Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns

Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

NEW TONIGHT – FACEBOOK REMOVES TRUMP POST: Facebook announced Wednesday evening that it had removed a post from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE because it contained false COVID-19 information.


The post included a video of the president on "Fox & Friends" early Wednesday morning in which he stated that children are "almost immune" to the virus.

Facebook has removed Trump campaign ads before but the action Wednesday marked the first time it has removed a post from the president's account due to misinformation about the coronavirus.

Read more here.


SPOTLIGHT ON FACEBOOK: Twenty state attorneys general are calling for Facebook to take a series of steps to more proactively combat disinformation and hate speech, becoming the latest group to demand the tech giant take firmer action against incendiary content on its platform.

The state officials sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Conservative groups seek to block Facebook election grants in four swing states: report Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board MORE and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday stating that the company has “fallen short” on a range of issues, including rooting out online harassment, discrimination and misinformation.

They urged the company to more “aggressively enforce” its policies against hate speech and hate organizations, allow public third-party audits of hate content and enforcement, and to expand its policies on advertisements that vilify minority groups.


The letter was spearheaded by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D), who successfully pushed Facebook earlier this year to take down a page that he said was spreading “racist and anti-Semitic statements.” The letter’s signatories included the Democratic attorneys general of California; Wisconsin; Iowa; Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

"Facebook clearly has a hate, discrimination and disinformation problem," Grewal said in a phone interview with The Hill, adding that it's having "real-life public safety consequences."

Read more here.


TIKTOK HAS A CLONE: Facebook launched a direct competitor to short-form video app TikTok in 50 countries on Wednesday amid antitrust scrutiny.

Reels, which is available within Facebook's Instagram on iOS and Android, lets users edit together 15-second clips with music. Instagram will include Reels in its Explore page, allowing users to scroll through them vertically, much like TikTok's "For You" page.

The launch of Reels comes as President Trump threatens to block TikTok from operating in the U.S. over its ties to China.

The short-form video app's parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in and operates out of Beijing, though TikTok's American data has been moved to servers in the U.S.

Although it is legally questionable whether Trump has authority to ban an app, the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has reportedly asked ByteDance to sell off TikTok.

Read more here.


TIKTOK’S NEW POLICIES: TikTok on Wednesday announced a series of new steps aimed at countering political misinformation on the short-form video sharing platform.

The popular app is updating its policies to prohibit synthetic or manipulated content, like deepfakes. The company is also partnering with two fact-checking organizations – PolitiFact and Lead Stories – to monitor misinformation about the 2020 election.

In the coming weeks, TikTok users will be able to report posts or accounts to be reviewed for potential election misinformation.


Vanessa Pappas, the general manager of TikTok’s U.S. operation, wrote in a blog post that while synthetic content "was broadly covered by our guidelines already," the latest update "makes the policy clearer for our users."

TikTok is also working with an agency in the Department of Homeland Security to counter foreign attempts to influence elections.

"Misinformation, disinformation, and threats to civic engagement are challenges no platform can ignore," Pappas wrote. "By working together as an industry with experts and civil society organizations, we can better protect the civic processes that are so essential to our users."

Read more about the policies here.


KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON: Senators and other energy sector officials warned Wednesday that foreign adversaries are continuing to target the U.S. electric grid, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the dangers.

“The threat of cyberattacks by foreign adversaries and other sophisticated entities is real and it’s growing,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Democratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' MORE (R-Alaska) said Wednesday during a committee hearing on cyber threats to the grid. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity for cyber criminals to attack our networks, including critical energy infrastructure.”


Murkowski pointed to concerns over Russian targeting of the Ukrainian power grid in 2015, and to recently announced indictments by the Department of Justice against two Chinese hackers for targeting a wide range of groups including a Department of Energy site. 

"We all know the stakes here," Murkowski said. "A successful hack could shut down power, impacting hospitals, banks, gas pumps, military installations and cell phone service. The consequences would be widespread and devastating, and only more so if we are in the midst of a global pandemic." 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE (D-W.Va.), the ranking member of the committee, warned during the same hearing that “threats to federal infrastructure are serious and increasing daily.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has made our nation and the world acutely aware of the consequences of being underprepared for a catastrophic event,” he said. “The pandemic has forced the energy industry to adapt to new challenges and vulnerabilities with more employees working remotely.”

The senators’ concerns came on the heels of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issuing an alert in July warning that foreign hackers were zeroing in on critical infrastructure through targeting internet-connected operational technology (OT) assets.

Read more about concerns here.



RUSSIA REPORT COMING SOON: The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted to adopt its fifth and final report on Russia’e election interference efforts in 2016, with committee leaders vowing to keep working towards releasing a declassified version of the report to the public. 

The fifth report, the product of a years-long bipartisan investigation by the committee, covers counterintelligence findings, and was recently returned to the committee following a declassification review by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

“Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt the classified version of the final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (R-Fla.) and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFBI director casts doubt on concerns over mail-in voting fraud Democrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials It's time to upgrade benefits MORE (D-Va.) said in a joint statement.  

“In the coming days, the Committee will work to incorporate any additional views, as well as work with the Intelligence Community to formalize a properly redacted, declassified, publicly releasable version of the Volume 5 report,” Warner and Rubio added. “We want to thank the Committee’s Russia investigative staff for their years of diligent, hard work on this critical matter.”

The committee has already released four previous reports on Russian efforts to target election infrastructure in 2016, the use of social media to sway the election, the U.S. government’s response to Russian interference efforts, and a review of the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russian election interference. 

Read more about the pending report here.


DRIVING TO PRISON: Anthony Levandowski, a former Uber executive, was sentenced to 18-months in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to stealing proprietary self-driving car technology from Google, which he had previously worked for.

Levandowski pleaded guilty to the theft of trade secrets in March. In his admission, Levandowski said that he had stolen over 20 files from the tech giant. He was initially charged with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, though the plea deal reduced it to just one count.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in sentencing that Levandowski had stolen the equivalent of a “competitor’s game plan," Reuters reports.

He will begin his sentence once the coronavirus pandemic had subsided, Alsup added.

Read more about the case here.


Lighter click: MFW we’ve been in the panopticon all along

An op-ed to chew on: Google's work from home extension could be a boon for rural America



A “Bug” In Instagram's Hashtags Has Been Favoring Donald Trump (BuzzFeed News / Ryan Mac)

Trump's TikTok Drama Is a Distraction (Wired / Louise Matsakis)

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Democratic senators ask inspector general to investigate IRS use of location tracking service MORE helped create the Big Tech industry. Now he wants to hold it accountable. (Recode / Sara Morrison)