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Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week'

Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week'
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Thursday released findings that American broadband companies had funded a campaign to file millions of fake comments with federal authorities around net neutrality. Meanwhile, Twitter announced a new feature to allow users to send and receive tips, while Google detailed its proposal for how employees will work in a post-COVID-19 world. 

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FAKE COMMENTS: American broadband companies funded a campaign that filed millions of fake comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its proposal to repeal net neutrality regulations, an investigation by New York's attorney general found.

Authorities said the industry poured more than $4.2 million through a nonprofit called Broadband for America into “lead generation” firms that created comments by using prizes to trick consumers into giving up personal information.

The three marketing firms used to generate the comments -- Fluent, Opt-Intelligence, and React2Media -- were required to implement “comprehensive reforms” and pay $4.4 million in penalties as a result of the investigation.

The office, however, did not uncover evidence that the broadband companies had direct knowledge of the alleged fraud and is not naming the firms for a "variety of reasons."

Those allegedly fraudulent astroturfing efforts generated 8.5 million comments to the FCC, according to the investigation.

“Americans voices are being drowned out by masses of fake comments and messages being submitted to the government to sway decision-making,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement. 

Read more.

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TIP FOR TWEET: Twitter is rolling out a feature for users to send and receive tips, it said Thursday. 

Users can enable a “Tip Jar” on their account that connects to various payment methods, including Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, PayPal and Venmo. 

“You drive the conversation on Twitter and we want to make it easier for you to support each other beyond Follows, Retweets, and Likes. Today, we're introducing Tip Jar – a new way for people to send and receive tips,” Twitter’s senior product manager, Esther Crawford, said in a  blog post

Read more about the announcement

 

A HYBRID APPROACH: Google will allow employees to work in a hybrid model, with most employees working out of their offices half of the week and others working remotely full-time, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Wednesday.

The company will offer more options for employees, including through remote work and more global locations, as it shifts to the “hybrid work week” model. 

“Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time. Yet many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities,” Pichai said in a blog post

Read more about the update

 

WARREN WEIGHS IN: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC On The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC MORE (D-Mass.), a critic of Facebook and other tech giants, on Thursday called Donald Trump “a danger to democracy” and applauded a decision by Facebook’s Oversight Board to uphold the company’s ban on the former president.

Warren urged Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: NATO members agree to new cyber defense policy | YouTube banning politics, elections in masthead ads | 50 groups urge Biden to fill FCC position to reinstate net neutrality rules Pink Floyd's Roger Waters: 'No f---ing way' Zuckerberg can use our song for ad The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE to keep the ban in place when Facebook revisits the question of allowing Trump back on its social media platform in another six months.

“I am much happier with Donald Trump off the air, off Facebook. I don’t like having to get up every morning and go through what he’s done. I think he poses a lot of risk,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post Live.

Asked if Trump should now be treated as an “ordinary American” by social media companies now that he’s out of office, Warren said: “He poses much more risk than an ordinary American.”

Read more about her comments

 

PELOTON IN HOT WATER (AGAIN): Recently patched vulnerabilities in Peloton’s bike software may have allowed unauthorized users to view sensitive user data, new security research published this week found.

Pen Test Partners, a cybersecurity group, said that earlier this year it discovered vulnerabilities allowing unauthenticated users to exploit Peloton’s API, the software that facilitates communication between the bikes and company servers.

The vulnerabilities could potentially allow an individual to view personal information on Peloton users, including their location, gender and age, as well as class attendance, even if users have the private mode turned on.

Pen Test Partners said it notified Peloton, giving the company 90 days to patch the vulnerabilities before going public. According to a blog post published by Pen Test Partners on Wednesday, Peloton “acknowledged the disclosure” but did not “fix the vulnerability.”

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Read more about the vulnerabilities here. 

 

WHOOPS: Twitter on Thursday said it had suspended the account of GOP Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE’s (N.Y.) communications director “in error,” after the congresswoman accused the platform of censorship. 

Stefanik first tweeted Thursday morning that Twitter had suspended the account of Karoline Leavitt, who also formerly served as an assistant White House press secretary under former President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE’s administration. 

Read more here. 

 

TRUMP (STILL) BANNED ON TWITTER:  A Twitter account that was tweeting statements by former President Trump was suspended Thursday, just hours after it was created.

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The account went by the handle “@DJTDesk” and its bio read: “Posts copied from Save America on behalf of the 45th POTUS; Originally composed via DonaldJTrump/Desk.”

The account, which was banned under Twitter's evasion policy, was posting statements from Trump’s new website, launched after he was kicked off most social media platforms and permanently banned by Twitter.

Read more here

 

ICYMI: FEDS TAKE AIM AT RANSOMWARE: The Biden administration and Congress are mobilizing to confront ransomware attacks on critical organizations such as schools and hospitals, which some officials have labeled a national security threat. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice and Capitol Hill are all spearheading efforts to get a handle on ransomware attacks, which have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as cyber criminals targeted vulnerable networks that came under increased strain. 

“The threat is real. The threat is upon us. The risk is to all of us,” DHS Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasBiden expanding program for allowing young Central Americans into US US expanding work permits, deportation relief for crime victims Democrats press ICE, DHS to not re-detain migrants released during pandemic MORE said during a virtual event Wednesday hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Ransomware attacks have increasingly posed a threat to critical services over the past year. Hospital systems across the country have been hit, along with school districts in Baltimore County, Md., and Fairfax County, Va., among many others. 

Congress has also been paying greater attention to the threats from ransomware, with members on both sides of the aisle citing attacks in their districts on schools, governments, libraries and hospitals as key motivating factors in taking action. 

The House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee held a hearing on ransomware threats Wednesday, during which Chairwoman Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeTSA working on additional pipeline security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack School districts struggle to defend against rising ransomware attacks Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge Facebook to abandon 'Instagram for kids' plan | 'Homework gap' likely to persist after pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) announced she would shortly reintroduce legislation to provide state and local governments with $500 million annually to combat ransomware attacks.

Read more about the action here. 



Lighter click: Conflicting information 

An op-ed to chew on: The Biden administration wants to invest in AI — but which kind? 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

How a fringe religious movement in Japan built a pro-Trump social media empire (Rest of World / Andrew Deck)

US spy agencies review software suppliers’ ties to Russia following SolarWinds hack (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Everything You’ve Heard About Section 230 Is Wrong (Wired / Gilad Edelman)

The plot to kill .com (Protocol / David Pierce)