Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars

Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars
© Aaron Schwartz

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READ ALL ABOUT IT: Facebook on Friday announced the launch of a news tab for the platform, which will aggregate and highlight the top stories of the day.

The launch of the "news tab" comes as Facebook faces intense heat over whether its dominance in digital advertising has stifled the ability for newsrooms across the country to grow and retain readers.

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"Today we're starting to test Facebook News, a dedicated place for news on Facebook, to a subset of people in the US," said news product manager Mona Sarantakos and vice president of global news partnerships Campbell Brown in a statement

"News gives people more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests, directly within the Facebook app," they added.

Facebook News will feature top stories curated by a team of reporters. It will also personalize the selection of stories for users based on news they interact with while using the feature so that people can easily find stories focused on business, entertainment, health and other subjects.

Users will also be allowed to link their paid news subscriptions and hide articles, topics and publishers they don't want to see. 

In a New York Times op-ed published Friday, 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 acknowledged "the internet disrupted the business model for much of the news industry." 

"This model establishes a long-term financial partnership between publishers and Facebook for the first time," Zuckerberg wrote.

Read more here.

 

SENATE PASSES DEEPFAKES BILL: The Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation intended to help further understand the risks posed by "deepfake" videos, or those altered by artificial intelligence to change the meaning of the video.

The Deepfake Report Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to publish an annual report on the use of deepfake technology that would be required to include an assessment of how both foreign governments and domestic groups are using deepfakes to harm national security.

The bipartisan bill was passed by unanimous consent and now heads to the House for consideration. A bipartisan companion bill in that chamber is awaiting markup in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Senate version is sponsored by Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (R-Ohio), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE (D-Hawaii), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate MORE (R-Iowa), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Health care, spending bills fuel busy year for K Street Schumer introduces bill requiring GDP measure inequality MORE (D-N.M.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell keeps press in check as impeachment trial starts Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one MORE (R-Colo.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon 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' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mich.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsDrug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP Overnight Defense: Iran takes credit for rocket attack on US base | Trump briefed | Trump puts talk of Iraq withdrawal on hold | Progressives push to block funding for Iran war | Trump backs off threat to hit Iranian cultural sites McConnell to GOP on impeachment rules: I have the votes MORE (R-S.D.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCyberattacks against North Dakota state government skyrocket to 15M per month Hillicon 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' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership MORE (D-N.H.), all of whom said they were happy with Friday's passage of the bill.

Peters, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that "with each passing day, deepfakes become easier to create and distribute, opening the door for bad actors to sow discord and mislead thousands with just the click of a button."

Read more here. 

 

ELECTRIC FUTURE: Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Feds seek 25-year sentence for Coast Guard officer accused of targeting lawmakers, justices Clinton: McConnell's rules like 'head juror colluding with the defendant to cover up a crime' MORE (D-N.Y.) outlined his vision for boosting the number of electric vehicles on the road, hoping the U.S. will have an all-electric fleet by 2040.

In a Thursday op-ed in The New York Times, Schumer outlined his plan, offering steep discounts for buyers that trade in a gas-powered car for an electric one. The assistance would be even greater for low-income customers. 

"Isn't the transition to electric vehicles already happening?" Schumer wrote. "Yes, but it is progressing too slowly. Transportation still accounts for nearly one-third of America's carbon output. Even though many American automakers are preparing for an all-electric future, electric vehicles are still too expensive for too many Americans, and our country lacks sufficient battery-charging infrastructure."

His plan also calls for grants to help states build charging stations across the country, with a focus on low-income and rural areas. 

While Schumer doesn't spell out what form the assistance for electric vehicle purchases would take, the article does say it would only apply to American-made cars. He estimates that assistance along with the investment in charging stations and a program to help automakers shift their factories, would require $454 billion over 10 years.

Transportation is the largest sector of carbon pollution in the U.S., according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, surpassing greenhouse gas emissions from both power plants and industry. 

Read more here. 

 

STEP RIGHT UP OHIO: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Friday signed into law legislation that will increase cyber protections for election systems and enhance the overall cybersecurity posture of the state. 

The legislation, which had bipartisan support, requires post-election audits by county boards of elections to ensure the accuracy of the vote count, while also creating a "civilian cyber security reserve" that can be called into duty to protect state and local government entities against cyberattacks, including those involving elections and those against critical infrastructure 

The bill gives the Ohio secretary of state a seat on the Ohio Homeland Security Advisory Council and creates a chief information security officer position within the secretary of state's office to increase attention on election security issues. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), the top election official in the state, said in a statement on Friday that the legislation will give local officials "the support they need" to combat foreign cyber threats.

"Imagine looking out the window and seeing foreign paratroopers parachuting into your town," LaRose said. "We wouldn't tell a community, 'you're on your own – your sheriff department can fight off that threat.' Well likewise, in the online world, we can now respond with Ohio's best cyber warriors so these counties and cities have the support they need."

Read more here. 

 

GET SMART:  Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMaking waves to protect America's waters Trump suggests LBJ is in hell: 'He's probably looking down — or looking up' 10 controversies that rocked the Trump White House in 2019 MORE (D-Mich.) in letters to Amazon and Google this week raised concerns that smart speakers are "eavesdropping" on customers without their consent. 

In a pair of letters on Thursday, Dingell pressed Amazon executive Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosSaudi Arabia calls for probe into 'absurd' reports of Bezos phone hacking 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 Message from Saudi crown prince linked to hack of Bezos's phone: report MORE and Google CEO Sundar Pichai over how they vet applications running on Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

"These smart speakers and the advancement of speech recognition technology represent an incredible convenience for consumers, allowing them to bypass screens and for those with physical disabilities to access the internet like everyone else," Dingell wrote in the letters.

"But the same feature that contributes to that convenience, not having a screen, also eliminates an important feedback loop for consumers to understand how these applications are performing and puts your company in an even greater position to look after consumers well-being," she wrote.

Her letter comes in response to research from SRLabs that found hackers could take advantage of Google and Amazon smart speakers to eavesdrop or steal passwords from users. The researchers uploaded malicious software to the smart speakers, successfully getting them to obtain recordings. 

There is no evidence that the vulnerability has been exploited by real-world hackers.

Amazon and Google did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: "Tweet from staff" 

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Congress must confront online extremism

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Rep. Lieu demands answers on White House cyber departures (Axios) 

Inside an algorithm that could decide whether you get your next job (The Washington Post)

Facebook axed pro-vaccine ads, let anti-vaxxer conspiracies slip through. (The Daily Beast)

The FCC is using streaming services as an excuse to raise cable rates. (The Verge)