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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

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
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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.

Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

DEMANDING COVID PROTECTION: More than 200 content moderators for Facebook are demanding increased coronavirus protections in the workplace, saying they are being forced to return to offices amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

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The letter, signed by some Facebook employees, was addressed to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden names acting chairs to lead FCC, FTC | Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review | Judge denies request for Amazon to immediately restore Parler Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review Facebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension MORE, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as well as the chief executives of Accenture and CPL, the two companies contracted by the social media giant for content moderation.

“Before the pandemic, content moderation was easily Facebook’s most brutal job,” the workers wrote in Wednesday's letter. “Now, on top of work that is psychologically toxic, holding onto the job means walking into a hot zone. In several offices, multiple COVID cases have occurred on the floor.”

A contractor tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after content moderators working for Accenture were asked to return to their offices last month in Austin, Texas, The Intercept reported, citing an internal email.

The workers are now calling on Facebook and its contracting partners to improve safety and working conditions, allow moderators who live with at-risk individuals to stay home and provide hazard pay to those who return to offices.

They also reiterated demands for Facebook to stop outsourcing content moderation.

Read more here.

 

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KREBS CRITIQUES CONFERENCE: Christopher Krebs, the top federal cybersecurity official who was fired by President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE this week, called Thursday's press conference held by Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLawyers group calls for Giuliani's suspension from law practice, ethics probe Would Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon MORE and other Trump legal team members some of the “most dangerous" television in U.S. history."

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest,” Krebs tweeted. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky.”

Krebs, former director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), was fired on Tuesday after publicly pushing back against disinformation and misinformation surrounding the presidential election. Trump has refused to concede the race to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Fauci infuriated by threats to family MORE, making unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, and other members of Trump’s legal team held a press conference Thursday to give an update on the campaign’s legal challenges in various battleground states where vote tallies show Biden with a substantial lead.

Giuliani cited multiple now-debunked claims of voter fraud in making the case for Trump, including citing a scene from the film “My Cousin Vinny” in which a character is too far away from a crime scene to be a credible witness to argue the Trump campaign wasn't allowed close enough to observe ballot counting in Pennsylvania.

Read more here.

 

RAMPANT MISINFORMATION: Lapses in tech companies’ policies to address Spanish content led to a proliferation of misinformation targeting Latino voters around Election Day, according to several advocacy groups.

Spanish misinformation campaigns largely mimicked those in English that cast doubt on the security of mail-in ballots, later calling into question the election results.

But while the English-language posts were regularly removed, Spanish ones often “slipped through the cracks,” said Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press and co-founder of the civil rights coalition Change the Terms.

"I think there were massive failures across the board,” González told The Hill.

González said Facebook in particular failed to address English and Spanish content equally.

“They certainly need teams of people who are native speakers, who understand dialects, idioms, understand casual speech in all the major languages that are spoken and used on Facebook,” she said.

Even when posts are labeled, González said the language used by Facebook “is very weak.”

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Read more here.

 

SUGGESTED SECTION 230 DEAL: The White House has suggested to House Democrats that President Trump could drop his objection to renaming Confederate-named military bases if they agree to repeal a legal shield for internet companies, a Democratic House aide confirmed to The Hill. 

The offer, made by White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Trump leaves White House, promises to be back in 'some form' LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (D-Wash.) as part of negotiations on the annual defense policy bill, was first reported by The New York Times.

The Democratic aide told The Hill that based on conversations with colleagues, “it’s highly unlikely this offer will gain any traction.”

“On its face, there’s issues of jurisdiction, lack of clarity on what the White House actually means when it says repeal Sec. 230, and also it’s unclear if congressional Republicans support this,” the aide said.

Still, the aide said the offer appears to be “a sign that the White House wants to pass the NDAA this year.”

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The White House declined to comment. A spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK’S HATE SPEECH CRACKDOWN AIDED BY AI: Facebook said Thursday artificial intelligence (AI) tools have helped the company crack down on and remove hate speech from the platform. 

The platform released information about hate speech and how it is acting to remove such content in a transparency report released Thursday, following mounting pressure about the tech giant’s handling of hate speech and bigotry. 

“Advancements in AI technologies have allowed us to remove more hate speech from Facebook over time, and find more of it before users report it to us,” Facebook’s report states. 

The company said it “proactively” detected about 95 percent of hate speech content it removed in the last three months. 

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It’s a significant increase from the roughly 24 percent of hate speech Facebook proactively removed at the end of 2017, when it first began reporting metrics for hate speech, according to the transparency report. 

“Whether content is proactively detected or reported by users, we often use AI to take action on the straightforward cases and prioritize the more nuanced cases, where context needs to be considered, for our reviewers,” the report states. 

Read more here.

 

GROUPS URGE BIDEN AGAINST EX-GOOGLE HEAD: Progressive groups are urging President-elect Joe Biden against appointing former Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a Cabinet position. 

More than a dozen groups signed a letter sent to Biden earlier this week lobbying against Schmidt getting an administration position, largely focusing on allegations over Google’s monopolistic behavior, and writing that such a move could risk Biden’s potential to build back a strong economy. 

The Department of Justice charged Google last month with illegally maintaining a monopoly on search and search advertising. 

“The suit against Google has the potential to be the most important antitrust case in a generation. Especially as you work to build our economy back better after the pandemic, keeping markets open and competitive is key for expanding economic opportunity, incentivizing innovation, and protecting consumers,” the groups wrote. 

“As such, we believe that it sends the wrong message — and could have a chilling effect on U.S. antimonopoly policy moving forward — to have an individual who served at both the helm of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. at such a high position in government,” they added. 

Read more here.

 

Lighter click: A fair trade

An op-ed to chew on: Hackers love a bad transition

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

State, federal antitrust lawsuits likely to challenge Facebook for buying rivals and weaponizing data (Washington Post / Tony Romm)

Uber's national push over gig worker status has been underway for months (CNET / Dara Kerr) 

Energy official eyed for senior CISA position after White House throws agency into turmoil (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

U.S. regulators open process to ensure self-driving car safety (Reuters / David Shepardson)