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Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes accounts tied to pro-Trump student group | Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say Trump spreading disinformation: poll | Judge orders Twitter to reveal identity behind account that started Seth Rich Conspiracy

Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes accounts tied to pro-Trump student group | Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say Trump spreading disinformation: poll | Judge orders Twitter to reveal identity behind account that started Seth Rich Conspiracy
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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 team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

TURNING POINT TAKEDOWN: Facebook announced Thursday that it removed a number of fake accounts that the platform said were tied to a network operated on behalf of Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump conservative student organization.

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The social media company said it removed 200 Facebook accounts, 55 pages and 76 accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram since the start of the month as part of the operation.

Facebook said an investigation, launched after a Washington Post report last month about some elements of the activity, found that Turning Point USA was working with marketing firm Rally Forge to create the network of accounts.

Turning Point told The Hill that Facebook’s post was not in reference to the nonprofit Turning Point USA, but rather to a project for Turning Point Action, the political action committee formed by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. Turning Point Action said the PAC is a separate entity from Turning Point USA.

“Turning Point ACTION works hard to operate within social platforms' [terms of service] on all of its projects and communications and we hope to work closely with FB to rectify any misunderstanding,” Turning Point Action said in a statement.

Turning Point Action referred all questions regarding the activities of Rally Forge to the marketing firm. The Hill has reached out to Rally Forge for comment.

Read more here.

MISINFORMATION POLL: Nearly 6 in 10 Americans said President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE is spreading misinformation about the election, protests and the coronavirus, according to a Gallup/Knight Foundation poll released Thursday.

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Trump is one of just two potential sources of misinformation identified by the majority of respondents as spreading a “great deal” of misinformation, the survey found. The other source of misinformation, according to the poll, was social media. 

Fifty-eight percent of Americans said Trump is disseminating a "great deal" of misinformation, with 11 percent saying he is spreading a “fair amount.”

Fifty-four percent said social media websites and apps are also spreading a great deal, and 36 percent said those outlets are spreading a fair amount of misinformation.

Fewer respondents said the same about Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE. Just 30 percent said the former vice president is spreading a great deal of misinformation, and 19 percent said he is spreading a fair amount.

The poll also found that 43 percent of respondents said Republican leaders in Congress are spreading a great deal of misinformation, with 28 percent saying they're spreading a fair amount. Fewer said the same about Democratic leaders in Congress, with 36 percent saying Democrats are spreading a great deal of misinformation and 22 percent saying they are spreading a fair amount.

Read more here.

PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN: A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Twitter to reveal who was behind the account that allegedly spread the conspiracy theory about the death of slain Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in Oakland, Calif., ordered that Twitter must turn over information about the account @whyspertech.

That account is accused of forging FBI documents falsely linking Rich’s killing to the WikiLeaks hack of Democratic emails and provided them to Fox News.

NPR first reported on the order. 

Twitter has sought to keep the identity of the user secret, arguing that disclosing that information would violate the First Amendment.

Ryu set an Oct. 20 deadline for the information to be turned over to the court. The information would then be available to attorneys for Aaron Rich, Rich’s brother.

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the order.

Aaron Rich filed the defamation lawsuit against former Fox News guest Ed Butowsky, right-wing activist Matt Couch and his media company, and the Washington Times.

Read more here.

CRYPTO CONCERNS: The Justice Department on Thursday rolled out a framework for cryptocurrency enforcement, detailing increasing security concerns around the use of virtual currency. 

The Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, developed by the attorney general’s Cyber Digital Task Force, lays out the threats and enforcement challenges involved with the use of cryptocurrency, along with strategies used by the Justice Department in response. 

“Innovations in technology often change the world for the better. And yet, criminals, terrorists, and rogue states can use those same innovations for their own illegitimate ends, imposing great costs on the public,” the task force wrote in the report. “Today, few technologies are more potentially transformative and disruptive—and more potentially susceptible to abuse—than cryptocurrency.”

“Despite its relatively brief existence, this technology already plays a role in many of the most significant criminal and national security threats our nation faces,” Sujit Raman, the chair of the task force, wrote in the report’s introduction, specifically highlighting concerns around the use of cryptocurrency for criminal activities and in money laundering schemes. 

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrProgressives slam Garland for DOJ stances on Trump-era cases Federal judge rules Barr, other officials have qualified immunity from suit over Lafayette Square protests Lieu calls Catholic bishops 'hypocrites' for move to deny Biden communion MORE said in a statement Thursday that the report “provides a cohesive, first-of-its kind framework for those seeking to understand federal enforcement priorities in this growing space.” 

“Cryptocurrency is a technology that could fundamentally transform how human beings interact, and how we organize society,” Barr said. “Ensuring that use of this technology is safe, and does not imperil our public safety or our national security, is vitally important to America and its allies.”

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Read more here. 

NO FLY ZONE: The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) announced Thursday that it had issued new guidance banning the use of agency grants to purchase drones and other unmanned aerial systems from foreign groups deemed threats. 

The guidance, issued Monday but made public on Thursday, is meant to address potential cyber and foreign influence threats, and prohibits grants from being used to purchase drones from entities “determined or designated, within the Department of Justice, to be subject to or vulnerable to extrajudicial direction from a foreign government.”

The guidance also seeks to promote the security of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by requiring applicants for OJP loans to prove they can mitigate any cybersecurity and privacy risks posed by these systems, and that the applicant has a plan to address any civil liberties-related complaints that could arise. 

While the guidance does not mention any country by name, concerns have been raised around the security of Chinese drones in recent months. A provision in the House-passed 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would ban federal procurement or use of certain foreign-made drones, including those from China, due to potential national security threats. 

Chinese technology group Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), which produces a large percentage of the world’s drones, has come under heavy scrutiny by lawmakers, though the company has pushed back strongly against concerns that it may share data with the Chinese government. 

“We take seriously concerns about the use of foreign-made UAS and the potential for related data compromise,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement Thursday. “It is paramount that funding recipients take effective measures to safeguard sensitive information and the public’s privacy and civil liberties while operating these systems in a safe and secure manner.”

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Read more here. 

DOMAIN SEIZURE: The U.S. seized 92 domains used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to spread disinformation and propaganda under the guise of news outlets, the Department of Justice said Wednesday. 

Four of the domains purported to be “genuine news outlets” but were controlled by Iran and targeted the U.S. for the spread of Iranian propaganda to influence U.S. domestic and foreign policy, the Justice Department said. 

The remainder of the websites targeted audiences in Western Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, similarly disguising themselves as news outlets while being controlled by Iran and spreading pro-Iranian disinformation. 

The Justice Department identified the four domains targeting the U.S. as “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us” and “twtoday.net.” The domains violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by operating without proper registration and not conspicuously notifying the public the contents were being published on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the agency. 

Visitors to the websites will receive a message that the domain was seized by the FBI. 

Read more here.

5G GETS A MAJOR FUNDING BOOST: The Department of Defense (DoD) on Thursday announced it has designated $600 million for fifth generation, or 5G, wireless testing and experimentation at five military sites across the nation. 

The funds will be used to help advance DoD’s overall 5G capabilities and include partnerships with academia and leading 5G industry groups, such as AT&T, Nokia and Ericsson. 

The funds will be divided between Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., Naval Base San Diego, and Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. 

Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said in a statement Thursday that 5G testing and development “will strengthen our nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as U.S. economic competitiveness in this critical field.” 

“Through these test sites, the Department is leveraging its unique authorities to pursue bold innovation at a scale and scope unmatched anywhere else in the world,” Kratsios said. “Importantly, today’s announcement demonstrates the Department’s commitment to exploring the vast potential applications and dual-use opportunities that can be built upon next-generation networks.”

Read more here.

ICYMI — HARRIS PUNCHES BACK: Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisA call to action for strategic space competition with China Old-guard Democrats must end the filibuster and symbolic progress Biden job approval at 43 percent in Iowa: poll MORE on Wednesday night accused President Trump of promoting voter suppression during heated comments on election integrity at the vice presidential debate. 

“If we use our voice, we will win, and we will not let anyone subvert our democracy with what Donald Trump has been doing, as he did on the main stage last week,” Harris said in answer to a question on ensuring a peaceful transition of power should President Trump lose the election. “He openly attempted to suppress the vote.”

The California senator was likely referring to comments by President Trump during the first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden last week, during which Trump urged his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” citing concerns over voter fraud. 

Voting integrity experts have argued in the days since the debate that Trump’s comments could lead to voter intimidation at the polls and that laws, including the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, prohibit attempts to intimidate, threaten, coerce or interfere with anyone trying to vote.

“We believe in the American people, we believe in our democracy, and here is what I would like to say to everybody, please vote, vote early,” Harris said Wednesday night. “We have it within our power in the next 27 days to make a decision about what will be the course of our country the next four years.”

Read more here.

Lighter click: Hello?

An op-ed to chew on: Killer acquisition or successful integration: The case of the Facebook/Instagram merger

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Google is giving data to police based on search keywords, court docs show (CNET / Alfred Ng)

Black LinkedIn Is Thriving. Does LinkedIn Have a Problem With That? (New York Times / Ashanti M. Martin)

Meet Ricky Desktop, The Most Viral Beatmaker On Tiktok (The Verge / Jacob Kastrenakes)

Microsoft takes aim at Apple with app store principles (Washington Post / Reed Albergotti)