Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data

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).


TECH GIANTS DEFEND POLICIES ON EXTREMIST CONTENT: Facebook and Google on Tuesday sought to reassure lawmakers that they are cracking down on white nationalism and extremist content online before a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

The hearing on white nationalism and hate crimes came as the tech giants face threats of tougher regulations in the U.S. and abroad after they struggled to remove viral footage of a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques last month.

What lawmakers said: Lawmakers asked Google and Facebook to explain how they deal with hateful content, pushing them to account for the role their platforms have played in the resurgence of white nationalism in the U.S. over the past few years.


"These platforms are utilized as conduits to spread vitriolic hate messages into every home and country," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrod Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during his opening remarks. "Efforts by media companies to counter this surge have fallen short, and social network platforms continue to be used as ready avenues to spread dangerous white nationalist speech."

How tech responded: Facebook public policy director Neil Potts and Google public policy and government relations counsel Alexandria Walden testified, alongside several civil rights advocates, who accused the companies of allowing their platforms to empower white nationalists and white supremacists.

Potts said Facebook's policies dictate "white supremacists are not allowed on the platform under any circumstances," noting that Facebook has been increasing its efforts to remove hate content in the last few years.

Walden touted Google's artificial intelligence tools, which are trained to remove violent and extreme content that violates Google-owned YouTube's community guidelines. But Walden also warned that "overaggressive" enforcement can censor some voices.

Why it matters: According to data from the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists have been responsible for more than half of all domestic extremist murders in the past 10 years. In 2018, white supremacists committed 78 percent of all extremist murders in the country. And white supremacists have often used Facebook, Google, Twitter and more fringe social media platforms to organize and recruit new members.

The big takeaway: The pressure on tech companies to do more about extremist content is intensifying.

Lawmakers made it clear they would watch tech companies closely as they addressed these issues.

"Figure it out," Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data Facebook, Google face tough questions over white nationalism Reparations bill wins new momentum in Congress MORE (D-La.) warned Google and Facebook. "Because you don't want us to figure it out for you."

Read more on the hearing here.


OF COURSE: YouTube shut down the chat feature on a livestream of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on white nationalism amid a flood of hateful comments.

The feature was disabled "due to the presence of hateful comments," Google, YouTube's parent company, confirmed to The Hill.

"Hate speech has no place on YouTube. We've invested heavily in teams and technology dedicated to removing hateful comments and videos and we take action on them when flagged by our users," the company said in a statement.

When comments were disabled on the House's official stream, commentators moved to other streams, like Fox Business Network's or a live reaction on Red Ice TV, which the Anti-Defamation League has described as a white supremacist platform.

At one point during the hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis Nadler4/20: Will Congress advance marijuana legislation in 2019? Trump accuses 'fake news media' of 'doing everything possible to stir up anger' after Mueller report Trump: Mueller report was 'written as nastily as possible' by 'true Trump Haters' MORE (D-N.Y.) entered lines from a Washington Post story about the comments being shut down into the record.

He read a passage from the piece which included a comment left by a user named Celtic Pride which said "these jews want to destroy all white nations," referring to Nadler, who is Jewish.

After Nadler read the passage, Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave YouTube shuts down comments on House hearing on white nationalism over hateful remarks MORE (R-Texas) suggested that the comments could be "another hate hoax ... just keep an open mind."

More on the ironic turn of events here.


NIELSEN'S BYE MAKES CYBER CRY: Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Energy Dept denies report that Rick Perry is planning to leave Trump admin MORE's departure as head of Homeland Security is creating uncertainty about the agency's cyber efforts.

As Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief, Nielsen made cybersecurity a top priority, but some are questioning whether her permanent replacement will do the same.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE tapped Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to serve as acting secretary. And while he has a broad background in border security matters, he is entering the interim role without significant cyber experience.

"DHS is already stretched very thin and putting lots and lots of effort into ... the main thing that this administration cares about, which is the immigration mission," said Chris Painter, who served as cybersecurity coordinator at the State Department during the Obama administration. "And I think, inevitably, that is going to have an effect on the cyber mission."

Concerns about a potential cyber void have been heightened by Trump signaling he wants a DHS leader who is tough on immigration policy and border issues.

"Given what we know about the kind of person the president wants to lead DHS -- essentially someone who is willing to take the most hawkish position on immigration possible -- it doesn't seem likely the new DHS leader will be a cyber-focused person," Jamil Jaffer, a former senior counsel for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill.

McAleenan will be taking on the position at a time when Trump has amped up his rhetoric about closing the southern border and taking on a more aggressive security stance amid a spike in illegal border crossings over the past few months.

"My concern is that try as he will ... Kevin McAleenan will be under tremendous pressure from the White House to focus even more on the southern border and that would be to the detriment of the department's mission broadly," said John Cohen, who served as DHS acting under secretary for intelligence and analysis during the Obama administration and is now a professor at Rutgers University.

Read more here.


IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll Trump: Mueller report was 'written as nastily as possible' by 'true Trump Haters' MORE told lawmakers on Tuesday that he will release a public version of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's report "within a week."

Barr also said that the redactions made to the report would be color-coded and footnoted so that the public knows why the Justice Department decided to redact those portions.

"The process is going along very well," Barr said during testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee on the Justice Department's fiscal 2020 budget request. "My original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands."

"Within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public and then I will engage with the chairman of the Judiciary committees" on its release to Congress, Barr continued in response to questions from Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.).

Barr has said that the public version of the report will be redacted to conceal grand jury information, classified national security details that could reveal sources and methods, details that could compromise ongoing investigations and information that could impact the privacy and reputation interests of "peripheral third parties."

He said Tuesday that officials would color code restricted information in the report so that the four categories are distinguished and "provide explanatory notes for the basis for each redaction," such as identifying that something is redacted because of a court order in an ongoing criminal prosecution.

Read more here.


'DEAD ON ARRIVAL': Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate won't take up a net neutrality bill currently before lawmakers in the House.

"Dead on arrival in the Senate," McConnell told reporters about the fate of the House bill, which is expected to get a vote in that chamber Wednesday.

The bill would reinstate regulations put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

The bill is expected to easily pass the Democrat-controlled House despite a veto threat from the White House. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the Trump administration "strongly opposes" the bill, dubbed the Save the Internet Act.

The latest on net neutrality here.


FACEBOOK BOWS TO PRESSURE IN EUROPE: Facebook will change its terms of service to clarify how consumer data is being used for targeted advertisements, following pressure from European regulators.

The move was announced Tuesday by Vera Jourová, Europe's consumer protection commissioner.

"Today Facebook finally shows commitment to more transparency and straight forward language in its terms of use," Jourová said in a statement. "A company that wants to restore consumers trust after the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal should not hide behind complicated, legalistic jargon on how it is making billions on people's data."

"Now, users will clearly understand that their data is used by the social network to sell targeted ads," she added.

According to the announcement, Facebook has agreed to more clearly explain in its terms of service that information users provide to the site will be used to create targeted ads.

"We've been doing a lot of work this year to better explain how Facebook works, what data we collect and how we use it," Thomas Myrup Kristensen, Facebook's managing director of EU affairs, said in a statement.

Read more here.


THAT'S DARK: Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill MORE (D-Va.) and Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerWhy America needs the ability to track enemy missiles from space GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Dems accused of seeking revenge for 2013 vote on hurricane relief MORE (R-Neb.) introduced a bill Tuesday to prevent social media platforms from tricking users into handing over their personal data.

The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act prohibits large online platforms from using "dark patterns," deceptive interfaces on websites and apps that, if clicked, lead a user to often unknowingly agree to certain settings that help the company, including relinquishing some control over private information.

"For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to," Warner, a former technology executive, said in a statement. "Our goal is simple: to instill a little transparency in what remains a very opaque market and ensure that consumers are able to make more informed choices about how and when to share their personal information."

The legislation defines the "largest" online platforms as those that have over 100 million monthly active users. Among other things, the bill enables the creation of a standards body that can register with the Federal Trade Commission to promote best practices for user design. The groups would also be mandated to create internal oversight boards to monitor practices meant to safeguard consumer welfare.

The bill would also prevent platforms from implementing designs intended to cause compulsive usage among children aged 13 and under. Warner said during an interview with CNBC Tuesday that the legislation could be included in a federal privacy bill.

Read more on the bill here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: A little media criticism.



Investors' hunger for growth pushes tech stocks to record. (The Wall Street Journal)

In congressional hearing on hate, the haters got their way. (Wired)

AT&T boasts about 5G service in 19 cities, but there's still no phone that can use it. (The Verge)

Cryptocurrency mining up for elimination in China for being wasteful and 'backward.' (Motherboard)