Hillicon Valley: Amazon facing lawsuits alleging racial, gender bias | Senate Commerce panel advances Biden's top science nominee | Colonial Pipeline CEO to testify on Capitol Hill in June

Hillicon Valley: Amazon facing lawsuits alleging racial, gender bias | Senate Commerce panel advances Biden's top science nominee | Colonial Pipeline CEO to testify on Capitol Hill in June
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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.

Amazon this week found itself in more hot water, as multiple women at the company accused the company of racial and gender bias discrimination in lawsuits filed Wednesday. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee approved President BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE’s nominee to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the House Homeland Security Committee announced that Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will testify on the recent ransomware attack next month. 

ALLEGATIONS AGAINST AMAZON: Five women from across Amazon's corporate offices and warehouses are accusing the e-commerce giant of racial and gender bias discrimination, according to lawsuits filed Wednesday. 

The women, ranging in age from 23 to 64, allege they were passed over for positions they were qualified for, subject to verbal abuse and retaliated against for speaking out, according to the complaints.

The cases come from several of Amazon’s facilities, including in Arizona, Washington, California and Pennsylvania, and the women held a variety of positions in the company, including in corporate offices, Amazon Web Services and warehouse facilities. 

An Amazon spokesperson said the company is conducting “thorough investigations for each of these unrelated cases” and has “found no evidence to support the allegations.” 

Read more about the complaints

LANDER ADVANCES: The Senate Commerce Committee voted Thursday to advance President Biden’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Five Republicans — Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBiden's misinformation crackdown spotlights partisan divide on content reform White House looks to cool battle with Facebook Republicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games MORE (Tenn.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBiden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (Utah), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines MORE (Wisc.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisRepublicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation Senate Republicans urge CDC to lift public transportation mask mandate MORE (Wyo.) — voted against advancing Eric LanderEric LanderThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems near breaking point on infrastructure negotiations Overnight Energy: Psaki defends gas prices | Biden budget aims to raise B from cutting fossil fuel tax benefits Hillicon Valley: Facebook to resume some political donations | Microsoft says Russian hackers utilized email system used by USAID to target other groups | Senate confirms Biden's top scientist MORE’s nomination. All Democrats voted in favor. 

Lander will be the first person at the position since Biden elevated it to Cabinet level, and he is the only member of Biden’s Cabinet yet to be confirmed. 

Lander faced pushback during his nomination hearing over allegations of downplaying the contributions of two female scientists, as well as over two meetings he had in the past with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

Read more here

COLONIAL TO FACE THE MUSIC: Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will testify in June before the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing one month after the company was forced to shut down operations due to a devastating ransomware attack. 

The hearing, which will take place June 9, will focus on the pipeline attack, which resulted in gas shortages in several U.S. states, as well as how to strengthen critical infrastructure. 

The pipeline provides around 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel. Operations were disrupted after the ransomware attack on the company’s IT system forced the company to shut down the pipeline for almost a week to protect operational controls.

Blount will almost certainly face questions about Colonial Pipeline’s decision to pay the cyber attackers the equivalent of around $4.4 million in Bitcoin to regain access to IT systems. 

Blount told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday he had authorized the sum to be paid on the day of the attack, describing it as a “highly controversial decision,” but the “right thing to do for the country.”

Read more about the hearing here. 

RETURN OF THE BLUE CHECK MARK: Twitter is rolling out a new verification process that will let anyone apply for the platform’s blue check mark.

Users will be able to submit applications starting Thursday. To qualify, users will have to fall under one of six categories: government; companies, brands and organizations; news organizations and journalists; entertainment; sports and gaming; or activists, organizers and “other influential individuals.”

Twitter had paused verification applications in 2017 after criticism of the process.

Read more about the decision here. 

TAKE IT DOWN: Facebook is refusing to take down an ad that Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy MORE’s staff is calling inaccurate and disparaging to Muslims, according to the Minnesota Democrat’s office.

Omar’s office has requested that Facebook remove an ad paid for by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that features Omar’s face on Hamas rockets and says, “When Israel Targets Hamas Rep. Omar calls it an ‘act of terrorism.’"

In a tweet last week, Omar stated, "Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism."

The tweet went on to say: "Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians. It’s unconscionable to not condemn these attacks on the week of Eid." 

Omar's office says the ad badly misstates Omar's tweet, and that it incites people in a way that endangers Omar and other Muslims.

Read more here. 

STEPPING DOWN: TikTok’s Chinese founder announced on Thursday that he will step down as the company’s CEO, The Associated Press reported.

Zhang Yiming shared that co-founder Liang Rubo will succeed him as the new CEO of ByteDance Ltd. 

Zhang sent a letter to his employees about his sudden resignation from his post, saying that he lacked “some of the skills that make an ideal manager.” 

“I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people,” he said in his letter. “Similarly, I’m not very social preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible.” 

Read more here

GOODBYE OLD FRIEND: Microsoft announced Wednesday that it is retiring Internet Explorer next year after 25 years.

The web browser has seen its use tank as Microsoft has shifted toward its Edge web browser.

“We are announcing that the future of Internet Explorer on Windows 10 is in Microsoft Edge,” the company wrote in a blog post. “The Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10."

Read more here. 

BIG MONEY: One of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. reportedly paid $40 million in ransom in March to regain control of its network following a ransomware attack.

CNA Financial Corp. reportedly paid the hackers two weeks after a heap of company data was stolen, and employees of the company were locked out of their network, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the attack.

A CNA spokesperson told Bloomberg in a statement that the company abided by the law, explaining that it conferred and shared information with FBI and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control that related to the attack and the hacker’s identity.

Read more here. 

Lighter click: This newsletter is proudly pro MILF

An op-ed to chew on: It’s time for a new, secure internet

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Google’s New Dermatology App Wasn’t Designed for People With Darker Skin (Motherboard / Todd Feathers)

Once Tech’s Favorite Economist, Now a Thorn in Its Side (The New York Times / Steve Lohr)

‘Cybersecurity incident’ hampers non-urgent care at hospitals in New Zealand (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Lawmakers want to force Big Tech to give researchers more data (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky and Ben Brody)