Hillicon Valley — Presented by NCTA — Apple launches new video, news services | Latest on Mueller fallout | Local officials grapple with voting technology | Nunes Twitter lawsuit faces tough odds

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).

 

A BIG DAY FOR APPLE: Apple at a star-studded event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday unveiled its news subscription and video streaming services, pivoting away from hardware as iPhone sales continue to fall.

 

Apple News+: Apple unveiled its news subscription service, Apple News+, which will offer customers access to over 300 magazines, as well as some of the country's largest newspapers, through their Apple News app.

Apple will charge users $9.99 per month for the service, which has been described as a "Netflix for news." Apple News+ customers will gain access to high-profile magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, Wired and more.

The magazines will be available in a digital format designed specifically for a phone screen, with "live covers" that play videos on a loop and tables of contents designed to be easily clicked.

"It's like having National Geographic designed for my phone," Roger Rosnor, Apple's vice president for applications, said at the launch event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday.

The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, both of which are mainly available behind a paywall, will be available through Apple News+ as well.

The Apple News+ feature became available on Monday in the United States and Canada, with availability in the United Kingdom expected for later this year.

More details on Apple News+ here.

 

Apple TV+: Apple is jumping into the world of streaming video with a service that will put them in competition with Amazon and Netflix.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday laid out the company's plans for a streaming service that will include original content from celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Anniston, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Octavia Spencer and Kumail Nanjiani, among others.

Apple did not reveal the price of its new streaming service, Apple TV+, but said that it will host exclusive TV shows and movies produced in-house.

Apple called the service "the new home for the world's most creative storytellers." Spielberg spoke first about his plan to revamp "Amazing Stories" on the platform, followed by Anniston and Witherspoon, who are collaborating to create and star in a show called "Morning Show."

Winfrey, a veteran talk show host, announced that she will be using the platform to build "the biggest, the most vibrant, the most stimulating book club on the planet."

Winfrey plans to host conversations with authors of books that she chooses to highlight, piggybacking on the international success of Oprah's Book Club, which has highlighted Winfrey's picks since 1996.

"They're in a billion pockets, y'all," Winfrey said, explaining why she had chosen Apple to host her new efforts. "A billion pockets."

Read more on Apple TV+ here

 

 

TALK OF THE TOWN: Washington has been dominated by the end of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation. Here are the latest developments to bring you up to speed.

Attorney General William Barr on Sunday sent a letter to Congress, informing lawmakers that Mueller did not uncover evidence to conclude that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election,

Read more here. Read the summary letter here. The Hill's Niall Stanage looks at the five key takeaways after Mueller delivered a bit win for President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE.

 

Monday's developments:

The White House on Monday exulted over the findings in Mueller's investigation, doing a media blitz -- including to outlets not always on its regular routine -- to declare the president vindicated.

President Trump said Monday that Mueller acted honorably, offering rare praise for the man who led the Russia investigation.

Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani told Hill.TV's "Rising" on Monday, though, that the probe proved to be "bad" for the country and "should never have happened."

Trump also said he has not considered pardoning people who were targeted by Mueller's probe. "Haven't thought about it," Trump said.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller End of Mueller shifts focus to existing probes Democrats renew attacks on Trump attorney general MORE's (D-Calif.) office defended House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference Schiff: Mueller report 'far worse' than Watergate Schiff: Democrats 'may' take up impeachment proceedings MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday as Republicans called for him to resign. Schiff's GOP critics, who include White House adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwaySchiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference Kellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report Giuliani: 'It would not have been obstruction' if Trump had fired Mueller MORE, say he pushed a false narrative that Trump's campaign conspired with Russia.

It's been a long road. Check out The Hill's timeline of Mueller's 22-month investigation from start to end.

There are also new questions being raised by the release of Mueller's report summary.

Democrats are also seizing on Mueller not being able to conclude whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

And here are five things we know about Democrats' own sprawling Trump investigations.

 

TAKING ON THE TROLLS: Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTen post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Schiff, Nunes pressed DOJ for Mueller briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Mueller report will dominate this week MORE (R-Calif.) faces an uphill battle in his $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and three of its users, legal experts say.

The lawsuit from the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and a staunch ally of President Trump, marks the first major legal action by a member of Congress over alleged anti-conservative bias by tech companies.

But Nunes' claims that Twitter is censoring conservatives and allowing users to defame him, will need to overcome a number of tough legal obstacles to see success, including the First Amendment, robust legal protections for internet companies, and court rulings that have made it harder for public figures to claim defamation.

Lawyers who spoke to The Hill predicted the Virginia state court where the case was filed Monday will likely dismiss the lawsuit, describing the case as "frivolous" and even "offensive" to the legal process.

Nunes is suing two parody Twitter accounts, "Devin Nunes' Mom" and "Devin Nunes' Cow," and Republican communications consultant Liz Mair for allegedly defaming him on Twitter.  

He says Twitter itself should shoulder some of the responsibility, accusing the social media company of facilitating and encouraging the defamation as part of a larger conspiracy to interfere in his 2018 reelection campaign, according to the lawsuit.

Legal experts, though, say one of the lawsuit's most formidable challenges will stem from the difficulties in claiming defamation against a public figure, as well as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

We break down the challenges for the lawsuit here.

 

VOTING TECH WORRIES: Some voters in Johnson County, Ind., found themselves waiting for hours to cast their ballots in last year's midterm elections, but not because of a massive surge in turnout or malfunctioning voting machines.

What struggled to work were the electronic poll books used to check a voter's registration, triggering long lines at polling stations.

A state investigation determined that the vendor for the e-poll books, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), was responsible for the technical issue, and the Johnson County election board ultimately voted to terminate the contract.

ES&S is one of the biggest voting machine vendors in the country. Despite the report's findings, other counties in Indiana have continued to work with it, including some that recently signed new contracts.

Experts told The Hill that the scenario underscores the new issues that local election officials have to consider as they juggle the benefits and security risks of voting technology, particularly in light of heightened concerns over election hacking.

With new technology being used in elections, local officials have seen their responsibilities grow. They are now tasked not just with selecting voting equipment, but with making sure it's as secure as possible and that the vendors they work with are holding up their end of the bargain.

But officials are also quick to acknowledge that no matter how prepared they are, issues are still likely to arise on Election Day: During the 2018 midterms, voters in Georgia, New York and Philadelphia all faced long lines over technical issues with machines or broken equipment.

Trena McLaughlin, the county clerk for Indiana's Johnson County who took office after the November vote, told The Hill that the election board decided to terminate its contract with ES&S because the community had lost trust in the vendor.

"We have had a lot of people asking, 'should we be using ES&S?'" she said.

McLaughlin said the locality was currently using voting machines borrowed from another county but would look to buy new ones in the near future. She declined to say whether officials were pursuing legal action against the voting machine vendors.

Read more about the controversy here.

 

SCOTUS REJECTS ZAPPOS APPEAL: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Amazon's online shoe retailer Zappos, a move that will allow a class-action lawsuit over a hack that exposed the personal data of 24 million customers to move forward.

Zappos was seeking to appeal a ruling by a San Francisco-based appeals court that said the lawsuit should continue because the 2012 data breach left customers vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.

The high court's decision flew in the face of business groups who argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because customers could not prove substantial harm.

Zappos, with support from organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that data breach litigation is "sprawling and costly."

"The factual scenario this case presents – a database holding customers' personal information is accessed, but virtually no identity theft or fraud results – is an increasingly common one," Zappos argued in its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Read more here.

 

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Decentralized identity standards can solve Facebook's problem.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: The Office applies to everything.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

A tragedy that calls for more than words: The need for the tech sector to learn and act after events in New Zealand. (Microsoft)  

How George Mason University students' eating habits changed when delivery robots invaded their campus. (The Washington Post)

Hackers hijacked ASUS software updates to install backdoors on thousands of computers. (Motherboard)

Uber And Lyft drivers strike in L.A. after yet another Uber pay cut. (Forbes)