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Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick

Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick
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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.

HATE SPEECH REMOVAL SPIKE: Facebook removed 22.5 million posts for containing hate speech in the second quarter, the company announced Tuesday.

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That figure is a marked increase from the 9.6 million pieces the platform removed in the first quarter.

Facebook, in its sixth Community Standards Enforcement Report, credited the uptick in removals to improvements in detection technology.

The rate at which Facebook identified hateful content before users flagged it also increased to 94.5 percent from just under 89 percent in the first quarter.

On Instagram, the platform removed 3.3 million pieces of hateful content, up from 808,000 in the previous three months.

The increase in removals come as Facebook faces escalating pressure over its handling of hate content on the platform.

Several civil rights groups earlier this year launched an ad boycott campaign called “Stop Hate for Profit,” asking companies to pull their ad dollars from Facebook for the month of July until action was taken on those issues. Hundreds of businesses joined the campaign, with many extending the pause beyond July.

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Read more here.


DEMOCRATS HAVE CONCERNS: A group of House Democrats on Tuesday questioned whether Facebook's independent oversight board will be fully empowered to moderate harmful content on the social media platform, including battling voter suppression and racist content.

In letters to the 20 members of Facebook’s oversight board – an independent group established by Facebook to help review content moderation decisions – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) raised concerns that the group was not doing enough to moderate harmful content on the platform. 

“We are concerned that Facebook’s Oversight Board — and its members — may be ill-equipped and ill-empowered to meaningfully improve the incredibly troubling behavior of the company and may simply act as a smokescreen behind which Facebook’s executives will maintain ultimate control over its content moderation decision-making process,” the lawmakers wrote in the letters.  

The Democrats accused Facebook of “intentionally amplifying divisive and conspiratorial content” because it boosted advertising revenue. They called on the board to commit to “engaging with and represent the interests of civil rights, social justice organizations, and election experts” in order to protect civil rights and prevent voter suppression.

The House Democrats also asked board members to commit to resigning from their positions if Facebook did not adhere by Oct. 6 to the board’s anticipated guidance on how the platform should address “the systemic amplification of divisive, racist, and conspiratorial content on the platform.”

“If this Oversight Board is going to have any real power, Facebook itself is going to need to listen to and then act upon the Board’s policy recommendations,” the House Democrats wrote. “To that end, we believe you have the duty to use your position on the Oversight Board to pressure Facebook to change policies that you believe are not working, and if Facebook refuses to address your concerns, to resign.” 

The letters were sent as pressure has mounted on Facebook to do more to moderate hate speech on the platform following hundreds of companies pulling Facebook advertisements as part of an ad boycott. 

The board, which is a separate group from Facebook, is empowered to decide if Facebook and Instagram should allow or remove content. Co-chairs of the board include former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt; Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University; Jamal Greene, a Columbia law professor; and Catalina Botero-Marino, dean of Universidad de los Andes faculty of law.

Read more here. 

NEW BILL TO FIGHT HACKERS: Reps. Andy BarrAndy BarrHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy issues rule allowing companies to develop own efficiency tests for products | GOP lawmakers push back on Federal Reserve's climate risk efforts GOP lawmakers push back on Federal Reserve's climate risk efforts MORE (R-Ky.) and Frank LucasFrank Dean LucasGOP lawmaker calls for bolstering research budgets to help space program The Hill's Morning Report - With trial over, Biden renews push for COVID-19 bill Hillicon Valley: Parler announces official relaunch | Google strikes news pay deal with major Australian media company | China central to GOP efforts to push back on Biden MORE (R-Okla.) on Tuesday introduced legislation intended to defend universities conducting COVID-19 research against foreign malicious hackers.

The legislation would require the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce to create guidance and send other resources to help universities and research institutions conducting coronavirus research defend themselves. 

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The bill’s introduction came after months of reported foreign targeting of groups conducting COVID-19 research, including Russian and Chinese hackers, as pressure mounts to produce vaccines and treatments for the virus. 

Lucas, who serves as ranking member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, described the bill as a “simple but strong way to protect American research and support the fight against COVID-19.”

“We’ve seen disturbing evidence of state-sponsored cyberattacks from the Chinese Communist Party directed at universities and organizations conducting vital research on combating COVID-19,” he said. “This compromises our research efforts and delays our ability to identify vaccines and treatments.”

Lucas said that NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework, which would be the baseline of the guidance for universities as required by the legislation, “is the gold standard for cyber protection, and tailoring these guidelines for academia and research institutions will keep our data safe from theft and manipulation by foreign actors.”

Barr, who is a member of the China Task Force launched by House Republicans earlier this year, said in a separate statement that “Congress must act to safeguard critical scientific Coronavirus research being conducted at universities nationwide."

Read more about the legislation here. 

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MERGER MORATORIUM: Nearly 60 percent of Americans would support a moratorium on mergers for the country's biggest companies during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by Data for Progress and released in a report with the Justice Collaborative Institute, found that 57 percent of the likely voters surveyed would support a pandemic merger and acquisition ban for companies worth more than $100 million.

Only 19 percent of those surveyed opposed, while 24 percent said they were unsure.

The merger moratorium poll comes after a bill introduced by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm Becerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezClimate change rears its ugly head, but Biden steps up to fight it Meghan McCain grills Psaki on 'hypocrisy' over migrant children facility Ocasio-Cortez slams use of robotic police dog in Bronx community MORE (D-N.Y.) earlier this year.

The Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act has yet to advance from committees in either chamber, but has gained support from progressive groups and lawmakers, including Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-lll.).

"People know when they're getting ripped off," García said of the poll's results during an event hosted by The Appeal and Now This Tuesday. "They know that their wages have not kept up with inflation."

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Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor and proponent of breaking up monopolies, said "this polling is so important - it shows people are way ahead of politicians."

"You unfortunately don't see a lot of politicians talking about anti-monopolies ... it hasn't been a big part of our conversation," she continued.

Other efforts to place a moratorium on mergers during the coronavirus pandemic have also failed.

Read more here. 

SANDBERG BACKS HARRIS: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a post Tuesday afternoon lauded Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) being picked as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's running mate just hours earlier.

Harris is the first Black woman and first Asian American person to be a vice presidential candidate in American history.

"This is a huge moment for Black women and girls all over the world – and for all of us," Sandberg, who was the first woman to sit on Facebook's board, wrote. "For the first time, we’ll see a Black woman on the ticket for the highest office in the land. In a world where there are still far too few Black women leaders in our companies and government, that really matters – because you can't be what you can't see."
 
She added: "Black women candidates face double discrimination on the campaign trail, including criticisms of being 'too ambitious' or 'out for herself.' There’s no denying that Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTo unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination MORE is ambitious – and that’s something we should be celebrating. Today, I am hopeful that many more Black women and girls will be inspired to run for office at every level."
 
The former vice president's rumored shortlist included several other women of color, including Reps. Val Demings (D-Fla.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.), former national security adviser Susan Rice, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
 

REPUBLICAN RUSSIA PROBE HEATS UP: Two high-profile Senate Republican chairmen are homing in on FBI Director Christopher Wray as they ramp up their probes into the investigation of Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamJohn Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report Parliamentarian nixes minimum wage hike in coronavirus bill McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-S.C.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Pelosi: Dems want commission focused on Capitol mob attack Pelosi jokes about Sen. 'Don' Johnson MORE (R-Wis.) on Tuesday singled out Wray, who has increasingly been a target for GOP lawmakers.

Graham sent a letter to Wray this week about a 2018 briefing involving a controversial research dossier from 2016 compiled on then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE that the FBI provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Graham is not a member of.

Over the weekend, Graham released a document declassified by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report MORE that noted the 2018 briefing took place as part of an agreement between Wray, then-Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow CIA formed task force to address suspected microwave attacks Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (D-Va.).

"What is particularly troubling about this briefing is that the outline of the briefing indicates that at least three material misrepresentations regarding the Primary Sub-source and what he told the FBI about the Steele dossier in 2017 were made to the committee," Graham wrote in his letter to Wray.

Graham is claiming that the FBI misled the Senate Intelligence Committee about the sub-sources used to compile the research.

The FBI confirmed that it received Graham's letter, adding that it "will continue to work in coordination with the Department of Justice to address the Committee’s requests."

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Big day for Maya Rudolph

An op-ed to chew on: Equal access to tech can reduce poverty and increase diversity

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

A Bible burning, a Russian news agency, and a story too good to check out (The New York Times / Matthew Rosenberg and Julian Barnes)

Zoom sued for misleading consumers on data privacy practices (Bloomberg Law / Andrea Vittorio) 

How COVID-19 helped--and hurt--Facebook’s fight against bad content (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky) 

‘They aren’t anything without us’: Gig workers are striking throughout Latin America (Vice Motherboard / Martha Pskowski) 

Trump’s TikTok ban is a gross abuse of power (The Verge / Russell Brandom) 

Facial recognition start-up mounts a First Amendment defense (The New York Times / Kashmir Hill)