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Hillicon Valley: Privacy, immigrant rights groups slam ‘smart wall’ proposal | New DHS policies aim to fight cyber ‘epidemic’ | Twitter exploring allowing users to charge for content

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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 haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

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

A coalition of privacy and immigration groups are slamming a Biden administration proposal to create a “smart wall” on the southern border. Newly-confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas laid out a range of responses to the “epidemic” of cyberattacks on critical U.S. groups. And Twitter is looking into a feature that would allow users to charge followers for content. And here’s a tweet for in case you forget about Hillicon Valley. 


‘SMART WALL’ OPPOSITION: A coalition of privacy and immigrant rights groups are pushing back on the Biden administration’s proposal to deploy a new technology and surveillance systems on the southern border.

In a statement released Thursday and first obtained by The Hill, the 40 groups slam the legislation introduced in Congress last week as a “continuation of the Trump administration’s racist border policies, not a break from it.”

The letter pans the proposed use of “smart technology” at the border as “Trump’s wall by another name.”

The administration’s proposal authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to develop technology and surveillance infrastructure to “manage and secure the southern border.”

The groups, including Mijente, Fight for the Future and United We Dream, point to research suggesting that those solutions can lead migrants to take longer and more dangerous routes that can result in increased deaths.

Read more.


FOCUS ON THE CYBER: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday announced new funding and initiatives to prioritize the nation’s cybersecurity, particularly in order to confront what he described as an “epidemic” of ransomware attacks. 

Mayorkas announced during a virtual speech that current cybersecurity grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be increased by $25 million across the nation and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was evaluating further cyber grants to help the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) assist state and local governments. 

The grants were a reflection of the DHS’s effort to prioritize cybersecurity funding, with the agency announcing separately Thursday that cybersecurity topped the list of its “areas for attention” in the current budget cycle. 

“The nation’s cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link,” Mayorkas said during a keynote address at the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. 

Read more about DHS’s cybersecurity commitment here.


A PENNY FOR YOUR TWEETS: Twitter said Thursday it is exploring a “Super Follow” feature that would allow users to charge followers for exclusive content. 

It was one of two features, along with “Communities” that would let users create groups specific to certain topics, announced during Twitter’s analyst day. 

“Exploring audience funding opportunities like Super Follows will allow creators and publishers to be directly supported by their audience and will incentivize them to continue creating content that their audience loves,” a spokesperson said in a statement. 

More information on the features will be released in coming months, spokespeople said. 

Read more here


THE PLATFORM WANTS TO DOUBLE REVENUE: Twitter announced in an SEC filing Thursday that is aiming to double its revenue by the end of 2023.

The company also says it is aiming to have 315 million monetizable daily active users at that same time. The platform said it had 152 million users at the end of December.

The goal of doubling annual revenue would require going from the $3.7 billion it made in 2020 up to $7.5 billion.

Read more.


FACEBOOK TOUTS PERSONALIZED ADS: Facebook is touting personalized ads as beneficial to small businesses in another ad campaign ahead of Apple’s scheduled launch of a data tracking feature. 

Facebook’s “Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found” campaign highlights small businesses that have used targeted ads to reach wider audiences. In addition to digital ads, Facebook will run TV, radio and digital ads through the spring, a spokesperson said.

The latest Facebook ad campaign escalated the bitter battle between the two Silicon Valley giants over Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature scheduled to be released in the spring. 

Read more about Facebook’s ad campaign


FACEBOOK BANS MYANMAR’S MILITARY: Facebook banned Myanmar’s military and military-controlled state media entities from its platform, the company said Wednesday evening, in the wake of a coup earlier this month. 

The update, including a ban on ads from commercial entities linked to the military, follows restrictions Facebook put in place to reduce the distribution of content of pages run by Myanmar’s military after the country’s democratic government was overthrown.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” Facebook’s director of policy for Asia-Pacific emerging countries, Rafael Frankel, said in the updated blog post, referring to Myanmar’s military. 

Read more here


AUSTRALIA MEDIA LAW CLEARS PARLIAMENT: An Australian law compelling Facebook and Google to pay publishers for using their content was approved Thursday by the country’s Parliament after some late-breaking amendments.

The news media bargaining code faced significant opposition from both Facebook and Google, with the former announcing last week that it would restrict Australian users from viewing or sharing publishers’ links and posts. 

Facebook agreed late Monday to reverse the ban on news links after negotiations that produced the new amendments.

The changes will insert a two-month period to give platforms and publishers more time to negotiate before being forced into arbitration. They also suggest that online companies that make “a significant contribution” to the Australian news industry may be exempt from making payments. 

Read more.


LAUNCH DELAYED: Blue Origin, a space venture backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, said Thursday the launch of its New Glenn rocket has been delayed until the fourth quarter of next year.

“As major progress is being made on the New Glenn launch vehicle and its Cape Canaveral facilities, the schedule has been refined to match the demand of Blue Origin’s commercial customers,” the company said in a statement. “The current target for New Glenn’s maiden flight is Q4 2022. The Blue Origin team has been in contact with all of our customers to ensure this baseline meets their launch needs.”

New Glenn was originally scheduled to launch later this year.

Read more here


INDIA CLAMPS DOWN: India on Thursday announced new rules to regulate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, requiring them to set up fresh avenues to address complaints.

In a press release from India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT, the guidelines stipulate that social media companies must set up a “grievance redressal mechanism” and appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer — all of whom will be tasked with making sure companies are adhering to the new rules.

The new rules would require companies to take down posts involving sexually explicit content within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. The companies must also push to help identify “the first originator” of some posts and work with law enforcement to address complaints. 

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Such a mean sport :/

An op-ed to chew on: The future depends on the global space ecosystem


MailChimp Employees Have Complained About Inequality For Years — Is Anyone Listening? (The Verge / Zoe Schiffer)

Why Amazon Is Flooding the Country With $15 Minimum Wage Ads (Motherboard / Edward Ongweso Jr.)

Pro-eating disorder content remains in heavy circulation on TikTok (Media Matters for America / Olivia Little)

Can Clubhouse Move Fast Without Breaking Things? (New York Times / Kevin Roose)

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Hillicon Valley Jeff Bezos

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