Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger

Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger
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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 Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e). 'TIM APPLE' AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday became the latest tech executive to pay a visit to the White House this year.President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE and his eldest daughter, senior adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpWhite House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to allow new parents to advance tax credits Jane Fonda says she feels 'sad' for Trump MORE, told reporters during a lunch meeting with governors that Cook was at the White House earlier in the day as part of his work with the White House workforce advisory board."We've secured commitments from [the private sector] to do more," Ivanka Trump told the room of governors, according to a White House transcript. "Tim Cook, from Apple, who was here today, who's also on the advisory board."

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"Who just left," the president chimed in. "He just left our office."Ivanka Trump praised Cook's contributions to White House initiatives, saying he has been a "real force on both the advisory board and in his commitment to lifelong learning generally."Cook in February joined the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, a body tasked with developing a "21st century workforce" plan. The board, which includes other CEOs, is co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossSpace race is on: US can't afford congressional inaction in this critical economic sector Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants The Hill's Morning Report - Intel panel readies to hand off impeachment baton MORE and Ivanka Trump.Apple did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment on Cook's Thursday visit to the White House.Read more here.  FAKEOUT: The House Intelligence Committee hosted one of the first congressional hearings specifically focused on examining the threat of so-called deepfake videos manipulated by artificial intelligence to appear strikingly real.The hearing on Thursday morning featured academics and other experts, coming amid warnings that such technology poses a major disinformation threat ahead of the 2020 presidential election."I think we all have to be much more skeptical consumers of what we see online," House Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Schiff asks Pence to declassify more material from official's testimony Schiff: Impeachment testimony shows Trump 'doesn't give a shit' about what's good for the country MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill. "By the time you can tell that it's a fake, the damage has already been done. So we want to try to inform the public about this so that if it does occur, when it does occur, they'll have some background about the product."Fear about disinformation follows the 2016 presidential election, when Russia created fake accounts on social media aimed at sowing divisions and stirring tensions.As other actors seek to follow the Kremlin's playbook, deepfake technology is growing more sophisticated and prevalent. It's possible an average internet user by the 2020 election could create doctored videos so realistic forensic experts will have to verify whether the content is real."We aren't just worried about Twitter bots and fake Facebook accounts anymore," Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump, first lady take part in National Christmas Tree lighting Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee, told The Hill."It is important for us to recognize that the threat of misinformation campaigns is evolving. And with the development of AI and deepfakes, the effort to insert fake news into our media is more sophisticated than ever."Top U.S. intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before Congress in January that hostile foreign actors are expected to try to weaponize deepfakes to sow discord and breed doubt.Read more on deepfakes here. OPENING THE (FLOOD)GATES: Bill and Melinda Gates have launched the Gates Policy Initiative to lobby for issues the billionaire couple has been working on through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Hill first reported.The initiative will be focused on global health, global development, U.S. education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically, and efforts to move people from poverty to employment.Rob Nabors, former White House director of legislative affairs under President Obama, is the executive director of the 501(c)(4) initiative. He currently serves as a director at the Gates Foundation."Bill and Melinda have been interested in improving the outcome of the poorest in society both here in the United States and abroad for a very long time," Nabors told The Hill. "I think recently Bill and Melinda have asked the question, 'Is there more that we can be doing, especially here in the United States?'"  Nabors said the group plans to work in a bipartisan way and avoid political giving."Bill and Melinda have a long history of engaging the executive branch, the legislative branch, in a bipartisan way, I don't see that changing," Nabors said.Bill and Melinda Gates officially launched the initiative, which is fully independent of their foundation, on Thursday.Read more here. K STREET ENLISTED IN ANTITRUST FIGHT: New scrutiny from regulators and Congress over the tech industry's antitrust issues is putting Silicon Valley's K Street support to the test.Tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple have been beefing up their lobbying teams, bringing in both in-house talent and outside firms.The threat of an antitrust crackdown on tech companies is sparking a new flurry of activity. For lobbying firms there is a rush to snap up potentially lucrative contracts, but also pressure to deliver as the tech industry faces one of its toughest battles."Antitrust investigations are fact-intensive by their nature and these are complicated, fast-moving markets. It's no surprise that the big tech companies are staffing up with people to help answer inquiries from antitrust enforcers," said Nuala O'Connor, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.Why now: Tech companies are no strangers to K Street and have been boosting their lobbying spending in recent years, attracting some of the top talent in Washington. Tech companies have faced a host of legislative and regulatory questions in recent years, including over data privacy scandals, workforce diversity, encryption, net neutrality and trade. But for Silicon Valley, the prospect of federal regulators looking into their market power could shake up their business models and drastically change their companies.Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) are weighing probes into the industry's biggest players, and Congress has opened its own investigation into whether to rewrite the nation's antitrust laws for the new economy.The increased scrutiny also comes with the industry finding few allies in Washington.Critics, including President Trump and 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenArtist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 Democratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Mass.), have even floated breaking up the companies to level the playing field.Gearing up for the fight: Enlisting help from the influence world will be critical to helping fight off that threat, K Street watchers told The Hill."Washington likes to control anything that's important, and today that includes online platforms," Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, a trade association of e-commerce businesses, said."Silicon Valley has woken up to this reality and is hiring accordingly. This is the normal path of any business as it grows."The antitrust fight could be a gold mine for lobbying firms as tech companies beef up their Washington presence. But there are also high stakes for those firms and executives at trade associations, who must now deliver and help the industry fight off the threat.More here on K Street's role and the numbers at play. YET ANOTHER HURDLE: The $26 billion T-Mobile–Sprint merger is facing a new and potentially devastating obstacle after 10 attorneys general from nine states and Washington, D.C., filed a federal lawsuit to block the deal.The state attorneys general in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, argue the bid to combine two of the nation's four top mobile carriers would jack up prices for customers, particularly low-income consumers, and result in unhealthy market concentration.Legal experts who spoke to The Hill said the states have a strong antitrust case, predicting the ensuing legal battle could drag on for months, if not years."[The case] materially increases the odds that the deal will never close," Blair Levin, an analyst with New Street Research and a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official, said in an interview.What makes this unique: The lawsuit marks one of the first times a group of state attorneys general has sued to block a deal before the federal agencies overseeing the merger have both weighed in. The Republican-controlled FCC last month signaled it will approve the merger, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not yet made its decision on the deal.Gigi Sohn, a former adviser at the FCC during the Obama administration, called the states' move "unprecedented."What this means for the DOJ: The multistate lawsuit to block the merger ups the ante for the DOJ and could be a way for the states to sway the department against the deal, experts said."I think it could mean that the deal is dead," Sohn said. "At a minimum, it's an opening salvo to [top DOJ antitrust attorney] Makan Delrahim to join in."The unusual decision to sue at this point could indicate the states have gotten some insight into the DOJ's plan and are not happy with it, according to John Mark Newman, a former DOJ antitrust official and assistant law professor at the University of Memphis."It sounds like DOJ has been asking for some pretty significant concessions and if the states are not happy with what DOJ's doing, that would maybe suggest that they just ... want to block the deal outright," Newman told The Hill.Who is on board: The attorneys general, led by New York's Letitia James and Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia recovers M from auto parts makers' in bid rigging settlement Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Facebook unveils market research app that pays users to take surveys MORE of California, filed the federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday. Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin have also joined the effort, with more Democratic attorneys general likely to join in.Dems are applauding the effort: Democrats in both chambers on Capitol Hill have pushed hard against the deal, sending letters to the DOJ and FCC urging them to block the merger out of concern for consumers."I have repeatedly raised serious antitrust concerns about the harmful effects of merging T-Mobile and Sprint, two of the four remaining nationwide wireless carriers," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for president, said in a statement. "This merger would harm competition and consumers, and I am pleased that action is being taken by state attorneys general to block it.""Now, the Justice Department must take similar action to stop this transaction," she said.Read more on the lawsuit and the fallout here.  TWITTER OFFERS DATA ON MISINFO: Twitter on Thursday released an archive of tweets and media associated with Iran- and Russia-linked misinformation campaigns that have since been removed from the site, giving researchers a chance to look into the contours of state-backed information operations on one of the top social media platforms in the world.The company said it is adding datasets from 4,779 Iran-linked accounts that were engaged in misinformation campaigns, four accounts associated with a prominent Russian troll farm, 130 accounts tied to the Catalan independence movement in Spain and 33 accounts engaged in manipulative behavior related to Venezuela.Twitter said all of the removed campaigns were "coordinated, state-backed activities" aimed at altering political discourse, spreading disinformation or otherwise misinforming users."We believe that people and organizations with the advantages of institutional power and which consciously abuse our service are not advancing healthy discourse but are actively working to undermine it," Twitter's head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, wrote in a blog post."By making this data open and accessible, we seek to empower researchers, journalists, governments, and members of the public to deepen their understanding of critical issues impacting the integrity of public conversation online, particularly around elections."Roth in the post wrote that Twitter is focused on combatting "misleading, deceptive, and spammy behavior," aiming to differentiate between legitimate political discourse and manipulative misinformation campaigns."When we have significant evidence to indicate that state-affiliated entities are knowingly trying to manipulate and distort the public conversation, we believe it should be disclosed as a matter of public interest," he wrote.Read more on the data here. BIDEN TAKES ON AMAZON (SORT OF): Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Democratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE on Thursday criticized online retail giant Amazon for paying nothing in corporate taxes last year, making him the latest presidential candidate to slam one of the most profitable companies over its effective tax rate of below zero."I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers," Biden tweeted. "We need to reward work, not just wealth."A report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy earlier this year found that 60 Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, avoided paying any federal income taxes in 2018.Amazon, which had $11.2 billion in profits last year, has become a prime target for Democrats seeking to criticize corporate power, potentially anticompetitive practices and dangerous working conditions.The company has been accused of mistreating warehouse workers, and it's facing multiple lawsuits from former employees who said they were treated inhumanely at the facilities. Amazon has said it treats its workers fairly.Biden jumped into the fray earlier this week, slamming the company at a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday."I've got nothing against Amazon," Biden said. "But they should pay a few taxes, you know what I mean? What happens? It's all you guys. No, I'm serious."Biden's remark that he has "nothing against Amazon" raised eyebrows, as it comes amid a furious backlash in Washington against the country's top tech giants. Lawmakers and advocates have accused Amazon of wielding its corporate power to the detriment of other companies and workers.Read more here. CYBERATTACK HITS CHINESE PROTESTERS: The encrypted messaging app Telegram said it was the target of a "powerful" cyberattack originating from China that disrupted service for some users.Pavel Durov, the company's founder and CEO, said on Twitter on Wednesday night that the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack coincided with protests in Hong Kong against a bill that would allow the city to extradite people to mainland China.Durov said that every major DDoS attack it has experienced "coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong.""This case was not an exception," he added.DDoS attacks aim to cripple online services by flooding them with massive amounts of traffic that can slow them to a crawl.A clever analogy: "Imagine that an army of lemmings just jumped the queue at McDonald's in front of you – and each is ordering a whopper," Telegram wrote on Twitter. "The server is busy telling the whopper lemmings they came to the wrong place – but there are so many of them that the server can't even see you to try and take your order."The company said that while the attacks had disrupted its service, Telegram's encryption remained intact and user messages were safe.According to The New York Times, the Chinese government denied that it was behind the incident and noted that it has been the target of cyberattacks itself.Read more on the attack here.  BAD BARGAIN?: A bipartisan pair of senators on Thursday warned the Trump administration against using Chinese telecom giant Huawei as a "bargaining chip" in U.S.-China trade talks, calling the federal government's actions against the company a matter of "national security."The letter comes after President Trump in recent weeks signaled he might be willing to relax some of the sanctions against Huawei in exchange for concessions from China in the trade negotiations.Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware MORE (D-Va.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Three dead, several injured in Pensacola naval station shooting MORE (R-Fla.), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in letters on Thursday said Huawei should be treated as its own issue rather than being tacked on to the U.S.-China trade war."Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security," Warner, who is the top Democrat on the panel, and Rubio wrote. "In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.""Conflating national security concerns with levers in trade negotiations undermines this effort, and endangers American security," they wrote in the letters addressed to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization West Bank annexation would endanger Israel's security House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports MORE.Read more here.  'ALEXA, WHAT'S COPPA?': Two lawsuits against Amazon claim that the company's Alexa voice assistant illegally records kids without parental consent.The federal lawsuits, both of which were filed on Tuesday and seek class action status, allege that Alexa-enabled devices, such as the Echo and Echo Dot, violate laws in nine states -- California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington -- by storing recordings of children, according to court documents.One suit was filed in Seattle, while the other was filed in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs are a 10-year-old who lives in Massachusetts and an 8-year who lives in California, respectively."The privacy interest is all the more powerful in light of modern voice printing technology and the potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon," the Seattle lawsuit reads. "It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children" and tracking their use of Alexa-enabled devices "with a vast level of detail about the child's life."After Alexa listens to a user's commands, Amazon allegedly "saves a permanent recording of the user's voice to its own servers," one suit reads."When children say a wake word to an Alexa Device, the device records and transmits the children's communications in the same manner that it handles adults' communications. Neither the children nor their parents have consented to the children's interactions being permanently recorded," the lawsuit reads.Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.The lawyers are seeking monetary compensation for the plaintiffs as well as an injunction that requires Amazon to get consent before it records minors' interactions with Alexa. The lawsuit also asks Amazon to delete any existing recordings of children's voices.Read more here.  AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: America can take more actions to cut technology supply chain risks.   A LIGHTER CLICK: Story time. NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: Sex, drugs, and self-harm: Where 20 years of child online protection law went wrong. (The Washington Post)San Francisco says it will use AI to reduce bias when charging people with crimes. (The Verge)House's planned overhaul of tech antitrust clashes with Trump probes. (National Journal)Digital marketer Mailchimp bans anti-vaccination content. (NBC News)