Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules

Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules
© 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. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig).

 

WALKING IN RUSSIA'S FOOTSTEPS: Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is aggressively going after the individuals and groups behind newly revealed influence campaigns that targeted his special election a little more than a year ago.

But instead of looking for the perpetrators in Russia or China, the responsible entities are U.S.-based. And they are replicating some of the tactics used by foreign groups.

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"We've been so focused on Russians that we've failed to look" here, he told The Hill on Thursday. "There are nefarious groups in this country that will use their playbook. And we've just got to stop it."

The Washington Post and The New York Times recently reported on two separate operations -- one conducted by social media researchers and another by a group of progressive Democrats -- that utilized tactics similar to those used by Russians during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Jones maintains that the influence operations did not impact the outcome of the December 2017 special election. But experts said the efforts nonetheless raise questions about what impact they had on a race where Jones was neck-and-neck with his GOP competitor, Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreDoug Jones gets challenger in Alabama Senate race Republican state official faces pushback for comments on Sinema's attire Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules MORE, in polls near the end of the race.

The reports also shine a light on domestic attempts to sway U.S. elections, and show that Russia's playbook isn't limited to foreign governments who want influence American politics. Read more here.

 

MORE LIKE @AOC: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Can progressives govern? Overnight Energy: Natural gas export project gets green light | Ocasio-Cortez says climate fight needs to address farming | Top EPA enforcement official to testify MORE (D-N.Y.) generated more interactions with her tweets over the past month than any other politician except President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE, according to an Axios study published Saturday.

The Axios analysis examined politicians' and news outlets' tweets from Dec. 11, 2018, to Jan. 11, and found that Ocasio-Cortez had 11.8 million retweets and likes. She trailed only Trump, who had nearly 40 million interactions on his tweets.

Ocasio-Cortez had more than 7 million more interactions than the next highest-ranking politician, who was Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOvernight Energy: Natural gas export project gets green light | Ocasio-Cortez says climate fight needs to address farming | Top EPA enforcement official to testify Sanders endorses Oakland teachers strike News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (D-Calif.), according to the study.

The Axios study noted that each politician tweets at a different daily rate. Trump shares roughly nine tweets per day, compared to Ocasio-Cortez, who sends about six tweets a day, and Harris, who tweets nearly 10 times each day. Read more here.

 

THANKS BUT NO THANKS: Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), declined a top House Democrat's request for an emergency briefing on the wireless industry's data collection practices amid troubling reports about the sale of customers' real-time location information.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump bans abortion providers from family planning program | White House doesn't back GOP governor on drug imports | HHS declines to provide witnesses for family separations hearing Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules after 18,000 lose coverage in Arkansas MORE (D-N.J.) said on Monday that Pai's staff told him the shutdown prevented the agency from conducting such a briefing for Congress because the issue does not constitute a "threat to the safety of human life or property."

"There's nothing in the law that should stop the Chairman personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign adversaries to track military personnel on American soil," Pallone said in a statement. "The Committee will continue to press the FCC to prioritize public safety, national security and protecting consumers."

Democratic lawmakers in the past week have called on the FCC to crack down wireless providers' privacy practices after the news site Motherboard published an investigation into how easy it is to purchase real-time location data off of aggregation companies. More on the latest privacy controversy here.

 

FIGHTING FORCED ARBITRATION: Tech workers hoping to capitalize on the success of last year's walkouts by Google employees are launching a social media campaign against forced arbitration clauses that are commonly found in Silicon Valley's employment contracts.

A group called Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration will push a discussion on social media aimed at raising awareness on the practice, which prevents workers from suing their employers over certain matters and instead forces them to resolve disputes in arbitration -- a process that is much more opaque and that critics say favors employers.

"Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace," the group wrote in a Medium post on Monday. "In the last month, we've heard from fellow tech workers, academic institutions, labor attorneys, advocacy groups and legislators around the nation about their fights to end forced arbitration as well."

The social media campaign is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and will be led by the Twitter and Instagram handles @endforcedarb. Read more here.

 

HIGH STAKES DRAMA IN CHINA: A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Canadian man to death amid heightened tensions between the countries, prompting criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Associated Press reported that the court convicted Robert Lloyd Schellenberg of being an accessory to drug smuggling and sentenced him to death. Schellenberg, who was detained more than four years ago, was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison.

Trudeau accused Canada of "arbitrarily" applying the death penalty in Schellenberg's case.

The sentencing comes more than a month after Canadian authorities detained Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies.

Canadian authorities arrested Meng at the request of the U.S., which alleged that Huawei company violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran. Read more here.

 

IT'S A DRONE ZONE: The Trump administration is proposing new rules that would allow drones to fly at night without a waiver and permit flights over populated areas.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress White House announces reduced delegation to travel to Davos amid shutdown MORE during a Monday speech in Washington, D.C. laid out the vision behind the proposal, which would effectively do away with certain regulations that have hindered the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use.

"First, at long last, the department is ready to issue for comment a proposed new rule that would allow drones to fly overnight and over people without waivers, if certain conditions are met," she said, according to a copy of her remarks.

The proposal will be open to public comment for 60 days before it can be finalized.

Chao said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) intends to both mitigate the risk of drones potentially interfering with other aircraft and ensure both people and property on the ground are protected.

The changes will be welcome news to companies like Amazon and Alphabet Inc., two major companies that are eyeing drones for package delivery. Read more here.

 

TIME FOR SOME 5G BOUNDARIES: The founding director of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center said in an episode of Hill.TV's "Boundless" that technology companies need to work with government agencies on smart home technology in order to address privacy concerns.

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"If you say I put a set of 5G access points in my home, what's that going to do to my privacy? Is it inviting all of these companies to come into your home?" Jan Rabey told Hill.TV. "No, you don't want everyone to come visit you continuously. You want to invite them only when you want them.

"Having those necessary firewalls and things like that, basically shield you off, and make sure only the information that you want to go outside goes outside, is going to be very important," he continued. Watch the interview here.

 

NOT AGAIN: "My account was hacked again. It starts to be scary!" Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos tweeted today.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: It is starting.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Scooter company backs down after threatening legal action over blog post. (BBC)

Feds can't force you to unlock your iPhone with finger or face, judge rules. (Forbes)

Juul's convenient smoke screen. (The New York Times)

Spy charges put Huawei's European ambitions in jeopardy. (The Wall Street Journal)