Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Twitter to start verifying 2020 primary candidates | FTC reportedly weighs injunction over Facebook apps | Bill would give DHS cyber unit subpoena powers | FCC moves to designate 988 as suicide-prevention hotline

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).

 

VERIFIED: Twitter on Thursday announced it will begin verifying congressional candidates who qualify for primaries, a reversal from its previous policy that only offered the coveted "blue check" to candidates who qualified in general elections.

The company said it will now verify all candidates running for the House, Senate or governor's mansion across the country in an effort to level the playing field between incumbents and little-known challengers. Twitter verification can increase a candidate's visibility and allow them to reach new swathes of supporters and donors on the platform with 126 million daily users.

Earlier this year, Twitter faced criticism for refusing to verify primary challengers running for Congress against established politicians who were often already verified, giving them the upper hand in establishing credibility among voters.

"Starting today, Twitter will begin verifying the campaign Twitter accounts of candidates who have qualified for primary elections for the US House of Representatives, US Senate, and Governor, and have been identified by our research partners at Ballotpedia," Twitter's public policy director Bridget Coyne wrote in a blog post.

She noted, "this will happen on a rolling basis as states have different filing deadlines."

Twitter will partner with Ballotpedia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to compiling information on U.S. elections, to determine who will receive verification. 

Read more here.

 

CALLING 988 FOR HELP: Americans may soon be able to dial 988 to reach mental health providers if they are feeling suicidal under a new proposal approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

All five FCC commissioners on Thursday voted in favor of a proposal to designate 988 as the country's national suicide-prevention hotline number, arguing that having a 911-like option for people who are experiencing mental health crises could help combat the rising rate of suicides in the U.S. 

"The need for suicide prevention services has never been greater in modern times," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said at the FCC's open meeting on Thursday.

The proposal, which is now open to public comment, asks telecom companies to ensure users within 18 months can dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is currently 1-800-273-TALK, which commissioners have argued is hard to remember and is facing a crunch as it handles more and more calls every year.

Last year alone, the government-backed suicide hotline answered more than 2 million calls, and the FCC is predicting that the 988 designation will lead to even more calls. That could require Congress to appropriate more funds to bolster the suicide prevention hotline's work.

Read more here.

 

CYBER SUBPOENA POWER: Two senators unveiled bipartisan legislation on Thursday that would give the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cyber agency the ability to subpoena internet service providers to increase transparency about cyber vulnerabilities.

The bill from Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), gives the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) the power to issue subpoenas to obtain information about potential cyber vulnerabilities related to critical infrastructure, such as in the electric grid or dams. 

CISA would then be able to warn the critical infrastructure companies targeted of the potential dangers found by internet service providers.

The legislation was put together following a request from DHS in July, asking that Congress give CISA subpoena power to force telecommunications companies to provide information on whether critical devices and systems were threatened by cyber attacks.

Johnson, who serves as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement on Thursday that "every day, CISA is made aware of vulnerabilities to these systems - some easily fixable - but is powerless to warn the potential victims."

"This legislation gives CISA the authority necessary to reach out and warn owners of critical infrastructure that they are open and vulnerable to cyberattacks before they become a victim," Johnson said. "We ask Americans: if you see something, say something. With this legislation we are empowering CISA to do the same."

Read more here.

 

FTC WEIGHS ACTION AGAINST FACEBOOK: Officials at the Federal Trade Commission are weighing seeking a primary injunction against Facebook based on antitrust concerns related to how the social media giant's apps interact, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

People familiar with the matter told the outlet that if action materializes it will focus on how Facebook integrates apps or allows them to work with potential rivals.

The agency could reportedly seek to halt Facebook from further integrating apps that federal regulators might look to unwind as part of a potential future breakup of the company.

Apart from its main social network, Facebook also owns Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

A majority of the five member FTC would be required to seek an injunction. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Journal's report.

Facebook also did not immediately respond.

Some people familiar with the matter told the Journal that FTC officials are concerned that allowing Facebook's integration to continue could hamper future efforts to break up the company in an antitrust case.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI: President Trump's top science adviser loves storms but has little appetite for the partisan tempest engulfing Washington.

Kelvin Droegemeier, a former meteorologist and academic, was confirmed early this year to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House and is at the forefront of the federal government's work on everything from quantum computing to artificial intelligence (AI) to space policy.

Droegemeier, 61, came into the position with a wealth of experience, and his nomination was a welcome development among the scientific community after the role sat vacant since the start of Trump's administration.

"My ultimate, über-priority is to make sure that America leads the world in science and technology," Droegemeier said in a recent interview in his office.

He worked at the University of Oklahoma for three decades, eventually serving as the vice president for research and regents' professor of meteorology after spending his undergraduate career in the 1970s chasing tornadoes, using 16mm movie cameras to help track the debris and generate data.  

"It would give you a sense of what the wind speeds of the tornadoes that passed were," he recalled.

Droegemeier counts among his accomplishments co-founding the University of Oklahoma's Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, which uses computer modeling to predict impending severe local weather.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Seems like an accurate result 

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: 'Privacy absolutism' masks how consumers actually value their data

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Facebook delays naming oversight board members until 2020 (Reuters / Elizabeth Culliford) 

Your Internet provider likely juiced its official speed scores (The Wall Street Journal /  Shalini Ramachandran, Lillian Rizzo and Drew Fitzgerald) 

The age of Instagram face (The New Yorker / Jia Tolentino)

Outbrain