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Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation

Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation

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 our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

UBER LAYOFFS: Uber is laying off 3,700 employees as the coronavirus pandemic drives down demand for its service, the company announced Wednesday.

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The layoffs in its customer support and recruiting teams account for roughly 15 percent of the ride-hailing giant's total workforce, according to recent estimates.

Uber expects to spend approximately $2 million on severance and related termination benefits.

In addition to the layoffs, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is waiving his base salary for the remainder of 2020.

Uber's investors expect to get a clear picture of the company's finances when it reports earnings on Thursday.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the ride-hailing industry hard as many Americans are staying home.

Demand for rides has cratered, leading Lyft to lay off roughly 17 percent of its corporate workforce late last month.

 

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Read more about the layoffs here. 

 

CONTENT MODERATION BOARD: The independent oversight board created by Facebook to review content moderation decisions announced its first 20 members and co-chairs on Wednesday.

Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Hillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote MORE first revealed his intentions to launch the oversight board in November 2018 amid blowback over how Facebook manages hate speech and political content.

The oversight board will have final and binding say over whether content should be allowed on, or taken down from, Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook recruited the board's four co-chairpeople, who then led the interview and recruitment process for the rest of the board along with the social media giant and an executive search firm.

"Each of our members has chosen to participate in the board because they believe there is no single company that can solve the most challenging online content decisions today," Thomas Hughes, the oversight board's administrative director, said on a press call.

The co-chairs are Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister, Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University, Jamal Greene, a Columbia law professor, and Catalina Botero-Marino, dean of Universidad de los Andes faculty of law.

Read more about the board here. 

 

FBI SURVEILLANCE POWERS: Senators are expected to vote next week on House-passed legislation to extend the FBI’s surveillance powers, setting up a battle between civil libertarians who want to curtail the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and allies of the intelligence community and law enforcement.

The legislation will extend core surveillance powers of the lapsed USA Freedom Act: the power to collect business records relevant to a counterterrorism or counter espionage investigation; the authority to use roving wiretaps to track suspects; and the ability to surveil “lone wolf” suspects not connected to a known terrorist group or foreign power.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently MORE (R-Ky.) has told colleagues he plans to bring the House-passed bill to the floor next week and allow votes on three or four amendments, according to GOP lawmakers.

The amendments are expected to fail and the House bill is expected to advance to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE’s desk, although lawmakers caution there could be unexpected drama on the floor.

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Senators will vote on three amendments to the House bill, which itself is a bipartisan reform compromise that would end the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk phone data and ban the collection of GPS and cellphone location data without warrants.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) will get a vote on his amendment barring the FISA court from issuing warrants for American citizens and instead requiring law enforcement agencies such as the FBI to obtain a warrant from a normal court established under Article III of the Constitution.

Read more about the expected vote here. 

 

SAVE THE CHILDREN: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect children against online exploitation and to crack down on predators. 

The Invest in Child Safety Act would increase the number of agents at the FBI and the Department of Justice investigating child exploitation and obscenity, along with doubling funding for the Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. 

The legislation would also require tech companies to extend the time they securely store evidence of potential child sexual abuse to enable prosecution of older cases and would establish an office within the executive branch to direct the federal government’s response to child exploitation cases. 

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The bill was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyScranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Grassley tests positive for coronavirus Casey says he isn't thinking about Pennsylvania gubernatorial bid in 2022 MORE (Penn.), and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (Ohio). The bill was also introduced in the House by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Calif.) and several other Democratic lawmakers. The bill does not have any Republican co-sponsors. 

Wyden said in a statement that the bill would provide funding to help address the “menace” of child exploitation online, along with funding organizations that protect children. 

“Nothing is more heinous than sexual abuse of child, but our ability to combat these crimes has not kept up with technology,” Gillibrand said in a separate statement. “This critical legislation will give federal law enforcement and prosecutors the tools to take on the scourge of child exploitation, prevent its occurrence and support victims and their families.”

Read more about the new legislation here. 

 

PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS: Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday called for more protections to help defend small businesses against scams targeting coronavirus-related relief funds.

The letter comes as the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been doling out forgivable loans to small businesses willing to meet certain conditions. 

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In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), former presidential candidates Warren and Klobuchar led a group of Senate Democrats urging the agency to take action to defend small businesses, and to keep the businesses informed on how to defend themselves.

They specifically pointed to concerns that scammers were targeting the SBA funds going to small businesses, which have been hit hard by shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. The scams involve sending fake emails from the SBA to trick businesses into disclosing sensitive financial information, or scammers calling the businesses pretending to offer financial relief. 

The senators asked that the FTC take “bold actions” to address the scams. 

“We are calling on the agency to take stronger action to ensure that the huge population of potential victims—the nearly 60 million hardworking men and women who own or are employed by small businesses—are protected during this time of crisis,” the senators wrote.

The senators requested answers from the FTC around what steps the agency was taking to assist small businesses if they fall victim to the scams, how it is helping historically disadvantaged businesses, such as those in rural or minority communities, and whether the FTC needed additional resources to combat the scams. 

Read more about efforts to protect small businesses here.

 

NEW COUNTERINTELLIGENCE LEADER: The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm President Trump's counterintelligence chief after the nomination was stuck in limbo for nearly two years.

Senators voted 83-7 on William Evanina's nomination to be the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (Ill.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySupreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising Trump supporters demonstrate across the country following Biden-Harris win Merkley wins reelection in Oregon Senate race MORE (Ore.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Md.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) voted against the nomination.

The Senate's vote comes two days after Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyColorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Iowa) ended a nearly two-year blockade on the nomination, which he initially placed a hold on in June 2018.

"Due to the recent actions by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Attorney General to finally respond to my very longstanding oversight requests, I withdraw my objection to Mr. Evanina’s nomination," Grassley said in a statement.

Grassley announced in 2018 that he was putting a hold on Evanina's nomination because the intelligence community had been slow to respond to his oversight requests. He placed a hold on the nomination for a second time in March 2019, after the start of the new session of Congress.

Grassley said at the time, and again on Monday, that he was not stonewalling Evanina's nomination for personal reasons.

"I did not question Mr. Evanina’s credentials in any way, and I put my statement of those reasons in the Record. I have done that consistently, not only since the rules of the Senate first required every Member to do that but even before that rule was put in place," Grassley said Monday.

Read more about the new counterintelligence chief here. 

 

NEW ZOOM EMPLOYEE: H.R. McMaster, a former Trump administration national security adviser and retired Army lieutenant general, has joined the board of Zoom, the online conferencing company announced Wednesday.

McMaster, who currently teaches at Stanford University, worked in the White House for just over a year from 2017-2018, though his tenure was marked by reports that he and President Trump did not work well together.

“Zoom does significant good for our society, allowing people to connect and collaborate face-to-face from anywhere. This extraordinary capability is vital now more than ever,” said McMaster. “My goal is to help the company navigate rapid growth and assist in meeting Zoom’s commitment to becoming the world’s most secure video communications platform.” 

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan touted McMaster’s 34-year military career, saying he would bring “invaluable” experience in furthering Zoom’s mission of connecting people worldwide. 

“General McMaster is a welcome addition to our Board. During his decorated military career, he has built an expertise in leading through challenging situations and has demonstrated tremendous strength of character. His leadership will be invaluable as Zoom continues to enable people to connect on a global scale,” said Yuan.

Read more here. 

 

Lighter click: We hope you speak Polish

An op-ed to chew on: The pandemic exposes realities of failing to combat global censorship

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Taiwan’s state-owned energy company suffers a ransomware attack (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Hands on with the new National Health Service COVID-19 tracing app (BBC News / Rory Cellan-Jones) 

People are panic-buying meat, toilet paper...and pelotons? (The New York Times / Erin Griffith)