Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks

Bonnie Cash

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

Two Democratic senators introduced a new Section 230 reform bill Thursday that aims to hold tech companies accountable for spreading health misinformation, building off Democrats’ push to weed out false claims about COVID-19 vaccines as the Biden administration struggles to meet its goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, an apparent outage linked to the global content distribution network Akami plagued a wide range of websites Thursday — including e-commerce giant Amazon, major banks, airlines and the Olympics. 


A NEW SECTION 230 BILL: Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) introduced a bill Thursday that aims to hold tech companies accountable for spreading health misinformation as the federal government continues to push for Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines. 

The bill would create an exception to a part of a controversial bill, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that provides tech companies a legal liability shield over content posted by third parties. The proposal would create an exception for platforms that have algorithms that promote health misinformation related to an existing public health emergency.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action,” Klobuchar said in a statement. 

Read more about the bill


NO, IT WASN’T JUST YOU: Multiple major websites were down for about an hour Thursday afternoon in an apparent widespread outage linked to the global content distribution network Akamai.

Sites that were hit spanned many different fields, including the site for the upcoming Olympic Games. 

The impacted websites, however, appeared to be operating again around 1 p.m. Other websites involved in the outage included those for major banks; gaming sites such as Steam; airline websites such as Delta; online news publications such as the Dallas Morning News; and e-commerce giant Amazon. 

Read more about the outage


THE KEY TO KASEYA: Software company Kaseya on Thursday obtained a key to decrypt its systems and that of customers, which were locked down by a ransomware attack earlier this month.

A spokesperson for the company told The Hill in an emailed statement that Kaseya had been given an “effective decryptor and we are actively using it to help our customers.”

“We obtained the tool from a trusted third party and for confidentiality reasons I can’t say more than that,” the spokesperson said.

The key will likely be used to assist the up to 1,500 companies impacted by the ransomware attack on Kaseya. Cybersecurity experts have linked to Russian-based cyber criminal group REvil, though the federal government has not yet formally assessed who is behind the attack. 

Read more about the attack here.


ACTIVISION BLIZZARD UNDER FIRE: California is suing a publishing company behind popular video games, alleging it of fostering a “frat boy” workplace culture that subjected women at the company to sexual harassment and lower pay than their male peers. 

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed the lawsuit Wednesday against Activision Blizzard, the company behind video game franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The state alleges the game publisher, based in Sunnyvale, violated California’s Equal Pay Act and Fair Housing and Employment Act.

Activision Blizzard rejected the allegation, accusing the California agency’s complaint of including “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” according to a statement from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson. 

Read more about the lawsuit


NEW SENATE CYBER BILL: The bipartisan leaders of two Senate committees on Thursday introduced legislation to shore up the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in the wake of months of crippling cyberattacks.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act would direct the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to lead efforts to understand threats against industrial control systems. 

The bill would also require CISA to provide cybersecurity assistance to public and private groups to help defend these critical systems, along with sharing more information on threats to industrial control systems.

The legislation is sponsored by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and ranking member Rob Portman (R-Ohio), alongside Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 

Read more about the legislation here.


TWITTER TESTS ‘DOWN VOTES’:Twitter is testing a feature to allow users to “down vote” replies to their posts, the company said Wednesday. 

If users down vote a reply it will not be public, and if they choose to “up” vote the reply it will be shown as a “like” on the tweet, the company said. 

The feature will start appearing for users using iOS. 

Read more here


UPDATE ON THE TWITTER HACK: The British man detained in Spain in connection to a massive Twitter hack last summer is being put in jail pending an extradition hearing, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Joseph O’Connor refused to be transferred to the U.S. voluntarily during a hearing before a Spanish National Court, according to The Associated Press.

O’Connor has been accused by prosecutors in the U.S. of participating in a hack that compromised more than 130 Twitter accounts, including those of President Biden, former President Obama and billionaire CEO Elon Musk.

Read more here. 


What we’re watching next week:

-The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing July 27 on how the government can prevent and respond to ransomware attacks. 

-Top officials from the Department of Transportation and the Transportation Security Administration will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing July 27 on cyber threats to pipelines.

-DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will outline resources his agency needs to secure the nation, likely involving discussion of cyber and technology issues, during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing July 27.

-A House Oversight and Reform Committee subcommittee will examine cyber threats to the electric grid during a hearing featuring federal officials on July 27. 

-The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce will consider over a dozen bills involving the Federal Trade Commission and consumer protection during a markup July 28.


An op-ed to chew on: Slow broadband adoption needs a real-time solution

Lighter click: Empire collapse in action



Uber And Lyft Drivers Are Being Carjacked at Alarming Rates (The Markup / Dara Kerr)

Facebook and YouTube spent a year fighting covid misinformation. It’s still spreading. (Washington Post / Gerrit De Vynck and Rachel Lerman) 

Anti-vaccine groups changing into ‘dance parties’ on Facebook to avoid detection (NBC News / Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny)

A Priest Was Outed by His Phone’s Location Data. Anyone Could Be Next. (Gizmodo / Shoshana Wodinsky)

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Amy Klobuchar Elon Musk Gary Peters Joe Biden Marco Rubio Mark Warner Rob Portman
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video