Hillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly $2B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems

Hillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly $2B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems
© 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.

TWO WEEKS TO GO...: Emails sent to voters in Florida and Alaska this week from domains purporting to be a far-right group threatening them to vote for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE or face consequences are raising concerns around voter suppression efforts and disinformation ahead of Election Day.


The emails, which are under investigation by federal and state officials, were primarily sent to people in Florida, and used some personal details about the individuals targeted to appear more threatening. 

One email viewed by The Hill came from a group with the domain “info@officialproudboys.com” and was sent to a registered voter on Tuesday, a day after early voting began in Florida, under the subject line “Vote for Trump or else!”

“You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” the email stated, including personal information of the recipient. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”

Voter intimidation is an issue that has been seen in many forms in previous U.S. elections, but the election process has been in the spotlight since the 2016 presidential election, when Russian agents launched a disinformation campaign aimed at swaying voters towards now-President Trump. 

People from both parties have already been threatened by emails and postal letters connected to the election.

It is not clear what entity is behind the emails sent to residents of Alaska and Florida, a crucial swing state in the presidential race. According to Vice, at least one email included a link to a video showing a hacker obtaining data and printing a ballot. 

The emails came from addresses claiming to originate with the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violent confrontation, that President Trump declined to condemn during the first presidential debate against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE, though he did later condemn the group during an appearance on Fox News. 


Individuals affiliated with the Proud Boys have denied sending the threatening emails, with Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio telling CBS News on Wednesday that he had contacted the FBI and officials in Alachua County, Florida about the emails. 

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights received roughly 80 complaints as of Wednesday about potential voter intimidation stemming from the malicious emails, with the lion’s share coming from Florida, some from Alaska and one from Arizona, the group’s president and executive director Kristen Clarke told The Hill on Wednesday. Arizona, like Florida, is a key swing state in the election.

“Sadly, we see voter intimidation rear its ugly head in our elections. We are on alert this season given the racially charged atmosphere across the country and the rise in white supremacist activity,” Clarke said. 

Read more here.


NICE KNOWING YOU QUIBI: Quibi Holdings LLC is shutting down, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday afternoon, with its demise coming just 26 months after it launched amid high expectations in August 2018.

Quibi, which billed itself as presenting "fresh content from today’s biggest stars — one quick bite at a time," raised a whopping $1.75 billion in funding before launching.

But the company struggled to maintain a foothold in an increasingly crowded mobile video space and chaotic news cycles.

According to a New York Times report in May, Quibi fell out of the top 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps, with only 1.3 million active users, well short of expectations.

Read more here.


PASS GO, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL: President Trump has signed legislation making it a federal crime to attempt to hack federal voting systems.

The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act was unanimously approved by the House last month, over a year after the Senate also unanimously passed the legislation. Trump signed the legislation on Tuesday, just two weeks before the election.

The new law empowers the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue charges against anyone who attempts to hack a voting system under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, commonly used by the agency to pursue charges against malicious hackers. 


The bill’s original introduction was the result of a 2018 report compiled by the DOJ's Cyber Digital Task Force, which evaluated ways the federal government could improve its response to cyber threats. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGOP breaks with Trump firing of cyber chief: Adds to 'confusion and chaos' Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Graham says he's talked to officials in two states about election MORE (D-R.I.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Hackers love a bad transition The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump campaign files for Wis. recount l Secretaries of state fume at Trump allegations l Biden angered over transition delay MORE (R-S.C.) last year.

Concerns around election security have remained high since 2016, when Russian agents launched a sweeping campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. The effort included targeting voting infrastructure in all 50 states, with Russian hackers successfully gaining access to voter registration systems in several states.

There is no evidence that any votes were changed in 2016 or that any voters were prevented from casting their ballots, though lawmakers and officials have pushed to avoid any repeat of the election interference from that year.

Read more here.


CHINESE NEWS GROUPS HAVE A BAD DAY: The State Department announced Wednesday that the administration is labeling six more Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions,” accusing the publications of spreading propaganda.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement the agency is slapping the designation on Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review and Economic Daily, accusing the state-owned outlets of toeing the Chinese Communist Party line. 


The designations do not impact the outlets’ ability to publish content in the U.S., but they do mandate the publications notify the State Department about its current personnel in the country, including basic information about the employees and the company’s property holdings. 

“The decision to designate these entities does not place any restrictions on what these organizations may publish in the United States. It simply recognizes them for what they are — PRC-controlled propaganda outlets,” said Ortagus.

“Our goal is to protect the freedom of press in the United States, and ensure the American people know whether their news is coming from the free press or from a malign foreign government. Transparency isn’t threatening to those who value truth.” 

Read more here.


AOC LIVESTREAM DRAWS A CROWD: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez defends Harry Styles wearing dress on Vogue cover: 'It looks wonderful' Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE's (D-N.Y.) entrance into the Twitch online gaming community became one of the most-watched streams in the platform's history as more than half a million people tuned in Tuesday evening.

A multihour stream of the New York congresswoman playing "Among Us" alongside popular streamers Hasanabi and Pokimane and others including a colleague and fellow "squad" member, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Minn.), drew more than 430,000 viewers on her channel. Other streamers broadcasting while taking part in the event drew tens of thousands of concurrent viewers as well, likely bringing the total past half a million viewers.


The stream is now the third highest watched in Twitch history, according to Gamespot.com, trailing a record set by streamer Ninja in 2018 during a Fortnite session with rapper Travis Scott and hip-hop artist Drake. A Fortnite in-game event streamed earlier this year from Spanish streamer TheGrefg was the second most watched event.

Omar captioned a picture of herself playing on a staffer's computer Tuesday evening shortly after joining the event, during which she won at least one match while at times playing alongside her oldest daughter, Isra Hirsi.

Read more here.

Lighter click: Marvel’s new Chris

An op-ed to chew on: Securing our supply chain requires ‘big picture’ thinking 



How the Most Toxic, Notorious Pro-Trump Online Community Tricked Reddit and Got Back Online (Mother Jones / Ali Breland)

White Supremacist Had List of Feds to Kill and Doxx: Unsealed File (Daily Beast / Kelly Weill and Seamus Hughes)

The Justice Department is suing Google — but it’s the government’s power to police big tech that’s on trial (Washington Post / Tony Romm)

Activists Turn Facial Recognition Tools Against the Police (New York Times / Kashmir Hill)

Twitter surveillance startup targets communities of color for police (The Intercept / Sam Biddle)
The police want your phone data. Here’s what they can get — and what they can’t. (Recode / Sara Morrison)