Hillicon Valley: Trump tests Twitter policies with Iran threats | Facebook bans 'deepfakes' | White House unveils guidelines for AI regulations

Hillicon Valley: Trump tests Twitter policies with Iran threats | Facebook bans 'deepfakes' | White House unveils guidelines for AI regulations
© Getty Images

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).

 

ADVERTISEMENT

TRUMP'S IRAN TWEETS TEST TWITTER: President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE is dramatically testing the limits of Twitter's policies against violence as he threatens Iran using one of the most powerful megaphones in the world: his Twitter account. 

Trump has spent days tweeting threats of violence and potential war crimes against Iran to his nearly 70 million followers amid an intensifying geopolitical conflict sparked by the administration's decision to kill a top Iranian military official last week. 

But Twitter says the president's tweets do not violate any of its rules, raising novel and high-stakes questions around whether a platform that explicitly bans violent threats and incitement should take action against tweets threatening war from world leaders.

"When foreign leaders and Congress and his own administration learn about what's going on in our country via the president's Twitter account, we have run ourselves into a corner in foreign policy development that is dangerous," said Dipayan Ghosh, a senior fellow with the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center. "And I hope that we can get ourselves out of it." 

Twitter's side: Twitter does maintain policies against explicit threats, inciting hatred against particular nationalities and using the platform to promote criminal activity. But it also says it does not want to censor any speech from top politicians, even when it is threatening or hateful.

The influential social media platform claims it is in the "public interest" to take a hands-off approach to speech by presidents and heads of state, often allowing politicians to flout Twitter rules that apply to everyday users.

There are some exceptions. In the face of public pressure over Trump's often incendiary tweets last year, Twitter instituted a narrow exemption to its laissez-faire approach, vowing to label and potentially take action against the most egregious violations of its rules by top officials.

ADVERTISEMENT

Twitter's dilemma: In this instance, Twitter has opted to leave Trump's tweets alone, finding that they are allowed under its rules. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Hill it has determined that none of Trump's most controversial tweets this week violated Twitter policies, and the company pointed to an October blog post stating Twitter allows "foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues."

But experts told The Hill that the stakes are likely much higher than “saber-rattling," and Trump’s tweets could rise to the level of threatening war crimes and flouting international law.

Read more.

 

FACEBOOK BANS DEEPFAKES: Facebook announced late Monday night that it has banned manipulated videos and photos -- also known as deepfakes -- ahead of the 2020 election.

The move, confirmed in a blog post, was first reported by The Washington Post.

"While these videos are still rare on the internet, they present a significant challenge for our industry and society as their use increases," Monica Bickert, Facebook's vice president of global policy management, wrote on the blog.

Bickert is set to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on deepfake technology along with experts in the field on Wednesday.

 

But will it satisfy critics? Facebook's new policy explicitly does not cover parody or satire videos, or videos that omit or change the order of words. Instead, the policy focuses on videos that have been "edited or synthesized" by technology like artificial intelligence in a way that is not "apparent to an average person."

That distinction means the new policy would likely not cover the video of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' MORE (D-Calif.) that went viral last year which had been edited to make her appear intoxicated.

It also would seemingly not apply to the video clip of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE that appeared to show Biden espousing white nationalist talking points that was heavily circulated on Twitter last week.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill hit Facebook over the rule change, tweeting that the "real problem is Facebook’s refusal to stop the spread of disinformation."

Read more.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

WHITE HOUSE JUMPS INTO AI DEBATE: The White House on Tuesday proposed 10 principles for federal agencies to consider when developing laws and regulations for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in a variety of fields.

Regulations created by agencies should encourage "fairness, non-discrimination, openness, transparency, safety, and security," the memo distributed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recommended.

The advisory agency stressed that new rules should be preceded by "risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses," and must incorporate "scientific evidence and feedback from the American public."

"The U.S. AI regulatory principles set the Nation on a path of continued AI innovation and discovery," White House chief technology officer Michael Kratsios said in a statement.

"By reducing regulatory uncertainty for America's innovators, increasing public input on regulatory decisions, and promoting trustworthy AI development, the principles offer the American approach to address the challenging technical and ethical issues that arise with AI technologies."

Read more.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

VETS GROUP SAYS OFFICIALS IGNORING DISINFORMATION: A major veterans group says the Trump administration of has been ignoring Russian disinformation campaigns that have been targeting U.S. troops and veterans for nearly two years.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) cautioned the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments in March 2018 that disinformation campaigns aimed at service members could plant seeds for social disagreement, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The group says the agencies have not taken action to combat the campaigns, prompting VVA to submit a letter to President Trump on Dec. 18 asking for his intervention, according to an email sent to his veterans liaison that was reviewed by the Post.

VVA says it has not received an answer to the letter, and it's unclear if the administration is taking steps against the disinformation campaigns.

A senior administration official told the newspaper that it "works every day to counter malign foreign influence, from identifying and exposing foreign actors to disrupting and imposing costs for these actions."

The White House told the Post that it has received the letter but did not say what steps, if any, it is taking in response.

The Department of Veterans Affairs declined to comment to the Post on the group's allegations, but spokesperson Randal Noller said in a statement to The Hill that "veterans are the targets of many of the same types of fraud as the rest of society."

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Crack your neck now

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Facing the primary attack on democracy

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

FBI seeks Apple's help in unlocking iPhones owned by Pensacola naval station gunman (NBC News / Pete Williams)

Search engine for Japanese sex hotels announces security breach (ZDNet / Catalin Cimpanu) 

Uber unveils plans for flying taxi to bypass traffic (The Guardian / Joanna Partridge) 

Sonos, squeezed by the tech giants, sues Google (The New York Times / Jack Nicas and Daisuke Wakabayashi)