Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Bezos stepping down as Amazon CEO | Officials applaud confirmation of Mayorkas as DHS secretary | Uber to purchase alcohol delivery service Drizly


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.

BYE BYE BEZOS: Amazon said Tuesday that CEO Jeff Bezos will be transitioning from the top spot into the role of executive chair of the company’s board in the third quarter of 2021. 

The announcement came as Amazon, the e-commerce giant Bezos founded in 1994, reported its highest quarterly revenue ever, at $125 billion. 

“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition,” Bezos said in a statement.

He will be succeeded by Andy Jassy, the current head of Amazon Web Services. 

Read more here


CYBER LEADERS REJOICE: Key cyber-focused members of Congress and other officials on Tuesday applauded the Senate confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), citing the need for his leadership in the wake of the hack of IT group SolarWinds.

The Senate confirmed Mayorkas by a 56-43 vote Tuesday after significant Republican pushback over immigration concerns, but he garnered significant bipartisan praise for his background in cybersecurity, including experience from serving as DHS deputy secretary during the Obama administration.

“Mr. Mayorkas is a seasoned DHS veteran with bipartisan support who has the experience and background we need right now,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement following the Senate vote. “His extensive work on immigration, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism issues make him uniquely qualified to ensure the country remains resilient and secure.”

Other officials to cite the need for leadership on cybersecurity at DHS included House Homeland Security ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.). 

Read more about the confirmation here.


UBER’S LATEST ACQUISITION: Uber said Tuesday it reached an agreement to acquire Drizly for about $1.1 billion in stock and cash. 

Once the transaction is complete, the alcohol delivery service platform will be integrated with Uber’s food delivery platform, Uber Eats, and also maintain a separate Drizly app. 

“By bringing Drizly into the Uber family, we can accelerate that trajectory by exposing Drizly to the Uber audience and expanding its geographic presence into our global footprint in the years ahead,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in the announcement

Read more here


AMAZON SETTLES TIP CASE: The e-commerce giant will pay $61.7 million to settle allegations that it stole tips from its Amazon Flex drivers over a two and half year program.

The Federal Trade Commission announced that the full sum will be given to drivers and that Amazon will be blocked from making any changes to how tips are used as compensation without getting affirmative consent from the gig workers.

Read more.


POTENTIAL STUMBLING BLOCK: A group of House Republicans on Tuesday called on the Senate to block a vote on the nomination of Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s pick for Commerce secretary, until she clarifies her stance on Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

“We urge those Senators who have a history of calling for Huawei to remain on the Entity List to stick to their principles and place a hold on Ms. Raimondo’s confirmation until the Biden Administration clarifies their intentions for Huawei and on export control policies for a country that is carrying out genocide and threatening our national security,” the 20 Republicans, said in a joint statement. 

Their concerns come a week after Raimondo vowed to examine policies around Huawei, but did not say specifically that she would keep it on the Commerce Department’s blacklist if confirmed. Several Republican senators have also expressed concerns around this.

Read more about the controversy here.


GAMESTOP STOCK PLUMMETS: GameStop stock plummeted Tuesday, losing more than half of its opening value and falling to its lowest level in a week.

Shares of GameStop plunged to $90 by the end of Tuesday trading, a 60 percent loss that shaved $135 from its opening price.

GameStop stock has fallen steadily since Thursday after hitting a peak of $483, roughly 1,800 percent higher than its price at the start of the year.

Read more here


WARREN VS. ROBINHOOD: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on Tuesday pressing him on a litany of concerns raised by the trading platform’s decision to prevent users from purchasing shares of GameStop and other quickly rising stocks last week.

“The public deserves to know the details of circumstance behind Robinhood’s decision to restrict trading and about other actions that appear to be treating individual investors in an unequal or unfair fashion,” Warren wrote, saying the company “abruptly chang[ed] the rules for these individual investors with no warning or recourse.”

Read more here


FORMER CYBER CHIEF WEIGHS IN: Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cyber chief Suzanne Spaulding, a key official involved in addressing efforts by Russian agents to interfere in the 2016 elections, is calling for renewed focus on disinformation and civics education.

Spaulding served as undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), which was renamed and restructured to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in 2018. 

Her service there came as part of a decades-long career in the federal government dedicated to combating cybersecurity and other national security threats.

Spaulding spoke with The Hill as part of a weekly profile series, detailing her thoughts for where the nation goes next. 

Read the profile here.


FACEBOOK’S BAN: Facebook has banned Myanmar’s national military television network page after the military overran the country on Monday and arrested democratically-elected leaders. 

The Myawaddy page was banned on Monday after The Wall Street Journal reached out to Facebook and asked why the page was operational since it was banned back in 2018. Soon after, the page was taken down.

The page had more than 33,000 likes when Facebook took it down. It was originally banned in 2018 because Facebook said it promoted violence and hate, but a new page was made to support the network.

Read more here


WIKIPEDIA’S CODE OF CONDUCT: Wikimedia, the foundation that operates Wikipedia, unveiled a set of rules Tuesday that aim to combat online harassment and misinformation on the digital platform. 

The new “Universal Code of Conduct” creates a set of standards for contributors, and calls out harassment, abuse of power and content vandalism as “unacceptable behavior” on the platform. 

Wikimedia is now heading into the second phase of talks about the new code of conduct, focussed on how to implement and enforce the new rules  

Read more here


SOURCES OF MISINFO, ACCORDING TO USERS: More than 6 in 10 Americans say they regularly encounter misinformation on Facebook, amid the company’s efforts to ban groups linked to conspiracy theories.

A poll commissioned by Newsy from YouGov found that 65 percent of Americans say they encounter misinformation on Facebook, higher than any other social media or traditional media platform.

The platform has come under mounting scrutiny over its handling of misinformation and hate speech in recent months. 

Read more about the poll here

Lighter click: Cutest cowboy ever seen

An op-ed to chew on: Reclaiming American leadership in AI and data science


Vaccine scheduling sites are terrible. Can a new plan help Chicago fix them? (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky) 

Exclusive: Suspected Chinese hackers used SolarWinds bug to spy on U.S. payroll agency-sources (Reuters / Christopher Bing, Jack Stubbs, Raphael Satter, and Joseph Menn) 

Biden’s whole-of-National Security Council strategy (Axios / Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian)

White House must act now to boost trust in elections, experts say (CyberScoop / Joe Warminsky)

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Bennie Thompson Elizabeth Warren Gary Peters Gina Raimondo Hillicon Valley Jeff Bezos John Katko

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