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: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Conservative groups seek to block Facebook election grants in four swing states: report Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board 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.  


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 WatersPowell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Omar invokes father's death from coronavirus in reaction to Woodward book 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 PressleyEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' 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 LofgrenBusiness groups start gaming out a Biden administration Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility 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 DavisHouse passes legislation to boost election security research House Republicans investigating California secretary of state's contract with Biden-linked firm House Democrats' campaign arm releases ads hitting 10 Republicans on health care 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 McConnellHawley warns Schumer to steer clear of Catholic-based criticisms of Barrett Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Harris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' 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 ThompsonUnderwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel House panel pans ICE detention medical care, oversight Senate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week 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 CrenshawDan Crenshaw releases Hollywood-type action movie trailer Crenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election 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 TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump stokes fears over November election outcome Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report Trump, Biden vie for Minnesota MORE, daughter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act 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? 



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