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

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
© 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 Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).


SOCIAL MEDIA'S NEW STRUGGLE WITH POLITICAL MISINFORMATION: Social media companies are struggling to contain new forms of political misinformation on their platforms that bubbled up during this year's midterm elections.


The more unorganized, guerilla misinformation being spread is distinct from the foreign election interference efforts that dominated during the 2016 elections, and it often starts from within the United States' own borders, researchers say.

Jonathan Albright, a researcher at the Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said that false and misleading information is still running rampant on platforms like Facebook.

"Many of the dangers that were pointed out years ago have seemed to grow exponentially on Facebook, not unlike the other large social media 'platforms,' " he wrote earlier this month.

Albright analyzed 250,000 Facebook posts, 5,000 political ads and historic engagement metrics for hundreds of pages and groups on the social media platform.

"The takeaway: It's not good," he wrote.

Researchers point to a number of false or unsubstantiated claims that ran rampant on social media in the lead-up to the midterms this year, including posts baselessly accusing Democratic donor and hedge fund billionaire George Soros of funding the migrant caravan of Central American asylum-seekers heading toward the U.S. border and incorrect conspiracy theories about the origins of bombs sent to high-profile Democrats. 

Read more here.


ON THE SAME PAGE FOR ONCE: The United States. Russia and China are not among 50 countries that have signed a pledge to fight cybercrimes, including interference in elections.

The document pledges to collaborate to prevent cybercrimes. It was published Monday and is supported by European countries as well as tech companies Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

French President Emmanuel Macron had pushed for the pledge, which states that cybersecurity is "the shared responsibility of a wide variety of actors, in their respective roles, to improve trust, security and stability in cyberspace."

The call has also been signed by a number of tech giants, including Microsoft, who helped push the pledge.

While the tech sector has the first and highest responsibility to protect this technology and the people who rely upon it, this is an issue that requires that governments, companies and civil society come together," Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. "That is the only effective way to protect people from what at times have become military-grade cybersecurity threats."

Read more here.


IF YOU DIDN'T HEAR: Some Facebook users on Monday were unable to access the site.

Users who could not log on received the following error message: "Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on it and we'll get it fixed as soon as we can."

Downdetector, a site that tracks website outages, showed the spike in outages have been concentrated in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S., as well as southern Brazil.

A company spokesperson confirmed the outages to The Hill over email.

"Earlier today, a routine test caused users to have trouble accessing or posting to all Facebook services including WhatsApp and Instagram," the spokesperson wrote. "We quickly investigated and restored access for everyone. We're sorry for the inconvenience." 

Read more here.


PRESSURE ON ZUCK: Members of parliament in five different countries are pressuring Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Maxine Waters says her committee will call in Zuckerberg to testify about Libra Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE to testify in an "international grand committee" after he previously snubbed Canadian and British lawmaker requests to testify.

"We were very disappointed with this dismissive response," the members wrote of Facebook's response to the British and Canadian requests for Zuckerberg to testify.

Now members of parliament from five countries want Zuckerberg to give testimony before an "international grand committee" of lawmakers.

The letter's signatories comprised the U.K.'s Damian Collins, Canada's Bob Zimmer, Argentina's Leopoldo Moreau, Australia's James McGrath and Ireland's Hildegarde Naughton.

Facebook's heads of public policy in the U.K. and Canada last week sent a letter saying that Zuckerberg would not testify to British member of parliament Damian Collins and Canadian member of parliament Bob Zimmer. 

Read about it here.


TRUMP HAS A NEW TARGET: President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE on Monday took aim at Comcast after a Fox Business article suggested the Department of Justice could investigate the cable giant for violating antitrust laws.

The president quoted from an article by Fox Business Network's Charlie Gasparino and Lydia Moynihan, which was featured on the conservative Drudge Report website.

"American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast," the president tweeted.

"They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws. 'These guys are acting much worse, and have much more potential for damage to consumers, than anything AT&T-Time Warner would do.' Charlie Gasparino," he added.

The Fox Business article cites a Nov. 6 letter from the American Cable Association, a lobbying group for midsize cable operators, that called on the DOJ's antitrust division to investigate Comcast. The letter claims that Comcast, which merged years ago with NBC, poses a greater antitrust threat than the controversial AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Comcast said in a statement that the American Cable Association's complaint is "without merit" and "constitutes an inappropriate attempt to gain leverage in the commercial marketplace."

"The video programming and distribution markets are incredibly competitive. New programmers and distribution platforms are offering consumers increasing choices on what and where to watch," the company said in a statement to The Hill. "At Comcast NBCUniversal, we are competing in this dynamic environment the way we always have -- by continuing to innovate and conducting our business in compliance with antitrust laws and other legal requirements."

Read more here.


NOT SO LUCK(E)Y: A former top executive at Facebook who was ousted from the company may have been fired over his support for Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reported Sunday that Palmer Luckey has recently told people that he was fired for supporting Trump before that year's presidential election. Luckey's donation in September 2016 to NimbleAmerica, a group that funded ads attacking Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE, reportedly sparked backlash within Facebook.

Six months after making that donation, Luckey was no longer at the company. The Journal noted that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress this year that Luckey's departure had nothing to do with his political beliefs.

According to the Journal, Luckey was first put on leave and later fired. In the fall of 2016, Zuckerberg pressured Luckey to voice support publicly for Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonAmash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump Buzz grows Amash will challenge Trump as a Libertarian Potential GOP primary challenger: Trump's 'contempt for the American people' behind possible bid MORE, the libertarian nominee in that year's election, the Journal reported, citing internal emails and sources familiar with the conversations.

Luckey is a longtime supporter of Trump. The Journal noted that Facebook is among a number of tech companies that have recently been accused of liberal bias on their platforms. 

Read more here.

Counterpoint: NBC's Ben Collins goes through some of the issues with The Wall Street Journal's story.


ICYMI OVER THE WEEKEND: Dems race to protect Mueller probe (The Hill)


ON TAP: The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities will hold a hearing Wednesday on the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security's roles and responsibilities on cyber.

At the same time, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity will hold a hearing on the Defense Department's "cybersecurity acquisition and practices from the private sector."

And the president's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee will also meet Wednesday, where it is expected to vote on a report to the White House on its "cybersecurity moonshot."





How to Use an iPod Touch as a Secure Device Instead of a Phone (Motherboard)

Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why (The Wall Street Journal)

Tech workers seeking an edge on peers turn to all-meat 'carnivore diet' (San Francisco Chronicle)

Palantir Has a $20 Billion Valuation and a Bigger Problem: It Keeps Losing Money (WSJ)

Facebook's Secret Weapon for Fighting Election Interference: The Government (Bloomberg)