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Hillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump's death

Hillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump's death
© 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 team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

TECH CEOS TO TESTIFY: The CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter are set to testify before the Senate later this month, spokespeople for the companies confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

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The appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee will be the second time that top tech executives appear before Congress this year, following this summer’s major hearing before a House antitrust subcommittee.

Google’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergWarren's wealth tax would cost 100 richest Americans billion Who killed the California dream? If you think it was liberals, think again Facebook touts benefits of personalized ads in new campaign MORE and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey will appear before the powerful Senate committee on Oct. 28, just days before the general election.

The hearing set to focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is considered the bedrock of the modern internet.

The 1996 law, which has come under increased scrutiny since President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE targeted it in an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.

Read more here.

EUROPEANS SOUND THE ALARM: Euoropol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, warns that cybercrime has spiked over the past year in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Europol’s findings were detailed in its annual Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment, released Monday. The assessment highlighted ransomware attacks, including those targeting health care organizations, as one of the most persistent cyber threats during the pandemic, including attacks involving hackers threatening to auction off data if a ransom is not paid.

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The distribution of child abuse material online has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, including livestreaming of sexual abuse. Other concerns have involved SIM swapping, in which the hacker takes over a SIM card on the individual’s phone to intercept a two-factor authentication code, and the increased use of the dark web for criminal activities. 

“Ransomware in particular remains a priority threat encountered by cyber investigators across the EU,” Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle wrote in an introduction to the report. “The amount of online child sexual abuse material detected continues to increase, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had serious consequences for the investigative capacity of law enforcement authorities.”

Phishing emails and online scams have increased, with Europol noting that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the vulnerable online during the pandemic, and that disinformation has become easier to spread during the period of uncertainty. 

Read more here. 

TWITTER REMOVING POSTS: Twitter warned Friday it will remove posts on its platform that wish for President Trump’s death after he announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 

After reports initially surfaced that Twitter would suspend accounts that posted such messages, the company said the tweets would not merit immediate suspension, but would be swiftly removed.

“[T]weets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against *anyone* are not allowed and will need to be removed. this does not automatically mean suspension,” the platform tweeted from its communications account.

The warning came the same day as Trump’s announcement that he and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - FBI director testifies on Jan. 6 Capitol attack Overnight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions Trump has been vaccinated for coronavirus MORE have tested positive for the virus, which has infected more than 7.3 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 208,000.

Social media was soon flooded with posts bashing Trump, though Democrats made several statements wishing the president well.

Read more here. 

MCCABE BOWS OUT: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? MORE (R-S.C.) announced Monday the panel would postpone a hearing, originally scheduled for Tuesday, with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' MORE.

The news came after McCabe said Saturday that he would not appear at a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

McCabe was set to testify in front of the judiciary panel on Tuesday as part of its investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe but said he felt attending would be tantamount to putting his family at risk after Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks Biden reignites war powers fight with Syria strike Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (R-Utah) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (R-N.C.), who sit on the committee, tested positive. 

"Mr. McCabe was still prepared to testify voluntarily and in person on October 6 as recently as the latter part of this past week. However, since that time, it has been reported that at least two members of your Committee – Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis – have tested positive for Covid-19, and it may well be that other members of the Committee and staff who plan to attend the hearing will test positive between now and then, or may have been exposed to the virus and may be a carrier. Under these circumstances, an in-person hearing carries grave safety risks to Mr. McCabe, me, and senators and staff who would attend,” McCabe’s attorney wrote to Graham.

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"Mr. McCabe is willing, able, and eager to testify in person about Crossfire Hurricane at any time in the future when it is safe to do so. But he is not willing to put his family’s health at risk to do so," he continued. "For these reasons, we are unwilling to appear in person for the October 6 hearing; and for reasons of fairness, we are unwilling to testify remotely. A fair and appropriate hearing of this kind — which is complex and contentious — simply cannot be conducted other than in person." 

Graham has been spearheading an investigation into the FBI’s Russia investigation and former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s subsequent inquiry. The investigation is also looking into the courts created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Read more here.  

Lighter click: Wishing a swift recoveigh

An op-ed to chew on: Mars exploration: A driver of innovation and commerce

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Want to fight online voting misinformation? A new study makes a case for targeting Trump tweets (The Verge / Adi Robertson)

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Digital Piecework (Dissent Magazine / Veena Dubal)

GOP lawmaker: Democrats' tech proposals will include 'non-starters for conservatives' (Politico / Cristiano Lima)

Facebook Says Government Breakup of Instagram, WhatsApp Would Be ‘Complete Nonstarter’ (Wall Street Journal / Jeff Horwitz)

Facebook Keeps Data Secret, Letting Conservative Bias Claims Persist (NPR / Bobby Allyn)