Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes

Greg Nash

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.


ZUCKERBERG ACKNOWLEDGES ERROR: Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook failed to take down a page and event calling for an armed response to anti-police brutality protests in Kenosha, Wis., despite users reporting them.

The Facebook CEO said during a Q&A with employees Friday that was later posted onto his public page that “it was largely an operational mistake.”

“It’s because the team that enforces our policy against dangerous organizations is a specialized team,” he explained. “The contractors and the reviewers who the initial complaints were funneled to basically didn’t pick this up, and on second review, doing it more sensitively, the team … that’s responsible for dangerous organizations recognized that this violated the policies and we took it down.”

Facebook on Wednesday took down a page for the “Kenosha Guard” and an event promoted by the page called “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives” for violating the platform’s policy against militia organizations.

The night before it was removed, during protests over the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, two people were shot dead and another was injured.

Police have charged Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, in connection with the shooting.

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill at the time that there was no evidence that Rittenhouse “followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized.”

Facebook’s failure to take down a page which asked if “any patriots [are] willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” before violence happened falls into a predictable and dangerous pattern for the platform, according to Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson.

“They are never ready for these things,” the head of the civil rights advocacy group told The Hill in an interview. “You’re telling me that they just weren’t ready for this idea of a white nationalist militia rising up?”

Read more.


ELECTION OFFICIALS TAKE A STAND: Multiple top state election officials on Friday pushed back against recent concerns that the increase of mail-in voting could lead to a spike in voter fraud.

Officials from both sides of the aisle testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing about protecting the upcoming elections. 

“We actually have now conducted three elections this year alone with a full right to vote-by-mail with more citizens voting by mail than ever before and with zero reports or evidence of fraud,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) testified during the hearing. 

Benson testified alongside Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (R), who said that mail-in voting in his state had jumped during the primaries. 

“I am very pleased to say that our election this year was clean, I did have some concerns about going from about 2 percent absentee balloting to what we ended up with, which was about 75 percent,” Adams said. 

He noted that while there had been “isolated incidents” of voter fraud in Kentucky over the past several decades, the state had implemented a series of best practices that ensured officials were “vigilant” for fraud during the elections. He also pointed to concerns over his elderly grandparents voting in-person and risking COVID-19 transmission. 

“I think all these things being equal, I think voting in person is the gold standard, but we are in unique times and we have got to acclimate to them,” Adams testified. 

Benson and Adams’s comments came on the heels of weeks of concerns that mail-in voting could lead to a spike in voter fraud. President Trump also suggested delaying the election over these concerns. 

Read more here.


SENATORS CALL FOR FERTILITY APP PROBE: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on Friday urged regulators to probe popular fertility app Premom after an investigation found significant data vulnerabilities.

The International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) earlier this month revealed that Premom, which has been downloaded more than half a million times, was secretly collecting sensitive data about users and sharing it with three Chinese advertising companies with its Android app.

The nonprofit consumer privacy group alerted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Illinois attorney general about the application, raising concerns that the data-sharing could be breaking state and federal laws.

The investigation found that Premom users were not aware of the geolocation data and hardware identifier collection happening through the app.

The Hill has reached out to the app for comment.

Klobuchar and Moran urged the FTC to investigate the claims in the IDAC’s report.

“While we understand that Premom has taken steps to update its app to halt the sharing of its users’ information with these companies, it is concerning that Premom may have engaged in these deceptive practices and shared users’ personal data without their consent,” the senators, joined by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), wrote.

Read more.


WE’LL BE (MAYBE) WATCHING YOU: Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked two intelligence agencies on Friday if surveillance has been conducted on members of Congress in the last decade.

In a letter to the heads of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Eshoo raised alarm over allegations in a book published earlier this year by journalist Barton Gellman. The book included claims about an NSA surveillance tool used by former contractor Edward Snowden to allegedly search for communications associated with a House member’s publicly-listed official email address where constituents can contact their offices.

Eshoo further pointed to a claim from Snowden in the book that he “wiretapped the internet communications” of the so-called Gang of Eight – the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees and top party leaders in both chambers – as well as the Supreme Court. But the claim appeared to be untrue because Snowden couldn’t find the private email addresses belonging to the lawmakers and Supreme Court justices.

Eshoo expressed alarm about the allegations, saying such surveillance could violate constituents’ privacy and threatened the separation of powers.

“The surveillance of Congressional and judicial communications by the executive branch seriously threatens the separation of powers principles of our Constitution,” Eshoo wrote. “While no member of Congress, Supreme Court Justice, or any other individual is above the law, their communications, like those of all Americans, should only be collected by the government pursuant to a specific warrant authorized by an independent court as part of a criminal or intelligence investigation.”

Neither the ODNI nor the NSA immediately returned requests for comment.

Read more here.


Lighter click: Winners win

An op-ed to chew on: It’s time to rethink children’s privacy protection



‘A totally different ballgame‘: Inside Uber and Lyft’s fight over gig worker status (CNET / Dara Kerr)

TikTok’s security boss makes his case. Carefully (CyberScoop / Jeff Stone) 

In Bid for TikTok, Microsoft Flexes Its Power in Washington (New York Times / Karen Weise and David McCabe)

Facebook Employees Slam Zuckerberg Over Militia Groups And QAnon After Kenosha (BuzzFeed News / Ryan Mac)

As Trump attacks voting by mail, his campaign is promoting it on Facebook (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)

Tags Amy Klobuchar Anna Eshoo Donald Trump Edward Snowden Elizabeth Warren Facebook Jerry Moran Maria Cantwell Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg National Security Agency Privacy Shelley Moore Capito

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