Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks

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TRUMP WEIGHS EXEC ACTION ON ALLEGED SOCIAL MEDIA BIAS: The White House is reportedly exploring potential executive action President TrumpDonald John TrumpHealth insurers Cigna, Humana waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatment Puerto Rico needs more federal help to combat COVID-19 Fauci says April 30 extension is 'a wise and prudent decision' MORE could take to address his and other Republicans' allegations of anti-conservative bias among social media companies.

Politico reported Wednesday that the White House has circulated a draft proposal, though it is unclear what exactly the order would do or how it would target tech companies. One source told the outlet that the details of the proposal remain in flux.

“If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system,” a White House official was quoted telling the outlet. “But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent."


A White House spokesman told The Hill that the administration is looking at "all policy solutions."

“The President announced at this month’s social media summit that we were going to address this and the administration is exploring all policy solutions,” the spokesman said in an email.

Social media companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have all denied that they discriminate against users based on their political ideologies.

More on Trump's plans here.


TRUMP SUMMONS SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES AFTER SHOOTINGS: The White House will host a meeting about online extremism with an array of tech and internet companies this week after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was linked to an anti-immigrant manifesto posted to a fringe social networking platform.

Friday's meeting will come days after President Trump blamed the shooting in part on the issue of online radicalization. The suspected 21-year-old shooter in El Paso allegedly posted a racist screed to 8chan shortly before killing 22 people and injuring dozens more last Saturday.

"The White House has invited internet and technology companies for a discussion on violent extremism online," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

"The staff-led meeting will take place Friday and include senior administration officials along with representatives of a range of companies," he said, declining to offer more information on who has been invited.

Trump on Monday said he ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work closely with social media companies to identify potential mass shooters based on their online footprints. The DOJ did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment on whether it would send an official to the meeting.

"The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate," Trump said. "We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts."

Read more here.


HOMELAND TAKES ON 8CHAN: The top members of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday called for the owner of fringe social networking platform 8chan to testify before Congress about the controversial website, which has been implicated in three mass shootings this year.

"The Committee on Homeland Security respectfully requests your presence to provide testimony regarding 8chan's efforts to investigate and mitigate the proliferation of extremist content, including white supremacist extremist content, on your website," Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: HHS hit by cyberattack amid coronavirus outbreak | Senators urge FCC to shore up internet access for students | Sanders ramps up Facebook ad spending | Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline House Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline Hillicon Valley: Internet providers vow to maintain service amid coronavirus | Pentagon looks to revisit 'war cloud' decision | Gates steps down from Microsoft board MORE (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFreshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs MORE (R-Ala.) wrote in a letter to Jim Watkins, the website's owner.

The congressional panel has the power to subpoena a potential witness, but Watkins lives in the Philippines, which could pose a challenge for lawmakers.

Thompson and Rogers have for months been raising concerns about 8chan, an anonymous messaging board known as a breeding ground for white extremist and neo-Nazi ideologies. This is the most significant action the lawmakers have taken against the website to date.

Their demand comes a few days after the El Paso, Texas, shooting that left 22 people dead and two dozen injured. An anti-immigrant manifesto allegedly tied to the gunman was posted to 8chan shortly before the attack.

Read more here.


8CHAN OWNER RESPONDS: The owner of 8chan, Jim Watkins, told lawmakers that he is coming back to the U.S. this week as Congress escalates its scrutiny of his website.

Watkins, who has owned 8chan since 2015, told lawmakers in an email on Tuesday that he 

"I am on my way back to America as we speak," Watkins wrote to the top members of the House Homeland Security Committee. He posted a screenshot of the email to Twitter, claiming it had been marked as spam when he sent it to the lawmakers.

"Today, I will be at my son's school preparing him for the first day of school."

Watkins, who currently lives in the Philippines, added that he would be hopping on a plane with "several transfers on the way."

"I am always available to talk to you by telephone," he wrote. "Rest assured I am not an extremist. My telephone should work worldwide."

8chan is currently offline after several of the services keeping it afloat severed ties with the company.


BYE BYE BYE: The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued an interim rule Wednesday banning federal purchases of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and four other Chinese companies.

The interim rule will go into effect on Aug. 13, and was issued in response to passage of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which banned federal agencies from using equipment or services from the five companies after that date. 

Besides Huawei, the companies named in the interim rule were ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, and Dahua Technology Company. None of the companies immediately responded to request for comment on the rule. 

Specifically, the rule bans federal agencies from "procuring or obtaining, or extending or renewing a contract to procure or obtain, any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as a critical technology as part of any system."

The heads of government agencies are allowed to issue one-time waivers to government entities to allow business with one of the companies until Aug. 13, 2021, if the entity in question can justify why they need more time to implement the ban. 

Read more on the ban here.


NO RECESS FOR PRIVACY TALKS: Lawmakers are working through the August recess to cobble together legislation on data privacy after missing a deadline they set to unveil a bill before the summer break.

Advocates for a federal data privacy standard are feeling a time crunch as they fret over the limited number of days left in this session and the upcoming 2020 elections.

Most importantly, California's strict new privacy law is slated to take effect in January, raising the stakes for lawmakers who were hoping to pass a federal law before the stringent state-level rules go into place.

"We're waiting with bated breath to see what will come out of these discussions," said Heather West, senior policy manager at privacy focused tech company Mozilla.

August is known as prime time for staffers to buckle down in their legislative discussions as they're no longer bogged down by daily votes and hearings.

Industry watchers told The Hill that this month, they're mainly paying attention to the ongoing negotiations between Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerStimulus empowers Treasury to rescue airlines with billion in direct assistance White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package McConnell sets Friday night deadline for bipartisan deal on stimulus MORE (R-Miss.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellMcConnell sets Friday night deadline for bipartisan deal on stimulus Washington state lawmakers warn health workers running low on protective gear Carper staffer tests positive in Delaware MORE (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member of the tech-focused Senate Commerce Committee.

Wicker and Cantwell began negotiating directly after the Washington Democrat earlier this year backed away from a larger Senate privacy working group, which includes other members on the Commerce Committee.

Read more on the legislative push here.


A PUBLIC OPTION FOR BROADBAND: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday released a proposal to invest in rural America, saying she would push to create publicly owned high-speed internet networks across the country to address the lack of broadband access in rural and low-income areas.

The proposal is part of a wide-ranging policy plan aimed at addressing the needs of rural America.

In a blog post on Medium, Warren likened the lack of internet access in rural areas to the building out of electric grids nearly a century ago.

"Just like the electric companies eighty years ago, today's biggest internet service providers (ISPs) have left large parts of the country unserved or dramatically underserved," Warren wrote.

"This ends when I'm President. I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford. That means publicly-owned and operated networks -- and no giant ISPs running away with taxpayer dollars."

Her plan includes passing a federal law ensuring cities' right to establish municipally owned broadband networks. Proponents of public broadband options argue that they would inject some much-needed competition into the ISP industry, where U.S. consumers are often left with few options and high prices.

Read more here.


OOPS: Twitter announced Tuesday it may have shared users' data with advertisers and used it for personalized advertisements without permission.

The platform said in a statement that if users clicked or viewed an ad for a mobile application and subsequently interacted with the app since May 2018 the tech giant may have shared data with advertising partners without permission. The information included country code, if a user engaged with the ad and when, information about the ad and more.

Twitter said it may have also showed users ads based on inferences about the devices they use without permission.

The company said the issues were resolved Monday and that an investigation is underway to determine which users were impacted.

"You trust us to follow your choices and we failed here. We're sorry this happened, and are taking steps to make sure we don't make a mistake like this again," Twitter said, adding that it will share any useful information stemming from its probe.

The problems stemmed from settings on the website that Twitter said "may not have worked as intended."

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Facebook fine reveals Congress has set FTC up to fail 


A LIGHTER CLICK: Solidarity.



Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony commit to disclose drop rates for loot boxes. (The Verge)

Google and Amazon list gun accessories for sale, in apparent violation of their own policies. (The Washington Post)

Amazon touts high wages while ignoring issues in its warehouses. (Guardian)

The Philippines was a test of Facebook's new approach to countering disinformation. Things got worse. (Buzzfeed News)

Politico launches election security tracker (Politico)