SPONSORED:

Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon

Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon
© Getty Images

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.

BUNGLED TAKE-DOWN: Facebook and Twitter largely bungled their efforts Wednesday to limit the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, inviting allegations of censorship and raising concerns about the how they will handle a flood of information on election night.

ADVERTISEMENT

Facebook was the first to take action, with communications manager Andy Stone saying the platform was applying its viral misinformation policy to limit the spread of the article and allow its third-party fact checkers to evaluate it.

But by that point the story had already been racing around Facebook, and Stone’s announcement did not seem to meaningfully limit the spread. By Thursday afternoon, it had been shared nearly 400,000 times on the platform, according to the Facebook-owned social media tracking service Crowdtangle.

Twitter approached the story differently by barring users from sharing links to it in tweets and direct messages, but without informing users that the company had determined that the article violated the platform’s policy on hacked materials.

CEO Jack Dorsey later said it was "unacceptable" how the company failed to explain its decision at the time.

The manner in which both social media giants handled such a divisive news story so late in the presidential campaign is raising questions about how tech companies will evaluate a high volume of information, and potentially misinformation, on Election Day.

Facebook has not made clear which aspect of the article led to the decision to limit its spread.

Read more here.

ADVERTISEMENT

TARGETING SECTION 230: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced Thursday that the panel will move forward the Trump administration’s petition to clarify the meaning of the law that gives tech companies a legal liability shield for content posted by third parties. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE targeted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which also gives platforms the ability to do good-faith content moderation — in a May executive order shortly after Twitter fact checked some of his posts about mail-in voting.

The executive order had the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, a subagency of the Commerce Department, submit a request to the FCC for the landmark law to be reconsidered.

The order was roundly criticized by tech groups and legal experts, who noted that only Congress has the authority to amend laws.

Pai said in a statement Thursday that the FCC’s general counsel informed him that the “FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230.”

Read more here

BANNING QANON: YouTube on Thursday expanded its policies against hate and harassment to include removing content targeting an individual or group with a conspiracy theory like QAnon that has been linked to real-world violence.

The update comes less than a week after the platform’s CEO, Susan Wojiciki, came under criticism for declining to commit to an outright ban of the sprawling QAnon conspiracy theory, a step Facebook took last week.

"I think if you look at QAnon, part of it is that it's a grass-roots movement, and so you could see just lots and lots of different people who are uploading content that has different QAnon theories,"  she told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. "We're very proactive in terms of removing it, and I think you'll see us continue to be so."  

The new policy update is technically not a full ban, but a Google spokesperson told The Hill that the effect will be similar, saying that the vast majority of QAnon content on the platform would be affected.

Starting Thursday, videos that directly link any individual or group to QAnon could be removed. YouTube operates under a three strikes policy, where the first two violations result in a temporary freeze on posting and the third is grounds for banning an account.

Read more here. 

NEW SHIPT PROTEST: Shipt workers, frustrated with the delivery company’s shift to a new, less transparent pay model, are set to strike this weekend before staging protests at both Shipt and Target’s corporate headquarters on Monday.

With the pay model now instituted in every market, organizers hope this direct action will send a clear signal to Shipt and Target, which acquired the delivery company in 2017, that workers are unsatisfied by what they say is lower pay overall.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The reason why we chose to organize is we believe that it's time for them to see the actual visual effects of shoppers that are hurting because of the pay structure change,” Willy Solis, an organizer and shopper in Texas, told The Hill.

While Shipt previously had a simple model for calculating payouts — a 7.5 percent commission on all orders over $5 — the company has slowly been rolling out a new model, dubbed V2, that gives out pay based on a black box algorithm.

All markets have now switched to the new model as of Sept. 30. Shipt says that the new model has been instituted to pay its 200,000 workers more accurately based on the amount of effort put into fulfilling each order.

While we do know that the new pay structure factors in drive time, number of items and store location to calculate payout, little more information is public and Shipt could easily tweak the model without telling shoppers.

Read more here.  

SEEKING TWITTER TESTIMONY: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week to subpoena Twitter's CEO after Republicans accused the platform of censorship over a decision to limit the spread of New York Post stories about Hunter Biden. 

Cruz was among several Republican lawmakers who criticized social media platforms for their decision to limit the spread of a story — portions of which Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE’s campaign have disputed — published Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz said the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after the platform took similar action on Thursday to prevent users from sharing a separate story about Hunter Biden published by the New York Post. 

“The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on,” Cruz told reporters. 

He accused Twitter's actions of being “election interference” just 19 days out from Election Day. He said the committee will vote Tuesday on whether to subpoena Dorsey to testify later in the week.

Read more here.

TRUMP ATTACKS: President Trump on Thursday slammed Facebook and Twitter over their decisions to limit the spread of a New York Post story that included allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Trump accused the companies of seeking to help his opponent's campaign by enforcing policies that limit users' ability to share the story. Biden's campaign has disputed portions of the article after it was published Wednesday.

“Now, Big Tech — you see what’s going on with Big Tech? — is censoring these stories to try and get Biden out of this impossible jam. He’s in a big jam,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina.

ADVERTISEMENT

"He and his family are crooked and they were caught, they got caught," Trump added.

His comments are in response to Facebook and Twitter’s decisions to clamp down on the spread of the Post story, which includes claims about Joe Biden and Ukraine that hinge on emails reportedly retrieved from the hard drive of a laptop dropped off at a computer repair shop in Delaware in April 2019.

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 an attorney for Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiShift in tone dominates at final Trump-Biden clash Biden swipes at Trump ally Giuliani at debate: He's 'being used as a Russian pawn' Trump strikes different tone as debate opens, then grows more combative MORE, the former New York City mayor who now serves as Trump's personal lawyer, before it was seized by the FBI.

The Biden campaign has pushed back on the report. The campaign told Politico the Post never asked the campaign about “critical elements of this story” and said that based on a review of the former vice president’s official schedule from that time “no meeting, as alleged by The New York Post, ever took place.”

A Biden spokesman did not directly refute Trump’s remarks when asked to respond to his rally comments, but rather criticized the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and decision to hold in-person events. 

Read more here. 

NEW SECURITY STRATEGY: President Trump on Thursday released a national strategy to promote the future of critical and emerging technologies around the world, including artificial intelligence, military and space technologies, and quantum computing.

The strategy lays out priorities for the promotion of these technologies and for keeping pace with other nations, with a focus on bolstering U.S. science and technology efforts both domestically and internationally and on protecting U.S. research and technology from adversaries. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Thursday that one goal of the strategy was to underline U.S. international leadership in critical technologies. 

“As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security,” McEnany said. 

She added that “the United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.”

Goals of the strategy include prioritizing science and technology workforce development, ensuring the U.S. leads on the development of international standards around critical technologies, building partnerships with allied nations and taking steps to protect the development of critical technologies such as through designing security into products. 

Read more here.

TIKTOK BOOSTS CYBERSECURITY: TikTok announced Thursday that it is expanding its cybersecurity vulnerability disclosure program to further address cyber threats.

The move is part of the social media platform's broader efforts to promote security during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

TikTok announced in a blog post that it is partnering with HackerOne to create a “global bug bounty program,” expanding its existing vulnerability disclosure program to help users or security professionals flag technical concerns with the platform.

HackerOne is a vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform that has a community of more than 750,000 ethical hackers and security researchers, according to TikTok.

Read more here.

DEMS QUESTION AMAZON: Democratic senators questioned Amazon on Thursday over reports of the company’s efforts to undermine workers' rights to unionize. 

The senators wrote to Amazon calling for details regarding the e-commerce giant's policies and actions in light of reports about it surveilling and retaliating against workers. 

“Each of these reports is deeply troubling, and taken together, they suggest a pattern of significant abuse of workers and their rights,” Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCoordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon MORE (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to 'rally the American people' if Biden wins MORE (I-Vt.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandInternal Democratic poll: Desiree Tims gains on Mike Turner in Ohio House race Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize MORE (D-N.Y.) wrote in the letter

Read more here.

WATCHDOG EYES SCHOOL HACKERS: The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, on Thursday published findings concluding that an increasing number of cyberattacks on educational institutions were putting students increasingly at risk. 

As part of a report finalized last month but made public Thursday, GAO concluded that “recent K-12 breaches show students are vulnerable to harm,” specifically pointing to the impact of malicious cyber incidents on the security of student data. 

GAO relied on data from the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center (CRC) to evaluate the impact of cyberattacks on student data. The CRC has recorded over 1,000 cyber incidents involving K-12 institutions in the United States since 2016, including ransomware and denial-of-service attacks. 

Based on this data, the agency concluded that thousands of students were potentially negatively impacted by around 100 data breaches over the past four years, with academic records the most often type of data compromised, along with other personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers, also exposed. 

GAO cited evidence from cybersecurity and financial experts, noting that some of the student data compromised was subsequently sold on the black market, causing “some students significant financial harm.”

“Although the number of students affected by a breach was not always available, examples show that thousands of students have had their data compromised in a single breach,” GAO wrote. 

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE, DOE GET DEAL: Google will provide the Department of Energy (DOE) with access to its cloud technologies under a five-year agreement with the federal government, those involved in the deal announced Thursday.

Under the agreement, the DOE will have access to Google tools including the tech giant’s Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace productivity tools. 

The agency said it will use the cloud technology for a range of purposes including to help predict which energy equipment will require preventative maintenance, help cities identify cost-efficient renewable energy resources, and manage data pouring into research facilities.

The price of the multiyear agreement was not immediately clear and additional details were not released.

Read more here.

Lighter click: Say cheese

An op-ed to chew on: The rhetoric of techlash: A source of clarity of confusion

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

How to deal with a crisis of misinformation (The New York Times / Brian Chen) 

Some states plan to forge ahead with their own Google probe, as federal lawsuit appears imminent (The Washington Post / Tony Romm)

Amazon Ring call center workers in Philippines ‘scared’ to go to work during pandemic (NBC News / Olivia Solon and April Glaser) 

Public outrage is the best regulation of Big Tech we are going to get (Vice Motherboard / Tim Marchman)