Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract

Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract
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NEW DETAILS ON TWITTER'S POLITICAL AD RULES: Twitter on Friday announced that it is going to restrict, but not outright ban, advertisements that raise awareness about particular issues like climate change and abortion as part of a broader effort to rein in political advertisements.

The social media platform, which has about 330 million monthly active users and raked in ad revenue of $2.61 billion last year, said it is placing significant limitations around advertisements that touch on topics like "environmental stewardship" or "social equity causes." Twitter will no longer allow the groups and individuals placing those "cause-based" ads to target particular demographic groups or zip codes. 

And Twitter will do what its CEO Jack Dorsey announced earlier this month: the platform will completely ban all advertisements from or about politicians, political candidates, particular pieces of legislation, specific regulations, ballot measures, elections or court cases. 

Twitter's new pared-down political ads policy, which the company shared for the first time on Friday, will go into effect next week.

How Twitter is explaining it: "We believe ... political reach should be earned and not bought," Del Harvey, Twitter's vice president of trust and safety, said on a call with reporters. "But the other thing that we considered is, while advertising should not be used to drive political, legislative or regulatory outcomes, there's certain cause-based advertising that can facilitate conversation about important topics." 

Twitter is walking a fine line as it seeks to ban all advertising aimed at achieving specific political outcomes, while allowing advocacy groups and individuals to pay to raise awareness around issues like the economy, health care and climate change.

The specifics: The company's new policy specifies that for-profit organizations, like large corporations, will not be allowed to run ads with the "primary goal" of pushing for particular political outcomes. For example, a company like Exxon will be allowed to continue running ads about carbon dioxide, as it currently does, but it will not be allowed to run ads pushing for particular bills.


Political action committees and social welfare organizations registered as 501(c)(4)s will not be allowed to run ads at all, alongside candidates and government officials. 

The politics: Twitter's Dorsey first announced the political ads ban two weeks ago amid controversy over Facebook's policy of allowing politicians to publish misleading or false claims in political ads. While Facebook launched an offensive to defend the policy as an effort to promote free expression online, Dorsey announced Twitter would ban those ads entirely, claiming his company is against "paying for reach" when it comes to political messaging.

On the Friday call, officials made it clear that Twitter does not have a specific policy barring misinformation in advertisements, including cause-related ads. But Harvey said Twitter will no longer allow "super siloed, hidden targeting" on those sensitive topics.

Read more on Twitter's new policy here. 


ESPER DEFENDS JEDI: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperISIS Task Force director resigns from Pentagon post in continued post-election purge The perils of a US troop drawdown to the Afghan army and tribes Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia MORE doubled down Friday on his belief that Microsoft was fairly awarded a $10 billion cloud-computing contract, The Associated Press reports.

When the Pentagon awarded the massive contract to Microsoft in late October, Amazon, which was in the running for the contract, protested heavily, citing "unmistakable bias," while announcing that it would challenge the decision in court.

Esper reportedly recused himself from the awarding process as his son had previously worked for one of the unsuccessful bidders.

"I am confident that it was conducted freely and fairly without any type of outside influence," Esper told reporters Friday in Seoul, South Korea.

Amazon is challenging the decision in federal court.

Read more here.


AT LONG LAST: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up the long-running legal battle over Oracle's allegations that Google illegally used its code, setting the stage for a landmark battle over copyright that could have wide-reaching implications for Silicon Valley.

The justices agreed to decide whether Google violated federal copyright law when it used some of Oracle's programming language to build its Android operating system, taking up a heated legal conflict that has bounced through the courts for almost a decade.


Google had appealed a lower court's ruling that it unlawfully used Oracle's code in its software. The Supreme Court had denied an earlier Google petition to hear the case in 2014, after the initial trial.

For years, Oracle has alleged that Google stole its code to build the mega-popular Android software, which runs the majority of smartphones in the world.

Google says it did not violate any laws and made the code its own when it incorporated Oracle's Java programming language into the Android platform.

Oracle first sued Google in 2010, and the case has been closely watched because of its implications for how copyright protection affects programming language.

"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to review the case and we hope that the Court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness," Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, said in a statement on Friday. "Developers should be able to create applications across platforms and not be locked into one company's software."

Read more on Google v. Oracle here.



ROBOCALL COMPROMISE: Key lawmakers in the House and Senate on Friday announced they have drawn up a bill to stave off the scourge of robocalls in the U.S., expressing optimism that the negotiated legislation "can be signed into law by the President." 

The long-awaited anti-robocall bill, which has not been made public in its final form yet, would allow telephone carriers to block robocalls – spam calls often aimed at stealing personal information from vulnerable populations – in a "consistent and transparent" way without charging consumers any extra money, according to Friday statement from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal McConnell offering new coronavirus relief bill after talks with Mnuchin, Meadows Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE (R-S.D.), a top member of the Senate Commerce Committee, among others.

The House and Senate have been working for months on similar legislation to address robocalls, which have been increasing in volume and aggravating millions of Americans for years. The statement on Friday signals they have negotiated agreements over several of the points of disagreement between the bills. 

"Today, we are proud to announce that we have come to an agreement in principle on legislation, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, to combat the robocall epidemic that we believe can be signed into law by the President," the House and Senate lawmakers said in the statement. "It's time to put Americans back in charge of their phones."

The anti-robocall bill will require telephone carriers to verify calls and offer tools for their customers to block spammy calls. It will also give the Federal Communications Commission more time to investigate and punish illegal robocallers. 

The statement is also signed by the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Ore).

The lawmakers are working to finalize the bill text "in the coming days," they said. 


The final bill will likely allow for tougher penalties against the scammers who generate billions of unwanted calls each year. The number of robocallers dialing up U.S. consumers is on the rise. 

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Someone has watched "The Birds" one too many times


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: What college football can teach us about innovation 



Apple removes all vaping-related apps from the App Store (The Average) 

How Google interferes with its search algorithms and changes your results (The Wall Street Journal) 

We're stuck with the tech giants. But they're stuck with each other (The New York Times) 

More than half of Fortune 500 companies were exposed to remote access hacking (Axios)