FEATURED:

Hillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal

Hillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal

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.

 

OH BOY: White House national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he told Kremlin officials he does not believe Russian interference had "any effect" on the 2016 election but that it has sown "enormous distrust" of Moscow within the United States.

Bolton, who is in Moscow for two days of meetings with officials there, also told Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy that he warned the Kremlin against interfering in U.S. elections going forward.

"The point I made to Russian colleagues today was that I didn't think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it, but what they have had an effect in the United States is to sow enormous distrust of Russia," Bolton told the radio station, according to text from the interview provided by the National Security Council.

"And it's a major obstacle to achieving agreement on issues where our national interest may converge, so I said, just from a very cold blooded cost benefit ratio, that you shouldn't meddle in our elections because you're not advancing Russian interest, and I hope that was persuasive to them," Bolton said.

Bolton's remarks came in response to a question about the Justice Department's recent charges against a Russian woman for engaging in a conspiracy to influence the upcoming November midterm elections.

Russian interference has attracted massive public attention for nearly two years and is currently under investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, who is examining whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to oust Nielsen as early as this week: report California wildfire becomes deadliest in state’s history Sinema’s Senate win cheered by LGBTQ groups MORE's campaign colluded with Moscow. Trump has consistently criticized the probe and said there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.

The U.S. intelligence community made no assessment of whether Russia's efforts in the 2016 election – which included hacking and releasing Democrats' emails and spreading disinformation on social media – had an impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.

Officials say Russia also targeted state and local systems involved in the electoral process as part of the broader 2016 interference campaign, but maintain there is no evidence any vote tallies were changed.

Since then, officials have said they continue to observe Russia waging influence campaigns to impact American public opinion but that the activity has not risen to the level it did in 2016.

Bolton has previously raised the issue of Russian election interference in his meetings with Russians, warning that future meddling by any foreign nation will not be tolerated. Read more here.

 

IN THE MARKET: Facebook is reportedly looking to acquire a major cybersecurity firm following a massive breach that compromised data from 30 million accounts.

The company has approached several unnamed cybersecurity providers about potential acquisitions, according to The Information.

Facebook's push to ramp up its security comes in the wake of what it termed its biggest cybersecurity breach ever that affected user phone numbers, email addresses and recent searches.

The social media giant, after a preliminary review, says the hack was likely carried out by spammers, according to The Wall Street Journal, not a state-sponsored attack as some had feared.

The hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in the platform's "view as" feature that lets users see what their profile looks like to other users, depending on their privacy settings. The hackers were able to gain access codes to user accounts without their passwords.

Facebook has said that it's working with the FBI on the breach. The hack came after a difficult year of setbacks for Facebook, starting with revelations that Russian trolls had manipulated its platform in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Read more here.

 

SAUDI SITE GETS HACKED: The web page for this week's financial conference in Saudi Arabia is down Monday after apparently getting hacked with images of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi being executed by the Saudi royal family.

The incident comes a day before the Future Investments Initiative is set to begin -- and after U.S. business leaders and organizations have pulled out of the Riyadh summit in droves.

Screenshots circulating on social media show a picture posted on the site of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with a sword standing behind a kneeling Khashoggi, with an ISIS flag waving in the background.

"For the sake of security for children worldwide, we urge all countries to put sanction on the Saudi regime," a caption reads. "The regime, aligned with the United States must be kept responsible for its barbaric and inhuman action, such as killing its own citizen Jamal Khashoggi and thousands of innocent people in Yemen." 

Read more here.

 

DEM WANTS ANSWERS ON SAUDI PROPAGANDA EFFORTS: A Senate Democrat is asking major tech companies to investigate Saudi propaganda efforts on their platforms following reports of social media operations promoting the country's talking points in the wake of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent letters to Facebook, Google, Reddit and Twitter on Monday asking them to look into the matter as well as asking them to look into whether Saudi Arabia had employed social media tactics to boost then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"President Trump's vigorous defense of the Saudi government following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises questions about his ties, financial and otherwise, to Saudi Arabia," Blumenthal wrote in his letters. "One such question is to what extent the Saudis provided assistance to the Trump campaign, including previously-reported proposals to manipulate voters through social media and online platforms."

The senator pointed to media reports tying both the Trump campaign and the Saudi government to the Psy-Group, an Israeli firm specializing in intelligence and public influence campaigns.

The New York Times has reported that Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official who is cooperating under a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, solicited Psy-Group for assistance in conducting a social media manipulation campaign against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race Hillicon Valley: Social media struggles with new forms of misinformation | US, Russia decline to join pledge on fighting cybercrimes | Trump hits Comcast after antitrust complaint | Zuckerberg pressed to testify before global panel MORE.

Read more here.

 

SOFTBANK IN SPOTLIGHT OVER SAUDI MONEY: An international tech giant is facing tough scrutiny over its ties to Saudi Arabia after the killing of a dissident journalist.

Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank has been silent over the controversy even as scores of other companies have moved to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia.

The company has been relying heavily on Saudi money to help finance its $100 billion investment fund for U.S. tech startups.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), directed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with its $45 billion commitment, is the single largest contributor toward SoftBank's Vision Fund.

While most business leaders have dropped out of a Riyadh business conference the Saudi fund is hosting later this month, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has so far remained committed to his speaking appearance.

SoftBank did not return multiple requests for comment. The firm has perhaps the most to lose over a deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and the Saudis, especially if the kingdom's money becomes too toxic for the private sector. 

Read more here.

 

LIGHTS OUT FOR MOTH MEMES? YouTube's CEO is encouraging creators on her platform to protest a proposed European Union copyright regulation that some worry could lead to massive restrictions on user-created content.

In an open letter, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki urged creators to voice their opposition to Article 13, an EU proposal that would impose new burdens on technology companies to filter content for intellectual property law violations.

"This legislation poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world," Wojcicki wrote.

She warned that the proposal could "force platforms, like YouTube, to allow only content from a small number of large companies," because it would become "too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content."

Read more here.

 

UBER BUT FOR FLYING PIZZAS: Uber is hoping to launch a drone-based food delivery service by 2021, but the ride-hailing company cautioned that the project is still in its early stages, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The newspaper cited a since-deleted job posting on the Uber website that sought an operations executive to make delivery drones functional as early as next year.

The job posting also referenced work for UberExpress, which is the internal name for the drone operation at UberEats, the Journal reported. The proposal would likely need to clear a number of regulatory hurdles before being implemented, it added.

When the newspaper asked Uber about the posting, it was removed.

A company spokesperson said the job description "does not fully reflect our program, which is still in very early days."

"We are excited about the progress and potential of Eats drone delivery, which is currently in the experimental phase of the FAA's Integration Pilot Program," Uber spokesman Matt Wing told The Hill in an email. "However, the job description that was posted did not fully reflect our program, which is still in very early days." 

Click here for more about the flying food prospects.

 

ON TAP: Palo Alto Networks is hosting its Federal Ignite '18 conference this week, featuring top officials from across the federal government and prominent cyber experts.

A LIGHTER CLICK: Totally normal tweet.

 

ICYMI: Jack Dorsey complains about 'unfairness' in San Francisco homeless tax on corporations (The Hill)

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Conservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview. (The Hill)

Papadopoulos set to testify before House lawmakers. (The Hill)

Russian-linked professor tied to Papadopoulos has a history of disappearing. (AP)

An alternative history of Silicon Valley disruption. (Wired)

How many space stations does this planet need? (The New York Times)

Spend all of Jeff Bezos' money in this choose-your-own-adventure game (Motherboard)

Meet the woman who is proudly Russia's troll-in-chief. (BuzzFeed News)