Hillicon Valley: Virginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register | State officials warn of delayed election results from influx of mail-in ballots | Facebook bans anti-vaccination ads

Hillicon Valley: Virginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register | State officials warn of delayed election results from influx of mail-in ballots | Facebook bans anti-vaccination ads
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VIRGINIA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Virginia’s voter registration website was back up Tuesday afternoon after an outage that lasted about six hours on the commonwealth’s last day to register to vote ahead of the November election. 


The Virginia Department of Elections on Tuesday afternoon said its citizen portal – which allows residents to register to vote, update information and check their registration status – was back up. 

“Thank you everyone for your patience! The citizen portal is back up, you can go to http://elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo to register to vote, update information or check your registration status,” the department tweeted. 

The department earlier in the day said a cut fiber near the Commonwealth Enterprise Solutions Center had affected the portal and the registrar’s offices. 

Virginia faced a similar problem in 2016, when the website went down the final day to register to vote ahead of that year’s presidential election. 

Read more here. 

KEEP CALM AND BE PATIENT: A bipartisan group of secretaries of state warned Tuesday that it may take longer to finalize the vote count in the upcoming U.S. elections, but emphasized steps were being taken to ensure the safety and security of the voting process.

The officials in particular emphasized their commitment to weeding out voter intimidation at the polls and to shoring up cybersecurity, particularly as early voting across the nation surged to record levels over the past week. 


Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) noted that almost 1 million Michigan residents had already cast absentee votes ahead of election day, around a third of the 2.9 million residents who requested mail-in ballots. 

Benson emphasized that due to state law not allowing the process of counting mail-in ballots to begin until the morning of Election Day on Nov. 3, the swing-state is expecting a delay of several days before the election results were finalized.

“We estimate that our results, or in other words, the full 3 million or however many ballots that will be voted early ultimately, it will take us probably through Friday at the latest to tabulate them all methodically, securely,” Benson said during a press call hosted by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) on Tuesday. 

Benson told reporters that the state made this calculation based on the state’s August primaries, when 1.6 million absentee ballots were cast, noting that it took the state 40 hours to securely count those ballots. 

“If we have twice as many, let’s say 3.2 million ballots voted by mail absentee or early this year in November, we anticipate it could take 80 hours to tabulate them all, leading us to Friday,” Benson said, noting that that time frame could be expanded if more mail-in ballots than expected are received, or if there were any challenges to election results. 

“The bottom line is that we are making data-driven decisions in our state to prepare for November, we’re ready, and I am confident that the results of our elections, when they are announced, will be a reflection of the will of the people,” she said.

Concerns over the timing of a vote count have been amplified this year due to the expected influx of mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular in swing states including Michigan and Pennsylvania where officials cannot begin the process of counting mail-in ballots until Nov. 3. 

Read more here. 

BYE DAY FOR ANTI-VAXXERS: Facebook announced Tuesday that it will ban advertisements that discourage people from getting vaccines, another tightening of the platform’s rules on a subject it had previously avoided.

Any ads that paint vaccines as unsafe, useless or harmful will no longer be allowed.

“Our goal is to help messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines reach a broad group of people, while prohibiting ads with misinformation that could harm public health efforts,” Facebook’s head of health initiatives, Kang-Xing Jin, said in a blog post. “We don’t want these ads on our platform.”

Facebook has previously slapped restrictions on vaccine-related hoaxes identified by global health organizations.

Tuesday's ban comes a day after Facebook promised to block content denying the Holocaust and a week after a new crackdown on the QAnon conspiracy.

The latest steps are a break from CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook to dial back political content on platform Apple, Facebook report increase in earnings at the end of 2020 Markey questions Facebook on 'failed commitment' to stop recommending political groups MORE’s largely hands-off approach to content moderation. He had defended Holocaust denial content as recently as two years ago.


Read more here. 

ZUCKERBERG PAYS UP: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, on Tuesday announced they would donate $100 million to shore up election security efforts, a month after the couple donated $300 million for the same issue. 

Zuckerberg announced the donation in a Facebook post Tuesday, noting that the funds will go to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which received $250 million as part of the previous donation by Zuckerberg and Chan. Another $50 million from the previous donation went to the Center for Election Innovation and Research to help secretaries of state across the nation boost election security efforts. 

The two donations together total $400 million, the same amount appropriated by Congress this year for state and local election officials to address challenges to elections posed by COVID-19. 

Zuckerberg wrote that the CTCL had received applications from around 2,100 jurisdictions for the funds, which are meant to assist in recruiting and training poll workers along with ensuring polling sites have the voting equipment needed. 

“Voting is the foundation of democracy,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It's how we express our voice and make sure our country is heading in the direction we want. Priscilla and I remain determined to ensure that every state and local election jurisdiction has the resources they need so Americans can vote.”

According to Zuckerberg, most of the applications for the previous funds were from voting jurisdictions with less than 25,000 registered voters, but Zuckerberg emphasized that “all qualified jurisdictions that apply for the funds will be approved. 


Read more here.


Amazon workers are planning demonstrations across the country to coincide with the two days of the e-commerce giant’s annual Prime Day sale, with workers protesting over health and safety concerns they argue have increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers and community members will hold a protest outside an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., on Wednesday afternoon. Organizers said dozens are expected to attend, with protesters calling for the company to ease its rate requirements to allow workers the time they need to wash their hands and take other safety precautions.

“This is not fair. We are human beings, we need to be respected,” said Fadumo, a worker at Amazon’s delivery station in Eagan, Minn., who said she will be participating in Wednesday's protest. Fadumo, who asked to be identified only by her first name, accused Amazon of having an unsafe work environment, especially amid the months of the pandemic.

In September, she said she was tested for the coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms. She said she was told to return to work while awaiting results for the virus despite the fact that she was symptomatic. Fadumo said she refused, not willing to risk the lives of more than 200 other workers, and then had to go about the process of obtaining letters to state that she would be in isolation.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not directly respond to Fadumo’s accusation that she was asked to return to work as she was symptomatic and awaiting COVID-19 results but defended the company’s safety policies put in place during the pandemic.


Read more here

TWITTER PAYS UP: Twitter will pay $100,000 to Washington after the social media platform failed to maintain public inspection records of nearly $200,000 paid to it for political ads in violation of state law, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) says. 

The judgement filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court asserts that since 2012, Twitter has failed to maintain records from at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that bought ads. 

Washington’s campaign finance law requires political advertisers to retain records related to political ads. 

“Transparency in political advertising is critical to a free and informed electorate,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Whether you're a local newspaper or a multinational social media platform, you must follow our campaign finance laws.” 

A Twitter spokesperson said the resolution with Washington is "reflective of our commitment to transparency and accountability," noting the company's decision to ban all political advertising starting in November 2019. 

"We’ll continue working to uphold our commitment to transparency and to protect the health of the online public conversation, especially ahead of the 2020 U.S. Election," the spokesperson added. 

The state’s suit against Twitter is one of several Ferguson has sought against tech giants over political advertising. 

Read more here. 

WIRELESS INDUSTRY TAKES A STAND: The wireless industry on Tuesday urged President TrumpDonald TrumpFBI says California extremist may have targeted Newsom House Democrat touts resolution to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress Facebook to dial back political content on platform MORE to oppose any efforts to nationalize the 5G network infrastructure following the Pentagon’s recent engagements with telecommunications companies.

Groups that represent wireless telecommunication companies said a move toward 5G would be “at odds with more than a century of private sector-led innovation and investment in communications networkers.” 

The letter was signed by seven groups, including The Wireless Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, and NCTA – The Internet and Telephone Association.

“We need to ensure that a competitive, free market remains and supports the private-sector deployment of 5G networks to ensure American networks continue to be the gold standard worldwide,” the groups wrote.

The Pentagon has recently put out a request for information (RFI) that seeks input from wireless carriers on 5G.

Read more here. 

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QAnon is tearing families apart (Washington Post / Travis Andrews)

“It’s been really, really bad”: How Hispanic voters are being targeted by disinformation (MIT Tech Review / Tate Ryan-Mosley)

Google Employees Are Free to Speak Up. Except on Antitrust. (New York Times / Daisuke Wakabayashi)

What's behind the rise of QAnon in the UK? (BBC / Shayan Sardarizadeh)

Clear Conquered U.S. Airports. Now It Wants to Own Your Entire Digital Identity. (OneZero / Dave Gershgorn)

As voters cast their ballots, courts nationwide issue election security edicts (CyberScoop / Tim Starks)