Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers unleash on Zuckerberg | House passes third election interference bill | Online extremism legislation advances in House | Google claims quantum computing breakthrough

Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers unleash on Zuckerberg | House passes third election interference bill | Online extremism legislation advances in House | Google claims quantum computing breakthrough
© Aaron Schwartz

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ZUCKERBERG TESTIFIES ON LIBRA: Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface Smaller companies testify against Big Tech's 'monopoly power' MORE on Wednesday fielded sharp criticism and tough questions about nearly all aspects of his company's business practices at a hearing about Facebook's new cryptocurrency project Libra.

The aggressive questioning underlined how difficult it will be for the Libra project to move past the baggage of Facebook's various controversies, which have angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  

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During the House Financial Services Committee hearing, Zuckerberg found some allies in Republican lawmakers who praised the tech executive's "entrepreneurial spirit" and the "innovation" of the Libra coin.

But over the course of the day, Republicans and Democrats alike pummeled Zuckerberg over Facebook-related issues, including the continued presence of hate groups on the platform, the company's struggles to stave off foreign election interference, its policies on disinformation, how the company treats its content moderators and why it hopes to move into the financial services space when it is already facing intensifying scrutiny of its market dominance.

Waters didn't hold back: "As I have examined Facebook's various problems, I have come to the conclusion that it would be beneficial for all if Facebook concentrates on addressing its many existing deficiencies and failures before proceeding any further on the Libra project," House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersGearing up for a chaotic year on K Street Maxine Waters: Republicans 'shielding' Trump 'going to be responsible for dragging us to war' Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (D-Calif.) said during her opening remarks.

"You have opened up a serious discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up," Waters said, adding her voice to the chorus of policymakers around the world who have questioned whether Facebook is too big and powerful.

Zuckerberg's mood: Zuckerberg remained serious and reserved throughout the six-hour hearing and even seemed aggravated during particularly rough lines of questioning as the day wore on. 

"We've faced a lot of issues over the past few years," Zuckerberg conceded. "I'm sure there are a lot of people who wish it was anyone but Facebook who is helping to put this forward." 

"But there's a reason we care about this," he continued. "Facebook is about putting power in peoples' hands." 

Zuckerberg offered a staunch defense of the controversial cryptocurrency project, which has faced skepticism and pushback from regulators around the world since Facebook announced its plans over the summer. He said the cryptocurrency project could help bring financial services into the hands of billions of people worldwide.

Libra vs. Facebook:  "Libra is Facebook, and Facebook is you," said Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMassachusetts governor apologizes after calling Pressley speech a 'rant' Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders MORE (D-Mass.). "You've proven we cannot trust you with our emails, with our phone numbers, so why should we trust you with our hard-earned money?"

Libra's complex structure and massive scale will likely be subject to a vast array of banking, securities, money laundering and illicit finance laws enforced by close to a dozen agencies and departments.

Read more on the hearing here.

 

Want to catch up on the key moments from the hearing? Check out our live blog here

 

HOUSE PASSES THIRD ELECTION INTERFERENCE BILL: The House on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections, marking the latest attempt by Democrats to move election security legislation through Congress ahead of 2020.

The measure passed in a 227-181 vote, mostly along party lines. One Democrat joined Republicans in voting against the Strengthening Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, which focuses on paid online political advertisements.

The bill, sponsored by House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenGOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid White House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers MORE (D-Calif.), would require campaigns to report any illicit offers of assistance by foreign governments or agents and would take steps to ensure that online political advertisements are subject to the same rules as TV and radio ads.

Criticism: Republicans raised concerns the legislation would infringe on First Amendment rights.

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisBoth sides of the aisle call for local, state, federal cooperation on homelessness Voting equipment companies throw weight behind enhanced disclosures Voting machine vendors to testify on election security MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, said on the House floor that the bill had "no chance, zero chance of becoming law."

More on the vote here.

McConnell blasts bill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump admin releases trove of documents on Ukrainian military aid The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions What to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday blasted the House bill, calling it an attempt to "expand government's control over America's political speech."

"House Democrats have achieved something remarkable here. They have drafted legislation that is so anti-First Amendment that it has united everybody from former [Federal Election Commission (FEC)] commissioners to the [American Civil Liberties Union] to yours truly in opposition to it," McConnell said.

He added that Democrats are "chipping away at the First Amendment. It's a pet project they return to time and time again. It's disturbing."

Read more on McConnell's criticism here.

 

WHITE HOUSE WARNING: An internal cybersecurity memo made public this week warns that the "White House is posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again."

The Oct. 17 memo, obtained by Axios, was written by senior White House cybersecurity director Dimitrios Vastakis, who oversaw its computer network defense.

In the memo, Vastakis writes that the decision in July to fold the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer into the Office of the Chief Information Officer was "alarming."

"This is a significant shift in the proprieties of senior leadership where business operations and quality of service take precedence over securing the President's network," the memo reads. "As a career cyber security professional, this is alarming."

The memo also comes after at least a dozen officials have either resigned from or been pushed out of an Obama-era cybersecurity mission, which was established in 2014 after Russia hacked into some White House computers. The mission aimed to shield the White House from similar foreign threats, Axios reported.

Read more here.

 

HOMELAND COMMITTEE ADVANCES ONLINE EXTREMISM BILL: A House panel on Wednesday voted to advance a bill aimed at combating the scourge of extremist content online despite ongoing pushback from civil liberties groups and Republicans on the committee. 

The House Homeland Security Committee unanimously voted to advance the National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act, greenlighting one of the first legislative efforts to address internet extremism and bigotry after a string of mass shooters were tied to white supremacist online footprints this year. 

"Through our oversight of the social media companies, it is evident that this is one of those areas where the private sector needs the government to be a convener," committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon 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 Democrats sound election security alarm after Russia's Burisma hack MORE (D-Miss.) said during his opening remarks.

The bill, which has undergone several drafts over the past few months, would create a 12-member bipartisan commission of experts to research "how online platforms have been exploited to carry out mass-casualty targeted violence" -- including acts of domestic and international terrorism as well as "covert foreign state influence campaigns."

That commission, with members appointed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, would be tasked with drawing up a final report and recommendations around how social media companies can address terrorists on their platforms while still promoting "free speech." 

Read more about the extremism bill here.

 

DROVES OF DRONES: The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to advance two bills related to drones, blocking purchases of them from certain countries and creating a position at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to counter associated threats.

The "Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act" prohibits the DHS secretary from "operat[ing], provid[ing] financial assistance for, or enter[ing] into or renew[ing] a contract for the procurement" of unmanned aircraft systems from countries labeled as strategic competitors by the Department of Defense.

If approved, the bill would block DHS purchases from China's DJI Technologies, the world's largest manufacturer of drones.

"Numerous reports over the last few years suggest Chinese-made drones could potentially be used to send sensitive flight information to China-based companies where it could be easily accessed by the Chinese government," Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawO'Rourke says he'll focus on flipping Texas state House in 2020 House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Saagar Enjeti: Crenshaw's conservatism will doom future of GOP MORE (R-Texas) said during a committee vote on Wednesday.

Although the U.S. military has banned DJI drone purchases over security concerns, several other government agencies have made big purchases from the Chinese firm.

The House panel also advanced a bill Wednesday that would create a role in the DHS for a "Countering Unmanned Aircraft Systems Coordinator."

Read more about drones here.

 

QUANTUM LEAP: Tech giant Google announced Wednesday that it had reached a major breakthrough in quantum computing, saying that Sycamore, the company's experimental quantum processor, completed a computation that would've taken a traditional supercomputer thousands of years in only minutes.

The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, with the company asserting that it had achieved "quantum supremacy," according to The Associated Press

Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpJared Kushner's sister-in-law Karlie Kloss says she will vote against Trump in 2020 Trump scheduled to attend Davos amid impeachment trial Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing MORE, daughter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE and senior White House adviser, tweeted about the breakthrough Wednesday.

Quantum computing is the next step in information processing, although the technology itself is still developing.

Modern computing is based on endless series of zeroes and ones; quantum computing reportedly utilizes quantum bits, also known as qubits, to process zeroes and ones simultaneously.

However, Google's self-proclaimed quantum supremacy has been disputed by industry counterparts who are also developing the technology.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Canada is coming up Jeb

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Quantum bests classical computing -- so, now what? 

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:  

Deep dive on Facebook's "unusual" ties with the Menlo Park Police Department (Vice News)

Presidential candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll Sanders holds four-point lead on Biden in new California poll Yang highlights outsider status in Iowa ad ahead of caucuses MORE talks video game loot boxes (The Washington Post)

Is Untitled Goose Game really a game? (The Atlantic)