Hillicon Valley: DOJ opens tech antitrust probe | Facebook, Amazon set lobbying records | Barr attacks encryption as security risk | NSA to create new cybersecurity arm
Hillicon Valley: Nunes sues Twitter for $250 million | Trump links tech giants to 'Radical Left Democrats' | Facebook settles suits over ad discrimination | Dems want answers over spread of New Zealand shooting video
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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).
HOW TO NOT GET ROASTED ONLINE: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and its former chairman, is suing Twitter and a number of its users for more than $250 million.
The lawsuit filed Monday alleges the social media giant censored conservative voices by "shadow-banning" them, which Nunes says potentially impacted the 2018 midterm election results. Others named in the lawsuit include GOP operative Liz Mair, Mair Strategies, "Devin Nunes' Mom" (@DevinNunesMom) and "Devin Nunes' cow" (@DevinCow), two parody accounts that mocked the Trump ally and California Republican.
Nunes accuses Twitter of "facilitating defamation on its platform" by "ignoring lawful complaints about offensive content and by allowing that content to remain accessible to the public" despite alleged violations of its terms of service and rules.
"Twitter, by its actions, intended to generate and proliferate the false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff in order to influence the outcome of the 2018 Congressional election and to intimidate Plaintiff and interfere with his important investigation of corruption by the Clinton campaign and alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election," the lawsuit reads.
The suit alleges Mair "relentlessly smeared and defamed" the California Republican in citing allegedly false reports accusing him of being involved with a winery embroiled in a scandal involving the solicitation of underage prostitutes and cocaine. Nunes has strongly denied the accusations in the report.
The lawsuit also accuses the social media platform of failing to remove "libelous" statements made about Nunes posted by Twitter handles @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow.
"Defendant, Devin Nunes' Mom, is a person who, with Twitter's consent, hijacked Nunes' name, falsely impersonated Nunes' mother, and created and maintained an account on Twitter (@DevinNunesMom) for the sole purpose of attacking, defaming, disparaging and demeaning Nunes," it states.
TRUMP TARGETS SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES: President Trump on Tuesday accused the country's leading tech companies -- Facebook, Google and Twitter -- of being "on the side of the Radical Left Democrats."
"Facebook, Google and Twitter, not to mention the Corrupt Media, are sooo on the side of the Radical Left Democrats," the president tweeted. "But fear not, we will win anyway, just like we did before! #MAGA."
The three companies declined to respond to the tweet.
Trump and other top conservatives in recent years have argued that tech companies favor liberals and are biased against conservatives. Firms like Facebook, Google and Twitter have denied that their products or employees are biased against any political ideology.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday: "In order to stop automated bots, we cap the amount of identical, repetitive activity coming from one account in a short period of time, such as @mentioning people. These limits can have the unintended consequence of temporarily preventing real people like Dan Scavino from engaging in such activity, but lift in an hour or two, which is what happened in this case."
"We've been in touch with him and have apologized for the inconvenience," the spokesperson added.
FACEBOOK TO BAN ADVERTISING DISCRIMINATION: Facebook on Tuesday agreed to enact sweeping reforms to its ad-targeting system as part of a settlement with civil rights groups alleging the tech giant allowed advertisers to discriminate against marginalized groups.
Under the settlement, which comes in response to five separate legal actions alleging discrimination by Facebook's advertising system, Facebook will no longer allow advertisers selling housing, credit or employment opportunities to target users based on their age, gender or zip code.
If advertisers disclose that they are selling opportunities in housing, credit or employment -- industries protected by civil rights laws -- they will be subject to much closer scrutiny by Facebook.
Those advertisers will be able to choose from a couple hundred micro-targeting opportunities, rather than the tens of thousands available to advertisers in other categories.
"Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit," Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post. "They should never be used to exclude or harm people. Getting this right is deeply important to me and all of us at Facebook because inclusivity is a core value for our company."
The settlement is the result of two years of negotiating between Facebook and multiple civil rights groups.
TOP ANTITRUST DEM ASKS FOR PROBE OF FACEBOOK: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, on Tuesday called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe whether Facebook has violated U.S. antitrust laws.
"As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, I am calling for an investigation into whether Facebook's conduct has violated antitrust laws," Cicilline wrote in a New York Times op-ed. He also penned a letter to the FTC directly.
Cicilline, one of the most vocal tech critics in Congress, wrote that the FTC is facing a "massive credibility crisis," encouraging the body to take a tougher stance against the country's largest tech companies.
"How the commission chooses to respond to Facebook's repeated abuses will determine whether it is willing or able to promote competition and protect consumers," Cicilline wrote.
A spokesperson for the FTC confirmed it has received Cicilline's letter but declined to comment further.
The FTC last month announced the launch of a task force aimed at monitoring competition among the country's tech companies, eliciting optimistic responses from FTC critics and privacy advocates.
"America's laws are not suggestions," Cicilline wrote. "When a company has repeatedly shown contempt for its legal commitments, the remedy must change how the company operates."
"It's clear that serious enforcement is long overdue," he wrote.
BUT I CAN'T DO IT ALONE: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday urged private companies to do more to help the federal government identify new cyber threats, saying that the administration is unable to do it alone.
"We need you to focus again on the future of cybersecurity," the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief said. "And I'll keep coming back to that because that's what keeps me up at night is that the rate at which threats and risks are emerging is outpacing our ability to identify, assess and address them."
"So that's where we need our great minds to really help us spot the patterns and know what's coming at us," she added.
Nielsen, who was delivering a keynote at DHS's "Science and Technology Directorate's Cybersecurity and Innovation Showcase," also pointed to the ever-increasing number of devices that will be connected to the internet in the coming years.
She said that there are currently about 20 billion devices attached to the internet, but that number is expected to hit 75 billion by 2025. And with more products connected to networks and to each other, it opens the door for more and new kinds of cyberattacks.
"So it's not a matter of if an attack happens or when, but it's how long can we withstand it and how can we innovate while we are under attack," Nielsen said.
FACE OFF: Netflix on Monday said it will not join Apple TV's upcoming video streaming service, solidifying future competition between the two companies when Apple unveils the service later this month.
"We prefer to let our customers watch our content on our service," Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings told reporters, according to Reuters. "We have chosen not to integrate with their service."
Apple's service will offer original programming as well as shows from HBO, Showtime, CBS and other media companies.
Hastings reportedly told reporters that Netflix aims to "not get too distracted" by its competitors, though he will be "envious" of them.
"These are amazing, large, well-funded companies with very significant efforts," he said. "They are going to do some great shows. I'm going to be envious. They're going to come up with some great ideas. We're going to want to borrow those."
Apple's new video streaming service will put it in direct competition with Netflix, Amazon and HBO as each company vies to produce award-winning content and draw in as many loyal customers as possible.
MORE HEAT FROM DEMS: The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is requesting that tech companies brief Congress on their efforts to crack down on violent extremists following the widespread broadcast across social media of last week's massacre in New Zealand.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent letters to the chief executives of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft saying that he was "deeply concerned" that the suspected attacker was able to livestream his killing spree on Facebook and that other companies struggled to suppress the footage in the hours that followed.
"You must do better. It is clear from the recent pattern of horrific mass violence and thwarted attempts at mass violence -- here and abroad -- that this is not merely an American issue but a global one. Your companies must prioritize responding to these toxic and violent ideologies with resources and attention," Thompson wrote.
"If you are unwilling to do so, Congress must consider policies to ensure that terrorist content is not distributed on your platforms -- including by studying the examples being set by other countries," he added.
Thompson asked the companies to brief lawmakers on the Homeland Security Committee on March 27.
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: 'America First' endangers American tech leadership.
A LIGHTER CLICK: It's funny because it's true.
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Sen. Josh Hawley is making the conservative case against Facebook. (The Verge)
Amid nuclear deadlock, top CIA official on Korea leaves for Google. (Yahoo News)
Another Trump Facebook election. (Axios)
Is Adobe's creative cloud too powerful for its own good? (Motherboard)