Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence

Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence
© Getty

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). And CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.


FACEBOOK'S INTERNAL KAVANAUGH FIGHT: A top Facebook executive's show of support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has caused a rift within the company, angering employees and forcing its leaders to put some distance between Facebook and its own head of public policy, according to a New York Times report.

The Times reported Thursday that Joel Kaplan apologized last week after appearing behind Kavanaugh at an emotional confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The two are close friends who worked alongside each other in the George W. Bush White House.


"I want to apologize," Kaplan wrote in a note to employees. "I recognize this moment is a deeply painful one -- internally and externally."

Facebook plans to hold an all-hands meeting on Friday to address the issue. The company did not respond to a request for comment, but it has said that Kaplan was not there representing the media giant.

Employees had taken to internal message boards to express anger over Kaplan's appearance at the emotionally fraught hearing, which saw Christine Blasey Ford testify about her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh has denied those allegations.

Read more here.


RUSSIAN TROLLS AND KAVANAUGH: House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneLeft wants a vote on single-payer bill in new Congress On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Dem vows Medicare drug price negotiations will be priority | ObamaCare enrollment down compared to last year | HHS declares health emergency in California MORE (D-N.J.) is putting pressure on technology companies to examine how their platforms might have been used by Russian trolls to influence discourse on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination battle.

Pallone sent a letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Zuckerberg says he learned of Definers through NYT story MORE and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saying he believed the rising tensions after Christine Blasey Ford became the first of three women to accuse Kavanaugh of varying degrees of sexual misconduct "appear to raise political and social tensions in ways similar to issues previously exploited."

U.S. intelligence and lawmakers have said social media misinformation campaigns that started during the 2016 elections and have continued through now seek to misinform and divide the electorate.

Pallone pointed towards a Facebook group defending Kavanaugh that had previously been dedicated to boycotting Nike for its support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has protested racial injustice in the U.S., as an example of potential foreign efforts to exploit social tensions.

Be cautious though: Pallone cited the German Marshall Fund's Hamilton 68 project, which analyzes accounts it believes to be Russian bots, as an indicator of Russian misinformation.

Tweets and posts about Ford and Kavanaugh were among the top subjects being discussed by such accounts at the time of Pallone sending his letter, though some have questioned the validity and value of Hamilton 68's analysis because of their lack of transparency over the accounts the group culls data from.

Read more here.


CHINA RESPONDS TO PENCE: China slammed Vice President Pence's accusations of meddling in U.S. elections as "unwarranted" slander in a statement Friday.

Pence accused China Thursday of interfering in U.S. elections with the intention of hurting President TrumpDonald John TrumpAvenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Kasich: Wouldn’t want presidential run to ‘diminish my voice’ MORE.

"To put it bluntly, President Trump's leadership is working; China wants a different American president," he said at an event at the conservative Hudson Institute.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying roundly dismissed Pence's claims.

"The relevant speech made unwarranted accusations against China's domestic and foreign policies and slandered China by claiming that China meddles in US internal affairs and elections," she said in the statement.

Read more here.


TRUMP OFFICIALS MOVE TO CLEAR PATH FOR DRIVERLESS CARS: The Trump administration is moving ahead with a plan to revise safety rules barring self-driving cars from the road unless they have equipment such as steering wheels, pedals and mirrors, according to a document released publicly Thursday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) update, dubbed "Automated Vehicles 3.0.," seeks to support "the safe, reliable, efficient, and cost-effective integration of automation into the broader multimodal surface transportation system."

The NHTSA is seeking comment "on proposed changes to particular safety standards to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards that are relevant only when human drivers are present," opening the possibility of removing the aforementioned requirements down the road.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump, first lady attend special Supreme Court ceremony for Kavanaugh 5 ways Democrats can turn the House win into future success Overnight Energy: Groups want Senate to probe Interior watchdog controversy | Puerto Rico eyes plan for 100 percent clean energy | Dems say Congress already rejected part of EPA car emissions plan MORE said in the document that while self-driving cars have the potential to significantly reduce traffic crashes and road deaths, "the public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security, and privacy of automated technology." Read more here.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: Take me to Flavortown, USA baby and give me all your TB12 cheese fries.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The FCC is tasked with solving the digital divide and it's making things worse.



Facebook and Twitter but in the public interest? (The Baffler)

Thumbs down: how the video game industry is battling Brexit. (The Guardian)

Chinese tech shares tumble on spying concerns. (The Wall Street Journal)

Spy bust exposes methods of Putin's GRU military hackers. (Bloomberg)