Hillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy

Hillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy
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FACEBOOK FOUNDER CALLS FOR COMPANY'S BREAK-UP: One of Facebook's co-founders on Thursday called for the social media giant to be broken up, calling CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra changes names Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE's power "unprecedented and un-American."

Chris Hughes wrote in a lengthy op-ed for The New York Times that he feels a "sense of anger and responsibility" for the company's wrongs.

"We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark's power is unprecedented and un-American," Hughes wrote.


Hughes pointed to Zuckerberg's "staggering" influence at the company, which controls three major platforms -- Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. He said Zuckerberg controls about 60 percent of voting shares for Facebook's board, giving Zuckerberg immense control over algorithms, privacy settings and "even which messages get delivered."

"The company's mistakes -- the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users' data into a political consulting firm's lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention -- dominate the headlines," Hughes wrote, adding that he hasn't seen Zuckerberg since 2017.

Hughes wrote that Zuckerberg is a "good, kind person" but said he has grown angry that Zuckerberg's "focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks."

Read more on Hughes op-ed here.


FACEBOOK PUSHES BACK: Facebook pushed back after one of the company's founders called for it to be broken up Thursday, saying it would be better for lawmakers to instead impose new rules on the social network.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability," Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, said in a statement on Thursday.

"But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company," Clegg continued. "Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting Government leaders this week to further that work."

Zuckerberg is planning to meet with French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronEuropean strategic autonomy? Let's start with national autonomy French ambassador: Free speech is our best defense against hate crimes French president warns of steps to dissuade holiday ski trips to Switzerland MORE on Friday and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern next week.

Read more on the response here.


DEEPLY FAKE: Experts are studying the unique mannerisms that define each presidential candidate ahead of 2020 with the hope that such information could help curb the online spread of fake videos known as deepfakes.

Experts have long warned that deepfakes, videos manipulated with artificial intelligence that look strikingly real, pose a risk heading into the presidential election, particularly as the technology grows increasingly more sophisticated and accessible on the internet.

How experts are addressing the problem: Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said this week he worries deepfakes will be used to sow discord and chaos in the 2020 election.

"So what we've been doing is building what we call soft biometric models for all of the presidential candidates. Unfortunately there's a lot of them," Farid said, according to a transcript of a panel discussion with the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

Farid cited former President Obama's distinct style of speaking to explain how experts can distinguish real from fake videos, pointing to a forged viral video BuzzFeed released last year in which Obama made a number of controversial comments, when actually it was comedian Jordan Peele speaking.

"So the basic ideas, like with President Obama, is we've been analyzing hours and hours of his videos, and we've been doing this for Joe BidenJoe BidenLawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list GOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Haaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior  MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Overnight Defense: Defense bill moving forward despite Trump veto threat over tech fight | Government funding bill hits snag | Top general talks Afghanistan, Pentagon budget Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' MORE and all of the candidates. We've been mapping out particular talking styles of the candidates," Farid added.

"[There is a] link between what Obama says and how he says it, and we build what we call soft biometrics that we then can [use to] analyze a deepfake and say, 'Oh, in that video, the mouth, which is synthesized to be consistent with Jordan Peele's voice, is in some ways decoupled from the rest of the head. It's physically not correct,'" Farid said.

Newspapers, networks and even campaigns, Farid hopes, will be able to lean on experts like him to analyze videos and verify if they are genuine or not.

Lawmakers raise deepfake alarm: Farid's comments came during a panel discussion with other experts as well as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn MORE (D-Calif.), one of the few Capitol Hill lawmakers at the forefront of the issue.

Schiff warned that even if a deepfake is disproven, the negative impact could have already run its course -- a factor that raises the risk if a deepfake video runs rampant in the lead-up to election day.

Schiff and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have pressed the intelligence community to assess the threat of deepfakes, though the response Director of National Security Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsBiden soars as leader of the free world Lobbying world President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him MORE gave to Schiff and other lawmakers is currently classified.

Read more about the research here.


LAWMAKERS PUSH FCC TO SECURE 5G NETWORKS: Top Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prioritize the security aspects of next-generation wireless networks known as 5G.

In a Thursday letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the bipartisan group of lawmakers voiced their concerns over the security of 5G at a time when broadband is being built out nationwide to support future networks.

"The ubiquitous deployment of broadband, including next generation technologies such as 5G, is a priority as we work to ensure every American has access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed internet," the committee leaders wrote. "As our U.S. network operators, from the largest to the smallest, gear up for significant infrastructure buildout for 5G and other advanced technologies, security should be a critical consideration and associated rules and regulations should be as clear as possible."

The letter was signed by Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenMcMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment MORE (R-Ore.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleBiden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond White House getting pushback on possible government-owned 5G network Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Pa.) and that subpanel's top Republican, Rep. Bob Latta (Ohio).

The committee leaders noted that they believe the agency is "well-positioned" to address the 5G security issue, particularly securing the supply chain for equipment and software involved in communications networks.

Read more here.


THINK OF THE CHILDREN: Lawmakers and public interest groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Amazon's Echo Dot Kids, arguing that the smart device is violating children's privacy by collecting and storing their data without meaningful control for parents.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy and 17 other privacy groups filed a complaint with the FTC on Thursday saying that Amazon is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

"Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents," Josh Golin, CCFC's executive director, said in a statement.

"COPPA makes clear that parents are the ones with the final say about what happens to their children's data, not Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosElon Musk passes Bill Gates to become world's second-richest person in Bloomberg rankings How space exploration will help to address climate change Bezos makes first donations from billion Earth Fund MORE. The FTC must hold Amazon accountable for blatantly violating children's privacy law and putting kids at risk."

What lawmakers are saying: A bipartisan group of senators echoed their concerns in a letter to the FTC's commissioners on Thursday, urging an investigation into the smart home devices. The letter -- signed by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez 'more active on Twitter than anything else' MORE (D-Mass), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durban (D-Ill.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill GOP chairman: Defense bill to include renaming Confederate bases, but not Section 230 repeal Time to bring federal employees home for every holiday MORE (R-Mo.) -- raises "significant privacy concerns" about the products.

"Children are a uniquely vulnerable population," the lawmakers wrote. "We urge the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure their privacy as 'Internet of Things' devices targeting young consumers come to market, including promptly initiating an investigation into the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition's compliance with COPPA."

An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had received the letter but declined to comment.

Amazon's response: Asked for comment by The Hill, an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement, "FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition are compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)."

The spokesperson also said that customers could find out more about its practices on its help page.

Read more on the controversy here.


ROBOCALL LOBBYING PICKS UP: Businesses are turning to K Street to push Congress to pass legislation curtailing robocalls.

Automated phone calls have long plagued legitimate businesses and consumers, but with bills in both the House and Senate, lobbyists are going into overdrive to ensure legislation reaches President Trump's desk.

Lobbyists told The Hill that some members hear more about robocalls than any other issue.

"Members have told me that it's something that constituents and members alike are impacted by and constituents want a solution. They're tired of all these random calls coming in," a lobbyist told The Hill.

The Senate is expected to take the lead, with bipartisan legislation in the upper chamber already boasting more than 70 co-sponsors.

Details on the bill: Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Overnight Defense: Defense bill moving forward despite Trump veto threat over tech fight | Government funding bill hits snag | Top general talks Afghanistan, Pentagon budget Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez 'more active on Twitter than anything else' MORE (D-Mass.) teamed up on the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on April 3, but it is unclear when it will get a floor vote.

The bill would give regulators more time to find scammers, increase civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, promote call authentication and blocking, and help coordinate enforcement to increase criminal prosecution of illegal robocallers.

"My guess is they're not going to go home for August recess and not have something done on it," the lobbyist predicted.

Broad support: The bill has 34 Democrats on board, 33 Republicans and both Senate Independents, as well as the backing of all 50 state attorneys general, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission and a slew of industry associations and consumer groups.

Outside advocates are pulling out all the stops to push the bill through. More than 27 different groups have registered to lobby on the TRACED Act, and 162 lobbyists have been advocating for the bill.

"We're supportive of this bill because we are service providers who work with and have to respond to consumer complaints," Mike Romano, the senior vice president of industry affairs and business development at NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, told The Hill.

Read more on the K Street robocall frenzy here.


CHINA NO-BILE: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to block China Mobile, one of the largest telecom companies in the world, from U.S. markets due to national security concerns.

The 5-0 vote is the latest broadside against Chinese-owned companies hoping to work in the U.S. and escalates the Trump administration's campaign to limit Beijing's influence over the telecommunications industry.

The commissioners argued that China Mobile USA is vulnerable to "exploitation, influence and control" by the Chinese government and it would not be in the public interest to allow its entry into U.S. markets.

"China Mobile ultimately is owned and controlled by the Chinese government," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said shortly before the vote. "There is a significant risk that the Chinese government would use China Mobile to conduct activities that would seriously jeopardize the national security, law enforcement, and economic interests of the United States."

China Mobile applied to provide services in the United States in 2011, and multiple executive agencies last year recommended that the FCC deny the Chinese telecom giant's application.

The company was seeking to provide services for phone calls between the U.S. and other countries.

The vote sparked disagreement among the commissioners over whether to investigate other Chinese telecom companies operating in the U.S.

While each of the commissioners voted to deny China Mobile USA's application, several said they believe the FCC is not doing enough to address other telecom companies with ties to the Chinese government.

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr called for an investigation into China Unicom and China Telecom, both of which were authorized to connect with U.S. networks in the early 2000s.

Pai later in the meeting confirmed that the FCC is looking into those companies' authorizations to operate in the U.S. market.

Read more on the vote here.


TWITTER'S TERRORISM TAKEDOWNS: Twitter suspended more than 160,000 accounts in the second half of 2018 in its efforts to prevent terrorism content from spreading on its platform, the company announced Thursday.

A total of 166,513 accounts were suspended for violating Twitter's policies regarding promotion of terrorism, reflecting a 19 percent drop from the 205,156 accounts suspended in first half of last year.

In its latest transparency report, Twitter credited its technical tools with catching much of the content, saying 91 percent of the suspended accounts were flagged by internal, purpose-built mechanisms.

"The trend we are observing year-on-year is a steady decrease in terrorist organizations attempting to use our service. This is due to zero-tolerance policy enforcement that has allowed us to take swift action on ban evaders and other identified forms of behavior used by terrorist entities and their affiliates. In the majority of cases, we take action at the account setup stage -- before the account even Tweets," the platform said.

"We are encouraged by these metrics but will remain vigilant. Our goal is to stay one step ahead of emergent behaviors and new attempts to circumvent our robust approach."

Read more here.


TOP WHITE HOUSE TELECOM ADVISER RESIGNS: National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief David Redl resigned abruptly from his position on Thursday, officials confirmed.

Redl has been at the helm of the NTIA, the body tasked with advising the Trump administration's telecom policy within the Department of Commerce, since November 2017.

An NTIA spokeswoman said that Diane Rinaldo would be taking over as acting administrator. Rinaldo is a former staffer with the House Intelligence Committee who has been Redl's deputy at NTIA for the past year.

Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in a statement thanked Redl for his service and wished him "all the best in his future endeavors."

"David Redl is a longtime colleague, who served with distinction during his 18 months at NTIA," Pai said in a statement. "He was a vocal advocate within the Department of Commerce for repurposing federal spectrum for commercial use and fostering the private sector's lead in 5G deployment. I thank David for his service and wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Redl was an adviser to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) during his tenure as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement also thanked Redl for his service.

"I thank Assistant Secretary Redl and Assistant Secretary [Mike] Platt for their service to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE, the Department of Commerce, and the American people," Ross said in a statement. "I wish them well."

Redl was the assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Biometrics can protect our borders -- along with our privacy.


A LIGHTER CLICK: What peak performance looks like.



School lunch baron allegedly hacked students' data to take down his competitor. (Vice)

Facebook auto-generates videos celebrating extremist images. (The Associated Press)

Chinese national indicted on hacking charges related to Anthem breach. (The Wall Street Journal)

Major brands' advertising dollars are funding fake news. (Mother Jones)