Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Social media faces scrutiny after New Zealand attacks | YouTube removed 'tens of thousands' of shooting videos | DHS chief warns of state-backed cyber threats | House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality

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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).


UNDER PRESSURE: Social media giants, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, are facing new criticism after they struggled to block livestreamed footage of a gunman shooting worshippers at a mosque in New Zealand.

The episode saw users uploading and sharing clips from the disturbing 17-minute livestream faster than social media companies could remove them.

The companies were already under scrutiny over the rise in online extremist content, but Friday's troubling incident also underscored big tech's difficulties in rooting out violent content as crises unfold in real time.

In a live point-of-view video uploaded to Facebook on Friday, the killer shot dozens of mosquegoers, at one point going back to his car to stock up on weapons.

New Zealand police said the footage, which captured only part of the attack on two separate mosques that left 49 people dead and more than 40 injured, was "extremely distressing" and asked people to refuse to share it.

Critics pounced on tech companies, accusing them of failing to get ahead of the violent video spreading. 

Read more here.


YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS CHALLENGES: YouTube on Monday said it has removed "tens of thousands" of videos depicting last week's mass shooting in New Zealand, which was livestreamed on Facebook and reposted millions of times across major social media platforms.

The video-sharing website said the volume of videos posted to YouTube after the attack was "unprecedented both in scale and speed," with users uploading the gruesome videos much faster than YouTube could take them down.

"Since Friday's horrific tragedy, we've removed tens of thousands of videos and terminated hundreds of accounts created to promote or glorify the shooter," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. "The volume of related videos uploaded to YouTube in the 24 hours after the attack was unprecedented both in scale and speed, at times as fast as a new upload every second."

YouTube in the hours after the attack went into overdrive trying to take down the footage, which the shooter apparently filmed using a GoPro camera strapped to his head. The video shows the gunman shooting into crowds of worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch.

Read more here.


CYBER EYES, THEY'RE WATCHING YOU: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday called for the U.S. to take on a "whole of society" approach to combat cyber threats, saying the U.S. "is not prepared" to handle hackers backed by other countries.

"It's not just U.S. troops and government agents on the frontlines anymore," Nielsen said at a speech at George Washington University. "It's U.S. companies. It's our schools and gathering places. It's ordinary Americans."

The Department of Homeland Security chief said that as hackers target the devices of all Americans, "your average private citizen or company is no match against a nation-state such as China, Iran, North Korea or Russia."

"It is not a fair fight," Nielsen continued. "And until now our government has done far too little to back them up."

American officials have pointed to hackers backed by countries like Russia, China and North Korea as presenting a major threat to the U.S., including potentially interfering in elections.

"Let me just send one last message to our cyber adversaries," Nielsen said Monday. "You cannot hide behind your keyboards and computer screens, we are watching you. And no matter what malware you develop, I promise you, the engines of our democracy are far stronger and far more resilient than any code you can write."

Read more here.


FACEBOOK'S LOCAL NEWS WOES: Facebook on Monday said it has struggled to launch a service aimed at giving users access to local news due to a lack of local reporting in many parts of the country.

Critics have accused Facebook of contributing to the decline of local news as advertisers turn to the social media platform instead of small newspapers. Users around the world have started to use Facebook as their main method of consuming news.

According to research released by the social media giant on Monday, 1 in 3 U.S. users live in places where there is not enough local news to launch the service, called "Today In."

"Today In," launched last year and currently in 400 cities, aggregates information from local media outlets, government, community organizations and first responders. Users can either check their "Today In" page directly or allow the feature to promote local news on their main newsfeed.

But Facebook said it has been unable to find local news stories directly about many towns in the U.S., hindering the service's full rollout.

"Today In" has been unable to find news stories for 58 percent of users in New Jersey and 31 percent in Ohio. The company's research has found that there is not much variation by region, with so-called news deserts emerging across the Midwest, Northeast, South and West.

The tech powerhouse said it is sharing its research with leading academics studying the loss of local news.

More on the death of local news here.


RING RING: Nearly 40 civil rights and civil liberties groups on Monday pressed lawmakers to end the controversial National Security Agency (NSA) call records program and look into whether the government is abusing its other broad surveillance authorities.

Privacy activists have long argued that elements of the USA Freedom Act - which allows the government to access records on U.S. citizens without a warrant during terrorism investigations - should not be reauthorized.

The groups in the letter argued that Congress should investigate whether the NSA and other intelligence agencies are adhering to the restrictions placed on them by the Freedom Act.

"Disclosures made since passage of the USA Freedom Act suggest that the bill has not fully succeeded in limiting large-scale surveillance under the Patriot Act or achieving all of its other objectives," the groups wrote.

The signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Muslim Justice League, the NAACP and others.

Read more on the letter here.


SPRING FEVER: The House will hold a vote on Democrats' bill to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules next month, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced on Monday.

Hoyer said in a letter to colleagues that the House will consider the Save the Internet Act during the week of April 8.

Party leaders introduced the legislation earlier this month with a show of force on Capitol Hill.

"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," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference unveiling the legislation.

While Republicans have floated their own bills to replace the rules, many oppose the Save the Internet Act because it reinstates the provision in the 2015 order that designates broadband providers as common carriers, opening them up to tougher regulation and oversight from the FCC.

Though it enjoys widespread support among Democrats, the legislation may have a hard time getting through the GOP-held Senate.

Read more here.


BREAKING DOWN A TECH BREAKUP: The European Union's top competition regulator said Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) proposal to break up large tech companies should only be considered as a "last resort."

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner who has been cracking down on U.S. tech giants, said in an interview on the "Recode Decode" podcast that Warren's plan would be a step too far.

"We're dealing with private property, businesses that are built and invested in and become successful because of their innovation," Vestager said. "So to break up a company, to break up private property, would be very far-reaching. And you would need to have a very strong case that it would produce better results for consumers in the marketplace than what you could do with sort of more mainstream tools."

Warren's proposal, released earlier this month, outlined steps she would take to dismantle tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The 2020 presidential candidate is among critics who argue that the companies have grown too large and wield outsize influence over markets and political systems around the world.

The tech industry has pushed back on her proposal, saying it would hurt consumers and the economy.

Vestager, who is no friend of the tech giants, has hit Google with back-to-back multibillion-dollar antitrust fines for allegedly using its dominance in search and mobile operating systems to suppress competition. Another EU fine against the search giant is expected this week.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: New Zealand attack shows social media is part of the problem.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Power couple.



The government is using the most vulnerable people to test facial recognition software. (Slate)

Here's what it's like to accidentally expose the data of 230 million people. (Wired)

Ride-hailing firm Lyft launches IPO road show in Uber's shadow. (Reuters)

Islamophobia is absolutely relentless on social media even as platforms crack down on other extremist groups. (Buzzfeed News)