Hillicon Valley: Dems renew fight over net neutrality | Zuckerberg vows more 'privacy-focused' Facebook | House Dems focus on diversity in Silicon Valley | FBI chief warns of new disinformation campaigns

Hillicon Valley: Dems renew fight over net neutrality | Zuckerberg vows more 'privacy-focused' Facebook | House Dems focus on diversity in Silicon Valley | FBI chief warns of new disinformation campaigns
© 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) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


DEMS RALLY AROUND NET NEUTRALITY BILL: Democrats are reviving the battle over net neutrality with a new bill that would restore the Obama-era regulations on the broadband industry.

Congressional Democratic leaders introduced the Save the Internet Act with a show of force on Wednesday emphasizing the popularity of the rules and calling on Republicans to back the legislation.


"Supporting this bill means supporting our democracy, ensuring that the voices of the public are heard, their will is respected and the internet remains free and open to all," House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhy President Trump needs to speak out on Hong Kong Anti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-Calif.) said at a press conference Wednesday alongside top Senate and House Democrats as well as net neutrality activists.

What it does: The three-page bill would merely codify the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order into law, prohibiting internet service providers from blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain web traffic.

Those rules were hugely popular among voters of both parties. Polls have found approval for the rules as high as 83 percent. And during the FCC's months-long process of repealing the rules in 2017, an unprecedented 24 million comments were submitted to the agency.

The political odds: Democrats are hoping that support can be translated into public pressure on Republicans to cross the aisle and support the bill.

Reps. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenLawmakers call on Trump to keep tech legal shield out of trade talks House passes anti-robocall bill Lawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook MORE (R-Ore.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersLawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress EPA head clashes with California over how car emissions negotiations broke down MORE (R-Wash.) -- the top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- though insisted that the internet has been functioning just fine since the FCC repealed the reclassification in December 2017. "Let's come together to ensure that continues, because all sides want a permanent solution," they said in a joint statement. "Instead of looking to the extremes, and discarding twenty years of bipartisan consensus, we can come together on shared principles to address blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization."

What's next: Pallone, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, promised that the panel will be moving quickly on the bill. The committee is scheduled to hold a legislative hearing on Tuesday.

More on the next chapter in the net neutrality fight here.


DEMS PUT SPOTLIGHT ON TECH DIVERSITY: Democrats are turning up the spotlight on issues involving race and Silicon Valley.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday held a hearing about diversity in the tech industry, giving Democrats a forum to air their broader concerns about the role companies can play in perpetuating racial and even gender discrimination.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about the lack of diversity at tech companies, the use of facial recognition technology, discriminatory ads, the lack of rules for handling sensitive race data and how biased algorithms can lead to discrimination.

"Tools like algorithms are being used to make decisions, like who gets a job or a loan, that deeply affect people's lives," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneLawmakers call on Trump to keep tech legal shield out of trade talks Hillicon Valley: FTC fines Facebook B in privacy settlement | Critics pan settlement as weak | Facebook also faces FTC antitrust probe | Senate panel advances 'deepfakes' legislation | House passes anti-robocall bill House passes anti-robocall bill MORE (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyLawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps On The Money: House to vote on budget deal Thursday | US, China resuming trade talks next week | Mnuchin backs DOJ tech antitrust probe MORE (D-Ill.), who chaired the hearing, said in a joint statement. "Yet designers of these technologies often don't take into consideration the full diversity of America," they said. "As a result, their products often have biased results that lead to discriminatory outcomes."

Pallone in a memo to the committee this week raised concerns that algorithms -- the guidelines computers use to perform certain tasks -- can "perpetuate historic bias."

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, a witness at the hearing, was one of more than 40 advocacy groups that recently signed onto a letter urging Congress to prioritize civil rights in the privacy bill debate.

"As a civil rights organization ... our perspective on the digital world is that the bias and the hate that we're fighting in real life is living in the digital space, if not in a more magnified way," K.J. Bagchi, the organization's senior staff attorney for telecom, tech and media, told The Hill.

More on how Democrats want Silicon Valley to address the issue here.


ZUCK VOWS "PRIVACY FIRST": Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach Social media never intended to be in the news business — but just wait till AI takes over Facebook exploring deals with media outlets for news section: report MORE on Wednesday announced the company would be reorienting itself to become a more privacy-minded platform.

"I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about," Zuckerberg said in a post.

He added that the company would be focusing on building encryption tools and "reducing permanence" in users' online communications.

The stakes: The post comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly considers levying a record multimillion-dollar fine against Facebook over its handling of user privacy. The social media behemoth has faced an ongoing barrage of scandals over its data privacy practices, with governments and privacy watchdogs around the world accusing Facebook of valuing profit over user safety.

While the company has tried to adapt in a climate increasingly sensitive to data privacy issues, Zuckerberg's post offers some of the first specifics around how it might change its operations, and it marks a radical shift in Facebook's mission. Zuckerberg compared Facebook's original structure to the "digital equivalent of a town square," with a focus on public posts and conversations. Now, he says, more users opting for a digital "living room" with a greater focus on intimate and private communication.

The details: Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook is planning to start encrypting messages end-to-end, and then will add privacy features for calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments and commerce. He emphasized that Facebook will accept the repercussions for the focus, even being banned from countries that bar privacy features including encryption.

"I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform -- because frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we've historically focused on tools for more open sharing," Zuckerberg wrote, addressing the skeptics right off the bat. "But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories."

More on Zuckerberg's plan here.


BITING OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW: The House Judiciary Committee's newly launched probe into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE's administration, business and campaign is likely to dominate the panel's work over the coming months.

The investigation threatens to dog the president well into the 2020 race, and Trump is already lashing out at House Democrats for "playing games" and trying to bruise his reelection chances.

The probe also faces its own hurdles, including the likelihood the White House will assert executive privilege to evade portions of the broad swath of document requests unveiled Monday, a move that could trigger a lengthy court battle.

The wide-ranging probe into allegations of obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power is also expected to place significant demands on committee staff given the sheer volume of documents and correspondence they will have to sift through and catalogue.

Read more here.


OH GOOD TO KNOW: FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Tuesday that foreign nations are still engaging in disinformation campaigns on social media to stir an already tense political pot in the U.S.

Speaking at the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, Wray said that while no influence campaign had yet made a "material impact on election infrastructure," the efforts on social media have continued "virtually unabated," according to CNN.


Wray pointed to Russia, Iran, China and North Korea as waging broader cyber threats "unlike anything we have had in our lifetimes."

"The thing that most shocked me was the breath and the depth and the scale of the Chinese counterintelligence threat," he added, according to CNN.

More on his remarks here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Huawei restrictions are warranted despite no clear 'smoking gun'

A LIGHTER CLICK: A sleepy snake.



Silicon Valley lobbies hard to kill off California privacy rules. (Financial Times)

Why content moderators fall for conspiracy theories. (The Verge)

Amazon to close all US pop-up stores. (Reuters)

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharEight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report Poll: Nearly 4 in 5 say they will consider candidates' stances on cybersecurity MORE: 'We have a major monopoly problem.' (The Washington Post)

A senior source says Facebook sees no path forward in China. (Buzzfeed News)