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Hillicon Valley: Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms | Facebook tightens ban on QAnon content | Social media groups urged to weed out disinformation targeting minority voters

Hillicon Valley: Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms | Facebook tightens ban on QAnon content | Social media groups urged to weed out disinformation targeting minority voters
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

AT LONG LAST: The House Judiciary panel on antitrust released its long-awaited report on competition in digital marketplaces Tuesday after multiple delays and a rocky effort to secure bipartisan support for its proposals.

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The Democratic report — which was crafted over 15 months using more than a million documents, testimony gathered in and out of hearings and interviews with hundreds in the industry — paints the country’s biggest tech companies as gatekeepers that stifle competition.

It focuses on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, which were worth a combined $5 trillion in September and made up a third of the S&P 500.

The report includes a series of recommendations on how to address the concentration of market power in those firms, including revamping existing antitrust laws and strengthening the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice antitrust team.

The challenge for Democrats now turns to getting bipartisan support for those proposals.

While the investigation launched last June was always billed as a cooperative effort between the parties, support for the recommendations appears to have frayed on party lines.

The release was reportedly delayed Monday in an effort to get Republican support while Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Sunday shows preview: Biden team gears up for transition, Trump legal battles continue and pandemic rages on MORE (R-Ohio), ranking member of the full Judiciary committee, asked that his colleagues not sign on.

Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckOrganizations push congressional leaders to prioritize tech antitrust report The rhetoric of techlash: A source of clarity or confusion? Hillicon Valley: Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms | Facebook tightens ban on QAnon content | Social media groups urged to weed out disinformation targeting minority voters MORE (R-Colo.), considered the key swing vote on the committee, circulated a draft memo earlier this week obtained by Politico saying that some of the report’s recommendations "are non-starters for conservatives."

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The report acknowledges that not every lawmaker will endorse its entirety, but stresses the findings show a need for reform.

“Although we do not expect that all of our Members will agree on every finding and recommendation identified in this Report, we firmly believe that the totality of the evidence produced during this investigation demonstrates the pressing need for legislative action and reform,” it reads. “These firms have too much power, and that power must be reined in and subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement.”

Read more here.

 

QANON CRACKDOWN: Facebook announced an escalation of its ban on QAnon content Tuesday, pledging to ban all accounts affiliated with the sprawling conspiracy theory from its platform.

The social media giant in August banned QAnon accounts that specifically discussed violence, which led to 1,500 page, group and profile takedowns.

Starting Tuesday, the ban will extend to all affiliated pages, groups and accounts. 

“We are starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and need[s] to continue in the coming days and weeks,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Read more here

 

DISINFORMATION CONCERNS: Officials on Tuesday urged social media platforms to take further steps to root out and remove disinformation and misinformation targeting minority groups that could lead to voter disenfranchisement in the upcoming elections.

Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Trump's cyber firing stirs outrage Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg and Dorsey return for another hearing | House passes 5G funding bill | Twitter introduces 'fleets' MORE (D-Ill.), who took over as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee last month, sounded the alarm on disinformation efforts against minority groups, particularly against the Black community.  

Underwood sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Tuesday expressing concerns that both malicious foreign actors and those in the U.S. could use social media to spread disinformation aimed at preventing Black individuals from voting. 

“The continued efforts to maliciously target Black voters on your platforms raise questions about whether you, as Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, fully appreciate the range of tactics that have been used to suppress Black turnout and the many forms that such suppression may take,” Underwood wrote to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote Facebook says AI is aiding platform's ability to remove hate speech Facebook content moderators demand more workplace COVID-19 protections MORE. “This election will take place under unprecedented circumstances, and both accurate and inaccurate information will no doubt spread quickly on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”

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Underwood was not alone in expressing concerns. 

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK REMOVE’S TRUMP POST: Facebook removed a post Tuesday from President Trump falsely claiming that the flu is more lethal than COVID-19.

“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he wrote in the post. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

CNN first reported the takedown.

More than 209,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 this year, more than in the past five flu seasons combined.

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The annual flu death total has been between 12,000 and 61,000 since 2010, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

The last time that U.S. flu deaths hit an estimated 100,000 was in 1968.

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said.

Read more here

 

WARNER URGES DISINFORMATION SAFEGUARDS: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Facebook, Twitter and Google to implement safeguards against the spread of disinformation on their platforms in the remaining weeks before Nov. 3. 

Warner wrote individual letters to the tech giants Tuesday urging “stronger accountability and transparency standards in the context of our nation’s upcoming election,” underscoring his request by highlighting past and ongoing foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. He called for the companies to better identify, label or remove disinformation and misinformation

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Warner said Facebook and Google are vectors “for disinformation, viral misinformation and voters suppression efforts,” and that misinformation spreading on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube pose “a serious threat” to national security. 

Read more here

 

RUSSIA'S BACK, BACK AGAIN: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday pointed to Russia as the key nation involved in spreading disinformation and misinformation in the U.S., along with posing an “acute” cybersecurity threat headed into the next year. 

“Foreign influence activity will target U.S. foreign and domestic policy, international events such as COVID-19, and democratic processes and institutions, including the 2020 Presidential election,” DHS wrote in the 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA), released Tuesday. 

“Russia is the likely primary covert influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation within the Homeland,” the agency noted. “We assess that Moscow’s primary objective is to increase its global standing and influence by weakening America—domestically and abroad—through efforts to sow discord, distract, shape public sentiment, and undermine trust in Western democratic institutions and processes.”

The assessment from DHS came as concerns around foreign threats to elections have spiked in the past few months. A top official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessed in August that Russia, China and Iran were actively interfering in U.S. elections this year, four years after Russia launched a sweeping campaign designed to favor now-President Trump

Democrats recently demanded DHS make public more information around election threats following an ABC News report on a bulletin sent to law enforcement officials by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis that warned Russian agents were likely to “amplify” concerns around mail-in voting to undermine public trust in the upcoming elections. 

Beyond disinformation concerns, DHS on Tuesday also highlighted cyber threats to elections and to the 2020 Census, with the agency noting that it expected nation states to attempt to interfere.

“Advanced persistent threat or other malicious cyber actors likely will target election-related infrastructure as the 2020 Presidential election approaches, focusing on voter PII [personally identifiable information], municipal or state networks, or state election officials directly. Operations could occur throughout the 2020 election cycle—through pre-election activities, Election Day, and the post-election period,” DHS wrote. 

Read more here.

 

HOUSE PANEL TELLS INTEL COMMUNITY TO STEP UP: A House Intelligence Committee subcommittee on Tuesday urged the intelligence community to take steps to boost its science and technology innovation work, warning that without improvements, the U.S. could fall behind other nations, including China.

The Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research issued a report recommending a series of steps to ensure the U.S. could keep pace on the international stage with technologies including quantum computing, 5G and artificial intelligence, but warned that there was no time to lose.

“We must act now,” the subcommittee wrote in the report. “Studies, reports and commissions have warned for decades about the risks to national security from the steady erosion in our innovative capacity. Those risks are no longer abstract or speculative. They are upon us and presenting us with ever more adversity and ever more limited policy options.”

Recommendations included the reestablishment of the Office of Technology Assessment in the House of Representatives, a nonpartisan agency that provided guidance to Congress on technology-related legislation. It was closed in 1995 after the then-GOP controlled House cut its funding. 

Other recommendations include improving private sector collaboration, improving science and technology education to build a future workforce, establishing an Intelligence Innovation Board and strengthening and focusing science and technology leadership within the intelligence community. 

The subcommittee also stressed the need for the U.S. to lead on the establishment of norms and standards on science and technology, particularly in order to combat increasing cybersecurity threats, pointing to both foreign threats to U.S. elections and cyberattacks against major U.S. companies. 

Read more here.

 

ADMINISTRATION TO TARGET VISAS: The Trump administration announced additional immigration reforms on Tuesday aimed at making it more difficult for skilled foreign workers to acquire visas.

The changes are the latest effort by the Trump administration in recent months to crack down on the use of visas as part of its broader attempt to limit the flow of foreign workers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to publish regulations targeting H-1B visas that are granted to skilled workers and are common in the tech industry. Recipients can typically stay in the United States for multiple years.

The rules, which will go into effect in 60 days, would heighten requirements for businesses that hire foreign workers on H-1B visas, according to details reviewed by The Hill. The changes may be challenged in court.

Read more here

 

INSTAGRAM HEAD WARNS AGAINST TIKTOK BAN: The head of Instagram on Tuesday warned that the Trump administration’s push to ban the Chinese-owned app TikTok could set a precedent leading to global bans of U.S.-based social media companies, including Instagram and its parent company, Facebook. 

“I think the important thing is that if the U.S. ends up banning TikTok, that sets a really powerful precedent for companies all over the world to ban companies like Instagram or Facebook,” Instagram's Adam Mosseri said on NBC’s “Today.”

“And I think a lot of U.S. companies benefit greatly, like ours, from being able to operate all over the world,” Mosseri continued. “And the risk of that precedent being set or pushed forward, I think is much greater than the benefit we have from slowing down a competitor.”

Read more here

 

Lighter click: The future is now

An op-ed to chew on: Fixing government’s trillion-dollar system glitch

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble (Wired / Gilead Edelman)

Spread of a conspiracy theory about Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis show why TikTok must be proactive about QAnon misinformation (Media Matters for America / Olivia Little)

Kickstarter Settles Complaint That It Retaliated Against Union Organizer (Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)

A tiny team of House staffers could change the future of Big Tech (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)