Hillicon Valley: Iowa chaos highlights misinformation threat | Officials blame app for delayed results | Company offers 'regret' | Nevada officials drop plans to use app | Ohio ramps up election security

Hillicon Valley: Iowa chaos highlights misinformation threat | Officials blame app for delayed results | Company offers 'regret' | Nevada officials drop plans to use app | Ohio ramps up election security
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CHAOS IN THE HEARTLAND: The disastrous Iowa caucuses on Monday night underlined one of the most pressing challenges that social media platforms will face this year: misinformation from real, influential people in the United States, not just Russian trolls and other foreign actors.

As news emerged that the caucus results were delayed amid technical difficulties, conservative operatives on Facebook, Twitter and other top networks promoted a narrative that the caucuses were "rigged" by the Democratic establishment.

Popular users pointed fingers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Iowa Democratic Party, presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE, the organization behind a glitchy voting app and even the party's 2016 presidential nominee, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrat Dana Balter to face Rep. John Katko in NY House rematch GOP lawmaker: Don't believe polls showing Trump behind Biden Kyle Van De Water wins New York GOP primary to challenge Rep. Antonio Delgado MORE.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE's campaign manager, Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, tweeted "rigged?" late Monday night, sparking a frenzy and garnering more than 6,000 retweets just as party officials, campaign staffers and cable news pundits were scrambling to understand why the caucus results weren't coming in.

"Rigging ain't easy," tweeted Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, to an audience of 4.3 million followers, responding to a CNN segment announcing there were "still no results" on Tuesday morning.

And Sean Davis, the co-founder of the conservative website The Federalist who has almost 250,000 followers, tweeted without any evidence on Tuesday morning that the results were "taking forever because the data are 100% corrupted and they can't track down all the original ballots, which were never secured and have zero chain of custody verification, for a manual recount."

The key takeaway: Experts have spent years raising concerns that users based in the U.S. — people with political agendas and access to Twitter- or Facebook-sized microphones — could pose an even greater challenge to the social media platforms in 2020 than Russian or Iranian disinformation operatives. 


Read more here.


SHADOW IS SORRY: Shadow, the little-known company behind the app used to tabulate the results of the Iowa presidential caucus, expressed "regret" on Tuesday over the delayed results from the Democratic nominating contest.

"We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night's Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers," the company tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

The company, which is affiliated with the Democratic nonprofit group Acronym, wrote in a series of follow-up tweets that the results of the election were in no way affected or manipulated, citing the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP).

Acronym spokesperson Kyle Tharp put out a statement on Tuesday distancing the group from Shadow, saying that Acronym is one of multiple investors in the company. Reports have pointed out that Acronym's site previously said it "launched Shadow."

State party officials are set to release at least some results of the caucus at 5 p.m. ET, though it's unclear exactly how much. The chairman of the IDP told campaigns to expect a "majority" of the caucus results to be released at that time.

IDP chair Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Chris Christie Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet Tom Price: Here's how we can obtain more affordable care MORE stressed in a statement Tuesday that "there was not a cyber security intrusion" into the caucus.

"As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound," he continued. "While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system." 

Shadow has been paid by multiple presidential campaigns and state Democratic parties in the last year, including the the Nevada Democratic Party, which had been planning to use the same app during its upcoming caucuses.

Read more here.


But the damage is done...


MORE LIKE NO-VADA: The Nevada Democratic Party on Tuesday announced that it will not use the election results app that has been blamed for the delay in results from the Iowa caucuses.

"NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada on February 22nd. We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus," Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy said in a statement.

"We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward."

The announcement comes after the results of the Iowa caucuses, which began on Monday at 8 p.m. EST, have yet to be released amid confusion over the app used to transmit results, triggering uproar from supporters and political pundits. The slow rollout has lead many to question Iowa's first-in-the-nation status.

Price told campaigns early Tuesday afternoon that presidential campaigns should expect that a "majority" of the caucus results will be released at 5 p.m. EST, a source on the call told The Hill.

Nevada was reportedly going to use an app that was built by Shadow, a tech company affiliated with the Democratic nonprofit group Acronym, for collecting and reporting caucus results. Shadow had also developed the app used in Iowa. According to CNN, Nevada was initially planning to use the same app.

According to state campaign finance records, the Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow $60,000 over two installments in November and December for "website development."


The Iowa Democratic Party has not responded to requests for comment from The Hill on the payments.

The Nevada Democratic Party paid $58,000 to Shadow in August for "technology services."

Read more on Nevada's decision here.


WE KNOW NOTHING: The head of the Iowa Democratic Party said Tuesday he had "no knowledge" of a reported offer by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cyber agency to vet the vote tabulation app that caused delays during the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.

"We had no knowledge of DHS making that offer to us," Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) Chairman Troy Price said during a press conference to address the handling of the results of the caucus.

Price's comments came after Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfPence addresses 16 new citizens at pre-Independence Day naturalization ceremony Arizona reports record number of new coronavirus cases, deaths DHS deploying new task force to protect monuments ahead of July 4 MORE said during an appearance on "Fox and Friends" earlier Tuesday that the state Democratic Party had turned down an offer to vet the app.


"Our Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has offered to test that app from a hacking perspective," Wolf said, noting that the offer was "declined" and that "we're seeing a couple of issues with it."

"I would say right now, we don't see any malicious cyber activity going on," he added.

Read more here.


FIGHTING FAKES: Twitter updated its policy for manipulated media on Tuesday to now potentially label or remove posts containing that kind of content.  

The social media platform had first circulated the new policy in November to ask for feedback, and received over 6,500 responses, according to the company.

Under the policy announced Tuesday, a three-step test will be used to determine if media violates Twitter rules and how it will be treated. 

"First, we look at whether the media are synthetic or manipulated," Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, told reporters during a call discussing the policy. 

"Second, we assess whether the media are being shared on Twitter in a deceptive manner. This looks at the behavior around the sharing," he continued.

"And finally, we evaluate whether the content is likely to cause serious harm to people," Roth added.

Twitter may also show a warning to people attempting to share a tweet containing manipulated media, reduce its visibility or provide additional context. The company says it will take all those steps "in most cases" of tweets it labels.

The social media platform will start placing the labels on March 5.

Read more on the policy change here.


SPOT THE DIFFERENCES: Google's parent company Alphabet on Tuesday released a free tool for journalists to identify photos that have been doctored.

Jigsaw, an Alphabet subsidiary focused on cutting-edge technology, announced the new tool, called Assembler, in a blog post.

"Wherever we traveled these past years ... we observed an evolution in how disinformation was being used to manipulate elections, wage war, and disrupt civil society," Jigsaw's chief Jared Cohen wrote in the blog.

"Disinformation today entails sophisticated, targeted influence campaigns, often launched by governments, with the goal of influencing societal, economic, and military events around the world. But as the tactics of disinformation were evolving, so too were the technologies used to detect and ultimately stop disinformation."

Assembler, which was built in coordination with Google Research and experts, combines multiple image doctoring detectors to identify if common methods of manipulating images have been used on a photo.

The tool will be tested with multiple outlets, including Agence France-Presse and Filipino news site Rappler, before being widely available for journalists.

Read more here.


PROTECTING OHIO: Ohio is moving to implement a string of election security measures with new funding from Washington as the state races against the clock to guard against foreign hacking and disinformation campaigns.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), speaking on the sidelines of last week's National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) meeting in Washington, said there has been a seismic shift at the state level following 2016 Russian election interference.

"From what I've observed, there is definitely a pre-2016, post-2016 mentality," said LaRose, who characterized the coordination between the federal government, states and county officials as improving "exponentially."

Congress appropriated $380 million in 2018 to help states boost their election security. That was followed by an additional $425 million in December.

"I don't think you're ever going to hear a secretary of State or any state official say, 'Turn off the tap, we've got enough federal funding,'" LaRose said. "I'm a fiscal conservative and I believe that we should be smart with our taxpayers' dollars, but the demand is huge."

LaRose said he expected the new funds to be sent out to the states by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) "soon," though an official for the EAC did not respond to The Hill's inquiry on specific timing.

As the state gears up for the pivotal 2020 elections, LaRose said it doesn't matter who's attempting to interfere in the elections, characterizing any adversary as his "enemy."

"The Russians, the North Koreans, the Chinese want to undermine the credibility of American democracy, and I think that they'll use a variety of means to try to do so," LaRose said. "We are not going to let them do it in Ohio, and I know that my counterparts in other states feel the same way."

Read more on Ohio's efforts here.


MEANWHILE ACROSS THE POND: European Union regulators in Dublin have launched investigations into Google and the online matchmaking app Tinder in an attempt to understand their processing of user data.

Ireland's Data Protection Commission, based in Dublin, is investigating Google's Irish subsidiary to decide whether the company meets transparency obligations under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or "has a valid legal basis for processing the location data of its users," the commission said in a statement.

Google "will cooperate fully with the office of the Data Protection Commission in its inquiry, and continue to work closely with regulators and consumer associations across Europe," the company said in a statement. "In the last year, we have made a number of product changes to improve the level of user transparency and control over location data."

The commission has a total of 23 inquiries into U.S.-based tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter.

Tinder is also under investigation by the commission after the EU raised concerns about problem areas surrounding its U.S. parent company, Match Group, and its processing of users' private data and compliance with GDPR.

Read more on the probe here.


MORE CORONAVIRUS WOES: Hyundai announced Tuesday that it is suspending production in its South Korea manufacturing plants due to supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The world's fifth-largest automaker said in a statement that the suspension is a result of "disruptions in the supply of parts resulting from the coronavirus outbreak in China."

Hyundai has plants worldwide, but has been hampered by the fact that it gets many of its parts from China. Several plants in China that make the parts that the automaker needs have shut down because of the continued spread of the virus, which has killed more than 400 people, according to the Times.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Spring came six weeks early 


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Huawei threatens the US-UK 'special relationship' 



The app that broke the Iowa Caucuses was sent out through a beta testing platform (The Verge / Nick Statt) 

How coronavirus fears tap into the deep history of xenophobia in public health (Gizmodo / Brian Kahn) 

Instagram brings in more than a quarter of Facebook sales (Bloomberg News / Sarah Frier, Nico Grant) 

FCC asks telecom companies to help trace international robocalls (TechCrunch / Christine Fisher)