Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with civil rights leaders to discuss political ads | Senate bill targets 'secret' online algorithms | GitHub defends ICE contract | Former officials, lawmakers urge action on election security

Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with civil rights leaders to discuss political ads | Senate bill targets 'secret' online algorithms | GitHub defends ICE contract | Former officials, lawmakers urge action on election security
© Getty

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills)


CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS TAKE ON FACEBOOK: Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' Oversight Board achieving what government cannot Warren: Trump is 'a danger to democracy' MORE will huddle with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders next week in California to discuss concerns about Facebook's policies on political ads, Sharpton confirmed Thursday.

The meeting between Zuckerberg and top officials with the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and others will come about a month into a controversy over whether Facebook is enabling the spread of misinformation by not fact-checking or blocking ads with incorrect or misleading claims.


"Last week, I sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, requesting a face-to-face meeting with me and other national civil rights leaders to discuss Facebook's policy to decline to fact-check the accuracy of politicians' content on Facebook," Sharpton said in a statement.

"I have deep concerns that this policy is a misinformation vehicle that could aid voter suppression and voter misinformation efforts, and it should be stopped immediately," he added.

A coalition of leading civil rights groups penned a letter earlier this month requesting a meeting with Zuckerberg "to discuss our concerns as Civil Rights leaders regarding issues of election security and voter suppression tactics."

Read more here. 


FORMER OFFICIALS PUSH FOR ELECTION SECURITY: A group of nearly 100 former members of Congress, Cabinet officials, ambassadors and other officials is urging Congress to take action to secure U.S. elections, citing "severe threats to our national security" if certain steps are not taken.

The officials, all of whom are members of nonprofit political action group Issue One's "ReFormer's Caucus," sent a letter to the Senate on Thursday urging members to support various bills designed to bolster election security.

"Foreign interference in American elections is a national security emergency," the group wrote. "We are alarmed at the lack of meaningful Congressional action to secure our elections. The United States cannot afford to sit by as our adversaries exploit our vulnerabilities. Congress -- especially the Senate -- must enact a robust and bipartisan set of policies now."

Specifically, the officials advocated for the passage of five bipartisan bills, including the Honest Ads Act, a bill meant to increase the transparency surrounding online political ads, and the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which would impose sanctions on countries that interfere in U.S. elections.

The officials also urged the Senate to pass legislation aimed at increasing the cybersecurity of voting infrastructure and cracking down on foreign donations to U.S. elections.

Read more here. 


BURSTING THE BUBBLE: A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would force large online platforms to be more transparent about how their algorithms find content to share.

The Filter Bubble Transparency Act would require companies that collect data from more than 1 million users and make more than $50 million per year to notify users that their platforms use algorithms to determine what information is shown and offer users the opportunity to opt-out of curated content.

The senators cited Twitter, which allows users to either see all of the most recent tweets or a curated list of tweets picked for users.

The bill would make it illegal to operate a large online platform using a "secret algorithm" to curate content without meeting the two requirements. The Federal Trade Commission would been given to enforce the rule using civil penalties.

"This legislation is about transparency and consumer control," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee on the internet. "For free markets to work as effectively and as efficiently as possible, consumers need as much information as possible, including a better understanding of how internet platforms use artificial intelligence and opaque algorithms to make inferences from the reams of personal data at their fingertips that can be used to affect behavior and influence outcomes."

Read more here. 


GOOGLE SEEKS 'CONFIDENTIALITY': Google filed a petition in a Texas court on Thursday seeking assurances that consultants working on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's (R) multi-state investigation into the company's market dominance will not leak any confidential information to Google's rivals.

In a petition filed with the state District Court of Travis County, Google raised concerns over two consultants in particular, both of whom have worked for Google rivals or critics. The tech giant and its parent company, Alphabet, asked the Texas judge to place safeguards around what those consultants can share as the antitrust investigation moves forward.

Google asked the judge to impose an order limiting how much sensitive business information the two consultants can obtain and preventing them from working with Google competitors during or after the investigation.

"The OAG [Office of Attorney General] has retained three outside consultants, including two who work for competitors and complainants, to work on the current investigation," Google said in the petition. "Notably, one of these consultants has been engaged by a company active in efforts to generate regulatory action against Google."

Read more here. 


GITHUB DEFENDS ICE CONTRACT: Software development platform GitHub defended renewing its contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a company memo amid internal anger at the decision last week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Employees submitted an open letter on Oct. 9 asking the company to cancel its ICE contract, saying it made the Microsoft subsidiary "complicit in widespread human rights abuses."

Company leadership defended the decision, saying pulling out of the contract would not persuade the Trump administration to change its immigration policies, and the roughly $200,000 it made from the contract was not financially material.

"We have learned from a number of nonprofits and refugee advocates that one of the greatest challenges facing immigrants is a lack of technology at ICE and related agencies, resulting in lost case files, court date notifications not being delivered, or the wrong people being charged or deported," read the company-wide message, which went out Oct. 22 and was signed by Chief Operating Officer Erica Brescia and other leadership.

Read more here. 


FILMMAKER CRITICIZES ZUCKERBERG: Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, in a New York Times op-ed Thursday, laid into Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg over his company's refusal to block political ads with incorrect or misleading information.

Sorkin, who in 2010 wrote "The Social Network," a movie about Facebook's origin story and Zuckerberg's rise to fame, hit back at the CEO for criticizing the film's depiction of him.

"You protested that the film was inaccurate and that Hollywood didn't understand that some people build things just for the sake of building them," Sorkin wrote.

"It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended -- on free speech grounds -- Facebook's practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates."

Sorkin wrote that he admired Zuckerberg's "deep belief in free speech," but argued that having "crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together" can't be what the Facebook CEO wants.

Read more here. 


DEMOCRATS ASK BARR TO RETHINK ENCRYPTION: A pair of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrats, activists blast Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE on Thursday urging him to stop government requests for encryption backdoors, which allow the government to obtain certain user information from tech companies.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBad jobs report amplifies GOP cries to end 0 benefits boost Putting a price on privacy: Ending police data purchases Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooNIH readies grants for more research on long-term health effects of COVID-19 Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction Biden clean electricity standard faces high hurdles MORE (D-Calif.) argued that the Justice Department's push to limit such encryption "is not just hypocritical, but it has been repeatedly criticized by cryptographers and other leading cybersecurity experts."

"We urge you to stop demanding that private companies purposefully weaken their encryption for the false pretense of protecting children," the lawmakers wrote.

Barr has been an outspoken critic of encryption, which protects messages from surveillance and makes companies that use it unable to access the contents of users' messages.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Winner of the cutest Halloween costume goes to…


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Russia is still a threat, despite what Washington thinks



Jack Dorsey vs. Mark Zuckerberg: Why the clash of the tech giants matters (NBC News) 

Banks are using their Washington clout to stomp on the tech industry (Politico) 

I accidentally discovered a nationwide scam on AirBnb (Vice) 

15 major companies announce effort to tackle cybersecurity workforce issues (CyberScoop)