Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings

Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings
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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).

 

TRUMP'S SOCIAL MEDIA SUMMIT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE on Thursday denounced the world's top social media companies as being biased against him and his supporters and pledged that his administration will be exploring "regulatory and legislative solutions" to protect free speech online.

"We have terrible bias, we have censorship like nobody has any understanding or nobody can believe," he said.

Trump's remarks came at the White House's controversial "social media summit," which drew about 250 attendees including top administration officials and a crowd of right-wing social media personalities.

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Trump's social media summit incited pushback and controversy even before it kicked off, as Democrats and leading tech groups greeted it with criticism and skepticism.

The event itself featured panels and discussions followed by a long and winding speech from Trump, which came off as a campaign speech at certain points as he touted his administration's economic and trade accomplishments. The president spent the bulk of the speech boasting about his own prolific social media following -- he has hundreds of millions of followers across multiple platforms and regularly takes to Twitter to break news and insult his foes.

Trump also acknowledged that social media has been a boon to him on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office, saying press releases rarely get pickup on their own but "if I put it out on social media, it's like an explosion" and noting that he's watched his follower count tick up.

What's next: The president announced that he will be convening a meeting of the companies at the White House next week over concerns that they routinely censor right-wing perspectives. "We're going to be calling a big meeting for the companies, they have to be here," Trump said, adding that he'll be inviting Republican and Democratic members of Congress to join.

The big picture: The White House's escalating campaign will add to the troubles of tech companies, which have spent years denying claims of political bias as unfounded and unfair. Facebook, Twitter and Google -- none of which were invited to the summit, which featured ample talk of bias and the unparalleled power of Big Tech -- all declined to comment on the meeting.

Read more on the summit here.

 

FINGERS VS BRAIN: President Trump on Thursday riffed on his tendency to have typos in tweets, telling attendees at a White House gathering of conservative social media personalities that "the fingers aren't as good as the brain."

Trump quipped that he believed his tweets did not go as viral as they did during his presidential campaign and earlier in his administration but noted that the messages still have a wide reach.

"I call Twitter a typewriter ... because it goes onto Facebook automatically, and it goes onto Instagram and it goes onto television," Trump said. "More so Fox than it does CNN. If it's something bad, they'll put it on. If I have a spelling deal they will put it on.

"Any kind of a punctuation mistake they put it on," he added. "So I'm very, very careful. Really I'm actually a good speller, but everyone said the fingers aren't as good as the brain."

Trump's tweets are often sprinkled with typos. The president typically deletes the original tweets and then reposts them with accurate spelling.

Read more here.

 

NOTHING TO SEE HERE: Google confirmed a Belgian news media report that its workers were listening to some audio recordings captured by its smart devices.

The company said in a blog post on Thursday that it uses contractors to study some recordings to learn how it can make its technology "work for a wide variety of languages, accents and dialects."

VRT NWS published an investigation on Wednesday in which the Belgian broadcaster gained access to a secure system storing audio recordings from Google Home devices and from the Google Assistant app. The outlet found many recordings that had been captured inadvertently, without users activating their devices.

In its response on Thursday, Google vowed to investigate the leak of users' audio recordings.

"Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action," David Monsees, the product manager for search at Google, wrote in the blog post. "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again."

But Monsees said that hiring language experts to study the recordings is necessary for improving Google's products. And he emphasized that there are multiple safeguards throughout the process.

Read more here.

 

FRANCE DEFIES TRUMP ON TECH TAX: The French parliament on Thursday adopted a tax on revenue of internet giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook despite the Trump administration announcing an investigation into whether it is discriminatory, the Associated Press reported.

The legislation will impose a 3 percent tax on the annual revenues of technology companies that make at least 750 euros annually and provide services to users in the country, which includes several American giants.

The French Senate estimated that the tax could bring in 400 million euros this year and 650 million in 2020, according to the AP.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi 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 Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report MORE on Wednesday announced an investigation to "determine whether it is discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce."

The investigation could serve as a precursor to the implementation of tariffs or other trade measures against France.

The USTR's move received bipartisan praise. Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyState cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (D-Ore.) said the French policy "unfairly targets American companies in a way that will cost U.S. jobs and harm American workers."

Read more here.

 

FACING THE HATERS: Officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defended the government's use of facial recognition technology before a skeptical House panel on Wednesday, downplaying privacy and accuracy concerns as overblown.

Representatives with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sought to assure lawmakers there's no need to limit the agency's expanding facial recognition tech programs in airports and border areas.

"This is not a surveillance program," John Wagner, the deputy executive assistant commissioner of CBP's office of field operations, told the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing on Wednesday morning.

Wagner repeated the line multiple times, insisting during a later exchange with Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenTrump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Climate finance must push net-zero emissions Trump impeachment efforts will haunt the next Democrat in the White House MORE (D-Texas) that CBP's face-scanning project -- dubbed "Biometric Entry/Exit" -- is "absolutely not a surveillance program" when Green expressed concerns over Americans being watched even if they are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

But the hearing also exposed how lawmakers are struggling with the issue, showing daylight between Republicans and Democrats over whether the federal government should maintain vast and growing facial recognition capabilities. Some Democratic members of the committee said they feel CBP is surpassing its authority, while Republicans said they want DHS to have access to the national security tools it asks for.

Read more here.

 

THE WORLD STOPPED TURNING: Twitter appeared to suffer a widespread outage Thursday afternoon, making it the latest social media site to have a major disruption in recent months.

According to the website Down Detector, users in many major cities were reporting trouble accessing Twitter.

After an hour, the site appeared to work again for many people. The company attributed the disruption to an "internal configuration change."

"The outage was due to an internal configuration change, which we're now fixing," Twitter said on its system status page. "Some people may be able to access Twitter again and we're working to make sure Twitter is available to everyone as quickly as possible."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for the outage in a tweet.

"We were down... and now slowly coming back up. Sorry! Grateful for our operations and engineering teams for getting us flying again," he wrote.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI: IT'S ALL GOOD: Congressional Republicans are expressing confidence that the 2020 elections will be secure, despite strong protests from Democrats that more needs to be done.

House and Senate members received separate classified briefings from senior administration officials on Wednesday, during which the plans for securing the 2020 elections were outlined in the wake of Russia's extensive interference ahead of the 2016 vote. 

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death MORE (R-La.) told reporters that while the U.S. must be "very vigilant" against election threats from foreign governments, "the agencies have the tools they need, and I am confident they are addressing the threats."

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President Trump who has previously supported additional election security legislation, said that he was "very impressed" by the administration's efforts ahead of 2020. 

"They all said the president is giving them every authority they've asked for. No interference from the White House," Graham said. 

While none of the administration officials involved spoke with the press, several lawmakers confirmed that they said during the closed-door meetings they didn't need additional legislation or extra funding from Congress. 

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Hillicon Valley: Democrats seize on whistleblower complaint to push for election security | Google taps GOP Senate aide to lead lobbying | Warren calls for congressional tech office MORE (D-Miss.) told reporters that the officials said "the resources are available to secure the 2020 elections," and that they do not need anything else from lawmakers at this time. 

Thompson's counterpart on the committee, ranking member Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Extremists find new home in online app Telegram MORE(R-Ala.), added that the briefing "gave some confidence to me that they're on top of this."

Election security legislation has been stalemated for months on Capitol Hill amid a standoff between House Democrats and Senate GOP leadership. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (R-Ky.) has opposed passing legislation on election security, and on Wednesday further lowered expectations that the briefing would manage to overcome the gap between parties, focusing his criticism on the Obama administration ahead of the briefing. 

"The more Obama gave, the more [Russian President Vladimir] Putin took. Among those consequences, as we all know, was that Putin felt sufficiently emboldened to seek to interfere in our 2016 presidential election," McConnell said.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: A better way to protect small businesses from cyber attacks 

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: I guess I'll just do it myself. 

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

-Mayors pass resolution against paying ransomware ransoms (StateScoop) 

- Bitcoin slides after Fed chair says Facebook's cryptocurrency raises 'serious concerns.' (The Washington Post)

-Anesthetic devices 'vulnerable to hackers' (BBC)