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Hillicon Valley: Top Senate Democrat warns of disinformation, interference around Election Day | Trump administration to defend TikTok order after legal setback | Teens turn to TikTok to boost Biden

Hillicon Valley: Top Senate Democrat warns of disinformation, interference around Election Day | Trump administration to defend TikTok order after legal setback | Teens turn to TikTok to boost Biden
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

ELECTION EVE WARNING: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerConfirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? Senate panel to hold nomination hearing for Biden Intelligence director nominee this week MORE (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Monday of foreign efforts to spread disinformation around Election Day, as officials have increasingly sought to address election security threats. 

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“Folks: this is an unusual election,” Warner tweeted. “Our intelligence community has warned that the period immediately before and after Election Day is going to be uniquely volatile, and our adversaries will seek to take advantage of that. Don’t make their jobs any easier.”

Warner noted, “It may take a while for the results to come in."

"That period of time is especially vulnerable to attack by foreign countries seeking to spread disinformation and undermine the legitimacy of our electoral process," he added. "Stay calm, and be judicious about what you believe and share online.”

The Democratic senator, who helped lead the Senate panel's bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, pointed U.S. voters toward the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for reporting any voting security or disinformation threat. 

Warner’s comments came a week after acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioConfirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? MORE (R-Fla.) warned that adversaries would likely target U.S. elections.

“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 Warner told The Hill at the time that Warner “concurs wholeheartedly with Senator Rubio’s tweet.”

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The comments from the committee leaders come in the wake of new foreign election interference activity. 

Read more here. 

 

TIKTOK TEENS FOR BIDEN: Teens and first-time voters are creating grassroots groups and political action committees aimed at reaching their peers where they are — TikTok.

Groups run by college students and recent high school graduates are creating memes and videos on the widely popular video-sharing app, as well as other platforms, in an effort to boost Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenConfirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed Biden's Sunday inauguration rehearsal postponed due to security concerns: report Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again MORE in his bid to unseat President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol MORE in Tuesday’s election.

“This year I wanted to flip the switch on memes,” said Jackie Ni, an 18-year-old from Orange County, Calif.

The recent high school graduate said he saw memes as playing a contributing role in Trump’s 2016 win. He took that idea to support the former vice president, creating the Federal Election Commission-registered super PAC MemePAC in July.

In just two months, Ni amassed more than 6 million views and 310,000 followers on TikTok. It is now the largest super PAC on TikTok. The next closest is the The Lincoln Project with 30,000 followers. The super PAC formed by Republicans opposed to Trump served as Ni’s inspiration to create MemePAC.

“I kind of wanted to do what they did. Rather than focusing on Republicans, I wanted to focus on the youth,” Ni said.

TikTok has banned paid political posts on its platform, but the platform’s guidelines do not bar users from posting unpaid political posts. Neither the Trump nor Biden campaigns have official accounts on the platform.

Read more here. 

THE FIGHT CONTINUES: The Department of Commerce said it will continue to defend President Trump’s executive order seeking to limit the use of TikTok in the U.S. after a federal judge ruling last week presented a new legal hurdle for the administration.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Friday issued a preliminary injunction blocking the U.S. from barring transactions with ByteDance’s TikTok, which was set to take effect Nov. 12 under Trump’s executive order. 

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone argued Trump exceeded his authority by invoking his emergency economic powers to impose sanctions against TikTok by citing a threat to U.S. security. 

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Beetlestone wrote that the “government's own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical” and the court “cannot say the risk presented by the Government outweighs the public interest in enjoining” the executive order that goes beyond what the president has the power to do. 

The Commerce Department said it will comply with the judge’s order but pushed back on the ruling, arguing that the executive order was within the president’s authority and pledging to defend it. 

“The [executive order] is fully consistent with law and promotes legitimate national security interests,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement. “The Government will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the [executive order] and the Secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges.”

Beetlestone’s ruling is the latest setback for the administration’s push to overhaul how TikTok operates in the U.S. over potential national security concerns. It’s part of a larger effort for the Trump administration to clamp down on Chinese tech companies amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. 

Read more here. 

BACKLASH FEARS: Facebook avoided punishing Donald Trump Jr.’s Instagram account over a fear of backlash and of allegations of being anti-conservative, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Two former employees familiar with the matter told the Post that at the end of 2019, Facebook, which owns Instagram, removed a fact-checking strike against President Trump’s eldest son. The sources said that would have categorized him as a repeat offender and instituted penalties, and the company feared the response of taking those steps. 

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These penalties could involve reduction of traffic and a potential demotion in searches. One former employee told the Post that this incident was one of numerous strike removals in the past year for the president’s family members. 

The Post determined through an analysis that several groups and people associated with the president have violated Facebook rules about sharing misinformation but received few penalties. The analysis involved several months of posts and ad spending and internal company documents. 

Current and former Facebook employees told the Post that in some cases these accounts have not been dealt punishments to avoid allegations of anti-conservative bias. 

Facebook spokesperson Andrea Vallone told the Post that the company is “responsible for how we apply enforcement, and as a matter of diligence, we will not apply a penalty in rare cases when the rating was not appropriate or warranted under the program’s established guidelines.” 

A representative for Trump Jr. could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Read more here. 

FREE BIRD: The New York Post's Twitter account has been unlocked following a bitter standoff over the outlet's move to share an article about Hunter Biden, with the platform saying late Friday it would unlock the account after recently changing its hacked materials policy.

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The company’s safety account tweeted that it would end its previous practice of “not retroactively overturning prior enforcement,” meaning that “decisions made under policies that are subsequently changed & published can now be appealed if the account at issue is a driver of that change.” 

The tech company added that because of the previous change to the hacked materials policy, the Post’s account will no longer be locked. 

“Our policies are living documents. We're willing to update and adjust them when we encounter new scenarios or receive important feedback from the public,” Twitter wrote in one of its tweets Friday. 

Read more here. 

 

Lighter click: please don’t text

An op-ed to chew on: Americans must put aside bitter divisions to defend against foreign threats

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Beyond the megadonors, Silicon Valley is still stingy about donating to politicians (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)

Iranian hackers probed election websites in 10 states, US officials say (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

The Man Who Helped Turn 4chan Into the Internet's Racist Engine (Vice / Rob Arthur)

'Putin could only dream of it': how Trump supercharged Russia's disinformation playbook (The Guardian / Julia Carrie Wong)

Trump allies, largely unconstrained by Facebook’s rules against repeated falsehoods, cement pre-election dominance (Washington Post / Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elizabeth Dwoskin)