Hillicon 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

Hillicon 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
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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).

 

TWITTER SAYS TRUMP TWEET DIDN'T BREAK RULES: Twitter says that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE's tweets over the weekend telling four progressive lawmakers to "go back" to their home countries did not violate its content policies, despite being widely condemned as racist, even by some members of the president's own party.

A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill in an email that the tweets did not violate the company's content policies against hate speech, meaning that Twitter doesn't plan to label the posts under a new policy launched last month.

In a series of tweets apparently aimed at Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Omar responds to family of 9/11 victim who called her out at anniversary ceremony Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley dance to Lizzo's 'Truth Hurts' in video MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight We must stand together against hatred MORE (D-Mich.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyIlhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley dance to Lizzo's 'Truth Hurts' in video Bill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Super PAC head spars with CNN's Cuomo over Ocasio-Cortez ad Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE (D-N.Y.) — only one of whom immigrated to the U.S. — Trump lashed out at the lawmakers for their criticisms of his administration.

"Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done," he wrote.

Expect more scrutiny on Twitter: Twitter has been repeatedly criticized for not applying its rules on hate speech to the president's more inflammatory tweets. A spokeswoman for Twitter declined to explain the company's rationale.

Read more here.

 

HAPPY PRIME DAY: Major U.S. labor unions called on consumers to boycott Amazon during its annual "Prime Day" sale Monday and expressed solidarity with striking workers at a suburban Minnesota warehouse for the online retailer.

Labor leaders and activists urged online shoppers not to buy from Amazon or its affiliates as the company offers discounts of up to 70 percent on thousands of products to members of its Prime services on Monday and Tuesday.

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The AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have asked would-be Amazon customers to stand with warehouse workers and delivery drivers in calling for safer working conditions.

"Before you rush out and start shopping and filling that cart, I hope you'll take a minute to think about the working people who are working behind the scenes to make those deliveries happen today," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler in a Monday video. "Show Amazon that Prime Day is not just for shopping, it's for respecting the rights of work."

Why Amazon is under fire: As Amazon expands its dominance of U.S. retail and web services, the company is facing lawsuits alleging excessive management pressure and unsafe conditions at its warehouses and distribution centers.

Employees of Amazon's fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., are conducting a six-hour work stoppage Monday organized by a local chapter of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

The Shakopee fulfillment center employees, many of whom are East African immigrants, claim Amazon has refused to convert more temporary positions to full-time employment and permanently ease productivity quotas that workers say make their jobs unsafe.

Warren backs protests: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' Democrats spar over electoral appeal of 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential candidate, voiced support for the striking workers in a Monday tweet.

"Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable," said Warren, who has proposed a plan to dismantle Amazon and other big tech companies.

Read more here.

 

WE'LL GET THAT CLEARED RIGHT UP: The head of Facebook's cryptocurrency project is expected to tell Congress this week that the company will launch its digital coin after related regulatory concerns are "cleared up."

David Marcus, in advance testimony released Monday, said the launch of Facebook's digital coin known as Libra would be preceded by the "broadest, most extensive and most careful pre-launch oversight by regulators and central banks in [financial technology's] history."

Marcus made the remarks in his written testimony posted to the Senate Banking Committee's website ahead of Tuesday's hearing, when he is set to testify about Facebook's cryptocurrency and data privacy plans.

Libra would allow users to send and receive money by exchanging a proprietary cryptocurrency backed by dozens of major corporations, including Facebook, Uber and Mastercard.

Facebook has said Libra will be launched by next year. But its announcement last month spurred a backlash, particularly on Capitol Hill, and has financial regulators raising their eyebrows.

Read more here.

 

But Marcus faces a hard sell in Washington. More on the criticism facing Facebook...

 

...MNUCHIN QUESTIONS FACEBOOK'S CRYPTO PLANS...: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday said the U.S. has "very serious concerns" about Facebook's plans to launch a new cryptocurrency, adding multiple agencies are worried the new currency could be used to finance terrorism or aid money-laundering schemes.

"The Treasury Department has expressed very serious concerns that [Facebook cryptocurrency] Libra could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers," Mnuchin said during a press conference on cryptocurrency.

"We will not allow digital asset service providers to operate in the shadows and will not tolerate the use of the cryptocurrencies in support of illicit activities," he warned.

Mnuchin said U.S. regulatory bodies have engaged in multiple meetings with Facebook representatives to discuss Libra.

Read more here.

 

...AND HOUSE DEMOCRATS LOOK TO STOP LIBRA IN ITS TRACKS: Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee are considering a bill that would ban major social media and technology companies from providing financial services and offering digital currencies.

The measure, outlined in a discussion draft obtained Monday by The Hill, appears to target Facebook's Project Libra,.

Called the Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act, the bill would apply to any company with at least $25 billion in annual revenue that offers "an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties."

Covered firms would be banned from creating and operating digital currencies. But the measure's broad parameters could also effectively outlaw financial products offered other major tech firms.

Companies subject to the bill -- which appear to include Facebook, Google and Amazon -- would also be banned from offering a slew of financial services such as banking, investment management, securities exchanges, financial advice and money transmission.

Read more here.

 

BLOCKING THE BLACKOUTS: Lawmakers are zeroing in on the potential for foreign cyberattacks to take down the U.S. electric grid, with members in both chambers pushing hearings and a flurry of bills to address the issue. 

Congressional interest in the issue is growing following reports that Iran has stepped up its cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure, and as Trump administration officials cite threats from Russia and China against the electric grid.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee focused on threats to the grid during a hearing on Friday, as lawmakers look to get ahead of the issue.

"We know our enemies are rapidly developing new techniques to compromise and attack our grid, so it is vitally important that the federal government and the electric industry remain vigilant in ensuring the grid is secure," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Push on 'surprise' medical bills hits new roadblocks Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the full committee.

The hearing featured testimony from witnesses including Karen Evans, the assistant secretary of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, who noted that "the frequency, scale and sophistication of cyber threats continue to increase."

Evans highlighted the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) earlier this year.

The assessment found that Russia not only has the ability to execute cyberattacks against the U.S. electric grid but is "mapping our critical infrastructure with the long-term goal of being able to cause substantial damage." 

On China, the ODNI warned that the country "has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure." Recent analysis has also shown that Iran is stepping up cyberattacks against the U.S.

The array of threats has Congress taking notice, and lawmakers from both parties have introduced a number of bills to combat cyber threats to the energy sector.

Read more on those efforts here.

 

TAKE A LOOK UNDER THE HOOD: Two Republican senators are asking federal regulators to conduct an inquiry into how the social media industry curates content.

Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyState probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (R-Mo.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Cruz on reported Kavanaugh allegations: There's nobody Democrats don't want to impeach MORE (R-Texas) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday asking the agency to use its investigative authority to look into the opaque content decisionmaking practices at companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

"Companies that are this big and that have the potential to threaten democracy this much should not be allowed to curate content entirely without any transparency," they wrote. "These companies can greatly influence democratic outcomes, yet they have no accountability to voters. They are not even accountable to their own customers because nobody knows how these companies curate content."

The senators have both been harshly critical of Silicon Valley, accusing tech companies of censoring conservative viewpoints.

The letter comes a day before Cruz is set to hold a hearing on Google's alleged censorship in which a top executive from the company will testify.

The internet search giant, along with the rest of Silicon Valley, has denied making any content decisions based on politics. And Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for greater scrutiny of the tech platforms have rolled their eyes at claims of anti-conservative bias.

Read more here.

 

I NEED ANSWERS: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenKey Senate Democrat unveils proposal to tax the rich Overnight Health Care: Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes | Purdue Pharma nears settlement with states, cities over alleged role in opioid epidemic | Senate panel cancels vote on key spending bill amid standoff Pelosi woos progressives on prescription drug pricing plan MORE (D-Ore.) is demanding answers from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on how the federal agency plans to secure election equipment amid reports that most machines depend on software that will soon be out-of-date and vulnerable to cyber attacks.

In a letter dated July 12 that was released on Monday, Wyden asked EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick how the agency plans to address this "looming cybersecurity crisis."

"Intelligence officials have made it clear that Russian hackers targeted our elections in 2016, and that they expect similar threats in 2020," Wyden wrote. "The continued use of out-of-date software on voting machines and the computers used to administer elections lays out the red carpet for foreign hackers. This is unacceptable."

The Associated Press recently reported that the majority of U.S. counties use election management systems that run on Windows 7, an outdated operating system that Microsoft will stop updating in January. The systems are responsible for programming voting machines and tallying votes.

Wyden focused his questions on whether products created by Election Systems and Software (ES&S), one of the major U.S. voting equipment manufacturers, would be decertified by the EAC prior to the 2020 elections. According to EAC documentation, the equipment uses Windows 7.

Wyden gave McCormick a July 26 deadline to respond to his questions.

Read more here. 

 

TURN 'EM OVER: The House Oversight and Reform Committee demanded Monday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings Trump administration fines Michigan State University .5M in Larry Nassar case Government watchdog finds expanded student loan forgiveness program still rejecting most applicants MORE turn over all emails from her personal account related to official government business.

The request comes as the panel expands its investigation into whether the Department of Education is in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

In a letter sent to DeVos on Monday, Oversight Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsPence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks Infrastructure needed to treat addiction as chronic disease doesn't exist GOP retreat creates WiFi password blasting socialism MORE (D-Md.) explained he was expanding the investigation to include the emails following "disturbing new revelations" that DeVos had "violated federal law" and withheld information from the committee in the course of its investigation.

Cummings's concerns centered on findings from a report published by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in May, which found that DeVos used a personal email to conduct some official business and did not forward these emails to her official account as required by law. 

The report noted that the OIG "found only a limited number of emails sent to or from her private accounts in the Department email system," but noted these emails were preserved only in the accounts of Education Department employees they were sent to, not in DeVos's official account. 

The report also noted that 78 percent of political officials surveyed by the OIG at the Department of Education admitted to using their personal emails to conduct some official business.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to request for comment on this new development. 

Read more here. 

 

ONE FOR THE CIA'S TIPLINE: Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel is calling for a federal investigation of Google over its alleged ties to China, Axios reported.

Thiel, who is a Facebook board member and prominent conservative, reportedly said at a conference on Sunday that the CIA and FBI should ask Google three questions about its relationship with the Chinese military.

"Number one, how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI?" he asked, according to Axios.

"Number two, does Google's senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence?" he added.

"Number three, is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the U.S. military?" he concluded.

Thiel added that the questions need "to be asked in a not excessively gentle manner," according to Axios.

Read more here.

 

PARTISAN RIFTS OPEN ON TECH: Washington's escalating scrutiny of Silicon Valley is putting into stark contrast the different approaches Democrats and Republicans are taking toward reigning in the massive tech giants.

The consensus that large tech companies have become too powerful and know too much about their users is one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill, but the two parties disagree over what to do about it.

President Trump's social media summit on Thursday highlighted the GOP's conviction that social media companies are out to silence conservatives.

Trump told the gathering of right-wing social media personalities and conservative lawmakers that he will be summoning tech companies to the White House to address the accusations of anti-conservative bias.

Democrats see little evidence to back up the GOP's fears and are instead focused on an antitrust investigation into the market power of Silicon Valley's giants. They are also pushing for tougher privacy regulations to reign in unfettered data collection.

This week on Capitol Hill: The different approaches will be on display next week when four of the largest tech companies appear before the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee to defend their market power.

At the same time, on the other side of the Capitol, Google's vice president of public policy will testify about accusations that the company is censoring conservatives before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Cicilline, who is collaborating with Republicans on the investigation, says Republicans' claims of anti-conservative bias are questionable and threaten to overshadow the issues in Silicon Valley that he believes deserve the most scrutiny. 

"I don't think there is evidence to support them," Cicilline told The Hill. "And they do, I think, interfere with a really important investigation that relates to the dominance of these technology platforms."

Republican policy proposals: Some conservatives are using their bias accusations to push for significant changes to tech's legal shield, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a provision that shields online companies from liability for content posted by their users. Republicans have derided Section 230 as a "sweetheart deal" for tech companies that allows them to shirk responsibility for their content moderation decisions.

Freshman Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has quickly become one of the Republican party's most vocal tech critics, set off a wave of controversy last month when he introduced a bill that would require the top tech companies to submit to audits proving they are politically "neutral" in order to receive Section 230 protections.

Some bipartisan agreement: Democrats have also raised the specter of amending Section 230 over separate issues regarding big tech's struggles to stave off the spread of misinformation and hate speech. House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiProgressives call for impeachment inquiry after reported Kavanaugh allegations The promise and peril of offshoring prescription drug pricing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said earlier this year that tech companies are abusing their privilege under Section 230 and warned the law could be in jeopardy.

But Democrats are more than skeptical of Republicans' claims of censorship and have not fully embraced their push to gut tech companies' liability protections.

Still, top Democratic tech critics do see some room to work with Republicans, many of whom also have concerns about antitrust and data privacy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has pushed federal regulators to take up antitrust and privacy issues posed by Facebook and Google, told reporters on Thursday that he doesn't think Republicans have proved their assertions about anti-conservative bias, but he sees anything that brings attention to social media companies "in a serious way" as a positive.

"I welcome scrutiny surrounding social media and about Big Tech, concerning the need for stronger accountability," Blumenthal said.

Read more here.

 

CYBER LEGISLATION UPDATE: The House passed legislation by voice vote on Monday intended to increase cybersecurity at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and separately approved a bill to help small businesses defend against cyber attacks.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Trump's Huawei concession is the 'the rope that could hang America' 

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: His spirit sits dormant on the ground.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Google's 4,000 word privacy policy is a secret history of the internet. (The New York Times) 

Apple preaches privacy. Lawmakers want the talk to turn to action. (The Washington Post)

Facebook's Libra hearings in Congress are the best free entertainment you'll get all week. (The Verge)

Before being hacked, border surveillance firm lobbied to downplay security and privacy concerns about its technology. (The Intercept)