Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries
Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).
17 NEW CHARGES FOR ASSANGE: Justice Department officials on Thursday announced 17 additional felony charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
A grand jury in Alexandria, Va., returned the superseding indictment charging Assange with conspiring with former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to obtain, receive and disclose "national defense information," in violation of the Espionage Act.
Assange is also charged with publishing a select range of the classified documents that revealed the names of low-level, local sources utilized by the U.S. government, including Afghan and Iraqi nationals, as well as journalists, human rights activists, and religious leaders.
"These alleged actions disclosed our sensitive classified information in a manner that made it available to every terrorist group, hostile foreign intelligence service and opposing military," said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for DOJ's national security division. "Documents relating to these disclosures were even found in the Osama bin Laden compound. This release made our adversaries stronger and more knowledgeable, and the United States less secure."
A journalist? Demers also sought to get ahead of suggestions that the U.S. is charging Assange for publishing information, declaring that the WikiLeaks founder is "no journalist."
"Some say Julian Assange is a journalist and that he is immune from prosecution for these actions. The department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy," said Demers. "Julian Assange is no journalist."
What's ahead: The charges are unveiled as Assange is fighting extradition to the U.S., after he was arrested earlier this year on a conspiracy charge.
Manning has been summoned before grand juries investigating WikiLeaks twice this year in the Eastern District of Virginia but has refused to testify both times. She is currently incarcerated after a judge again ordered her to be held in contempt over her refusal to cooperate.
MALCONTENTED: Facebook on Thursday said it removed a record 2.2 billion fake accounts from its platform in the first three months of 2019, nearly double the amount it deleted in the previous quarter.
"We've seen a steep increase in the creation of abusive, fake accounts on Facebook in the last six months," the company said in its community standards enforcement report.
"We catch most of these accounts within minutes of registration. However, automated attacks have resulted in more of these accounts making it past our initial detection, which increased prevalence."
Compared to last quarter: In the fourth quarter of 2018, Facebook removed about 1.2 billion fake accounts from the platform.
Facebook estimated that at any given time fake accounts comprise about 5 percent of its 2.4 billion monthly active users.
Other cleanup efforts: The report also illustrated the efforts Facebook has taken to enforce other content policies as well as the massive scale of abuse that the company must monitor and crack down on.
Facebook has reported a steady increase in the amount of hate speech it cracks down on. In the first quarter, it removed 4 million pieces of content it deemed had violated its prohibition against hate speech, compared with 3.3 million in the last quarter of 2018.
The social network attributes the increase to the investments it has made in artificial intelligence designed to detect hate speech.
Illegal sales: For the first time, Facebook included a section in the report detailing its efforts to eliminate the sale of guns and drugs from the platform. Between January and March, the company removed 900,000 posts violating its drug policy and 670,000 posts violating its firearms policy.
ROBOCALL KILLER: The Senate on Thursday voted in favor of legislation that would levy hefty new fines for illegal robocalls, advancing one of the most prominent congressional efforts to crack down on the scourge of billions of unwanted calls hitting U.S. consumers every year.
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which passed by a 97-1 vote, had received more than 80 co-sponsors by the time it reached the Senate floor.
The bill, introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would give the federal government the authority to slap offenders with fines of up to $10,000 per call.
The legislation would also give regulators more time to find scammers, increase penalties for those who are caught, promote call authentication and blocking, and help coordinate enforcement to increase criminal prosecution of illegal robocallers.
Lawmakers during the previous Congress held three hearings and passed 13 bills aimed at curtailing robocalls, but the measure passed by the Senate on Thursday is the most significant piece of legislation to address the issue so far.
"It will make life a lot more difficult for scam artists and help ensure that more scammers face punishment for their crimes," Thune said of the bill on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, noting he hopes the House takes it up soon.
Across the Capitol: Over in the House, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has offered his own bill to end the scourge of robocalls, signaling the lower chamber may follow its own anti-robocall legislative path.
COME FOR CYBER, ASKED TO LEAVE FOR THE BORDER: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is asking its cybersecurity-focused employees to consider taking on new roles by volunteering to help with the border crisis.
Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan told House lawmakers Wednesday that employees in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have been asked to consider relocating to the U.S.-Mexico border, but he insisted he would not support sending "critical" cyber staff to the region.
"I am aware of the call for volunteers to help address the border crisis, just as we would do in a natural disaster. Our expectation, though, is that CISA would make risk-based decisions on the types of professionals they would free up for this kind of mission and balance against their day jobs and their current focus," McAleenan said in a response to a question about the volunteer drive from Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at a Homeland Security Committee hearing on DHS' fiscal year 2020 budget request.
McAleenan added that he would "not want the CISA leadership to deploy critical cybersecurity professionals in this role if they have mission support professionals, attorneys or others who could be spared to support this effort. We would welcome that, but that is for their management and leadership to handle."
Another DHS official told The Hill that each DHS volunteer at the border allows an extra Customs and Border Protection or ICE agent "to perform border security duties."
McAleenan said that regardless of which DHS agency a volunteer comes from, there will be "training for anyone who is directly engaging with migrants."
SEARCH AND SEIZURE: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) this week reintroduced legislation that would bar the government from searching peoples' electronic devices at the border without a warrant.
The Protecting Data at the Border Act would bar law enforcement agencies from using a legal loophole to search the phones, laptops and other electronic devices of Americans crossing the border.
Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are co-sponsors of the bill, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is set to introduce companion legislation in the House.
On the rise: A watchdog report last December found U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers searched 50 percent more electronic devices in fiscal 2017 -- 29,000 devices among 397 million travelers -- than they did the previous year, when they searched 18,400 devices from 390 million travelers.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the report concluded many of these electronic device searches were conducted improperly, without adequate supervision or adherence to preexisting policies.
Wyden and Paul in statements said the bill would bar the government from using the so-called border search exception to justify seizing Americans' devices.
"The border is quickly becoming a rights-free zone for Americans who travel," Wyden said in a statement. "The government shouldn't be able to review your whole digital life simply because you went on vacation, or had to travel for work."
"It's not rocket science: Require a warrant to search Americans' electronic devices, so border agents can focus on the real security threats, not regular Americans," the libertarian-leaning Democrat said in the statement.
DON'T BE CRYPTIC: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on Thursday became the second 2020 White House candidate to begin accepting cryptocurrency donations.
Swalwell joins fellow presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, who was dubbed the "bitcoin candidate" after unveiling a digital-asset platform earlier this year.
The California Democrat partnered with blockchain firm The White Company to set up a donation page paid for by his campaign. The page allows supporters to choose between six supported cryptocurrencies to use when donating.
"Blockchain can change the world if we let it," Swalwell said in a video posted to the website. "Is there a risk? Sure. That's why we must test, retest and constantly monitor such systems for interference or abuses by using expert oversight."
"We can do that," he added. "Risk should not scare us. It's a hurdle we can surmount.
Government has to keep up with the times and the times have changed."
HUAWEI READIES OPERATING SYSTEM: A top Huawei official said Thursday that the company will have its own operating system ready to replace Google and Microsoft smartphone and laptop software if permanently blocked from licensing the American products.
"Today, Huawei, we are still committed to Microsoft Windows and Google Android. But if we cannot use that, Huawei will prepare the plan B to use our own OS," Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business, told CNBC.
President Trump issued an order last week that would have banned American companies from dealing with Huawei, citing national security reasons. Huawei has long faced scrutiny from the U.S. intelligence community over its alleged ties to the Chinese government.
If implemented, the order would mean Huawei would no longer be able to license the version of Google's Android operating system it uses for its smartphones.
On Monday, the administration delayed the order, giving a 90-day license that "grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services."
Yu told CNBC if the ban is upheld, Huawei's own operating system could be ready by the fourth quarter of this year, with a version for its markets outside of China available in either the first or second quarter of 2020.
He stressed that Huawei would only roll out the system if it was permanently banned from using Google or Microsoft products.
"We don't want to do this but we will be forced to do that because of the U.S. government. I think the U.S., this kind of thing, will also not only be bad news for us, but also bad news for the U.S. companies because we support the U.S. business, so we will be forced to do this on our own," Yu said. "We don't want to do this but we have no other solution, no other choice."
SENATE DIVES INTO 5G: A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday to help U.S. firms remove Chinese telecom equipment from companies like Huawei if it's deemed a national security threat.
The legislation would require fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks be free of equipment or services provided by Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE. It also would establish a "supply chain trust fund" program to help U.S. firms remove Huawei equipment from their networks.
The measure would require the establishment of an "interagency program," led by the Department of Homeland Security, to share information with communications companies on risks and vulnerabilities of networks.
The bill was introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), with Sens. Ed Markey(D-Mass.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) as co-sponsors.
Wicker, whose committee has examined 5G security in the recent months, said in a statement that "5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk."
HER MAJESTY'S CYBER CENTERS: The United Kingdom is preparing to invest 22 million pounds, the equivalent of almost $28 million, to open new cyber operation centers.
The cybersecurity centers will provide the British Army with 24/7 information and analyses on cyber threats and will also aim to give both the British military and allies intelligence on emerging threats. The centers have not yet been built, which will begin early next year, with operations to start in the early 2020s.
"Cyber enemies think they can act with impunity. We must show them they can't," Mordaunt says in prepared remarks. "That we are ready to respond at a time and place of our choosing in any domain, not just the virtual world."
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The FCC can save lives on roadways.
A LIGHTER CLICK: It's actually pretty cute.
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Snapchat employees abused user data. (Vice News)
Amazon creating a wearable device that could detect human emotion. (Bloomberg)
Equifax becomes the first company to have its outlook downgraded due to cyberattack (CNBC)
How China uses high-tech surveillance to subdue minorities. (The New York Times)
Google's secret 'trashy video' AI cleans up YouTube homepage. (Bloomberg)
Head of NOAA says 5G deployment could set weather forecasts back 40 years. The wireless industry denies it. (The Washington Post)