Hillicon Valley: Social media giants overhaul counterterrorism efforts | Warner calls for cyber strategy against China | Court strikes down FCC media ownership proposal | Twitter takes action against financial scams

Hillicon Valley: Social media giants overhaul counterterrorism efforts | Warner calls for cyber strategy against China | Court strikes down FCC media ownership proposal | Twitter takes action against financial scams
© Greg Nash

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A NEW EFFORT AGAINST EXTREMIST CONTENT: A consortium of social media giants including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube on Monday announced it will be formalizing its counterterrorism efforts, forming an independent group with a dedicated staff to coordinate the takedown of extremist content across the world's top platforms.

The companies said they will announce their revamp of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) during a meeting at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

The companies are set to meet with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronGerman president expresses 'sorrow' for Holocaust, warns 'spirits of evil' are rising Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Trump at Davos warns Europe on trade | President boasts about US economy to global elite | Experts say Trump trade victories may yield little growth MORE to discuss what they are doing about the extremist content that proliferates across their networks.

"At this important convening, GIFCT is announcing it will become an independent organization led by an Executive Director and supported by dedicated technology, counterterrorism and operations teams," the companies said in a statement early Monday evening.

Background: The GIFCT was formed by Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube in 2017, just as the companies were facing intensifying criticism over discoveries that al Qaeda and ISIS were using their platforms to recruit and radicalize mostly young, disenfranchised men. Videos of violent beheadings went viral, prompting regulators and lawmakers to turn up the heat.

But so far, the GIFCT has mainly consisted of a database that allows the companies to share digital footprints of terrorist content they identify. It has not been a brick-and-mortar building or an official organization.

But now: The companies on Monday announced that is going to change. And a trio of top companies will join them in their efforts -- Amazon, LinkedIn and WhatsApp will join the GIFCT's new independent organization. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, and WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. 


The new GIFCT will be led by an independent executive director, who will engage with an operational board and advisory committee, according to the announcement.

More on what the changes will mean here.



CHINESE THREATS IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Democrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  MORE (D-Va.) on Monday called for a "comprehensive strategy" in dealing with China, saying the Trump administration should be less "erratic and incoherent" in its approach to Chinese threats in cyberspace and other areas.

"The president's insistence on framing this as a conflict between our two countries has resulted in little tangible gain," Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the U.S. Institute of Peace. "We cannot afford to frame this strategic challenge in simplistic, Cold War terms -- dividing the world in two and fighting for a bigger half."

Warner argued that the administration needs to step up and "defend against China's bad behavior."

"We need a comprehensive strategy to defend against China's bad behavior; to compete with China in the 21st century; and to strengthen the international order it seeks to upend," he added.

Warner said confronting Chinese efforts to dominate fields such as telecommunications, science and technology and the military was the "great foreign policy challenge of our time."

Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property has been a focal point of Trump's year-plus trade war with China. The issue also found its way into the Democratic presidential primary, with candidates raising their concerns during the debate in Houston earlier this month.

Read more here.


COURT SAYS NO TO FCC MEDIA RULES: A federal appeals court struck down an effort by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to relax media ownership rules. 

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the FCC move to end a decades-long ban against one entity owning both a newspaper and TV station in a major market, citing a lack of consideration into the impacts on ownership by women and racial minorities.


The FCC is also trying to loosen rules preventing owners from purchasing additional TV stations in the same market, local outlets from selling advertising time collectively and owners from buying radio stations in some markets, Reuters reported.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that the commission intends to challenge the ruling, saying the 3rd Circuit court has disrupted updates to the rules for 15 years. 

"It's become quite clear that there is no evidence or reasoning -- newspapers going out of business, broadcast radio struggling, broadcast TV facing stiffer competition than ever -- that will persuade them to change their minds," Pai said in his statement.

The FCC voted 3-2 in 2017 to cut back on the regulations with a Republican-led commission, which Democratic lawmakers said would allow the Sinclair Broadcast Group to access 72 percent of the nation's TV viewers. 

House Dems react: "The Trump FCC has consistently placed industry's interests over consumers," House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and tech subcommittee chairman Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement. "In his fervor to deregulate, Chairman Pai stripped protections away from American consumers, undermining media diversity and isolating communities whose voices make our country stronger."

"The Third Circuit's decision validates our concerns that the FCC ignored the order's effect on women and minority ownership," they said. "Rather than doubling down on its misguided approach, we urge the FCC to start anew and review its media ownership rules to ensure they reflect the great diversity of our nation."

Read more on the court ruling here. 



PLEASE STOP SCAMMING: Twitter on Monday announced new rules aimed at prohibiting financial scams.

The use of the platform "to deceive others into sending you money or personal financial information via scam tactics, phishing, or otherwise fraudulent or deceptive methods" is prohibited under the new rules, which specifically cite relationship or trust-building scams, money-flipping schemes, fraudulent discounts and phishing scams.

Punishments for financial scams include URLs being blacklisted, tweet deletion, account locks and permanent suspension for the most severe cases of fraud.

The new rule adds onto Twitter's platform manipulation and spam policy from March.

That policy did not specifically define or outline consequences for financial fraud.

Claims related to the sale of goods, disputed refunds or complaints about goods will not fall under the scam umbrella, Twitter said.


Read more on the policy change here.



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TRADE WIN FOR APPLE: Apple is set to build its new Mac Pro in Austin, Texas, after U.S. trade officials agreed to exempt nearly a dozen computer parts from the Trump administration's latest round of tariffs.

Before the tariff exemptions, announced last Friday, reports indicated Apple might have been forced to move the production of its Mac Pro to China. But in an announcement on Monday, Apple said it will continue to manufacture the Mac Pro in the same Texas location where the computer has been made since 2013.

"The Mac Pro is Apple's most powerful computer ever and we're proud to be building it in Austin," CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "We thank the administration for their support enabling this opportunity."

Late last week, U.S. trade regulators approved 10 of 15 requests that Apple had filed for relief from tariffs, including requests for partially completed circuit boards and graphics cards.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE has sought to put pressure on Apple and other companies to manufacture their products in the U.S. Over the summer, he rejected Apple's request to exempt Mac Pro parts from import tariffs.

"Apple will not be given Tariff waivers, or relief, for Mac Pro parts that are made in China," Trump tweeted in July. "Make them in the USA, no Tariffs!"

In filings over the summer, Apple asked the U.S. trade representative to exclude components of the new Mac Pro from the list of products that could be hit by tariffs of 25 percent amid Trump's ongoing trade war with Beijing.

The new $6,000 Mac Pro will include "components designed, developed and manufactured by more than a dozen American companies for distribution to U.S. customers," Apple said in its announcement on Monday.

Read more here.


SPEAKING EASY: Google outlined measures to protect user voice data in an effort at transparency after the company faced blowback over privacy concerns associated with its "Assistant" product. 

"We believe you should be able to easily understand how your data is used and why, so you can make choices that are right for you," Google said in a statement

"When we learned about these concerns, we immediately paused this process of human transcription globally to investigate and conducted a full review of our systems and controls," Google added. 

Google said it will update its settings to highlight when its audio recording setting is turned on. 

The recording feature was never set up by default and remains an option for users to opt-in to use. 

Only users that turn the Voice & Audio Activity on have their recordings used in the human review process, Google said. The "audio snippets" reviewed by users who use the setting are not associated with any user, according to the tech company. 

Google also said it will also be focusing on identifying ways to better understand unintentional sounds that activate the Assistant. The product deletes audio when it realized it was unintentionally activated.

Read more on Google's decision here. 


ICYMI SUSPENDED: Facebook said Friday that it has suspended tens of thousands of applications during an investigation it launched into app developers following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

"To date, this investigation has addressed millions of apps. Of those, tens of thousands have been suspended for a variety of reasons while we continue to investigate," said a statement from Vice President of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong. 

Archibong added that the suspended apps were not necessarily a threat and that in many cases they were suspended because developers did not respond to the company's requests for information. 

The suspended apps were linked to about 400 developers.  

The social media giant has also banned apps completely in "a few cases" during its ongoing probe. 

Read more here.



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LIGHTER CLICK: Thanks so much, editors.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: 2024 moon landing deadline is definitely political and aspirational-but that's not all bad 



Miners push for U.S. Congress to vote on electric vehicle supply chain bills. (Reuters) 

To fight 'evil' ICE, an engineer pulled his code off GitHub. (The Verge) 

Snap detailed Facebook's aggressive tactics in "Project Voldemort" dossier. (The Wall Street Journal)