SPONSORED:

Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
© Getty

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.

SLAP ON THE WRIST: Twitter's lack of adequate cybersecurity protection allowed a 17-year-old to allegedly lead a mass hack of high-profile accounts in July using a “simple technique,” according to a report released Wednesday by a New York regulator. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) is calling for social media companies to be designated “systemically important institutions,” like some banks were after the 2008 financial crisis, and subject to enhanced regulation. 

The report underscores the push for further protection by highlighting concerns that the cybersecurity vulnerabilities could lead to an election-related hacking attempt. 

“The Hackers focused on classic fraud. But such a hack, when perpetrated by well-resourced adversaries, could wreak far greater damage by manipulating public perception about markets, elections, and more,” the report states. 

The report describes the hijack of high-profile accounts, including former President Obama, reality star Kim Kardashian WestKimberly (Kim) Noel Kardashian WestTrump grants clemency to five nonviolent offenders Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says MORE and Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation MORE, as “jarringly easy for a teenager and his young associates” to execute. 

Read more here. 

FACEBOOK, TWITTER CRACKDOWN: Twitter and Facebook both took steps Wednesday to limit the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden that has sparked questions about its sourcing.

The story published Wednesday morning includes allegations regarding Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida Supreme Court reinstates ban on curbside voting in Alabama MORE and Ukraine that hinge on an email reportedly retrieved from the hard drive of a laptop dropped off at a computer repair shop in Delaware in April 2019.

ADVERTISEMENT

An unnamed store owner, who reportedly could not identify the individual who dropped off the computer, is said to have provided a copy of the hard drive to Trump's personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani responds to reports on 'Borat' scene, says he was 'tucking in' his shirt Fort Bragg deletes Twitter account after attributing explicit tweets to hacker Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name MORE before it was seized by the FBI.

Twitter took action on Wednesday by preventing users from sharing links to the story in tweets or direct messages.

The decision was made based on the platform’s hacked materials policy, a spokesperson for Twitter told The Hill.

The same policy was implemented over the summer to ban links to a trove of hacked police documents called “BlueLeaks.”

According to the policy, discussion of hacks “including reporting on a hack, or sharing press coverage of hacking” does not violate the rules.

The Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about why the Post’s reporting is not included under that exemption.

Read more here. 

BANNED: YouTube will ban content containing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, expanding its policy surrounding misinformation about the virus, the company said Wednesday. 

The Google-owned video platform said it will remove any content that includes claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradicts information from health authorities. 

YouTube was already removing content with misinformation about the existence and the transmission of the coronavirus, as well as content promoting medically unsubstantiated methods of treatment. The platform said it had removed more than 200,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading COVID-19 information since early February. 

YouTube’s move to expand its policy comes as tech companies grapple with the rampant spread of misinformation online, including false information about the coronavirus pandemic, as a number of drug companies are conducting studies on a vaccine for the virus that has infected more than 38 million people globally, including more than 7.8 million in the U.S. 

Facebook on Tuesday said it would ban advertisements that paint vaccines as unsafe, useless or harmful. 

Read more here. 

VOTER CONFIDENCE?: Only around half of U.S. voters expect to know who won the election within one or two days of Nov. 3, according to new research released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The study, which compiled responses from almost 12,000 U.S. adults between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5, found that 50 percent of those polled expect to know results within two days. 

Both supporters of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE and Democratic nominee Joe Biden said that they expected a delay in election results, but the study overall revealed what Pew researchers described “deep divisions” over the election process.

“Trump and Biden supporters have deep disagreements over several other aspects of the election and voting process – including whether it will be clear which candidate won even after all the votes are counted,” researchers wrote in the study. 

Pew researchers found that only 55 percent of Trump supporters versus 76 percent of Biden supporters believe the winner will be clear once all the votes are counted.

The divide is even starker with regard to mail-in ballots. Only around one-third of Trump supporters polled believe that mail-in ballots will be sent in on time to be counted versus around two thirds of Biden supporters. 

Election officials are expecting an influx of mail-in ballots due to efforts to socially distance and have less in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read more here. 

ADVERTISEMENT

GOODBYE: Twitter confirmed Tuesday that it removed fake accounts from its platform that were posing as Black supporters of President Trump as it looks to crack down on disinformation heading into the presidential election.

“Our teams are working diligently to investigate this activity and will take action in line with the Twitter Rules if Tweets are found to be in violation. Presently, we’ve taken action on some of the Tweets and accounts…for violations of our policies on platform manipulation and spam,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill. 

The confirmation comes after an investigation from The Washington Post found that several such accounts had been taken down over violating Twitter’s rules against platform manipulation. The rules bar users from posting information intending to artificially amplify or suppress information or try to manipulate or disrupt other people’s interactions on Twitter. 

Twitter confirmed that among the over two dozen accounts taken down were @CopJrCliff, which depicted the image of a Black police officer, President Trump and the words “VOTE REPUBLICAN.” In a sign of foul play, the accounted tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers. 

Many of the accounts reportedly sent out messages using verbatim language to boost the president and used publicly available pictures of Black Americans, claiming to belong to people who were part of pro-Trump groups.

Read more. 

LASHING OUT: 

ADVERTISEMENT

Some Republican lawmakers lashed out at Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday over the platforms’ decisions to limit the spread of a New York Post story about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. 

The GOP lawmakers characterized the moves as censorship and renewed their allegations that social media platforms have an anti-conservative bias.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (R-Mo.) sent letters to both Facebook and Twitter over their decisions to clamp down on the spread of the article. 

"I find this behavior stunning but not surprising from a platform that has censored the President of the United States,” Hawley wrote to Twitter, seemingly referencing occasions when the platform has added labels to President Trump’s posts over misinformation. 

His letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey followed an earlier, similar letter he sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the decision to limit the spread of the Post’s story. 

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Asking the tough questions

An op-ed to chew on: The downside of a lean electric grid

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Pinterest Is Still Hosting QAnon Content Despite New Ban (OneZero / Sarah Emerson)

Logically Investigation Uncovers QAnon Central Hub Hosting Phishing Scams; Direct Ties to Jim Watkins (Logically / Nick Backovic and Joe Ondrak)

Twitter, Like Facebook, to Remove Posts Denying the Holocaust (Bloomberg / Kurt Wagner)

Facebook’s viral misinformation policy gets put to the test with Hunter Biden story (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)