Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down ‘boogaloo’ network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats


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FACEBOOK BRINGS HAMMER ON BOOGALOO NETWORK: Facebook announced Tuesday that it took down a network of accounts, pages and groups tied to the extremist “boogaloo” movement.

The platform is designating the anti-government movement as a “dangerous organization” and banning it from the platform.

The 220 boogaloo Facebook groups and 95 Instagram accounts were taken down for violating the platform’s policies against organized violence.

Another 400 groups associated with the movement will also be removed.

The network promoted “violence against civilians, law enforcement, and government officials and institutions,” Facebook said in a blog post Tuesday.

“Members of this network seek to recruit others within the broader boogaloo movement, sharing the same content online and adopting the same offline appearance as others in the movement,” it said.

The boogaloo movement, which draws it name jokingly from the 1984 breakdancing movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, advocates for violent uprisings with the aim of inciting a race war that will usher in a new government.

The movement has gained thousands of followers since January, largely growing in Facebook groups.

As Facebook noted in its blog post, the movement has drawn new scrutiny from federal authorities recently.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested three men in Nevada earlier this month who called themselves members of the movement, accusing them attempting to incite violence at an anti-police brutality protest.

In May, federal officials alleged that Air Force staff sergeant Steven Carrillo killed a security officer during a similar protest in Oakland, Calif.

The complaint filed against him alleged that Carrillo plotted the attack with someone he met in a boogaloo Facebook group and had associated paraphernalia in his van.

Read more.

PRESSURE FROM SENATORS: Three Democratic senators on Tuesday urged Facebook to more aggressively purge white supremacist groups from its platform.

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said the CEO has failed to enforce existing community standards that would remove racist and violent extremist content from Facebook.

“The United States is going through a long-overdue examination of the systemic racism prevalent in our society. Americans of all races, ages, and backgrounds have bravely taken to the streets to demand equal justice for all,” they wrote.

“While Facebook has attempted to publicly align itself with this movement, its failure to address the hate spreading on its platform reveals significant gaps between Facebook’s professed commitment to racial justice and the company’s actions and business interests,” they continued.

The letter points to reporting, specifically from the Tech Transparency project, showing how right-wing organizations have used Facebook to recruit and organize, especially using groups.

Read more.


IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, DON’T SAY SOMETHING: A measure that would require presidential campaigns to report attempts by foreign nationals to interfere in elections was removed from the Senate’s bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Tuesday. 

The clause was based on Warner’s Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, which requires presidential campaigns to report all contacts with foreign nationals seeking to interfere in the election process to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission (FEC). 

The Intelligence Authorization Act will be included in the Senate version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but according to Warner, the FIRE Act clause was taken out as part of a “backroom deal” in order to get the intelligence legislation included in the must-pass defense funding bill. 

Warner announced he was proposing the legislation as a separate amendment to the NDAA in order to force members of the Senate to vote on the record about where they stood on election security. The Senate this week is debating its version of the 2021 NDAA. 

Warner criticized President Trump and Republicans for removing the clause, noting that the Senate had not voted on any standalone election security legislation since Russian agents interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“In a different time, with a different president, this bill wouldn’t be controversial at all, it would simply say, to all presidential campaigns going forward, if a foreign power reaches out to your campaign offering assistance or offering dirt on a political opponent, the appropriate response is not to say thank you, the appropriate response is to call the FBI,” Warner said. 

“What a sad statement about partisan politics in our country when we cannot even agree to that,” he added.

Warner has previously brought the FIRE Act to the Senate in an attempt to pass it through unanimous consent, but was blocked by Republicans five separate times.

Read more about the legislation here. 


IT’S OFFICIAL: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday formally designated Chinese telecommunications groups Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, blocking them from accessing FCC funds.

The move was the formalization of a unanimous decision by the FCC in November to ban U.S. telecom groups from using the FCC’s $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from companies deemed threats.

Both Huawei and ZTE were identified as national security threats in November, with the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau formalizing this process Tuesday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said in a statement that the decision was made “based on the overwhelming weight of evidence” against the companies.

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” Pai said. “We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, applauded the decision, but emphasized that action needed to be taken to rip out and replace existing equipment in U.S. networks that could pose a threat.

“Network security is national security,” Starks said in a statement. “Today’s actions will help secure our networks against new threats from Huawei and ZTE equipment. We must not, however, lose sight of the untrustworthy equipment already in place. Last year, I called for the FCC to find the untrustworthy equipment in our networks, to fix the problem by instituting a replacement program, and to fund the replacement of that equipment. Find it. Fix it. Fund it. The Commission has taken important steps toward identifying the problematic equipment in our systems, but there is much more to do.”

Read more about the decision here. 


SUPREME COURT RULES .COM .OK: The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for online travel agency Booking.com to trademark its name, ruling that the domain name is distinct enough to qualify for registration.

The decision rejects a sweeping argument pushed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that the combination of a generic term and “.com” cannot be trademarked. Intellectual property law in the U.S. doesn’t allow companies to trademark generic terms.

The court said in an 8-1 decision that certain combinations of two generic terms — in this case, “booking” and the domain name “.com” — are eligible for trademarking.

“In circumstances like those this case presents, a ‘generic.com’ term is not generic and can be eligible for federal trademark registration,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority.

Ginsburg reasoned in her decision that consumers understand Booking.com to be a distinctive entity and not a label for a group of travel bookers.

“Under these principles, whether ‘Booking.com’ is generic turns on whether that term, taken as a whole, signifies to consumers the class of online hotel-reservation services,” she wrote. “Thus, if ‘Booking.com’ were generic, we might expect consumers to understand Travelocity — another such service — to be a ‘Booking.com.’ We might similarly expect that a consumer, searching for a trusted source of online hotel-reservation services, could ask a frequent traveler to name her favorite ‘Booking.com’ provider.”

Justice Stephen Breyer was the lone dissenter in the decision, writing in his opinion that “a top-level domain such as ‘.com’ has no capacity to identify and distinguish the source of goods or services. It is merely a necessary component of any web address.”

Read more.


PRESSURE ON SENATE RS FOR MAIL-IN: A group of Senate Democrats and multiple voting rights advocacy groups stepped up efforts on Tuesday to pressure Senate Republicans to support and pass legislation that would provide states with election resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with five other Senate Democrats, came to the Senate floor in an attempt to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act that would expand mail-in and early voting. 

“If we are defending our elections, then we must protect our democracy, and if our elections are not safe, then our democracy is not secure,” Klobuchar said of election efforts during the pandemic.

The bill was blocked by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who said he was worried the bill could be part of a “federal takeover of elections,” while noting that he may support sending states funding to boost election preparations during the pandemic.

This was the second time in less than a week that Klobuchar brought the bill to the Senate floor for a vote and was blocked by Blunt. The two senators lead the Senate Rules Committee, with Blunt saying the committee would hold an elections-focused hearing sometime next month that would include local and state officials as witnesses. 

While the Senate has not passed legislation around mail-in voting, it did include $400 million to boost elections in the coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March. Experts and congressional Democrats have said states need at least $3.6 billion more to contend with challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Klobuchar was joined by Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chris Coons (Del.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Mark Warner (Va.) in pushing for passage of the bill. 

“No one should have to risk their life to cast their vote, that is why it is so important to have safe opportunities to allow Americans to fulfill their right and vote in November,” Durbin said on the Senate floor while discussing the legislation.

Wyden, a co-sponsor of the bill, pointed to concerns that without mail-in voting many Americans would be disenfranchised through chaos at the polls, pointing to examples during the Georgia and Wisconsin primary elections this year. 

“There is no Plan B here, colleagues, the choice is to take advantage of our options so citizens can vote safely or huge numbers of Americans won’t be able to vote at all,” Wyden said. 

The senators’ push for mail-in voting resources came the same day a coalition of voting rights groups put out a statement pressuring the Senate to vote on the House-passed HEROES Act, which includes $3.6 billion to assist states with holding elections during the pandemic.

The groups led by Stand Up America criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for not bringing up the HEROES Act for a vote. McConnell has previously described the overall bill as a “liberal wish list,” and has also expressed concerns about election security legislation taking election jurisdiction away from states. 

“For over five weeks, the Senate has failed to take up a bill that would give states the resources to expand in-person and no-excuse absentee voting, extend early voting, keep polling places open, train poll workers, and implement other reforms to keep voters safe,” the groups said. 

“No American should have to risk their health to cast their ballot—but Mitch McConnell’s continued inaction will ensure that voters across the country are forced to make that choice this November.” 

They emphasized that “Democrats and Republican should be outraged by this abdication of responsibility and should force McConnell to take immediate action.”

Read more.

Lighter click: Making a joke on the internet

An op-ed to chew on: New legislation required to ensure US semiconductor leadership


Reddit’s CEO on why he banned ‘The_Donald’ subreddit (The New York Times / Kevin Roose) 

During a pandemic, stalkerware becomes even more sinister (CyberScoop / Shannon Vavra) 

What anti-racist activists want from Facebook (Verge / Russell Brandom)

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bob Menendez Chris Coons Dick Durbin Donald Trump Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Mazie Hirono Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden Roy Blunt Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer
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