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Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers

Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers
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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.

TRUMP TAKES AIM AT SOCIAL MEDIA: President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE signed an executive order Thursday aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms, a marked escalation of his lengthy feud with Silicon Valley over allegations of anti-conservative bias.

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The brunt of the order is focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them cover to make good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms.

Trump, joined by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBoehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Dominion: Ex-Michigan state senator 'sowing discord in our democracy' with election fraud claims Hunter Biden says he doesn't know if Delaware laptop was his MORE, addressed reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon before signing the executive order.

"We're here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what's going on as well as anybody. It's not good," Trump told reporters.

The president accused social media companies of having “unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.” He also said that if he were able to shut Twitter down, he would.

Trump's order directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of Section 230, a proposition that has already drawn rebukes from the two Democratic members of the five-person commission.

Another section of the order would encourage federal agencies to review their spending on social media advertising.

Trump and Barr indicated that legislation on Section 230 could be incoming.

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Barr did not provide further details, while Trump suggested they could just "remove or totally change 230."

Fundamentally, Trump cannot rewrite the section without Congress’s help. Any efforts by agencies like the FCC to make determinations about how the law is applied would almost definitely be challenged and ultimately become a matter for a judge to decide.

When asked about the possibility of a legal challenge to the order, Trump said, “I guess it’s going to be challenged in court, but what isn’t?”

Read more about the executive order here.

WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT: President Trump said Thursday that he'd get rid of his Twitter account if he didn't find it necessary to push back against "fake news."

"If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if he had considered deleting his account on the platform given his recent criticism of the social media giant.

"There's nothing I'd rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account," he added.

Read more about Trump’s comments here.

TRY AGAIN NEXT TIME: The House voted Thursday to request a conference with the Senate over a bill to reauthorize three intelligence programs after it failed twice this week to vote on the legislation. 

The 282-122 vote allows negotiations between the House and Senate to begin as Congress tries to reach a deal on legislation to reauthorize three lapsed surveillance programs and make some changes to the court associated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing MORE (D-Calif.) and Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing MORE (R-Calif.), the top members of the House Intelligence Committee; Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Pelosi says she won't bring bill to expand Supreme Court to the floor MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMaxine Waters cuts off Jim Jordan, Fauci sparring at hearing: 'Shut your mouth' Fauci, Jim Jordan spar over pandemic restrictions Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE (R-Ohio), the top members of the Judiciary Committee; and Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCapitol Police watchdog paints damning picture of Jan. 6 failures Capitol Police watchdog issues report slamming 'deficiencies' before riot Lofgren says she's been briefed on 'disturbing' police report on riot MORE (D-Calif.), who has been at the center of the months-long debate, will lead the negotiations for the House.

The Senate will also have to vote to formally launch a conference committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy says Gaetz won't be punished unless charges filed Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating McCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election MORE (R-Calif.) talked on Thursday morning about the plan to go to conference to work out the differences. 

“The Leaders spoke this morning. Going to a conference committee is regular order when the two chambers disagree,” a spokesman for McConnell told The Hill. 

Establishing a conference committee would allow leadership and key members space to try to hash out an agreement on how to handle the intelligence programs in the face of insurmountable opposition from Republicans and progressives that scuttled Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE’s (D-Calif.) plan to try to send a Senate-passed bill to President Trump’s desk. 

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“It will be our intention to go to conference in order to ensure that all of the views of all Members of our Caucus are represented in the final product,” Pelosi wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Thursday, laying out her backup plan.

Democratic leadership has largely pinned the failure to secure passage of the reauthorization bill on Trump, who on Tuesday urged Republican lawmakers to vote against it over his allegations of abuse of FISA by the Obama administration to spy on his 2016 campaign.

Read more about the FISA negotiations here.

TWITTER DOUBLES DOWN: Twitter this week continued to add fact-check labels to hundreds of posts on its platform, a move that came as the Trump administration issued an executive order targeting the broad immunity that social media companies have over the content posted by their users.

The plans from the Trump administration followed Twitter's decision on Tuesday to add fact-check labels to the president's tweets for the first time.

Trump has repeatedly accused the social media company of silencing conservative viewpoints. 

Twitter's policies call for adding labels to potentially misleading information on subjects including elections and the coronavirus outbreak. The company this week added its fact-check label to posts from Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, claiming that COVID-19 originated in a lab in the U.S. because the posts contained "potentially misleading content" about the coronavirus, a Twitter official told The Hill. 

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Multiple tweets from Zhao now include "Get the facts about COVID-19" labels directing users to news reports noting that evidence suggests the novel coronavirus originated in animals and not a lab.

Twitter also added labels to posts falsely claiming that a Minneapolis police officer involved in the arrest of George Floyd was the same man pictured with a red "Make Whites Great Again" hat. The posts, some of which went viral earlier this week, now include "manipulated media" labels appended to them.

Hundreds of tweets like the one Ice Cube shared were flagged based on Twitter's "synthetic and manipulated media policy," a spokesperson said, noting that the company began taking action on them on Wednesday. 

Read more about Twitter’s fact checking here.

PELOSI CLAPS BACK:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday blasted Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Instagram sparks new concerns over 'kidfluencer' culture Mark Zuckerberg, meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau? MORE’s comments about his platform's decision not to fact-check lawmakers as Twitter plans to do, calling the remarks a “disgrace.”

“As far as the platforms are concerned, they want two things from the federal government: no regulation and no taxes. And so they cater to the Trump administration all the time. I think that Mark Zuckerberg's statement was a disgrace,” Pelosi said Thursday on MSNBC

Zuckerberg had told Fox News on Wednesday that he believes private companies “shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth” when asked about Twitter’s decision this week to fact check and place warnings on two of President Trump's tweets.

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Pelosi praised Twitter for placing warnings on the president’s tweets about mail-in voting in California, but suggested they did not go far enough to address the root of the problem of misinformation. 

“They're not taking off any accusations the president's making about Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph Scarborough'Morning Joe' hosts criticize cancel culture over McCammond tweets Scarborough faults Biden for 'permissive' border message Scarborough says comparisons of Capitol riot to summer protests irrelevant MORE. They know that's not true. So they do a token thing and think it's OK,” Pelosi said, referring to Trump’s recent tweets touting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about the death of an aide to the former congressman and current MSNBC host.

Read more about her comments here.

TIKTOK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A group of House Democrats on Thursday called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate allegations that social media platform TikTok had violated a child privacy agreement.

Reps. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyNIH to make announcement on fetal tissue research policy amid Trump-era restrictions Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices Progressives up pressure on Biden to back COVID vaccine patent waiver MORE (Ill.), Ann KusterAnn McLane KusterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Pelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle MORE (N.H.), and a dozen other Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, asking that the FTC look into a complaint submitted earlier this month.

The complaint, which was submitted to the FTC by a group of 20 nonprofit groups, accused TikTok of violating a $5.7 million agreement reached with the FTC in 2019 that settled previous allegations that the company had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The groups claimed that TikTok had violated the settlement by not deleting personal information collected from users under age 13, not posting a clear privacy policy and not making “reasonable efforts” to ensure the parents or guardians of users were aware of the information being collected.

The House Democrats raised concerns that TikTok’s popularity, which has spiked during COVID-19 lockdowns, may make the platform a tempting place for “predators to solicit children.”

“While all children must be careful when using a service like TikTok, children younger than 13 are less equipped to navigate this threat and are particularly vulnerable to abuse when their parents are uninformed about the application,” the lawmakers wrote. “There are inherent dangers whenever children are online, but as long TikTok is out of compliance with COPPA and the consent decree, young children are at heightened risk.”

Read more about concerns around TikTok here.

MINNEAPOLIS TARGETED BY HACKERS: City government systems in Minneapolis were temporarily brought down by a cyberattack early Thursday as the city was grappling with raging protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

A spokesperson for Minneapolis told The Hill that some of the city’s public websites and systems were temporarily shut down by a denial of service (DoS) attack, which involves malicious hackers flooding a server with traffic until it crashes. 

Officials were able to bring back 95 percent of affected websites and systems within hours of the attack, with the spokesperson saying that the city expected 100 percent of systems to be back online by the end of the day. 

The spokesperson did not identify who was behind the cyberattack on the city or whether it was linked to any protests. The official said there was no evidence that any data was stolen or compromised.

“Although these types of attacks are not completely unavoidable, they are fairly common, and the City of Minneapolis has proactive measures in place to respond to and mitigate disruptions when they do occur,” the spokesperson said. “The City of Minneapolis IT continues to monitor its cyber platforms to ensure further disruption doesn't happen again.”

Minneapolis officials grappled with a second night of violent protests over the death of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after an officer placed a knee on his neck to detain him. Some demonstrators looted local stores and clashed with police in the streets, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Read more about the attack here.

KEEP IT SAFE: A coalition of voting rights and public health groups on Thursday rolled out guidelines to help protect voters from catching and spreading COVID-19 while exercising their right to vote this year. 

The Healthy Voting Guidelines, rolled out initially for states holding primaries in June, are the product of the nonpartisan coalition We Can Vote, and were drafted by groups including the American Public Health Association and the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

According to the authors, the recommendations are the the nation’s first healthy voting guidelines, and details ways that voters can exercise their rights at the polls while taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The guidelines address both mail-in and in-person voting for over a dozen states and the District of Columbia. Recommendations include wearing a mask and standing six feet apart from other voters if going to the polls in person, voting during less busy times and washing your hands after dropping off a mail-in ballot.

The guidelines also give instructions on how to send in a ballot by mail.

Mail-in voting is an issue that has become a divisive topic following pushback from President Trump and other Republicans, who have argued a spike in mail-in voting could lead to increased voter fraud. There is no evidence, however, that fraud is any more likely with mail-in voting than in-person voting.

Read more about the guidelines here.

EYES ON YOU: Arizona's attorney general has filed suit against Google, alleging that the tech giant violated a state consumer fraud statute by claiming falsely that apps would not store users' location data if a user opted out of that feature.

The Associated Press reported that state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) alleged in court documents that Google's user interface is "misleading" and incorrectly explains to users that their location data will not be stored by apps if the "location history" feature is turned off.

“Though Google claims to have obtained consent to collect and store its users’ data, that consent is based on a misleading user interface, as well as other unfair and deceptive acts and practices,” the court documents read.

“Every company has a responsibility to be truthful to consumers,” Brnovich reportedly added. “You can't deceive them, you can’t make misrepresentations.”

Arizona's attorneys reportedly also argue that Google changed privacy settings without notifying users. A Google spokesman denied Arizona's claims in a statement to the AP, claiming that Brnovich had misrepresented Google's features.

Read more about the allegations here.


GOOGLE’S NEW DEFENSE AGAINST SCAMS: Google on Wednesday rolled out a new program to combat scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic as attempted cyberattacks and phishing scams have spiked during the crisis. 

The new "Scam Spotter" program, co-created with the Cybercrime Support Network, recommends a three-step process for individuals to consider before handing over personal information through a phone call or email. 

The program also tests the ability of an individual to spot a scam, gives examples of common ones such as those pretending to be from a government agency or bank and provides resources to report any scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

Google Vice President Vint Cerf wrote in a blog post that combating scams would take a “cross-generational effort” due to the tendency of seniors to fall for them more than younger generations. 

“I’m the biggest advocate for communications technology you’ll ever meet, which is why I care so much that everyone’s online experience be safe and fun,” Cerf wrote. “If we learn how to spot the bad actors, we can spend our time focusing on those moments that matter.”

Scams and cyberattacks have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said last month that it had received about 3,600 complaints related to coronavirus scams, and the IRS has warned of scams targeting coronavirus relief checks. 

Read more about the scams and attacks here.

Lighter click: It’s been a busy day, so here’s a cute dog

An op-ed to chew on: Don’t applaud Twitter for flagging one tweet

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

ACLU accuses Clearview AI of privacy ‘nightmare scenario’ (The New York Times / Davey Alba) 

NSA warns of ongoing Russian hacking campaign against U.S. systems (Reuters / Christopher Bing) 

Coronavirus sent us home. Will VR bring us back together? (Protocol / Mike Murphy) 

Calls grow for European regulators to investigate Apple, accused of bullying smaller rivals (The Washington Post / Reed Albergotti)