Hillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei

Hillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei
© Getty Images

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).

 

UNBLOCKED: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday ruled that President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE cannot block Twitter users from his official account, finding that the practice is discriminatory.

The ruling upholds a lower court ruling that also found Trump cannot block the Twitter users.

The president uses his Twitter account to make announcements, from personnel changes within his administration to the implementation of new policies.

ADVERTISEMENT

The judges wrote "that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees."

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had brought forward the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by Trump on Twitter.

The judges wrote in the opinion that Trump's Twitter account shows "all the trappings of an official, state‐run account," and that Trump and his aides have described his tweets as "official statements."

And they noted that the National Archives, "the agency of government responsible for maintaining the government's records, has concluded that the President's tweets are official records."

The judges sided with the blocked Twitter users, who argued that the other options for viewing Trump's tweets are too burdensome. And they noted that the individuals were blocked after they posted tweets critical of the president.

However, the judges were clear that their ruling did not require social media companies to take on any further policies, or that the Constitution does not allow for other Twitter users to block each other. The administration had argued that Trump was blocking the users in his personal capacity, but the judges disagreed.

Read more here.

 

DAVID VS. GOLIATH(S): Executives for Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple will testify before Congress next week as part of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust investigation into Silicon Valley.

They will appear for a hearing July 16 that will examine the "impact of market power of online platforms on innovation and entrepreneurship," the panel's antitrust subcommittee announced Tuesday.

The hearing comes as the tech giants have been put on the defensive by regulators around the world concerned over their market power and collection of personal data.

The subcommittee will hear from two panels of witnesses.

One will feature Adam Cohen, Google's economic policy director; Nate Sutton, Amazon's associate general counsel; Matt Perault, the head of global policy development at Facebook; and Kyle Andeer, Apple's chief compliance officer.

The other panel will be comprised of experts and some of Big Tech's biggest critics. Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican who recently served as acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, will testify, along with Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who has advocated for the government to be more forceful in enforcing antitrust law against Silicon Valley's titans.

It will be the second hearing the panel has held since launching the investigation in June.

The first hearing in June examined the effect Silicon Valley has had on the news industry by swallowing up the majority of online advertising revenue.

Read more here.

 

DHS SET FOR GRILLING OVER FACIAL RECOGNITION: Officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are set to testify before a House panel on Wednesday about the government's use of facial recognition as Congress presses toward legislation curtailing the use of the controversial technology.

The hearing comes as lawmakers reel over the release of documents showing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses state driver's license databases for facial recognition searches without consent from individuals.

Though an ICE representative will not be present at the hearing, a House Homeland Security Committee spokesperson told The Hill the tranche of documents – which revealed the government is scanning millions of Americans' faces without their permission – is likely to come up.

Representatives with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), agencies within DHS, will face tough questions about how the department is using the technology increasingly across the U.S.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest Border Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy MORE (D-Miss.) in a statement said he believes it is "imperative" that such sensitive technologies "only be used for authorized purposes in a fully transparent manner."

"Federal agencies – like DHS – must balance their critical security mission with a commitment to safeguard citizens' civil liberties," Thompson said. "Before the government deploys these technologies further, they must be fully scrutinized and the American public needs to be given a chance to weigh in."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said this year they are working to come up with legislative solutions to the rapid rise of facial recognition tech across the country, which they say raises privacy and civil rights concerns. And there is growing public pressure for them to act.

Top digital rights group Fight for the Future on Tuesday launched a campaign to impose a total federal ban on the government's use of facial recognition technology.

Read more on the hearing here.

 

FAKE IT COULD UNMAKE IT: A pair of House Democrats are raising questions about how Amazon polices its marketplace for fake product reviews and ratings, citing concerns the practice could hurt consumers and legitimate businesses.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — White House withdraws controversial rule to eliminate drug rebates | Grassley says deal on drug prices moving 'very soon' | Appeals court declines to halt Trump abortion referral ban MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyDemocrats rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez Pelosi says she's done talking about fight with 'Squad' Democrats voice confidence Pentagon bill will survive party squabbling MORE (D-Ill.), who leads the committee's consumer protection panel, sent a letter on Tuesday to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking about his company's policies for cracking down on fake reviews.

"Amazon can and should do more to protect consumers from these deceptive practices and we would like to better understand what measures your company is taking to address this issue," the two Democrats wrote.

The lawmakers argued fake reviews can deceive consumers into buying inferior or defective products.

They cited a study by the consumer group Which? that found widespread unverified reviews -- meaning there was no evidence that the reviewer had purchased the product in question -- were dominating some of the most popular products across a range of categories.

Those products include ones with the "Amazon's Choice" label, which declares that they are "highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately."

Pallone and Schakowsky asked Bezos to explain how Amazon decides what products get the label and what oversight the company conducts on the products' quality.

Read more here.

 

TWITTER'S NEW POLICY ON HATE: Twitter on Tuesday announced it will begin removing tweets that feature "dehumanizing" language toward religious groups, marking the company's latest effort to combat the scourge of harassment and bigoted content that has plagued its platform for years.

In a blog post, Twitter announced that it has updated its rules against "hateful conduct," saying the tweak is the result of extensive conversations with experts and the public.

Twitter offered an array of tweets that would be removed under the new policy, including one that says, "We need to exterminate the rats. The [Religious group] are disgusting."

Another example reads, "[Religious group] are viruses. They're making this country sick."

Twitter has hinted at a potential policy against "dehumanization" for months, saying that framework can help it weed out hateful content that does not necessarily include threats of violence or explicit slurs.

Twitter uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human review in order to determine which posts are taken down. All decisions at this point are ultimately made by personnel.

The policy change puts Twitter in line with Facebook and YouTube, both of which have policies barring content that dehumanizes people based on protected characteristics such as race or religion. 

Twitter on Tuesday said that it is planning to expand the dehumanization policy to other marginalized groups at some point but is working to address ongoing questions before that happens.

Critics have pressured the top social media companies for years over their policies on hate speech, saying the platforms' rules do not provide adequate definitions and, even when they do, they are not properly enforced.

Read more here.

 

NOT A YES OR A NO: David Marcus, the head of Facebook's new cryptocurrency project Libra, assured Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrat Sherrod Brown torches Facebook at hearing: 'They broke journalism, helped incite a genocide' House Democrats mull bill to ban Facebook cryptocurrency project Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks MORE (D-Calif.) that the company is "taking the time to do this right" after a group of Democratic lawmakers, including Waters, called for Facebook to halt its plans.

In a letter to Waters and other top members of the House Financial Services Committee, Marcus defended Libra's mission and vowed to answer policymakers' "important questions," according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill on Tuesday ahead of planned hearings on the issue.

"I want to give you my personal assurance that we are committed to taking the time to do this right," Marcus wrote.

The letter, dated July 3, is addressed to the group of Democratic lawmakers who last week called for a moratorium on Facebook's "Libra" project. The House Financial Services Committee members, including Democratic Reps. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse passes bill to reauthorize funding for 9/11 victims It's time for the left to advance a shared vision of national security: Start by passing the NDAA Hillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei MORE (N.Y.), Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Pressley: Democrats don't need 'any more black faces that don't want to be a black voice' Ocasio-Cortez's racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution MORE (Mo.), Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenDemocrats erupt over Trump attacks #RacistPresident trends amid criticism over Trump tweets Al Green to force impeachment vote following incendiary Trump tweets MORE (Texas) and Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchHillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei Facebook official responds to Maxine Waters on cryptocurrency project House Democrats call for Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project MORE (Mass.) as well as Waters, panned Facebook's history of privacy scandals and the potential for its new cryptocurrency to attract hackers.

Their letter called for Facebook to "cease implementation plans until regulators and Congress have an opportunity to examine these issues and take action," saying a failure to do so "risks a new Swiss-based financial system that is too big to fail."

Read more here.

 

LICENSES FOR HUAWEI SALES: Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Ross in Trump's crosshairs after census loss: report MORE said Tuesday that his department will issue licenses to U.S. companies to sell products to Chinese telecommunications group Huawei in cases where there is no national security risk.

As first reported by Reuters, Ross said that Huawei, which U.S. experts view with suspicion over its reported ties to the Chinese government, will stay on the Commerce Department's "entity list." U.S. companies are banned from selling to companies on that list, to which Huawei was added in May due to national security concerns.

Commerce had issued a 90-day extension on the company being formally added to give U.S. companies time to adjust.

However, President Trump threw the issue into question last month when he announced at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Japan that U.S. companies would be allowed to sell equipment to Huawei if there were no national security concerns involved.

Ross confirmed this approach on Tuesday, saying at a Commerce event that "to implement the president's G-20 summit directive two weeks ago, Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to U.S. national security."

Ross noted that "within those confines, we will try to make sure that we don't just transfer revenue from the U.S. to foreign firms."

Trump's comments prompted bipartisan criticism.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE (R-S.C.) previously said that "there will be a lot of pushback" from both sides of the aisle if Huawei is used as a concession in trade talks with Beijing, while Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist House passes bills to boost small business cybersecurity MORE (R-Fla.) vowed to introduce legislation to keep Huawei on the entity list if Trump removed it.

Read more here.

 

BRITS HIT MARRIOTT OVER BREACH: A U.K. agency on Tuesday said it intends to fine Marriott International $123 million for a data breach last year that exposed the personal information of more than 500 million hotel guests.

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said Marriott infringed on the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as a result of the debilitating data breach.

The planned financial penalty comes less than a year after Marriott announced that hackers had accessed its Starwood guest reservation database and exposed names, passport numbers, dates of birth, email addresses and some payment card numbers.

The breach compromised the records of around 30 million customers in 31 countries in the European Economic Area, with 7 million of those records pertaining to British residents.

The ICO investigated the data breach and concluded that "Marriott failed to undertake sufficient due diligence when it bought Starwood and should also have done more to secure its systems."

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement that the company is "disappointed" with the ICO's decision.

Read more here.

 

BETTER SHAPE UP: The U.S. Coast Guard recommended on Monday that ships update their cybersecurity in the wake of a malware attack on a "deep draft vessel" in February that "significantly degraded" its computer system.

In a marine safety alert, the Coast Guard wrote that the vessel involved in the February cyber incident was inbound to the Port of New York and New Jersey during an international trip when it reported that its onboard network was being impacted by a cyber incident.

The Coast Guard responded, and after an analysis conducted alongside an "interagency team of cyber experts" concluded that while the functionality of the boat's computer system was impacted, control systems were not. The computer system was used for managing cargo data and communicating with the Coast Guard and shore-side facilities.

The Coast Guard noted, however, that "the vessel was operating without effective cybersecurity measures in place, exposing critical vessel control systems to significant vulnerabilities."

Read more here.

 

NOT POCKET CHANGE, PEOPLE: Cyber incidents in the U.S. led to an estimated loss of $45 billion in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday by the Internet Society's Online Trust Alliance (OTA).

OTA's Cyber Incident and Breach Trends report found that the financial impact of ransomware cyber attacks rose by 60 percent, while financial losses from the compromise of business emails doubled and crypto jacking incidents more than tripled from the year before. The report looked at the financial fallout from around two million cyber incidents including record exposures, ransomware attacks, data breaches and others.

"All of this begs the question 'are things getting better or worse?'" OTA wrote in the report. "The answer is 'both' – as some types of attacks wane, others rise. What is very clear is that there are too many cyber incidents creating an unacceptable level of financial impact."

The report showed that overall data breaches leading to the exposure of personal records went down in 2018, with 5 billion records exposed, a decrease of 35.9 percent. Jeff Wilbur, the technical director of the OTA, cautioned against optimism in regards to the decrease.

"While it's tempting to celebrate a decreasing number of breaches overall, the findings of our report are grim," Wilbur said in a statement. "So, while there may be fewer data breaches, the number of cyber incidents and their financial impact is far greater than we've seen in the past."

Read more here.

 

ANOTHER BAD HEADLINE FOR TESLA: Current and former Tesla employees claim they were unfairly penalized or fired for taking sick days, according to an investigation by The Guardian published Tuesday.

Numerous workers allege the company threatened to fire or discipline them for taking sick days, the outlet reported.

Jennifer Peercy, a mother of four who began working as a customer care agent for the company in Las Vegas last August, claimed she was fired for accepting other employees' offerings of their own time off to help her manage child care needs.

Peercy told the paper that management told her time off wasn't transferrable between employees; she said she stopped taking time and alleged she was fired two weeks later for doing so.

"If I knew that, I never would have taken it," she told The Guardian. "I'm 22 weeks pregnant without a job or income and four girls to care for."

Peercy told the outlet that she is applying for unemployment and searching for jobs in the meantime, though she hopes to return to Tesla. She reportedly provided her letter of termination and an email she sent to Tesla CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskHillicon Valley: Appeals court rules Trump can't block people on Twitter | Tech giants to testify in House antitrust investigation | DHS set for grilling over facial recognition tech | Commerce to allow sales to Huawei Tesla employees claim they were penalized for using paid time off The purpose of a Space Force is a spacefaring economy MORE, which she said resulted in another letter from an HR employee acknowledging her termination.

Read more here.

  

Hill TV's 'Rising' zeroes in on deepfakes: Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley on Tuesday warned that deepfake technology is being used to target women and create nonconsensual pornography. Watch here.

 

An op-ed to chew on: Why America must take the fight against cyberterrorism seriously.

 

A lighter click: Sephora may make bank from efforts to evade facial recognition. 

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Uber launches a premium service for more leg room, better service in 40 U.S. markets. (TechCrunch) 

A city paid a hefty ransom to hackers. But its pains are far from over (New York Times)

NSA isn't always following its own cybersecurity policies, watchdog says (NextGov)