Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation
Hillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal
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BAD NEWS FOR TIKTOK: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is "certainly" exploring a ban on Chinese social media apps such as TikTok, citing concerns the app has shared user data with the government in Beijing.
"I don't want to get out in front of the president, but it's something we're looking at," Pompeo told Fox News Monday.
Asked whether he recommended downloading TikTok, Pompeo responded: "Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."
Bipartisan U.S. lawmakers have previously expressed concerns about the app in connection with Chinese laws that require the nation's firms to "to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," Reuters noted.
Pompeo's comments come shortly after India banned TikTok, as well as 58 other Chinese apps, following a border skirmish between the two nations.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire in an October letter to look into whether the app poses "national security risks."
"Security experts have voiced concerns that China's vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," they wrote.
DOUBLE WHAMMY: TikTok announced Tuesday that it will cease all operations in Hong Kong, citing the new national security law put in place by China that strips the semi-autonomous state of many of the freedoms that it was promised as part of its handover from the United Kingdom.
The new law allows Hong Kong authorities to ask social media platforms for user data and request that certain posts be taken down, something that sparked pushback from all of the social media giants.
TikTok - the popular short-video platform - is owned by Chinese internet giant Bytedance, but has actively tried to separate itself from Beijing's policies. It has said that all of its servers are located in the U.S. and that it wouldn't remove content if asked to do so by the Chinese government, The Associated Press noted.
BAD CALL: The coalition of civil rights groups calling for an advertising boycott of Facebook on Tuesday condemned the company's leadership following a meeting that was meant to address its content moderation policies and efforts to police hateful speech.
Leaders of the NAACP, Color Of Change, Free Press and the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that a meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other members of Facebook's leadership left them unconvinced that the platform is committed to tackling issues surrounding "vitriolic hate."
The representatives said that Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox failed to commit to addressing the majority of their recommendations on how to handle misinformation and hate speech on the platform.
"Zuckerberg offered the same old defense of white supremacist, antiSemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful groups on Facebook that the Stop Hate For Profit Coalitions, advertisers and society at large have heard too many times before," they said.
The meeting on Tuesday came as Facebook faces escalating pressure to ramp up its content moderation efforts surrounding incendiary posts, including those shared by President Trump. In the weeks ahead of the meeting, a campaign calling for an ad boycott of the company had gained commitments from more than 400 companies, including Verizon, Starbucks and Coca-Cola.
A majority of the companies have pledged to keep their advertisements off Facebook and Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by the company, at least through this month. It is unclear if the companies will continue to pull ads from Facebook into August.
The campaign, dubbed "Stop Hate for Profit," was launched in June in response to what the collection of civil rights groups said was Facebook's "long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform." Ahead of the meeting, the campaign shared a list of 10 recommendations they wanted Facebook to commit to, including the establishment of a civil rights infrastructure that includes a C-suite level executive who evaluates products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate.
Representatives of the campaign said that Zuckerberg and others addressed the hiring of a civil rights position, but would not commit to it being at the executive level. They also said that the execs did not attempt to address the other recommendations, such as the submission of regular third-party audits on hate and misinformation on the platform.
"They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance - attending alone is not enough," Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson said on a press call with reporters. "At this point we were expecting some very clear, sort of answers to the recommendations we put on the table, and we did not get them."
MORE ELECTION SECURITY FUNDS: Democrats on a House Appropriations Committee panel included $500 million to boost election security as part of their version of an annual funding bill introduced Tuesday.
The version of the fiscal 2021 Financial Services and General Government spending bill rolled out by the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government would appropriate half a billion dollars to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to "enhance election technology and make election security improvements."
The bill, which will be debated by the subcommittee Wednesday, specifies that states may only use the election security funds to replace "direct-recording electronic" voting equipment with voting systems that use some form of paper ballots. States would only be allowed to use any remaining funds once they have certified to the EAC that all direct-recording election equipment has been replaced.
Experts have strongly advised against the use of direct-recording electronic voting equipment, which has no backup paper record of how an individual voted.
The majority of states have phased out these types of equipment, though New York University's Brennan Center for Justice estimated last year that around 16 million Americans were still likely to vote on paperless equipment during the 2020 election.
Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said in a statement Tuesday that "now more than ever, it is important that we provide the Federal government with the resources it needs," noting that the funding legislation rolled out this week "continues investment in election infrastructure and security to help our state and local governments conduct safe and secure elections."
Congress appropriated $425 million to the EAC to help states increase election security as part of the fiscal year 2020 spending bills. The amount marked a compromise between the House and Senate, with the House proposing $600 million and the Senate $225 million.
A WARNING FROM THE FBI: FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday warned of ongoing Chinese counterintelligence threats to American companies and health care groups, saying that Chinese espionage cases had increased by 1,300 percent over the past decade.
"We are conducting these kinds of investigations in all 56 of our field offices, and over the past decade, we have seen economic-espionage cases linked to china increase by approximately 1,300 percent," Wray said during an event at the Hudson Institute. "The stakes could not be higher, and the potential economic harm to American businesses and the economy as a whole almost defies calculation."
Wray said that the threats were so widespread that all of the FBI's field offices across the country were working on cases around Chinese espionage, and that the FBI opened a new Chinese counterintelligence investigation "about every ten hours."
"Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, about half are all related to China," Wray said. "At this very moment, China is working to compromise American health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research."
Wray cited massive Chinese hacking incidents over the past few years in describing the threat, including the 2017 breach of credit agency Equifax that exposed the personal information of around 145 million Americans, and the 2015 data breach of health company Anthem that impacted over 78 million people.
He also pointed to concerns over Chinese telecommunications group Huawei having access to communications networks, and efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to steal research from U.S. academic institutions and companies.
"It's the people of the United States who are the victims of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history," Wray said. "If you are an American adult, it is more likely than not that China has stolen your personal information."
BE BEST: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, on Tuesday promised in a blog post that the social media giant will get "get better and faster" at rooting out hate speech on its platforms.
"Facebook stands firmly against hate," Sandberg wrote. "Being a platform where everyone can make their voice heard is core to our mission, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable for people to spread hate. It's not. We have clear policies against hate - and we strive constantly to get better and faster at enforcing them. We have made real progress over the years, but this work is never finished and we know what a big responsibility Facebook has to get better at finding and removing hateful content."
Sandberg added that her and company CEO Mark Zuckerberg would be meeting with the civil rights groups behind the Stop Hate for Profit campaign - a movement which has called on big-name companies to remove advertising from Facebook - including Color of Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Created three weeks ago, the campaign has led to well-known companies such as Ford and Pfizer announcing they were pulling advertising from the platform.
For years, Facebook and Zuckerberg have faced widespread criticism of how hate speech and misinformation is policed across the platform.
Lighter click: Powerful energy
An op-ed to chew on: Online learning hiccups lead to civil liberties threats
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Electronic health records haven't delivered on their promise. Could COVID-19 change that? (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)
With pandemic keeping them apart, runners embrace virtual races (The New York Times / Kellen Browning)
Cops seize server that hosted BlueLeaks, DDoSecrets says (Vice Motherboard / Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai)