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Hillicon Valley: Another Big Tech hearing | Cyber Command flexes operations | Trump's social media site in the works

Hillicon Valley: Another Big Tech hearing | Cyber Command flexes operations | Trump's social media site in the works
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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 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.

The CEOs of major social media platforms returned for another grilling by Congress Thursday that ended up looking a lot like the last few — although Jack Dorsey apparently Zoomed in from his kitchen. Meanwhile, the nation’s top military cybersecurity leader detailed measures taken to secure the 2020 elections against foreign interference, former President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE is reportedly in talks to create his own social media network, and lawmakers zeroed in on grid security. 

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HEARINGS ALL THE WAY DOWN: The CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday faced a congressional grilling over their platforms' roles in the organization of January's Capitol insurrection, but managed to give very few direct answers.

Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Advocacy groups target Facebook employees in push to keep Trump off platform | Senior Biden cyber nominees sail through Senate hearing | State Dept. urges Nigeria to reverse Twitter ban Advocacy groups target Facebook employees in push to keep Trump off platform Fauci on Blackburn video: 'No idea what she is talking about' MORE, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey dodged and deflected a broad range of questions over the course of the five-and-a-half hour long hearing before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees ostensibly focused on misinformation that ended up veering away from that topic for long segments.

Notable: The hearing was the first featuring the executives after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, which was largely organized on social media.

Near the beginning of the hearing, Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleCongressional CEO grillings can't solve disinformation: We need a public interest regulator Hillicon Valley: Another Big Tech hearing | Cyber Command flexes operations | Trump's social media site in the works Lawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riot MORE (D-Penn.) asked the CEOs whether they felt some responsibility for the attack after misinformation about the results of the presidential election and the #StopTheSteal movement proliferated on their platforms.

Zuckerberg declined to answer the question and was cut off, Pichai said his company “worked hard” around the election but also declined to provide a direct response, and Dorsey said yes before noting that the “broader ecosystem” should be taken into account.

Like many of the Big Tech hearings before it, Thursday’s event offered lawmakers a platform to raise several targeted concerns and yielded some important answers for the CEOs, but did not offer a clear path forward on legislation.

Read more.

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CYBER COMMAND IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The nation’s top military cybersecurity leader said Thursday that U.S. Cyber Command conducted dozens of operations ahead of the 2020 elections aimed at securing voting against foreign interference.

“USCYBERCOM conducted more than two dozen operations to get ahead of foreign threats before they interfered with or influenced our elections in 2020,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

Degree of confidence: Nakasone testified later in the hearing that U.S. Cyber Command did “11 hunt forward operations in nine different countries for the security of the 2020 election,” adding that: “We know a lot of what our adversaries are doing when it comes to interference and influence of elections.”

Beyond elections, Nakasone on Thursday also highlighted the need for both Congress and the military to learn lessons from recent massive cyber espionage incidents carried out by Russia and China over the past year against the United States. 

Read more about Nakasone’s comments here.

 

NEW TRUMP SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK: Former President Trump is reportedly in talks with multiple apps to partner with them in order to create his own social media network.

Axios, citing multiple sources familiar with the situation, reported Wednesday that FreeSpace, a new social media platform, is one of the top contenders for Trump and his social media adviser Dan Scavino.

The pitch: The platform wants its users to share content that will “add value to their lives and model healthy habits for others to duplicate,” according to its website.

“The FreeSpace Actions are backed by science to positively reinforce good habits & make the world a better place,” FreeSpace’s platform says.

Read more here. 

 

PROTECT THE GRID: Bipartisan leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday urged Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale US solar company to open 0M plant in Ohio OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE to prioritize cybersecurity and maintain leadership for the agency’s key cybersecurity office in the face of growing threats to the power grid.

Committee Chairman Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMaher goes after Manchin: 'Most powerful Republican in the Senate' It's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-W.Va.), ranking member John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate passes long-delayed China bill OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm Republicans grill Biden public lands agency pick over finances, advocacy MORE (R-Wy.) and almost a dozen other bipartisan members of the committee sent a letter to Granholm stressing the importance of the Energy’s Department Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER).

Their big ask: The senators asked Granholm to maintain CESER as well as its leadership by an assistant secretary in order to defend the electric grid against mounting cyber threats posing a threat to national security.

“The reliability and resilience of the electric grid is critical to the economic and national security of the United States,” the senators wrote. “Top officials within the intelligence, defense, and power communities have warned that the United States remains vulnerable to cyberattacks that could result in catastrophic damage to public health and safety, economic security, and national security.”

Read more about the senators’ concerns here. 

 

CONCERNS FROM ACROSS THE POND: Regulators in the United Kingdom announced Thursday that Facebook’s acquisition of animated image search engine Giphy raises competition concerns.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had first announced that it would be looking into the move in July.

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In a statement Thursday, the regulatory agency said that Giphy had previously competed with Facebook in digital advertising via paid brand partnerships.

The CMA said that if the merger remains in place, Giphy may have “less incentive” to expand its digital marketing, thus lessening competition in that market.

Read more about the acquisition here.

Lighter click: She’s a star

An op-ed to chew on: Don’t blame Big Tech for misinformation online

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

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Exclusive: Software vendors would have to disclose breaches to US government users under planned Biden executive order (Reuters / Christopher Bing, Nandita Bose, and Joseph Menn)

Anyone with an iPhone can now make deepfakes. We aren’t ready for what happens next (The Washington Post / Geoffrey Fowler) 

Credit card hacking forum gets hacked, exposing 300,000 hackers’ accounts (Vice Motherboard / Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai)