Hillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation

Hillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation
© 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).

 

O'ROURKE TARGETS TECH'S LEGAL SHIELD: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeNRA deems O'Rourke 'Salesman of the Month' after Arizona gun store sells out of AR-15s during 'Beto Special' MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump pushes back over whistleblower controversy MORE released a sweeping gun violence prevention plan on Friday, proposing a set of changes that he said could "connect the dots" between online radicalization and real-world violence.

O'Rourke's proposal makes him the first presidential candidate to officially lay out plans to hold tech companies accountable for the proliferation of hate speech on their platforms. And his plan comes nearly two weeks after the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was linked to an anti-immigrant manifesto posted online.

The former Texas congressman's plan would require top social media companies to remove hateful content from their websites, opening up the companies up to lawsuits if they fail to do so.

As it stands, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- known as tech's legal shield -- websites largely are not liable for their content moderation decisions and what users post on their platforms.

O'Rourke's proposal would remove Section 230 protections for platforms that do not make an effort to create and uphold policies against hate speech.

Why it's important: O'Rourke is the first candidate to make altering Section 230 a key part of a policy proposal. There has been growing talk of changes to Section 230 from lawmakers in both parties.

Read more here. 

MERGER MAYHEM?: Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe Judiciary Democrats press White House over antitrust probe of automakers MORE (D-R.I.) is pushing for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open its proposal approving the T-Mobile-Sprint merger to public input over concerns about the deal's effect on consumers.

"As I have noted before, the proposed transaction is presumptively illegal under decades of black letter law and the Justice Department's merger enforcement guidelines," Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, wrote in a letter to the FCC. 

"Both the original transaction and proposed settlement agreement raise the threat of higher phone bills, less choice, fewer jobs, and worse wages for hardworking Americans," he added. "The prospect of these harmful effects for working people demands a thorough and transparent review."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Wednesday that he had circulated a formal draft order that would approve the deal under conditions laid out by the Department of Justice, namely the selling off of assets to the satellite TV provider Dish so that it can build a fourth wireless competitor.

Though the proposal was circulated Wednesday, the three-member GOP majority at the FCC has already said it will support it. Still, the FCC won't have final say on the deal; 16 state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the merger.

An FCC spokesperson dismissed the calls for more time to subject the agreement to public scrutiny.

Read more here.

 

VOTERS ON CYBERSECURITY: Almost 80 percent of Americans will consider a candidate's stance on cybersecurity when deciding their vote in elections, a poll made public Friday by IT security company Anomali found. 

The poll, complied by both Anomali and The Harris Poll in July, also found that 87 percent of Americans "view cybersecurity as a priority" but that only 51 percent feel the government is adequately addressing cyber threats. 

One major area of concern for survey respondents was ransomware, which occurs when a malicious actor locks down a system and demands a ransom from the user to unlock it. 

Around 21 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing a ransomware attack on either their personal or work internet-connected devices. However, around two-thirds of registered voters surveyed said they would not vote for a political candidate that supported paying the attacker to unlock the system.

To help battle cyber threats, 25 percent of those surveyed would support an increase of 1 percent in federal income tax to help bolster the government's efforts. The number in favor drops significantly when the increase to federal income tax exceeds 1 percent, with only 5 percent of those surveyed in favor of a 5 percent or more increase in the tax.

Read more here. 

 

THEIR BAD: Facebook users say in a new lawsuit that the company failed to properly disclose a data breach that affected tens of millions of accounts last year as well as problems with the social media site's sign-in feature, which reportedly led to the breach.

Reuters reported Friday that court filings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California accuse Facebook officials of knowingly refusing to fix a data breach at the company for years, leading to the company's announcement last year that millions of users had information exposed to hackers.

"Facebook knew about the access token vulnerability and failed to fix it for years, despite that knowledge," the court filings reportedly read.

"Even more egregiously, Facebook took steps to protect its own employees from the security risk, but not the vast majority of its users," it continued.

The lawsuit could seriously impact Facebook's business, as a judge in January reportedly said that he would authorize "bone-crushing" discovery in the case to determine exactly how many people were affected by the breach.

Read more here. 

 

YOUTUBE HIT BY DISCRIMINATION SUIT: A group of LGBT video creators have filed a lawsuit accusing YouTube of discrimination, alleging that the site concealed their content, limited their ability to sell ads and pared down their subscribers.

In a suit filed Tuesday in a federal court in San Jose, Calif., against YouTube and its parent company, Google, a group of LGBT creators accuse the video platform of "unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBTQ+ Plaintiffs and the greater LGBTQ+ Community."

The suit, filed by five LGBT creators, alleges that the site does not recommend or promote content that is linked to "tag words" related to the LGBT community, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, causing them to lose advertising revenue.

The complaint goes on to accuse Google of using its "monopoly power over content regulation to selectively apply their rules and restrictions in a manner that allowed them to gain an unfair advantage over YouTubers, to profit from their own content to the detriment of its consumers."

In a statement to The Hill, YouTube spokesman Alex Joseph said the platform's policies "have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like 'gay' or 'transgender.'"

Read more here. 

 

MISINFORMING THE PUBLIC: Instagram unveiled a new tool this week that will allow users to report misinformation spreading on its platform.

The new reporting feature is the latest installment in Instagram's ongoing battle to stave off the scourge of misinformation -- including medical hoaxes, scams and Russian-inspired disinformation campaigns -- that have flourished for years on the image-sharing platform owned by Facebook.

By the end of the month, users in the U.S. will be able to report images that they believe spread misinformation. Those flagged posts will be reviewed by Instagram's newly established pilot fact-checking program.

"Starting today, people can let us know if they see posts on Instagram they believe may be false," Facebook spokeswoman Stephanie Otway said in a statement. "We're investing heavily in limiting the spread of misinformation across our apps, and we plan to share more updates in the coming months."

If the fact-checkers determine the post is false, Instagram will no longer promote the post on its explore and hashtag pages, but the post will be allowed to remain up. 

Read more here. 

THE NEW YORK TIMES TAKES ON GAMERGATE: The Times is out today with a series exploring Gamergate -- a 2014 online harassment campaign that led to the targeting and doxing of women in the video game industry. The pieces by Charlie Warzel, Sarah Jeong and congressional candidate Brianna Wu explore how Gamergate created a culture war "playbook" that dictates the terms of our fraught online ecosystem to this day: Everything is Gamergate.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies 

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: 2019 is a scary place

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Capital One cyber staff raised concerns before hack (The Wall Street Journal) 

Trauma counselors were pressured to divulge confidential information about Facebook content moderators (The Intercept) 

Kentucky counties can't adequately address election cybersecurity concerns due to lack of resources (CNN) 

Apple sues software company for selling copies of iPhone and iPad running systems (Bloomberg) 

Cybersecurity companies racing to address threats from "deepfake" technology (Financial Times)