Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram remove Trump campaign tribute to George Floyd | Report details new cyber threats to elections | Reddit founder resigns from board to boost black community

coronavirus COVID-19 twitter warning label flag misinformation fake news post tweet disputed
DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about 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.

TWITTER VS. TRUMP GOES ANOTHER ROUND: Twitter on Thursday removed a video tribute to George Floyd posted by President Trump’s reelection campaign, claiming it had run afoul of the website’s policy on copyrighted material.

The Team Trump account tweeted out a nearly four-minute long video that is narrated by a speech the president gave a few days after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody.

In the video, the president can be heard lamenting the “grave tragedy” of Floyd’s death over images of Floyd and peaceful protesters mourning his death. 

Later, the video shows images of looting as the president warns about “violence and anarchy” from “radical left-wing groups.” He also describes the vast majority of law enforcement officials as “devoted public servants” as the video shows images of police officers hugging civilians and people cleaning up graffiti and garbage in the streets.

The Team Trump video was retweeted by Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., before it was removed with a message that said: “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”

The Trump campaign fired back, arguing it is being unfairly treated.

“This incident is yet another reminder that Twitter is making up the rules as they go along,” said Andrew Clark, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. He said Twitter had “repeatedly failed to explain why their rules seem to only apply to the Trump campaign but not to others. Censoring out the president’s important message of unity around the George Floyd protests is an unfortunate escalation of this double standard.”

Read more here. 

FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM FOLLOW SUIT: Facebook and Instagram on Friday also removed the Trump video.

“We received a copyright complaint from the creator under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have removed the post,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill. “Organizations that use original art shared on Instagram are expected to have the right to do so.”

Read more here. 

HACKERS EYE ELECTIONS: Election officials face a wide range of new cybersecurity threats stemming from voting changes spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Friday.

The report, compiled by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, lays out threats such as attempts to target election officials working on unsecured networks at home, recovering from voter registration system outages and securing online ballot request systems.

“Voters are already placing increased demands on online registration systems and mail ballot options,” the authors wrote in the report. “At the same time, the risk of cyberattacks from foreign state and nonstate actors alike remains.”

Lawrence Norden, director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program and a co-author of the report, told The Hill that election officials were already faced with cybersecurity threats, but they’re now also facing COVID-19 challenges.

He pointed to the sharp increase in mail-in voting to help avoid the spread of COVID-19 at the polls, and the new concerns around keeping poll workers safe, as raising unexpected security concerns.

“I am concerned that making big changes in a presidential election year is really not something you want to do,” Norden said. “We don’t have a choice, it’s a concern of just technical failures and that these new systems might represent appealing targets to foreign adversaries.”

Former special counsel Robert Mueller, along with U.S. intelligence officials and the Senate Intelligence Committee, have concluded that Russian actors targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, and successfully accessed systems in at least two states. There is no evidence any votes were changed.

Read more about the report here. 

REDDIT FOUNDER TAKES A STAND: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian Sr. has stepped away from the company’s board, saying that he wants to focus his attention on stopping “racial hate.” 

“I co-founded Reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging. It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country,” Ohanian said on his personal website.

He added, “I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’”

Ohanian is married to tennis superstar Serena Williams and the couple have a two-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Ohanian said he has urged the Reddit board to fill his position with a “black candidate,” and that he will “use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate.”

“I’m starting with a pledge of $1M to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp,” Ohanian added.

Nationwide protests — sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week — have not only demanded justice for Floyd, but for the systemic racism and inequality in the country to be addressed and stomped out.

Read more about the decision here. 

BREAK IT UP: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is calling for Amazon to be broken up. 

“Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!” Musk tweeted.

Musk’s tweet was in response to former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson, who tweeted a screenshot showing that his upcoming book about COVID-19 doesn’t meet Amazon guidelines for sale. 

Amazon later said that the book in question had been blocked in error and was now available in an e-reader edition for Amazon Kindle. Amazon said that the availability of the book was not due to Musk’s tweet, according to Reuters.  

Both Musk and Berenson have been critical of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Berenson has suggested that the risks of serious illness or death are much lower than reported, especially for younger people.

Read more here. 

An op-ed to chew on: Online voting is my 2020 cybersecurity nightmare 


Big tech companies are responding to George Floyd in a way they never did for Michael Brown (The Verge / Jay Peters) 

Slack removed a blog post showing how police use its tech (Motherboard / Joseph Cox) 

The complex debate over Silicon Valley’s embrace of content moderation (The New York Times / Nellie Bowles) 

Google Docs is being used as a protest tool. That could put the company in a tough spot (Protocol / Chris Stokel-Walker)

Tags Donald Trump Elon Musk Robert Mueller

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video