Hillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug

Hillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug
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DELETE... SWEEP... REPEAT: Facebook says it is removing 559 pages and 251 accounts that "have consistently broken ... rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior."


The company explained Thursday that this batch of accounts and pages was focused on manipulating the platform for financial gain by pumping out misleading political clickbait and spam rather than trying to actually influence U.S. politics.  

"They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms," Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said.

"The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites."

Gleicher said this type of behavior, which started with obvious scams like promotions for fake products, is growing increasingly sophisticated.

"Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site," he wrote.

What's different: Gleicher didn't detail the accounts Facebook removed. The New York Times, however, pointed out a page with a large following called, Right Wing News, as one of the removed pages.

The page frequently spread sensational and misleading headlines to its 3.1 million followers. Unlike pages that have been banned in the past, it was founded by an American, blogger John Hawkins, not Russia or Iran.

This time, it was about money, not interfering in elections or undermining the American political process.

Facebook may be willing to go further: This batch of removed accounts suggests that actors don't have to be explicitly nefarious (ie, a foreign government) and seeking to thwart democracy. Americans trying to make a buck by subtly misleading people isn't okay with Facebook either.

Read more here.


BREITBART SNAGGED AN INTERNAL GOOGLE POWERPOINT: The leak of internal research at Google is giving a rare glimpse into how the company is grappling with balancing free speech with the pressure to crack down on harmful or troublesome content

A research presentation, titled "The Good Censor" was leaked to the conservative news outlet Breitbart, which then published it in its entirety.

The slides discuss the questions Google must contend with as it determines how to handle user content. They cover a range of information, including analysis from researchers, journalists and critics as well as Google's interpretation of those findings. It's unclear who the presentation was intended for, but it provides a window into how the company is trying to grapple with issues of free speech and censorship.

"How can Google reassure the world that it protects users from harmful content while still supporting free speech?" the presentation asks at the start.

Another slide shows a spectrum with "free speech" on one end and "user welfare" on the other.

In the presentation, Google notes that many digital platforms, including itself, Facebook and Twitter, were founded with leanings toward free speech. But those platforms now find themselves increasingly "performing a balancing act between two incompatible positions." The "utopian principles of free speech," as Google describes it, are now being compromised by bad actors and difficult situations.

Google cites several examples of this including the rise of the alt-right on social media. The presentation also highlights a controversial incident in which video blogger Logan Paul who broadcasted the corpse of someone who committed suicide to a massive audience.

Google confirmed the presentation to The Verge.

Read more here.


TELL NORTH KOREA NO MORE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE's recent goodwill toward North Korea is at odds with his administration's attempts to crack down on the country's cyberattacks, and experts say the president's plaudits could hinder U.S.-led efforts to deter North Korean aggression in cyberspace.

North Korea has shown no signs of curtailing its aggressive cyber tactics, despite a Department of Justice (DOJ) complaint last month blaming the country's government for several high-profile cyberattacks. Researchers for security firm FireEye recently observed that the DOJ's very public allegations have "thus far failed to put an end to their activity."

But even as more examples of the cyber threat emerge, Trump has remained largely complimentary of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as he looks to reach a historic deal on denuclearization. Analysts say a more unified front is necessary to stop Pyongyang's cyber efforts.

"Certainly to the extent that your messaging seems at odds with what your law enforcement is doing, or your economic policies don't match up with your diplomatic actions," that will "make it more difficult for that message to be delivered to whatever country you're talking about trying to deter from a certain set of actions," said Michael Daniel, cybersecurity coordinator during the Obama administration who's now head of the Cyber Threat Alliance.

The administration has promised to remain tough on North Korea until it denuclearizes. But Trump's remarks toward Kim have changed dramatically during his presidency, going from promises to unleash "fire and fury" over the nation's missile tests to recently saying he and Kim "fell in love."

"I was really being tough and so was he," Trump said at a rally in West Virginia late last month. "And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters."

Those comments came the same month that the DOJ attempted to "name and shame" North Korea in a 179-page complaint about the country's alleged involvement in the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, the WannaCry malware attack and the theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh.

Read more here.


SPEAKING OF STOLEN MONEY: Two Chinese companies are warning customers that hackers used stolen Apple IDs to get into their digital payment accounts and steal money.

Ant Financial's Alipay and Tencent, according to Bloomberg, both said that they had contacted Apple over the Apple IDs, which some users have linked to their Alipay and Tencent WePay accounts.

The companies did not offer details on how the hackers might have gotten the accounts but recommended that users of their digital wallets take steps to protect themselves including by changing passwords. Alipay also said that Apple has not taken steps to fix the issue yet.

"Since Apple hasn't resolved this issue, users who've linked their Apple ID to any payments method, including Alipay, WePay or credit cards, may be vulnerable to theft," Alipay said in a post, according to Bloomberg's translation. When asked for comment, Apple said that it encourages its "customers to create a strong password and turn on two factor authentication to protect their accounts."

Read more here.


GIVE US THAT MEMO: A trio of top Senate Republicans is demanding that Google hand over an internal memo that reportedly advised the company not to disclose a vulnerability that exposed hundreds of thousands of Google Plus users because it would draw attention from regulators.

The Wall Street Journal reported the existence of the memo on Monday shortly before Google revealed the software bug that exposed the private information of up to 500,000 users of its social media platform to third-party developers.

The memo from Google's legal and policy staff advised the company's leadership that going public about the vulnerability would invite "immediate regulatory interest" at a time when fellow tech giant Facebook is facing a firestorm over its Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Read more here.


ICYMI: The Hill reported this week that the latest privacy audit by the accounting firm Ernst and Young cleared Google's privacy practices. Though it's heavily redacted, the document appears to make no mention of the software bug..


ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER ELECTION SECURITY BILL: A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced legislation that would block any persons from foreign adversaries from owning or having control over vendors administering U.S. elections.

The proposed law, known as the Protect Our Elections Act, would mandate that the companies involved in administering U.S. elections reveal any foreign owners, as well as inform federal, state and local officials if there is a change in ownership or control of the company.

Companies that fail to do so would be subject to a $100,000 fine.

The legislation comes after it was revealed earlier this year that a Russian oligarch in 2015 had purchased a software company used for some of Maryland's voter registration system. There is no evidence that any changes were made to the system as a result.

"Our free and fair elections are central to what makes America's democracy an example to the world. We cannot allow Russia or any other foreign adversaries to own our election systems," Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats shoot down talk of Bolton, Hunter Biden witness swap Schumer blasts GOP votes over witnesses, documents at trial Impeachment trial begins with furor over rules MORE(D-Md.), one of the bill's cosponsors, said in a statement. "This isn't just a hypothetical issue -- it happened right here in my home state of Maryland." 

Read more here.


WYDEN BILL GAINS SUPPORT: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — UN calls for probe into alleged Saudi hack of Bezos | Experts see effort to 'silence' Washington Post | Bezos tweets tribute to Khashoggi Bezos tweets tribute to Khashoggi in wake of reports of Saudi phone hacking MORE on Thursday touted that his cyber bill that aims to strengthen election security -- in part by requiring paper ballots -- is gaining steam among other Democratic senators.

Sens. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy Duckworth#MidnightMoscowMitch trends amid criticism of McConnell's proposed impeachment trial rules Democratic senator asks for meeting with Amtrak head over alleged disability discrimination Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim MORE (D-Ill.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Trump's China deal is a gift to Wall Street and Beijing MORE (D-Wis.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators fret over lack of manpower to build 5G Five tech stories to watch in 2020 Hillicon Valley: House panel unveils draft of privacy bill | Senate committee approves bill to sanction Russia | Dems ask HUD to review use of facial recognition | Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4M MORE (D-Wash.), and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mich.) have signed on to support The Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act  just weeks before the 2018 midterm elections

The bill also calls for "risk-limiting" audits for all federal elections.

"The longer we wait to put real measures in place to protect our election systems, the more vulnerable our democracy becomes to the threat of hackers and foreign adversaries." Wyden said in a statement. "I welcome the support of my colleagues today, which demonstrates the increasing need for Congress to take real action to confront these threats head on."


APPLE TO THE RESCUE: Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Wednesday that his company plans to donate to hurricane relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

In a pair of tweets, Cook wrote that the affected region "holds a special place in [his] heart."

"I grew up on the shores of the Gulf Coast, near Pensacola and Mobile, and that region holds a special place in my heart," Cook tweeted. "That's never been more true than now. To all those communities in the path of Hurricane Michael, you are in my prayers. Please stay safe."

Read more here.


COME OUT AND CELEBRATE: Facebook launched a new feature on Thursday to help its LGBTQ users celebrate National Coming Out Day.

For the first time, the platform added "Came Out" as a life event on user's profiles. People can now list "Came Out" on their profiles along with other events like graduating from high school, starting a job and getting married.

Tudor Havriliuc, a vice president at Facebook, told NBC News that the company hopes the feature will prompt people to share their own coming out stories.

"For the LGBTQ community, Facebook is a way for you to come out, celebrate your pride and find support," Havriliuc said. "Visibility is so important because it changes hearts and minds about being LGBTQ when friends and family see us living our true lives."

Read more here.

BLAMING BIAS: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden MORE (I-Vt.) is taking a shot at Facebook and Google as well as the GOP in a new video about Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCollins walks impeachment tightrope Supreme Court sharply divided over state aid for religious schools How Citizens United altered America's political landscape MORE.

In the video posted on Sanders' Twitter account, his senior advisor, Ari Rabin-Havt, criticized Republicans as being hypocritical in their claims that Google and Facebook are biased against conservatives.

Rabin-Havt pointed to Facebook vice president of public policy Joel Kaplan's support of Kavanaugh's nomination and Google's donations to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization that has been instrumental in picking conservative Supreme Court Justices, in making the argument that Google and Facebook are not biased toward the left.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Everything is bad now.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: It's not just foreign state-owned telecom posing a threat.



House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder. (The Hill)

Tech executives just now distance themselves from MBS. (BuzzFeed)

Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Hillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech MORE takes shots at tech in a new interview. (The Atlantic)

From memes to Infowars: How 75 fascist activists were "red-pilled" (Bellingcat)