Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Trump alleges Google manipulated voters against him | Hillary Clinton fires back | Twitter, Facebook take down misinformation targeting Hong Kong protests | Trump delays penalty on Huawei | Tech giants slam French digital tax at hearing

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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 REVIVIES CLAIMS GOOGLE ‘MANIPULATED’ VOTES: President Trump alleged Monday that Google manipulated millions of voters into supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, saying the company “should be sued” in his latest attack on the tech giant.

The president in a tweet referenced the work of a controversial psychologist who has claimed to have found evidence that Google’s search algorithms have been influencing voters.

“Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election!” Trump wrote. “This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought!”

What he’s referencing: Trump appears to be referring to the work of Robert Epstein, a researcher with a group based in Vista, Calif., called the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. Epstein testified in a Senate hearing in June about what he calls the “Search Engine Manipulation Effect” and claimed that his research shows Google’s search results pushed at least 2.6 million people to vote for Clinton in 2016.

About that study…: Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked about Epstein’s work last year when he testified before a House panel and said the company had investigated it and pointed to issues with the study’s methodology.

In a statement on Monday, a Google spokesperson called Epstein’s claim “debunked,” pointing out that it has been circulating for three years.

“This researcher’s inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in 2016,” the spokesperson said. “As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

“Our goal is to always provide people with access to high quality, relevant information for their queries, without regard to political viewpoint,” they added.

Trump’s latest attack comes as he is rehashing unfounded allegations of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Read more on Trump’s fight with the tech industry here.

HILLARY FIRES BACK: Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Monday fired back at Trump over his allegations that Google manipulated the 2016 elections in her favor.

Clinton pointed out that the study referenced by Trump was “debunked” and its methodology discredited.

“The debunked study you’re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters,” Clinton tweeted. “For context that’s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 34 people, including six Trump associates, as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Several of the indicted individuals included Russian nationals associated with the Internet Research Association, a Russian troll farm unaffiliated with the Trump campaign.

Read more here.


HUAWEI GETS (ANOTHER) REPRIEVE: The Trump administration is again extending a deadline for U.S. businesses to cut ties with the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed on Monday.

“It is another 90 days for the U.S. telecom companies,” Ross said on the Fox Business Network. “Some of the rural companies are dependent on Huawei. So we’re giving them a little more time to wean themselves off. But there are no specific licenses being granted for anything.”

Ross added that Nov. 19 is the new deadline for the penalty.

“As we continue to urge consumers to transition away from Huawei’s products, we recognize that more time is necessary to prevent any disruption,” Ross added in a statement later Monday morning.

President Trump directed the Commerce Department in May to place Huawei on its “Entity List,” which is seen as a death sentence for included groups as U.S. companies are banned from doing business with them. 

A “temporary general license” allowing Huawei to continue doing business in the U.S. had already been granted for one 90-day period.

The U.S. has long considered Huawei a national security threat because of its connections to the Chinese government.

Read more here. 


MISINFORMED: Twitter and Facebook on Monday both announced the discovery of a disinformation campaign being conducted on their platforms by Chinese-backed groups trying to undermine the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Twitter wrote in a post that it had identified 936 accounts originating in China that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”

Twitter said it had “reliable evidence” to believe this was a state-backed coordinated operation.

As a result, Twitter will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media outlets, specifically those that are either financially or editorially controlled by a nation-state. 

“We want to protect healthy discourse and open conversation,” Twitter wrote. “To that end, we believe that there is a difference between engaging in conversation with accounts you choose to follow and the content you see from advertisers in your Twitter experience which may be from accounts you’re not currently following. We have policies for both but we have higher standards for our advertisers.”

Facebook wrote in a separate post that based on Twitter’s findings, it conducted its own internal investigation into what the company described as “coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region.” 

Facebook removed seven pages, three groups, and five accounts from the platform stemming from the investigation. More than 15,000 Facebook users were estimated to follow the Chinese-backed pages that were removed, while around 2,200 accounts were members of at least one of the groups.

Read more on the disinformation campaigns here. 


SACRE BLEU: U.S. tech giants and an array of trade groups slammed France over its new digital taxes law during a public hearing on Monday, arguing the legislation unfairly targets U.S. technology companies and could hobble their operations.

Representatives from Google, Facebook and Amazon testified before a group of government officials investigating the digital services tax, laying out their arguments to a largely sympathetic panel that referred to the French law as unprecedented.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) launched a probe into France’s digital taxes last month, using the same aggressive process that previously resulted in the Trump administration’s implementation of significant tariffs on China.

The Trump administration has largely presented a united front with the tech companies over France’s digital services tax, which imposes a 3 percent tax on the annual revenues of mostly American companies.

The French tax targets firms with annual global revenue of more than $832 million, or 750 million euros, annually, thus sweeping up top American tech companies, which are some of the largest and most valuable in the world.

“Our members are highly concerned with the discriminatory nature of the French government’s DST specifically against successful American companies,” said Stephanie Holland, vice president of federal and global policy with CompTIA, a trade group representing the tech industry. 

“Tax requirements will disproportionately harm some of the most successful global enterprises based in the U.S.,” she added. 

Read more here. 


FCC BROADBAND PROPOSAL: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a proposal to curb what it sees as widespread abuse of a subsidy program to help low-income households connect to broadband and phone services.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, circulated the proposal among fellow commissioners Monday to make it harder for people to fraudulently claim the benefit for deceased or duplicate subscribers.

The FCC’s Lifeline program offers $9.25 a month to low-income consumers to help them subscribe to broadband services. Conservatives have pushed to rein in the program after government watchdogs found that thousands of ineligible subscribers had been enrolled, including nearly 50,000 deceased individuals, according to an FCC inspector general report last year.

The proposal introduced on Monday would require carriers participating in the Lifeline program to verify that subscribers are alive before enrolling them or issuing reimbursements. It also would prohibit Lifeline carriers from using commissions to incentivize their employees to enroll more beneficiaries.

Read more here. 


KEEP CALM AND DON’T CARRY ON: The United Kingdom will step up its efforts to tackle misinformation about vaccines after losing its “measles-free” status, the government announced.

“After a period of progress where we were once able to declare Britain measles free, we’ve now seen hundreds of cases of measles in the UK this year. One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Sunday.

Johnson added that that he would summon social media companies “to discuss how they can play their part in promoting accurate information about vaccination.”

Measles, a highly infectious disease which is almost entirely preventable with two doses of vaccine, was declared eliminated in the country three years ago. But it seems to be making a comeback.

Read more here. 


SHUT DOWN: Google shut down a service for wireless carriers over concerns that sharing data might invite scrutiny from users and regulators, Reuters reported on Monday.

While the data was anonymous and sharing it was common, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reportedly decided to ax the program in April because of privacy fears, four people with direct knowledge of the matter told the news service.

The move has disappointed wireless providers that depended on that data to decide when to extend or upgrade their coverage.

Google’s Mobile Network Insights service, launched in March 2017, showed carriers signal strengths and connection speeds for devices running the Android operating system. The service was free for carriers and vendors that helped them manage operations.

The system used information from users who opted to share location history and usage and diagnostics with Google.

Read more here.

LIGHTER CLICK: This is a Popeye’s newsletter now. 


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Returning to paper ballots is the only way to prevent hacking 



eBay and Shopify pull listings on Jeffrey Epstein-inspired merch. (The Verge) 

Why is Joe Rogan so popular? (The Atlantic)

The quantum revolution is coming, and Chinese scientists are at the forefront. (The Washington Post)

The age of media corporation mega-mergers is robbing us of bolder, fresher storytelling. (Gizmodo)

Tags Donald Trump Google Hillary Clinton Robert Mueller Wilbur Ross

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