Hillicon Valley: Justices weigh iPhone app case | Farewell to Facebook's war room? | UK Parliament turns up heat on Zuckerberg | Russian hackers return after midterms | Papadopoulos begins 2-week prison sentence | NASA lands probe on Mars

Hillicon Valley: Justices weigh iPhone app case | Farewell to Facebook's war room? | UK Parliament turns up heat on Zuckerberg | Russian hackers return after midterms | Papadopoulos begins 2-week prison sentence | NASA lands probe on Mars
© 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.

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SCOTUS TAKES UP APPLE ANTITRUST CASE: The Supreme Court grappled Monday with whether to allow a consumer class action lawsuit to go forward against Apple over its alleged monopoly on iPhone applications.

The liberal members of the court seemed to side with consumers, who argue they are being directly injured by having to pay more for iPhone apps that are sold exclusively through the technology giant's App Store.

Apple takes a 30 percent commission off the top of the apps purchased and lets developers keep the remaining 70 percent. Consumers argue developers are inflating their app prices knowing that Apple keeps 30 percent of each sale.

"Apple directed anticompetitive restraints at iPhone owners to prevent them from buying apps anywhere other than Apple's monopoly App Store," David Frederick, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the consumers, told the justices in court.

"As a result, iPhone owners paid Apple more for apps than they would have paid in a competitive retail market."

Apple and the U.S. government, which intervened in the case on behalf of the company, said only the app developers and not consumers purchasing apps have the required standing under antitrust laws to sue.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, questioned that claim, noting that Apple is the one selling the apps to the customer.

"This is a closed loop," she said. 

Read more from our colleague Lydia Wheeler here.


HACK HACK HACK: Russian hackers are back in the spotlight after the U.S. midterm elections, carrying out a widespread campaign that targeted the federal government, media outlets and think tanks.

American officials were on the lookout for Russian interference ahead of and during the Nov. 6 elections, but the detection of activity by a Kremlin-linked hacking group took place just days after the polls closed.

Some researchers told The Hill that the recent cyber efforts are a sign that hackers are exploring the new political landscape now that Democrats will be in control of the House starting in January.

And with some fearing that Russian hackers are waiting until the high-profile 2020 presidential election to fully deploy their capabilities, the post-midterm cyber campaign suggests the groups are having a somewhat resurgence in their efforts to penetrate U.S. government institutions.

"Now it's time to gather information about what's happening after these campaigns have ended because now you have two years of basically a whole different political landscape, which is exactly what happens after any election," said Brandon Levene, the head of applied intelligence at Chronicle, a cybersecurity firm owned by Alphabet. 

Read more here.


PLEA DEAL OR NO PLEA DEAL: Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges MORE ally Jerome Corsi said Monday that he has received an offer from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE for a plea deal on one count of perjury, but that he plans to reject it.

Corsi, a conspiracy theorist and conservative writer, told CNN that the special counsel "can put me in prison the rest of my life. I am not going to sign a lie."

The report comes shortly after Corsi said he was in plea deal negotiations with Mueller's team.

His attorney, David Gray, and the special counsel declined to comment to The Hill.

Corsi had appeared before the special counsel's grand jury last month, as Mueller has reportedly shown interest in his ties to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He also predicted earlier this month that he would be indicted for lying to federal investigators. 

Read more about it here.


THEY MAY HAVE WON THE BATTLE BUT THEY LOST THE WAR ROOM: Facebook is pushing back on a report that it disbanded its "war room," the team the company created to fight issues like disinformation campaigns on its platform.

The company told The Hill that the team had not been intended as a permanent fixture within the company, but as an effort to step up preparations for major elections like this month's midterms.

"Our war room effort is focused specifically on elections-related issues and is designed to rapidly respond to threats such as voter suppression efforts and civic-related misinformation," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "It was an effective effort during the recent U.S. and Brazil elections, and we are planning to expand the effort going forward for elections around the globe."

Bloomberg had reported the end of the war room in a Monday report highlighting how Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's No. 2 executive, is responding to the negative attention she's starting to receive in light of the company's recent scandals. 

Read more here.


SETTING THE STAGE FOR TOMORROW'S HEARING: British Parliament on Sunday obtained a trove of internal documents from Facebook related to claims about the company's user privacy policies and allegations that CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits Warren targets Facebook with ad claiming Zuckerberg supports Trump MORE sought to drive competitors out of business.

The Guardian reported that the materials may include communications between Zuckerberg and other company executives. The documents stem from a lawsuit in California by Ted Kramer, the owner of software company Six4Three, which alleges that Facebook is "the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry."

Damian Collins, the chairman of parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, used a rare government procedure to compel Kramer to turn over the documents he'd obtained as part of his lawsuit while he was in London on business.

"We are in uncharted territory," Collins said, according to The Guardian. "This is an unprecedented move but it's an unprecedented situation. We've failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest."

Lawmakers obtained the documents ahead of a Tuesday hearing focused on disinformation. Parliament had asked Zuckerberg to attend, but the social media giant instead opted to send one of its deputy officials. 

Read more here.


TOUCHDOWN ON MARS: NASA on Monday announced it had landed the InSight lander on Mars.

"Our @NASAInSight spacecraft stuck the #MarsLanding!" NASA tweeted.

"Its new home is Elysium Planitia, a still, flat region where it's set to study seismic waves and heat deep below the surface of the Red Planet for a planned two-year mission."

NASA included footage of its officials cheering, "Touch down confirmed!" 

Read more here.


IS THIS JUST PR FOR 'THE GRINCH' REMAKE? A team of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to ban bots that purchase large numbers of the newest and trendiest holiday toys, which can lead to higher prices on secondary markets.

Democratic Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGreen groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (N.M.) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA MORE (D-N.Y.) unveiled the Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 on Black Friday.

The bill would ban the bots -- software programs written to quickly buy trendy toys -- from overriding online retailers' security measures, allowing them to then make the bulk purchases.

Schumer said in a statement that the bill will help create an "even playing field" for Americans buying toys for their children.

"When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season's hottest toys," he said. 

Read more here.


OHIO TO START ACCEPTING BITCOIN FOR BUSINESS TAXES: Ohio on Monday became the first U.S. state to begin accepting bitcoin as a payment option for a range of business taxes, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Employers in the state can now use the cryptocurrency to pay for as many as 23 business taxes, according to the newspaper. Using bitcoin will come with a 1 percent fee, which is less than the 2.5 percent fee when businesses pay with credit cards, the Enquirer reported.

Bitcoin is the only form of cryptocurrency that the state is accepting at this time, and the option is limited to businesses. Individuals are not permitted to use bitcoin to pay their taxes.

Read more here.


George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosWe need answers to questions mainstream media won't ask about Democrats Trump asked Australian leader to help look into Mueller probe's origins: report US attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal MORE was not looking forward to Cyber Monday... because that is when he begat 2-week prison sentence.


More Cyber Monday... Online U.S. sales are expected to be a record $7.8 billion today.


And on Wall Street... It was also a good day for Microsoft which briefly overtook Apple to be the world's most valuable company.


ICYMI from the holiday weekend:

US accuses China of ramping up hacking efforts amid trade dispute

And US urging allies to drop China's Huawei: report

Amazon's European workers go on strike for Black Friday

Zuckerberg at center of new Facebook firestorm


An op-ed to chew on: It's high time for the high-tech sector to support Defense


A lighter click: Technology is truly amazing.



We've been targeted by hackers too, says China in wake of US cyber-espionage claims. (South China Morning Post)

The unsatisfying truth about hateful online rhetoric and violence. (BuzzFeed News)

Venmo faced higher losses this year thanks to fraudsters. (The Wall Street Journal)

YouTube competitor Watch is targeting a new audience. (CNBC)

A chatbot that trolls telemarketers has gained a cult following. (Motherboard)