SPONSORED:

Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked

Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked
© Greg Nash

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.

Virtual Event Announcement: America's Agenda: Infrastructure 

ADVERTISEMENT

America needed to refresh its aging infrastructure prior to COVID-19. Now, there is added pressure on our existing digital infrastructure as more Americans are working and learning from home full time. How can we bring our physical infrastructure into the future and embrace options for increased safety and security by connecting them to smart, data-informed systems? On Thursday, October 29th at 1:00 PM ET, Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus Biden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond MORE, Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesLawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked MORE and Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonRecord number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE join us for "America's Agenda: Infrastructure." RSVP today for event reminders! Learn more here

BIG TECH GOES TO CAPITOL HILL...AGAIN: The chief executives of Silicon Valley’s most influential tech companies fielded markedly partisan questions Wednesday in a high-profile hearing less than a week before an election where their content moderation decisions have become a campaign issue.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee largely stayed away from the advertised purpose of the hearing – discussing a federal statute that provides a liability shield for internet companies for content posted on their sites by third parties and lets them make "good faith" efforts to moderate content – and instead used the venue to engage in political attacks.

For Republicans, most of those attacks were focused on lobbing unfounded accusations of anti-conservative bias at the witnesses: Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Hillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote MORE and Google’s Sundar Pichai.

Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Republicans start turning the page on Trump era The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE (R-Miss.) set the tone for Republicans when he spent his opening round of questioning needling Twitter’s Jack Dorsey about his company’s decisions on when to slap labels on tweets.

“Mr. Dorsey, your platform allows foreign dictators to post propaganda, typically without restriction, yet you typically restrict the president of the United States,” Wicker said, pointing to tweets by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei that remain on the platform. 

Dorsey, in defending his company’s policies, noted that Twitter has attached labels to Khamenei’s posts, just like it has with some of Trump’s. But unlike Trump, some of Khamenei’s tweets have been removed.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Twitter CEO did, however, acknowledge his company mishandling of a recent New York Post story about Hunter Biden with dubious sourcing. Twitter initially prevented the spread of the article on its platform, sparking particularly harsh criticism from conservatives.

In a heated exchange Wednesday, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Texas) asked Dorsey: “Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?”

Dorsey said that’s not what Twitter is doing, adding that his company wants to be more transparent about its policies.

Several Republicans at the hearing focused on the ideological makeup of Silicon Valley, suggesting the deck is stacked against conservatives. Zuckerberg said his staff might skew left and Pichai said Google was probably the same, based on the areas they recruit from. Dorsey said he didn’t ask potential hires about their political affiliations.

All three insisted that the personal opinions of their workers did not affect platform moderation decisions. 

Read more. 

ELECTION DAY WARNINGS: Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Rubio signals opposition to Biden Cabinet picks Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday said that adversaries were working to interfere in U.S. elections either on or after Election Day, adding to recent warnings from other top federal officials about election threats.   

“WARNING. The bulk of disinformation attacks prepared by our adversaries were designed for the days before & just after Election Day,” Rubio tweeted. "They may come faster than they can be spotted & called out, so word to the wise, the more outlandish the claim, the likelier it’s foreign influence.”

A spokesperson for Rubio did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on Rubio’s tweet. 

A spokesperson for Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris shares Thanksgiving recipe: 'During difficult times I have always turned to cooking' Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (D-Va.) told The Hill that Warner “concurs wholeheartedly with Senator Rubio’s tweet.”

Rubio’s warning comes a week after Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE, alongside other top officials including FBI Director Christopher Wray, announced that Russia and Iran had gained access to U.S. voter registration data and in Iran’s case were using it to target potential U.S. voters with threatening emails. 

Rubio and Warner issued a joint statement following the announcement underscoring Senate unity around combating foreign election interference threats.  

Read more here

DON’T EVER COUNT OUT IRAN: Microsoft on Wednesday reported that an Iranian hacking group had attempted to target high-ranking attendees of international security conferences, including the upcoming Munich Security Conference. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post that the Iranian hacking group known as “Phosphorus” had “masqueraded” as conference organizers in order to target around 100 high profile individuals who are set to attend the Munich Security Conference or the Think 20 (T20) Summit in Saudi Arabia.

The hacking group sent phishing emails, written in English, inviting recipients to attend the conferences and giving details on travel logistics and potential remote sessions. According to Burt, the group was able to successfully compromise the accounts of “several victims,” including those belonging to former ambassadors and other foreign policy experts. 

“We believe Phosphorus is engaging in these attacks for intelligence collection purposes,” Burt wrote. “We’ve already worked with conference organizers who have warned and will continue to warn their attendees, and we’re disclosing what we’ve seen so that everyone can remain vigilant to this approach being used in connection with other conferences or events.”

The annual Munich Security Conference is due to take place over three days in February next year, while the T20 Summit will take place beginning later this week. 

Read more here

TRUMP SITE TARGETED: The Trump campaign's website suffered a brief, apparent hack on Tuesday evening, though the campaign said no important data was exposed.

“Earlier this evening, the Trump campaign website was defaced and we are working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the source of the attack," Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

"There was no exposure to sensitive data because none of it is actually stored on the site. The website has been restored,” Murtaugh added. 

The campaign did not immediately provide additional details regarding the incident.

Screenshots taken before the site was restored showed a message reading “this site was seized,” with a message apparently from hackers stating, “the world has had enough of the fake-news spreaded daily by president donald j trump. it is time to allow the world to know truth.” 

The message claimed that those behind the cyberattack had “compromised” several devices to obtain “full access to trump and relatives,” going on to claim that the administration is “involved in the origin" of the coronavirus. 

Read more here

HEATED HEARING: Sen. Ted Cruz during a hearing on Wednesday accused Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey of censoring content with an anti-conservative bias, with the Texas Republican focusing his argument around a policy the tech company has since changed. 

Cruz slammed Dorsey during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing over the company's decision earlier this month to limit the spread of a New York Post report that included allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE’s son Hunter Biden that have been disputed by the former vice president's campaign. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The company initially blocked users, including the New York Post, from tweeting links to the article, citing Twitter's hacked material policy. The company later amended the policy and allowed users to share the links. 

“Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear, and why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?” Cruz asked Dorsey during a heated exchange on Wednesday. 

“We’re not doing that,” Dorsey responded. “This is why I opened this hearing with calls for more transparency. We realized we need to earn trust more, we realized that more accountability is needed to show our intentions and to show the outcomes. So I hear the concerns and acknowledge them, but we want to fix it with more transparency.” 

Read more here

ELECTION WARNINGS: The widely popular video-sharing app TikTok said Wednesday it will limit the spread of content that prematurely claims election victories before races are confirmed by The Associated Press.

TikTok will also add a banner pointing viewers to its election guide on content with unverifiable claims about voting, premature declarations of victory or attempts to dissuade people from voting by “exploiting COVID-19 as a voter suppression tactic,” the company said in a blog post

“Interest in the US elections is palpable, with many Americans having already cast ballots and many more preparing to exercise their right to vote in the coming days,” TikTok’s head of safety, Eric Han, said in the post. 

Read more here.

SPOTIFY’S NEW STANCE: Spotify has reportedly taken a new stance against banning guests following podcast host Joe Rogan's interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on an episode this week.

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify's chief legal officer and head of global affairs, wrote in an internal email to managers obtained by BuzzFeed News that anyone with content concerns should report them to the company's Trust & Safety team, but noted "[i]t’s all too common that things are taken out of context."

“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies,” read one of several "talking points" outlined in the email Wednesday, though it did not names Jones directly, BuzzFeed reported.

Gutierrez also reportedly emphasized the importance of the platform sharing diverse points of view.

“Spotify has always been a place for creative expressions. It’s important to have diverse voices and points of view on our platform,” the email stated, according to BuzzFeed.

“In closing, we appreciate that not all of you will agree with every piece of content on our platform,” Gutierrez wrote, according to the outlet. “However, we do expect you to help your teams understand our role as a platform and the care we take in making decisions.”

Read more here

 

Lighter click: Museum of Modern Memes

An op-ed to chew on: The U.S. must not lose the cyberwar with Russia 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Why the grandiose promises of multilevel marketing and QAnon conspiracy theories go hand in hand (The Atlantic / Kaitlyn Tiffany)

Monero scam was at the center of Trump campaign website defacement (CyberScoop / Joe Warminsky)

Families turn to ‘Animal Crossing’ for trick-or-treating amid COVID-19 fears (The Washington Post / Elise Favis) 

The Latest Tech Hearing Is About Helping Trump on Election Day (Slate / Danielle Keats Citron and Spencer Overton)

Is Twitter Going Full Resistance? Here’s the Woman Driving the Change. (Politico / Nancy Scola)

Spy agency ducks questions about 'back doors' in tech products (Reuters / Joseph Menn)