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Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill
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WARREN CALLS OUT ZUCKERBERG: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign is targeting Facebook's policies for political advertisements with a new ad that purposefully makes the false claim that the company and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have endorsed President Trump.
Warren and other critics have blasted Facebook in recent days over its refusal to take down a Trump campaign ad that accuses Democratic candidate Joe Biden of corruption without evidence. Facebook has defended allowing the ad to stay on its platform.
"Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election," the mock Warren ad states. "You're probably shocked, and you might be thinking, 'how could this possibly be true?' Well, it's not. (Sorry.)"
"But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform -- and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters," the ad continues.
"If Trump tries to lie in a TV ad, most networks will refuse to air it. But Facebook just cashes Trump's checks," the ad states. "Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. Now, they're deliberately allowing a candidate to intentionally lie to the American people. It's time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable."
Asked about the Warren ad, a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill in a statement on Saturday that the company "believes political speech should be protected."
"If Senator Warren wants to say things she knows to be untrue, we believe Facebook should not be in the position of censoring that speech," the spokesperson said.
MORE ZUCKERBERG: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended himself on Monday afternoon after receiving pushback over a report that he has recently held a string of private meetings with conservative politicians, pundits and journalists.
Behind closed doors over the past several months, Politico reported, Zuckerberg has been meeting with top GOP figures including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt.
The meetings, many of which have reportedly taken place in Zuckerberg's California homes, reportedly addressed issues including allegations that Facebook routinely censors right-wing voices, a claim that has little evidence and that Facebook has vehemently denied.
"There's some press today discussing dinners I've had with conservative politicians, media and thinkers," Zuckerberg posted on Facebook following Politico's report. "To be clear, I have had dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time."
"Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning,"
Zuckerberg added. "If you haven't tried it, I suggest you do!"
According to Politico, the dinner attendees have also included commentator Ben Shapiro, a fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, and Fox News contributor Byron York.
A senior Trump administration official told Politico, "The White House is looking for meaningful steps from Facebook on a number of fronts" and cited "competition, free speech for everybody including conservatives, and privacy. Nominal outreach won't cut it."
CRITICISM OVER ONLINE EXTREMISM BILL: Civil liberties and technology groups have been sharply critical of a draft bill from House Homeland Security Committee Democrats on dealing with online extremism, saying it would violate First Amendment rights and could result in the surveillance of vulnerable communities.
Over the summer, Democrats circulated an early draft of the bill seeking input from stakeholders, but the proposal received almost immediate pushback. Civil liberties groups want to rework the bill entirely, questioning whether government should play any significant role in identifying and combating online extremism.
Democrats had planned to mark up the legislation last month, but pulled the bill at the last minute, with a spokesman telling The Hill it was "not ready." The spokesman said the committee is still hoping to mark it up by the end of the month, calling the legislation "still fluid."
The opposition from civil society groups is another challenge in an already tough legislative path. Democratic lawmakers had already faced concerns from Republicans, who say the bill should scale back its scope.
"Right now, the Homeland Security Committee's efforts should be narrowly focused on addressing illegal terrorist activity not protected by the Constitution, while ensuring that the First Amendment is respected," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement to The Hill.
The wrangling over the bill is highlighting how complicated it can be for the federal government to act against online radicalization without running into First Amendment concerns.
According to a copy of the bill circulated in September and obtained by The Hill, the National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act would create a 12-member commission of experts who would work up recommendations for Congress to address online extremism while taking "individual privacy civil liberties" into account. The members would be appointed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the president.
But the government-appointed body would be given the power to subpoena communications, a sticking point that raised red flags for First Amendment advocates concerned about government surveillance.
CYBER KUDOS: Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) are the 2020 presidential candidates with the highest level of cybersecurity awareness, according to an industry report released on Monday, with former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang ranking last.
Both Warren and Booker received an A-, while Yang scored a D+. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Vice President Joe Biden also scored badly, with Klobuchar receiving a C, and Biden a C-.
Other top scorers included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), with a B+, and President Trump, who received a B grade.
The findings come from a "report card" compiled by website security group SiteLock on 12 of the top 2020 presidential candidates. SiteLock evaluated cyber awareness based on how integrated cybersecurity was in a candidate's platform, how often the candidate discussed it, and the actions taken in relation to cybersecurity by the candidate.
SiteLock also scanned candidate websites to ascertain how at-risk they were to cyberattacks, finding that 58 percent of the candidates' sites use out-of-date software.
"Technically, anything short of perfect cybersecurity awareness practices should be viewed as a security flaw because it only takes a single vulnerability to fall victim to a bad actor," SiteLock wrote in a blog post announcing the report card findings. "The fact that not one candidate can be credited with a perfect score proves that cybersecurity awareness is an overlooked issue."
A CAN'T MISS HEARING: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) on Monday sent letters to ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft warning them not to miss an upcoming hearing.
"I intend to pursue legislative solutions to address numerous issues plaguing the ride hailing industry, many of which will be raised at this hearing," DeFazio wrote in letters to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO Logan Green.
"These include conditions governing your partnerships with States and local governments and transit agencies, the labor impacts of your business model, and disturbing reports of public safety problems among those who use your platform. If you do not send a representative to testify at the hearing, you leave the Committee little choice but to make these policy decisions without your input."
The hearing in question, called "Examining the Future of Transportation Network Companies: Challenges and Opportunities," is scheduled for this Wednesday.
DeFazio wrote in the letters that his committee has had "numerous conversations" with the two ride-sharing companies but has been unable to secure a representative to testify from either.
Lyft did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letters. Uber confirmed to The Hill that it had received the letter but did not provide comment on its contents.
LIGHTER CLICK: Getting wild on a Monday
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Ronan Farrow exposes how the media protects the powerful
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
How photos of your kids are powering surveillance technology (The New York Times)
Will China's revised cybersecurity rules put foreign firms at risk of losing their secrets? (South China Morning Post)
Digital dystopia: How algorithms punish the poor (The Guardian)