Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Biden moves to boost critical infrastructure cybersecurity | Activists protest Facebook’s ‘failure’ on disinformation | States appeal dismissal of Facebook antitrust case

President Biden speaks at a grassroots campaign event for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, Va., on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Greg Nash

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

After major cybersecurity attacks, such as the one that impacted Colonial Pipeline, President Biden issued a national security memorandum to amp up cybersecurity infrastructure. 

Meanwhile, Facebook continues to face pressure to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation with a protest staged outside of the tech giant’s D.C. office on Wednesday. And on the antitrust front, state attorneys general filed an appeal over the dismissal of their case against the social media platform.  


BIDEN TO BOOST CYBERSECURITY: President Biden on Wednesday issued a national security memorandum aimed at increasing cybersecurity for critical systems in the wake of major cyberattacks on companies such as Colonial Pipeline.

A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night that the memorandum will require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work with other agencies in developing cybersecurity performance goals for critical infrastructure sectors.

Additionally, the memorandum will formally establish Biden’s industrial control systems (ICS) cybersecurity initiative, which is a voluntary collaboration between the government and the private sector to boost the use of technologies to protect against cyber threats and provide warnings and indicators of attack.

Read more about the memorandum.


PILING ON THE PRESSURE: Activists staged a protest with body bags labeled “disinfo kills” outside of Facebook’s Washington, D.C., office on Wednesday as part of a push to hold the social media giant accountable for amplifying false information about COVID-19.

The demonstration was organized by the group Real Facebook Oversight Board, which has been pressuring the social media giant to change its policies to crack down on the spread of disinformation.

The same day as the demonstration, the advocacy group published a report including an analysis that found in the last three months a small group of five “known disinformation superspreaders” maintained the No. 1 post spot on Facebook 83.4 percent of the time. 

Read more here.


THE STATES APPEAL: State attorneys general filed an appeal Wednesday in the D.C. district court over the dismissal of their antitrust case against Facebook. 

“We filed this notice of appeal because we disagree with the court’s decision and must hold Facebook accountable for stifling competition, reducing innovation, and cutting privacy protections. We can no longer allow Facebook to profit off of exploiting consumer data,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement. 

James led a coalition of state attorneys general in filing the appeal a month after a federal judge dismissed the case entirely.  

Don’t forget the FTC: Facebook is also facing an antitrust lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that is centered around allegations regarding the company’s previously approved acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram. 

The FTC’s complaint was dismissed last month as well but the judge left open an opportunity for the regulatory agency to file an amended complaint. 

The FTC’s request for an extension to file the amended complaint was approved, and the agency now has until Aug. 19 to do so — pushing back a deadline that would have forced the agency to file the amended complaint by Thursday. 

Read more


GET THE VAX: Google is requiring workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus if they are returning to work on the company’s campuses.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees on Wednesday announcing the vaccine requirement and saying the company’s global work-from-home program will be extended until Oct. 18.

The vaccine requirement is for anyone who is planning on returning to the office in the U.S. and will affect other countries in the coming months.

Read more about Google’s memo.

Facebook, too: The social media giant on Wednesday also said it will require anyone coming to work at one of its U.S. campuses to be vaccinated. 

The implementation of the policy will depend on “local conditions and regulations,” according to the statement from Facebook’s Vice President of People Lori Goler on Wednesday.

Read more about Facebook’s announcement


BLIZZARD WALK OUT: Workers at the video game developer Activision Blizzard are planning to walk out Wednesday in the wake of a lawsuit against the company by the state of California alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. 

“We believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” organizers said in advance of the walkout, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. PDT outside of Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, Calif.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the lawsuit against the company behind video game franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft last week. 

The complaint alleges that the company has a “frat boy” culture that is a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”

Blizzard also allegedly assigned women to lower-paid and lower-opportunity levels at the company. Women allegedly received lower starting pay and earned less than male counterparts for “substantially similar work.”

The company has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, calling it “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”

Read more.


MASK UP: Apple will again require vaccinated customers and staff to wear masks at more than half of its U.S. stores, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The tech giant’s decision came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday advised vaccinated people in areas with high COVID-19 transmission to wear masks indoors, a reversal from its previous guidance

“After carefully reviewing the latest CDC recommendations, and analyzing the health and safety data for your local area, we are updating our guidance on face masks for your store,” Apple told staff in a memo obtained by Bloomberg. “Starting July 29, face masks will be required in store for customers and team members — even if they’re vaccinated.” 

Read more about the update


What we’re watching this week:

-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. 

-A House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing July 29 on educating the workforce to understand cybersecurity threats. 


An op-ed to chew on: Treat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right

Lighter click: A not so wonderful kind of day



Let’s Keep the Vaccine Misinformation Problem in Perspective (Wired / Gilad Edelman)

Brownsville, we have a problem (Protocol / Anna Kramer)

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