bow under pressure? (Washington Post)

The Serve-Us Industry. (The Baffler)