SPONSORED:

Hillicon Valley: Biden picks stress need for cybersecurity in confirmation hearings | FTC chairman to step down this month | Progressives warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles

Hillicon Valley: Biden picks stress need for cybersecurity in confirmation hearings | FTC chairman to step down this month | Progressives warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles
© 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.

BIDEN NOMINEES ZERO IN ON CYBER: President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE’s nominees to serve as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and as director of national intelligence (DNI) on Tuesday both zeroed in on cybersecurity as being a major priority if confirmed. 

ADVERTISEMENT

DHS secretary nominee Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasCollins urges Biden to revisit order on US-Canada border limits Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees Florida Republicans push Biden to implement Trump order on Venezuela MORE and DNI nominee Avril Haines both specifically pointed to the need to make improvements following the recently uncovered Russian hack of IT group SolarWinds, which compromised much of the federal government in what is one of the largest cybersecurity breaches in U.S. history. 

“I can assure you that the cybersecurity of our nation will be one of my highest priorities because I concur with you that the threat is real and the threat is every day and we have to do a better job than we are doing now,” Mayorkas said during his nomination hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Read more about the nominees’ comments on cybersecurity here.

Haines also separately pledged to produce a public assessment of threats posed by proponents of far-right conspiracy theory QAnon if confirmed as DNI. 

Read more about that here.

 

FTC CHAIRMAN TO STEP DOWN: Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons on Tuesday official announced he would be resigning, effective Jan. 29. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Simons’s tenure at the FTC was largely defined by enforcement actions against Facebook. He took over as the head of the agency in May 2018, in middle of the FTC’s privacy investigation into Facebook that ultimately led to a $5 billion fine for Facebook. 

Last month, Simons voted with the commission’s two Democrats to proceed with a lawsuit against Facebook. The FTC, along with 46 attorneys general, accused the social media giant of anti-competitive acquisitions.

With Simons’s departure, President-elect Joe Biden will have two spots to fill on the five-member board. Biden’s transition team announced on Sunday the president-elect is nominating Democratic commissioner Rohit ChopraRohit ChopraOn The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst Independent business groups push Biden against FTC, DOJ appointees with ties to Big Tech On The Money: GOP digs in on defending Trump tax cuts | Democrats bullish on raising minimum wage | Financial sector braces for Biden's consumer bureau pick MORE to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Read more here.

 

ANTITRUST BATTLES BREWING: Forty anti-monopoly groups sent a letter to the Biden transition team urging them not to pick candidates with ties to Big Tech for antitrust roles.

The letter comes on the heels of reports that Renata Hesse, who has advised Google and Amazon, is a front-runner for the top antitrust job at the Department of Justice.

“We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing — particularly in regard to the technology sector — will help re-establish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history,” the groups wrote.

Read more.

 

PARLER’S PUSH TO RELAUNCH: Social media platform Parler is receiving services from a Russian-based technology firm as the platform gears up to relaunch after being pulled from Amazon Web Services, the Russian company confirmed Tuesday. 

Parler reappeared online Sunday with a message from CEO John Matze telling users its return “is inevitable,” about a week after Amazon pulled it over concerns the platform could not adequately moderate potentially incendiary content. 

Russian-based firm DDoS-Guard said in a statement to The Hill it started servicing Parler on Sunday night. But the company said Parler is not using DDos-Guard as a hosting site. 

Parler’s domain is now registered with Epik, according to publicly available WHOIS information. However, a spokesperson for Epik told CNN the company does not provide Parler’s web hosting. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more here

 

TRUMP’S FACEBOOK BAN TO REMAIN...FOR NOW: Facebook reportedly has no plans to lift President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE’s suspension from the social media network even after he leaves the White House.

NBC News reported Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the company's plans, that Trump’s account block remains indefinite with no plans to lift it at this time.

A representative for Facebook pointed The Hill to a tweet from the company's communications director Andy Stone emphasizing there are "no plans" to lift the block on Trump's accounts.

Read more here

 

ADVERTISEMENT

MOST AMERICANS WANT SOCIAL MEDIA LEGISLATION: A majority of Americans believe that lawmakers should pass legislation governing how social media companies police content posted on their platforms, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill. 

Some 54 percent of respondents want elected officials to spell out in the law how and when to restrict or remove content from social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, as well as what kind of content is deemed appropriate.

By contrast, a large minority of respondents — 46 percent — are in favor of allowing those companies to set their own rules for determining the kind of content that is suitable for their platforms.

The debate over social media power has ramped up after Facebook and Twitter took action to ban President Trump from their platforms after the riot at the Capitol. 

Read more here

 

ICYMI: RANSOMWARE FIGHTERS UNITE: A new coalition of cybersecurity and tech groups is working to create a roadmap for officials to counter the plague of ransomware attacks that have increasingly hit all levels of government over the past two years. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“You see ransomware as not just an increasing security threat, it is to the level of now where it’s putting hospitals, children, the elderly, financial institutions, everyone at risk,” Philip Reiner, executive chairman of the Institute for Security and Technology’s Ransomware Task Force, told The Hill.

“As a result, we were seized with the idea that creating a collaborative cross-sectoral grouping that is looking at it from a comprehensive, top-down policy approach could potentially have more effect,” Reiner added.

Read more here.

Lighter click: Far more questions than answers

An op-ed to chew on: Speech isn’t free--is it time for a constitutional fix? 

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Facebook Said It Would Stop Pushing Users to Join Partisan Political Groups. It Didn’t. (The Markup / Leon Yin and Alfred Ng)

Right-wing-tech populism enters the wilderness (National Journal / Brendan Bordelon)

Increasingly militant 'Parler refugees' and anxious QAnon adherents prep for doomsday (NBC News / Ben Collins)

Gab, the social-media platform booming on the far-right, has posted direct QAnon quotes on Twitter (Business Insider / Rachel E. Greenspan)