Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk

Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk

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.

YOUTUBE CLAPS BACK AT OANN: YouTube has suspended the pro-Trump One America News Network from posting new videos for a week, and the outlet has had its old content demonetized after uploading a video containing misinformation about the coronavirus, YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.


The weeklong suspension is the result of a “strike” issued for saying that there is a guaranteed cure for COVID-19, a claim that runs afoul of YouTube’s coronavirus-specific policy.

The demonetization came as a result of “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy and other channel monetization policies,” Choi said. Axios first reported on the suspension and demonetization.

“Early on in this pandemic, we’ve worked to prevent the spread of harmful misinformation associated with COVID-19 on YouTube,” she added.

YouTube did not immediately respond to questions about how many strikes OANN had previously accrued. The channel has been criticized for spreading myriad lies about the pandemic and the election. 

False claims about the result of the election are not explicitly banned by the video-sharing platform's policies.

Read more here.



DEMS PUT PRESSURE ON YOUTUBE: Democratic senators are urging YouTube to remove videos spreading election misinformation and to step up efforts to combat misinformation ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs.

The senators sent a letter Tuesday calling on YouTube to detail steps the company will take surrounding the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs, which will decide which party controls the Senate. 

“We urge you to immediately remove all election outcome misinformation and take aggressive steps to implement prohibitions, as other social media companies have done, regarding outcomes in future elections,” wrote Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration MORE (N.J.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (Hawaii), Gary PetersGary PetersDemocratic centrists flex power on Biden legislation Alarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing MORE (Mich) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (Minn.). 

“YouTube and its industry peers must take responsibility and immediately stop the spread of misinformation and manipulated media on their platforms,” they added. 

The senators said videos on YouTube spreading baseless claims of election fraud “undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the legitimacy of” President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Ex-Trump appointee arrested in Capitol riot complains he won't be able to sleep in jail Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE’s incoming administration. 

The senators underscored their letter by noting President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food MORE’s refusal to concede may lead to real-world consequences from the online misinformation. 

Read more here.


GEORGIA ON THEIR MIND: Democratic senators on Tuesday pressed Facebook and Twitter over measures the social media giants are taking to combat election misinformation ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs that will decide party control of the upper chamber. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led four of his colleagues in a letter requesting detailed information as to how the tech giants plan to fight misinformation, especially in Spanish, on their platforms ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff.

The letter comes after the tech CEOs committed to improve content moderation in Spanish during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. 

“The runoff has already started: Georgians right now are registering to vote and registrars are beginning to mail absentee ballots. However, social media has been inundated with disinformation and smear campaigns designed to undermine the results of the general election and prevent a runoff, including a malign torrent of falsehoods from the President and his allies,” the senators wrote to Facebook and Twitter, according to copies of the letters.

The senators asked Twitter and Facebook to detail plans about what measures they will keep in place from the general election, as well as what additional measures they plan to take by the end of the month. The letter is also signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits MORE (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

The senators specifically asked the social media giants to detail steps they plan to take to address Spanish-language misinformation on their platforms. 


Read more here. 


THAT’S A NO FROM THE FCC: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday formally denied the request by Chinese telecommunications group ZTE to remove the agency’s designation of the company as a national security threat. 

The denial comes months after the FCC formally designated both ZTE and Chinese telecom group Huawei as national security threats, and banned U.S. groups from using funds from the FCC’s $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from either group. Huawei is currently in the middle of a legal battle disputing the designation. 

“With today’s order, we are taking another important step in our ongoing efforts to protect U.S. communications networks from security risks,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. 

Pai noted that the agency will vote next month on rules to implement a reimbursement program created by legislation signed into law by President Trump earlier this year. The program would provide funds for smaller U.S. telecom groups to rip out and replace suspicious equipment, with companies banned from using federal funds to purchase equipment from Huawei and ZTE. 

“Now it is more vital than ever that Congress appropriate funds so that our communications networks are protected from vendors that threaten our national security,” Pai said. 


Linda Fowlkes, the chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, wrote in the decision denying ZTE’s request that the action “furthers the Commission’s objective of promoting safe and reliable networks.”

Read more here. 


HOLIDAY HACKING SPREE: The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday warned of a spike in cyber scams targeted at U.S. consumers during the holiday season.

The agency, which saw a major leadership shake-up over the past week, published tips to help U.S. consumers avoid the scams, which historically increase during the holiday season. It is expected to worsen this year with more online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Americans are adjusting their travel and shopping habits for a holiday season that’s sure to be unlike anything we have experienced,” acting CISA Director Brandon Wales said in a statement. “Hackers, scammers and thieves will take advantage of these changes and the generosity of the public during the holidays to target online shoppers and those giving to charities.”

Wales, who previously served as executive director of CISA, took over as acting director of the agency last week after President Trump fired former CISA Director Christopher Krebs. Former CISA Deputy Director Matthew Travis stepped down following pressure from the White House.


Wales pointed to several key tips to help U.S. shoppers combat cyber threats that include ensuring the devices used to make purchases have strong, multifactor authentications, checking privacy policies on websites purchases are being made from, not using public Wi-Fi to make purchases, and ensuring the website is legitimate.

Read more here. 


DC, DOORDASH SETTLE: Washington, D.C. settled with DoorDash for $2.5 million over allegations that the food delivery service misled consumers with its tipping system, the district’s attorney general announced Tuesday.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sued DoorDash in 2019 alleging that over the previous two years the company had been using tips to subsidize worker pay rather than giving it directly to drivers on top of baseline pay in violation of district laws.

DoorDash changed its tip payment system in September 2019. It continues to deny having violated D.C. consumer protection laws.

As part of the settlement, the company will pay $1.5 million in relief to delivery workers, pay $750,000 to the District and donate $250,000 to two local charities.

“Today’s settlement rights a wrong that deceived D.C. consumers and deprived workers of monies that they should have been paid,” Racine said in a statement. “We are pleased that DoorDash has changed its policies, and with this settlement has taken responsibility for its actions.”

A spokesperson for DoorDash said they were “pleased to have this issue behind us.”

Read more.


AT LEAST SOMEONE IS HAVING A GOOD YEAR: Netflix pledged to spend an additional $1 billion on its productions and to expand its studio in Albuquerque, N.M., executive and government leaders announced on Monday.

The Albuquerque Development Commission approved the streaming company’s plans to expand its Albuquerque Studios to become one of the largest production sites in North America, The Associated Press reported. The city’s council still needs to back the plan, which it will review Dec. 7.

The expansion will add 300 acres to the southern Albuquerque site, including 10 new stages, post-production services, offices, mills and backlots.

When Netflix first acquired the studio in 2018, the company vowed to spend $1 billion over the next 10 years, but now Netflix has committed to another $1 billion in spending. The Albuquerque Studios expansion is expected to add 1,000 production jobs and almost 1,500 construction jobs in the state over the next decade.

“I am glad Netflix has chosen to double-down on its commitment to our state, and our partnership will continue to grow for the benefit of New Mexicans across the board,” Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamMore states follow California's lead on vehicle emissions standards New Mexico fines two megachurches K each over packed Christmas Eve services CHC urges Biden to choose Latinos to head Education Department, SBA: report MORE (D) said in a statement.

Read more here. 


BRICK AND MORTAR PICKUP: Amazon is urging its customers to pick up their packages at brick-and-mortar locations to keep the holidays “spoiler free” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The online retail giant in a press release on Monday advocated for customers to send their packages “to an alternative location to keep gifts a secret from those at-home” this holiday season. 

“Whether customers’ plans have changed or not, Amazon still wants to keep this holiday season special and help make sure those gifting moments stay ‘spoiler free’ by offering options for customers to keep gifts a surprise, as well as track and receive Amazon orders,” the release said.

The alternative locations span across more than 900 cities and towns in the U.S., the company said. Consumers can look for gifts and holiday deals when picking up packages if they choose an Amazon 4-star or Amazon Books location for delivery. 

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Sadly accurate

An op-ed to chew on: Kissinger tells Biden to go easy on China


Roiled by Election, Facebook Struggles to Balance Civility and Growth (New York Times / Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel)

Trump's FCC nominee sought to enlist Fox's Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamHaley isolated after Trump fallout Tucker Carlson to produce video podcasts for Fox Nation Rush Limbaugh dead at 70 MORE in anti-tech fight (Politico / John Hendel)

U.S. states prepare second antitrust lawsuit against Google for December (Reuters / Diane Bartz and Paresh Dave)

Facebook Researchers Found Its ‘Political Whitelist’ Influenced Misinformation Spread (The Information / Alex Heath)