SPONSORED:

Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections

Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections
© 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 our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

FISA BILL BREAKS DOWN: A bill to reauthorize three expired surveillance programs is in jeopardy, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE urging Republicans to oppose it and progressives raising concerns about a key amendment.

ADVERTISEMENT

House Democratic leaders say they still intend to vote on the measure this week, but it’s suddenly unclear if it can muster the 218 votes needed to clear the chamber — despite an earlier version of the bill winning 278 votes in March.

Showdown incoming: Despite the limbo status, Democratic leadership is signaling they will move forward, setting up a showdown on the House floor over the fate of the bill.

An update from Democratic leadership sent shortly before noon said that “votes are expected” related to the legislation on Wednesday. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Hoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top CNN won't run pro-Trump ad warning Biden will raise taxes on middle class MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters early Wednesday afternoon that "we will act upon it today one way or another."

Trump, in a Tuesday night tweet, had urged Republicans to vote against the measure, linking it to the surveillance he says was done against his campaign by the Obama administration in 2016 and early 2017 that led to the resignation of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Reversal: GOP leaders who had supported the legislation immediately reversed their positions, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.) calling on Democratic leaders to pull the bill. House Republican Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins MORE (La.) said he would whip against the measure.

“We just formally announced a whip against it, because No. 1, it's not going to become law. No. 2, there are still so many questions that need to be answered about real abuses that happened in the FISA system,” Scalise said, referring to the court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Scalise and Trump spoke on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with their talks, “and agreed that this bill should not move forward in the House in its current form.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Steve King defends past comments on white supremacy, blasts NYT and GOP leaders in fiery floor speech GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, also expressed opposition to the measure on Wednesday, though she faulted amendments that she said would weaken its ability to keep the nation safe.

It’s unlikely Democrats could get the bill through the House without GOP support. The initial bill that passed the House in March garnered just 152 votes from Democrats.

Progressives and libertarian-minded Republicans have warned for years that they do not believe the FISA court provides enough legal protections for those targeted for surveillance. As a result, a number of House Democrats on the left were already likely to vote against the measure.

Read more here.

 

DEMOCRATS DROP WEB BROWSING AMENDMENT: House Democratic leaders have dropped plans to vote on a controversial amendment aimed at blocking law enforcement from accessing Americans' web browsing history, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief MORE's (D-Md.) office confirmed.

The amendment had threatened to scuttle a vote on reauthorizing three surveillance programs. Support for the amendment, sponsored by Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenWhy prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (R-Ohio), has fractured over the last day, with progressive groups and lawmakers pulling support.

House lawmakers seeking the amendment initially pushed for language mirroring a measure offered by Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.) in the Senate that would require a warrant anytime law enforcement wanted to access web browsing data.

The amendment that was ultimately submitted to the Rules Committee on Tuesday narrowed that protection to U.S. persons — something that would exclude individuals in the U.S. on green cards or other visas.

Wyden initially released a statement praising the Lofgren-Davidson measure, but pulled his support following comments from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon 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 MORE (D-Calif.), who was involved in developing the House amendment text. 

Schiff in a statement to reporters seemed to suggest that the measure would allow room for law enforcement to continue the collection of Americans' records as long as they are relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation, an issue that critics have said is left open to interpretation in the current amendment.

Multiple progressive groups — including Demand Progress and Fight for the Future — released statements Wednesday pushing lawmakers to vote against the amendment and underlying bill.

Read more here.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

GOP FLOATS BILLS TARGETING TWITTER: Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyMurkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Justice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly MORE (R-Mo.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday separately announced they were both working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal protections that ensure the company is not held liable for what is posted on its platform.

The lawmakers began work on legislation following Twitter’s decision to add warnings to two tweets by President Trump this week in which he railed against California’s decision to expand mail-in voting. Trump tweeted without evidence that mail-in voting could increase voter fraud. 

Both Hawley and Gaetz argued that Twitter’s decision to flag the tweets called its legal liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into question. Section 230 protects social media platforms from facing lawsuits over what users post. 

Hawley sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning why the platform should be given Section 230 protections and tweeted that he would soon introduce legislation to end “government giveaways” under the legal shield.

“If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers,” Hawley tweeted. “Fair is fair.”

Hawley questioned Dorsey on whether Twitter’s “fact check” was part of an effort to “target the President for political reasons” and raised concerns that Twitter fact-checkers were biased against Trump. 

Gaetz also announced the action on Wednesday against Twitter, tweeting that he was “working on legislation to revise Section 230 so we don't have election interference from companies like Twitter.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Gaetz said on his “Hot Takes” podcast that while he is not “in favor of a special attack on Twitter,” he does think Section 230 protections for the company should be reevaluated.

Read more here.

 

NEW TECH BILL: A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation Wednesday to boost research into emerging technology including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

The Endless Frontiers Act would create a Directorate of Technology at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and would rename the NSF the National Science and Technology Foundation. 

The new directorate would be given $100 billion over five years to invest in American science and technology research, with specific research areas including cybersecurity, robotics, AI, quantum computing, national disaster prevention and biotechnologies. 

In addition, the Department of Commerce would be given $10 billion over five years to establish “regional technology hubs” across the nation. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Schumer said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to fund science and technology research at higher levels. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown the science and technology gap between the United States and the rest of the world is closing fast and that threatens our long-term health, economic competitiveness, and national security,” Schumer said in a statement. “America cannot afford to continue our decades-long underinvestment and expect to lead the world in advanced scientific and technological research.”

Senator Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRepublicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Vulnerable Republicans break with Trump on ObamaCare lawsuit Senate GOP eyes early exit MORE (R-Ind.) is a co-sponsor in the Senate, while Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Biden says he opposes Supreme Court term limits Dozens of legal experts throw weight behind Supreme Court term limit bill MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherFederal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats Government watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE (R-Wis.) are sponsors of the bill in the House. 

Read more here.

 

REJECTED: A federal appeals court is rejecting claims that tech companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple have conspired to suppress conservative viewpoints on their platforms.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit that was filed by the conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and far-right activist Laura Loomer. Freedom Watch and Loomer alleged that the Silicon Valley giants were coordinating together to silence conservative viewpoints and that they were violating the First Amendment and antitrust policies.

"The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Freedom Watch had standing to sue but failed to allege colorable legal claims," the judges wrote in their decision. "On appeal, we reach the same conclusion."

The panel of judges include Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee; Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee; and A. Raymond Randolph, a George H.W. Bush appointee.

The judges concluded that Freedom Watch failed to offer a satisfactory First Amendment claim against the tech companies, noting that "in general, the First Amendment 'prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech.'"

"Freedom Watch fails to point to additional facts indicating that these platforms are engaged in state action and thus fails to state a viable First Amendment claim," the judges wrote. 

Read more here.

 

SPACEX LAUNCH DELAYED: SpaceX scrubbed plans to launch the first American astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil on Wednesday as thunderstorms tore through Florida’s Space Coast, temporarily thwarting a highly anticipated test that could determine the future of American space flight.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken were slated to blast off to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Crew capsule at 4:33 p.m. But strong winds, heavy rain and lightning posed too high a risk. Another complicating factor was Tropical Storm Bertha, which made landfall in South Carolina, hundreds of miles north of Kennedy Space Center. 

The next available launch windows will be on Saturday and Sunday, though weather could still pose a problem. Currently, there’s a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions during the coming weekend, according to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. 

For human space flights, like the one that was scrapped on Wednesday, weather patterns must be suitable at various points throughout the Atlantic Ocean in the event that the crew needs to abort the launch mid-flight in case of an emergency. 

Read more here.

 

ZOOM BOMBINGS CONTINUE: The FBI announced Wednesday that it is seeking information on victims of so-called “Zoom bombings” that contain videos of child sexual abuse, calling such instances a “violent crime.”

Zoom bombings, which involve malicious individuals gaining access to and disrupting a call through the video conference service, have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic as various activities such as classes, work meetings and happy hours have moved online.

The FBI said it had already received over 240 reports of incidents in the U.S. and worldwide of videos of child sexual exploitation videos being used to disrupt Zoom meetings. The agency asked that anyone who has experienced this type of disruption to report it through an online form.

“The FBI considers this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is revictimized,” the FBI wrote. “Furthermore, anyone who inadvertently sees child sexual abuse material depicted during a virtual event is potentially a victim as well.”

The FBI previously issued an alert warning of interruptions to classes held over Zoom in March, saying the agency had received multiple reports of disruptions involving “pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”

Read more here.

 

SCAM WARNING: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning college students about coronavirus-related phishing scams in which the scammers are pretending to have information about their direct payments from the IRS.

"Maybe you or your friends have gotten an email claiming to be from the 'Financial Department' of your university. The email tells you to click on a link to get a message about your COVID-19 economic stimulus check — and it needs to be opened through a portal link requiring your university login," Ari Lazarus, a consumer education specialist at the FTC said in a blog post on the agency's website. "Don’t do it." 

"It’s a phishing scam," Lazarus added. "If you click to 'log in,' you could be giving your user name, password, or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device."

The FTC said students who spot emails that look like they are phishing scams can report them to the Anti-Phishing Working Group — which includes internet service providers, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies — at reportphishing@apwg.org as well as to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Read more about the scams here.

 

Lighter click: SHAM3

An op-ed to chew on: 5G is critical in future stimulus bills

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Trump supporters are on the attack against Yoel Roth. Twitter is standing by him. (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)

Instacart promises a safer way to shop, but workers tell a different story (The Verge / Russell Brandon)

Extradition of Huawei executive clears a major legal hurdle in Canada (The New York Times / Tracy Sherlock and Dan Bilefsky) 

German intelligence agencies warn of Russian hacking threats to critical infrastructure (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas)