Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash

Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).



A ROUGH HEARING FOR FACEBOOK: Facebook's global policy chief faced tough questions before a House panel on Wednesday as lawmakers voiced skepticism over the company's efforts to crack down on manipulated videos known as deepfakes ahead of the 2020 elections.

The social media platform unveiled plans to ban such videos late Monday night, but critics quickly condemned the policy for not going far enough.

The issue: Facebook's new policy bans videos that have been "edited or synthesized" by technology like artificial intelligence in a way that is not "apparent to an average person."

But under those new guidelines, the video of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (D-Calif.) edited to make her appear intoxicated that went viral last year and the video of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE cut to show him touting white nationalist views would not be covered under the ban.

What Democrats are saying: Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyPelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label posts if candidates prematurely declare victory | Supreme Court hears landmark B Google, Oracle copyright fight | House Dem accuses Ratcliffe of politicizing election security intel MORE (D-Ill.) opened the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce by slamming Facebook's new policy.

"Big Tech failed to respond to the grave threats posed by deepfakes, as evidenced by Facebook scrambling to announce a new policy that strikes me as wholly inadequate," Schakowsky, the subcommittee chairwoman, said, noting that the video of Pelosi has already been viewed millions of times.

Facebook's response: The social media giant's vice president of global policy management, Monika Bickert, stressed during Wednesday's testimony that the new rule is an addition to a broad set of existing community standards intended to target disinformation.


Schakowsky pressed Bickert on whether the new policy would cover the edited Pelosi video.

"It would not fall under that policy, but it would still be subject to our other policies that address misinformation," Bickert explained.

Rep. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoRadiation elevated at fracking sites, researchers find Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum MORE (D-Fla.) pressed Facebook about its approach to manipulated videos that don’t qualify as deepfakes during the hearing.

"Why wouldn’t Facebook simply take down the fake Pelosi video?" he asked.

"Our approach is to give people more information, so that if something’s going to be in the public discourse they will know how to assess it, how to contextualize it," Bickert responded.

"[The Pelosi video] was labeled false at the time, we think we could have gotten that to fact-checkers quicker and we think the label could have been clearer. We now have the label for something that has been rated false [so] you have to click through it, it actually obscures the image."

Lawmakers want more: Lawmakers pressed Bickert to better clarify the rules, with one Republican, Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean BucshonVaccine development process is safe, claims of the contrary are baseless Congress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic NIH begins studying hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as COVID-19 treatment MORE (Ind.), asking her how the company identified an "average person" under their guidelines for detecting deepfakes.

Bickert said the company was working with experts to detail the best approach.

"Congressman, these are exactly the questions we've been discussing with more than 50 experts as we've tried to write this policy," Bickert replied, adding that Facebook is focused on making more information available to the public.


Read more on the hearing here.


5G BILLS PASS HOUSE: The House on Wednesday passed a slew of bills aimed at giving the U.S. a leg up over China in the race to implement the super-fast next-generation wireless networks known as 5G. 

The trio of bipartisan bills, which passed the House near-unanimously, would funnel U.S. government resources into steering international wireless policy while securing the burgeoning networks against cyberattacks and foreign influence.  


Why it matters: The legislation comes as the U.S. works to win the "race to 5G," which will enable a generation of Internet-connected devices and offer mobile data speeds up to 100 times what is currently possible. Congress and the Trump administration have been working to diminish the power of Chinese telecommunications companies currently dominating the 5G industry while pouring more money into efforts to build out the networks in the U.S. 

"All three of these bills are important for securing America's wireless future, and we hope they won't languish in the Senate," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and communications subcommittee Chairman Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Hillicon Valley: Twitter tightens rules before election | Intelligence chief briefed lawmakers on foreign influence threats | Democrats launch inquiry into Pentagon's moves on a national 5G network MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement.

The House on Wednesday also passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to follow a set of international cybersecurity standards as it develops 5G capabilities. 

"The next generation of next-generation telecommunications systems is going to revolutionize our economy," Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "With the rapid expansion of new technology infrastructure, it is critical that these systems are secure, and the privacy of all Americans is protected." 

Two of the bills – the Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act and Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act – would require the U.S. to become more involved in international standard-setting bodies around wireless networks, which have seen increased involvement from China in recent years. Together, the bills would direct the Secretary of State and a key telecom adviser to boost America's presence on communications panels around the world.

Meanwhile, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, which passed 413-3, would draw up a "whole-of-government" strategy to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE, which are currently leading the rollout of 5G networks worldwide. 

Read more about the bills here.



NEW BILL ON HUAWEI: Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonBarrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (R-Ark.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would block the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that use technology from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in their fifth-generation (5G) networks.

"The United States shouldn't be sharing valuable intelligence information with countries that allow an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party to operate freely within their borders," the senator said in a statement after introducing the less-than-two-page bill.

"I urge our allies around the world to carefully consider the consequences of dealing with Huawei to their national interests."

The bill comes as the Trump administration has stepped up efforts get Huawei out the U.S. and to dissuade allies from relying on hardware and software from the company, which it has called a national security threat because of ties to the Beijing ruling party.

The Department of Commerce placed Huawei on its blacklist in May, preventing U.S. firms from conducting business with the telecommunications giant unless they obtain a specific license.

Read more.



IRANIAN CYBER THREAT WARNINGS: The FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin to law enforcement groups on Wednesday warning of the potential for Iran to target the U.S. with cyber and physical attacks amid heightened tensions following the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. 

According to CNN, the FBI and DHS wrote in the bulletin that in the case of an attack by Iran they believed a physical attack on the U.S. would first occur overseas, and a cyberattack on the U.S. would also happen in the immediate aftermath of the targeting and killing of Soleimani. 

The bulletin was issued the day after Iran launched missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. personnel. 

A spokesperson for the FBI told The Hill that "while our standard practice is to not comment on intelligence products, the FBI is aware of the continued possibility that retaliatory actions could be taken against the United States and its interests abroad." 

The spokesperson noted that "while there is no specific or credible threat to the Homeland at this time, we urge the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. As always, we will work with our intelligence and law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information."

Read more here.


DEMS WANT TREASURY TO STEP UP DEFENSES: Two House Democrats pushed top financial regulators including the Treasury Department this week to step up their defenses against potential Iranian cyberattacks, with the risk of Iran attacking U.S. critical infrastructure increasing this week following the death of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksCedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins Bottom line Democrats go big on diversity with new House recruits MORE (D-N.Y.), both of whom serve on the House Financial Services Committee, sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal On The Money: Sides tiptoe towards a COVID deal, but breakthrough appears distant | Expiring benefits raise stakes of stimulus talks | Stocks fade with eyes on Capitol MORE and to agencies including the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency asking that they give attention to potential debilitating Iranian cyber threats to the finance sector.

"We urge you, our nation's financial regulators, to work in coordination with law enforcement and regulated entities to increase sharing of appropriate cyber threat information," Cleaver and Meeks wrote. "We request that your institutions communicate a strategy to further mitigate existing cyber vulnerabilities within our financial institutions by March 2020."

The two House Democrats pointed to past Iranian cyberattacks in 2012, when Iran targeted denial of service attacks at Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, which involved overwhelming the companies' systems by flooding them with internet traffic requests.

Read more here.


IVANKA AT CES: White House adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump slams Facebook, Twitter for limiting spread of New York Post's Biden story OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump creates federal council on global tree planting initiative | Green group pushes for answers on delayed climate report | Carbon dioxide emissions may not surpass 2019 levels until 2027: analysis Trump creates federal government council on global tree planting initiative MORE on Tuesday was met with a friendly reception from the crowd while delivering a keynote address at the CES tech gathering in Las Vegas, the nation's biggest consumer electronics trade show. 

But her appearance ignited intense backlash from women and other tech workers who argued that her background did not align with what the annual tech conference is meant to represent.

Hundreds of Twitter users tweeted the hashtag #BoycottCES to voice frustration with President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE's daughter's appearance. 

Brianna Wu, a video game developer who is running for Congress in Massachusetts, tweeted before the event that Ivanka Trump "is not a woman in tech" and that her invitation to CES was a "lazy attempt to emulate diversity." 

"This is an insult to women in technology, we did hard times in University, engineering, math, and applied sciences," technology investor Elisabeth Fullerton wrote on Facebook. "This is what extreme privilege and entitlement get you. It's not what you know it's who you know I guess."

Trump spoke with CTA President Gary Shapiro for about 40 minutes during a discussion on the "path to the future of work."

Among other things, she touted the administration's efforts to work with tech companies to train Americans to learn new skills and develop apprenticeships. The conversation touched on areas that Trump, the president's eldest daughter, has focused on in her role in the White House. 

"We appreciate Ivanka Trump coming to CES 2020 and speaking before a full-capacity audience on the critical issue of the future of jobs because of advancements in technology," Shapiro said in a statement to The Hill. "Developing our future workforce has bipartisan support, and the discussion reflected the importance of and need for a strategic government-industry approach on the future American workforce." 

Read more here.


BLOCKING REPLY GUYS: Twitter executives revealed that the company plans to allow users to control who can reply to their tweets in order to make them feel safer on the social media platform.

Twitter executives said at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show that users will have four options for who can reply to their tweets -- anyone on Twitter, a group of people a user follows or mentions, people the user knows, or no Twitter users -- Venture Beat reported.

Suzanne Xie, director of product management at Twitter, explained, "We're really excited about this, because not only does it help people feel … more comfortable as a … community, but also [because it] allows us to create a whole new format of conversation," the outlet reported.

Last year, Twitter began testing a feature that would allow users to hide replies to their tweets.

"Public conversation is only valuable if it's healthy enough that people would want to participate in the first place," Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said, Venture Beat reported. "[We need to] ensure the integrity of the information that people are consuming on the platform is high."

Read more on the CES announcement here.


I'M A BIG KID NOW: The hugely popular social media app TikTok on Wednesday tightened its rules around what kind of content it permits, clarifying that it will take down videos that contain misinformation, promote terrorism or incite hatred against minorities.

In a blog post, the company said the guidelines are intended to foster a "rewarding and fun" community that can also grapple with "serious or controversial content."

TikTok, which burst into Western markets over the last few years, is widely known for its never-ending stream of wacky videos and its very young user base. In 2019, TikTok quickly became one of the most downloaded apps on both Apple and Google, surpassing 1.5 billion downloads and edging out popular American social media apps such as Instagram. 

The company says it has lagged behind other social media companies in areas such as content moderation and community standards as it has gathered hundreds of millions of users. Now, it is seeking to prove its maturity as it formalizes 10 categories of videos that it will not allow on its burgeoning platform. 

Though TikTok says it tailors its content moderation policies to each region that it operates in, the guidelines released Wednesday are intended to form the "basis" for all of its policies.

"Today, we're releasing a comprehensive, expanded publication of the Community Guidelines that help maintain a supportive and welcoming environment on TikTok," wrote Lavanya Mahendran and Nasser Alsherif, who work on TikTok's global trust and safety team. 

The categories of videos that TikTok will not allow include those that promote terrorist ideologies, encourage criminal behavior, depict gratuitous violence, glorify self-harm and encourage hate speech.

"These guidelines reflect our driving philosophy -- providing a platform for creative self-expression while remaining safe, diverse, and authentic -- and define a common code of conduct on our platform," Mahendran and Alsherif wrote.

Read more here.


SOMETHING TO SEE ON AV'S: The Trump administration on Wednesday revealed its latest series of guidelines for autonomous vehicle makers to ensure better safety and consistency as the technology grows.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoCentury of the Woman: Can Leading Women Have it All? Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE unveiled the proposed guidelines entitled "Automated Vehicles 4.0," or, AV 4.0 in a speech at CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

"The goals are simple ... Improve safety, security and quality of life for all Americans," she said.

The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure constant United States Government (USG) approaches to AV technologies and ensure that the United States will continue to lead AV technology development, research and integration.

"America is known throughout the world for our innovation, for our creative spirit and it is part of our inter-competitiveness, and so we want to foster innovation," Chao stated. "But there are also legitimate public concerns expressed about safety, security and privacy."

According to the document, the government will impose existing laws to ensure companies don't make misleading claims about the capabilities or limitations of autonomous vehicle technology.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Bat quarter


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Office of Technology Assessment: It's time for a second coming



Sonos CEO will testify to lawmakers after suing Google (Verge / Makena Kelly)

Facebook Is Running Anti-Vax Ads, Despite Its Ban On Anti-Vax Ads (BuzzFeed News / Caroline Haskins)

The U.S. Government's Mass Collection of Immigrant DNA Hints at Surveillance Future (OneZero / Emily Mullin)

Inside the Billion-Dollar Battle Over .Org (New York Times / Steve Lohr)