Hillicon Valley: Rosenstein urges tech to step up against disinformation | Experts see hackers turning to A.I. | White House to host tech summit | How Yemen's civil war is playing out online | Far-right activist handcuffs herself to Twitter office

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 CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.


YOU BETTER STEP, BECAUSE THE CONGRESS WILL REGULATE YOU: Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE on Thursday said social media companies need to protect their platforms from disinformation campaigns and properly police false or misleading content or they will face government regulation.

"I think the companies now do understand if they do not take it upon themselves to self-regulate -- which is essentially the theme of my talk today -- they will face the potential of government regulation," he said.


Rosenstein's remarks come amid fears that Iran and other countries are looking to take a page from Russia's 2016 playbook and carry out sophisticated disinformation campaigns in the next presidential campaign.

There has been frustration in Washington with the efforts by Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to police their content.

Rosenstein, speaking at the Cybercrime Symposium hosted by Georgetown Law, said the companies have the ability to take action.

"They do have the ability and the incentive to self-regulate in order to avoid the kind of hostile regulation that may impede their business models," he said.

Rosenstein said many of the companies are seeking to take action, saying they were "motivated" to prevent the use of their platforms to spread disinformation.

Rosenstein pushed back on critics that he says oppose the law enforcement community working with tech experts.

"Some technology experts castigate colleagues who engage with law enforcement to address encryption and similar challenges. Just because people are quick to criticize you does not mean that you are doing the wrong thing," Rosenstein said.

"Some in the tech community and academia have responded dismissively to the problem of law enforcement's diminishing ability to collect evidence, claiming that law enforcement will find other ways of solving many crimes. But in many cases, we will not find other ways to solve crimes," he added.

Read more here.


A.I. IS COMING...TO HACK: Hackers will increasingly turn to artificial intelligence to help them evade detection as they carry out their online criminal activities, according to a cybersecurity firm's 2019 forecast.

McAfee Labs' 2019 "Threats Predictions Report" released on Thursday says hackers will likely turn to A.I. to "increase their chances of success," pointing to "an entire underground economy" where hackers can access new services and products to help them fly under the radar.

"We predict in 2019, due to the ease with which criminals can now outsource key components of their attacks, evasion techniques will become more agile due to the application of artificial intelligence," the report reads. "By adding technologies such as artificial intelligence, evasion techniques will be able to further circumvent protections."

The firm noted that in 2018, its researchers observed the emergence of new techniques including a new malware writer, known as "process doppelganging," that writes malicious code that appears as legitimate activity.

The firm also said it saw new threats such as cryptocurrency miners, which take over the resources of infected machines.

McAfee predicted that next year, cybercriminals will also team up to create more powerful hacking tools.

"In 2019, we predict the underground will consolidate, creating fewer but stronger malware-as-a-service families that will actively work together. These increasingly powerful brands will drive more sophisticated cryptocurrency mining, rapid exploitation of new vulnerabilities, and increases in mobile malware and stolen credit cards and credentials," the report reads.

One technology category that is likely to face more attacks are smart home devices, the firm predicts.

"As tech fans continue to fill their homes with smart gadgets, from plugs to TVs, coffee makers to refrigerators, and motion sensors to lighting, the means of gaining entry to a home network are growing rapidly, especially given how poorly secured many IoT devices remain," the report says, referring to internet-connected devices.

Read more here.


WHITE HOUSE TECH SUMMIT: Technology executives will convene at the White House next week for a roundtable on innovation, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The CEOs of Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Oracle and Blackstone are all expected to attend, according to the Journal.

The meeting will come a day after Google CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee over accusations from congressional Republicans that his company and other Silicon Valley giants suppress conservative speech.

The White House told the Journal that Thursday's roundtable will focus on "bold, transformational ideas" that "can help ensure U.S. leadership in industries of the future." 

Read more here.


YEMEN'S ONLINE CIVIL WAR: Aspects of the civil war in Yemen have manifested online, with Houthi rebels taking control over the country's main internet service provider and the Hadi-led government responding with a new service of its own, according to a newly released report.

Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in research published Wednesday that the Houthi rebels had taken over the country's main internet service, YemenNet, in 2014 and with it control of the .ye domain, the country's equivalent of .com.

The report found that the Houthi rebels have "taken steps to shut off internet access entirely across" their purview of YemenNet, including shutdowns of the internet and disabling access to the service in some areas.

The Hadi government, which claims that it constitutes the official Yemeni government, established a new internet service called AdenNet in June of this year, with funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), assistance from Saudi Telecom and technology from the Chinese firm Hauwei, which has faced restrictions in the U.S. over national security concerns.

The Recorded Future report also found that the percentage of the population that uses the internet had increased from 2014 to 2016, but has since stayed stagnant. 

Read more here.


YES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ELECTIONS ALREADY: A pair of President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE's nominees for a federal election agency testified before a Senate panel Wednesday on their plans to help state and local officials administer elections.

Donald Palmer and Benjamin Hovland testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on their plans for the Election Assistance Committee (EAC), an agency that helps local officials administer their elections.

Lawmakers are moving to add the pair to the election agency, with plans for a committee vote on their nominations next week. It would give the group its first quorum since March. Without the quorum, the EAC has been unable to take major policy moves.

The hearing also included hints on the future of the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation aimed at securing elections from potential cyberattacks.

The bill, introduced by the committee's ranking member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden renominates Powell as Fed chair Senate Democrats look to fix ugly polling numbers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens MORE (D-Minn.) and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordConstant threats to government funding fail the American public GOP Senate candidate says Fauci is 'mass murderer,' should be jailed rather than 'hero' Rittenhouse Bill requiring companies report cyber incidents moves forward in the Senate MORE (R-Okla.), was abruptly held up in the committee earlier this year by Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead It's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease MORE (R-Mo.), a move a GOP aide said at the time was due to a lack of support from Republicans.

Klobuchar said during Wednesday's hearing that they are hopeful they can bring the bill up in committee next year. 

Read more here.


DEMS NOT SATISFIED WITH AMAZON'S ANSWERS ON FACIAL RECOGNITION: A group of Democratic lawmakers are demanding more answers from Amazon about its contracts to provide law enforcement agencies with facial recognition technology.

The group sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday saying that the company's previous explanations to Congress about its Rekognition software were inadequate. Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about the potential threat the technology poses to civil liberties in the hands of police.

"Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe," the letter reads. "However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans' willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public." 

Read more here.


NEW CHANGES TO FACEBOOK POLITICAL AD INITIATIVE: Facebook will start exempting promoted posts from news outlets from its political ad archives, the company announced Thursday.

Publishers had been complaining about their posts being swept up in the social network's recent efforts to provide more transparency around political advertisements on the site.

Rob Leathern, Facebook's product management director, wrote in a post that the platform had started indexing news outlets' posts because some bad actors were impersonating publishers in order to spread disinformation.

"Our initial enforcement practices were intentionally broad," Leathern wrote. "We've since built more controls to help prevent politically motivated actors looking to use false news or sensationalism as weapons, and in September, we announced a news indexing process designed to more clearly and consistently identify Pages posting news on Facebook."

Read more here.


MORE DETAILS ON CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA PRACTICES: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie said the firm targeted social media users with pro-Trump messaging if they indicated interest in certain fashion brands, including L.L. Bean and Wrangler.

Wylie, speaking at England's Business of Fashion conference, said the firm found that some fashion tastes indicate "populist political" leanings.

"Fashion data was used to build AI models to help [former White House chief strategist] Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Bannon pushes for documents in court case to be released Trump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims MORE build his insurgency and build the alt-right," said Wylie.

Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica, has been speaking out since revealing earlier this year that as many as 87 million people may have had their data harvested by the voter-profiling firm without their consent. 

Read more here.


FAR RIGHT ACTIVIST HANDCUFFS HERSELF TO TWITTER OFFICE: Far-right activist Laura Loomer on Thursday handcuffed herself to Twitter's New York City office to protest being banned from the platform last week.

Loomer, who was permanently suspended after posting several anti-Islam tweets, yelled into a megaphone about conservative censorship as New York Police Department (NYPD) officers and Twitter employees streamed in and out of the door beside the one she handcuffed herself to.

More on Loomer's protest here.


TWITTER SHARES DROP: Twitter shares fell sharply on Thursday, dropping more than 8 percent in early-day trading.

The tumble put Twitter on track for its biggest one-day percentage drop in more than a month, according to Bloomberg, which said several traders and other news outlets attributed the downturn to a Politico story published Wednesday night that noted Fox News hasn't tweeted in weeks as part of an apparent boycott against Twitter.

Fox News hasn't tweeted from its main account since Nov. 8, and the Fox Business account has been inactive since Nov. 9. 

Read more here.


MORE TROUBLE IN EUROPE FOR AMAZON: Germany has launched an antitrust investigation into Amazon over whether the retail giant is taking advantage of its market dominance in a way that is detrimental to third-party sellers on its platform.

Federal Cartel Office head Andreas Mundt told The Associated Press that Amazon's "double role as the largest retailer and largest marketplace" creates the potential for it to cripple third-party retailers. 

Read more here.


TUNNEL PLANS FOILED: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk this week scrapped plans to build a rapid-transit tunnel under the Los Angeles' Westside Wednesday, but will move forward with a similar project near Dodger Stadium.

Musk's Boring Company abandoned a proposed 2.7 mile long tunnel in order to settle litigation brought by community groups opposed to the project, the two sides said in a joint statement Wednesday.

"The parties ... have amicably settled the matter," the statement from Musk and the groups read. "The Boring Company is no longer seeking the development of the Sepulveda test tunnel and instead seeks to construct an operational tunnel at Dodger Stadium." 

Read more here.


SAN FRANCISCO OFFICIAL WANTS TO UNFRIEND ZUCK: San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin is calling on the city to remove Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergTwo lawyers who filed suit challenging election results ordered to pay nearly 7K Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — DOJ unveils new election hacking charges State attorneys general launch probe into Instagram's impact on children, teens MORE's name from a hospital to which he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $75 million in 2015.

Peskin on Tuesday asked San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to trigger the legislative process that would eventually remove Zuckerberg's name from San Francisco General Hospital, The Mercury News reported.

Peskin said he doesn't believe public institutions should be affiliated with the social media giant, adding that he wants the city to reevaluate how it accepts private donations in exchange for naming rights. 

Read more here.


HOW DO WE REACH THESE TEENS?: Less than 10 percent of teenagers in the United States said they post about their political beliefs on social media, according to a survey published Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center poll of Americans age 13 to 17 found that around 9 percent of teenagers said they post about their political beliefs. Instead, they are far more likely to post about their accomplishments (49 percent), family (44 percent), emotions (34 percent) and dating (22 percent).

When broken down by age and gender, older teenage girls are most likely to discuss their political beliefs online, with 16 percent of those ages 15 to 17 saying they post about politics. Only 4 percent of boys in the same age group said they talk politics online. 

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: When the bird don't sing -- Rosenstein edition.



Facebook considered charging for access to user data. (The Wall Street Journal)

Airbnb will test prototype homes next year. (The Washington Post)

A decade after Russia hacked the Pentagon, Trump unshackles Cyber Command. (Politico)

An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands. (Recode)