Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined $886M by EU regulators

Sen. Ben Lujan (D-N.M.)
Greg Nash

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Social media platform Nextdoor has joined several other tech companies in facing scrutiny from congressional Democrats, who want to know how the platforms are working to combat the spread of disinformation in Spanish and other non-english languages.

In other news, e-commerce giant Amazon disclosed that it was fined roughly $886 million by European regulators over data breach regulations. The company pushed back on the finding and said it would “vigorously” defend itself. 

WELCOME TO THE CLUB, NEXTDOOR: A coalition of congressional Democrats is pressuring the CEOs of four social media companies to combat the spread of Spanish and other non-English language disinformation on their platforms. 

Democratic Sens. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.) led 23 colleagues in sending letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Nextdoor requesting detailed information on content moderation policies for the top five languages users on the platforms encounter. 

“Congress has a moral duty to ensure that all social media users have the same access to truthful and trustworthy content regardless of the language they speak at home or use to communicate online,” the lawmakers wrote.

Building pressure: The letter comes about a week after Klobuchar and Luján introduced a bill that would create an exception to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides tech companies a liability shield over content posted by third parties, for health misinformation related to an existing public health emergency.

And it adds to the mounting pressure platforms have been facing from the Biden administration specifically to combat COVID-19 misinformation. 

Playing defense: “We have a strict policy against misinformation and take active measures to reduce the spread of misinformation. All reports of misinformation are sent directly to and handled by our trained Neighborhood Operations team,” a Nextdoor spokesperson said in a statement.

Asked for further comment on Spanish and other non-English language misinformation, a Nextdoor spokesperson told The Hill the platform’s “process and policies apply regardless of language” and that the company has “non-english content moderators.”

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that it is operating its “entire comprehensive strategy to combat COVID-19 misinformation in Spanish.” 

YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said the company is still reviewing the letter but “in general” the platform’s policies “are global, and apply to all content across all languages and regions, including Spanish.”

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the company received the letter and intends to respond. 

Read more about the letters.


A HEFTY FINE: European regulators fined Amazon 746 million euros, roughly $886 million, over data breach violations, the company disclosed in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant was fined by the Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNDP) earlier this month in a decision that claimed Amazon’s processing of personal data did not comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, according to the filing. 

Amazon pushed back on the regulator’s findings. 

“We believe the CNPD’s decision to be without merit and intend to defend ourselves vigorously in this matter,” the company said in the filing. 

Raking it in: The disclosure in the filing was revealed after Amazon reported its second quarter earnings for the year, with net sales increasing 27 percent year over year to $113 billion. The increase had slowed down compared to the company’s 41 percent year over year increase from the second quarter of 2020.

Read more here


EYEING INTERNET ACCESS: The Biden administration on Friday announced additional sanctions on Cuba, but also pushed ahead with plans to expand the U.S. diplomatic presence and provide internet service to the island nation following widespread protests earlier this month.

The sanctions, imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. to seek financial punishment against human rights offenders, targets Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police along with its head Oscar Callejas Valcarce and his deputy Eddy Sierra Arias.

“The Treasury Department will continue to designate and call out by name those who facilitate the Cuban regime’s involvement in serious human rights abuse,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki. “Today’s action serves to further hold accountable those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s calls for freedom and respect for human rights.”

Friday’s announcement came ahead of a White House meeting with Cuban American leaders as well as members of Congress to discuss further actions on Cuba, including expanding a U.S. diplomatic presence that was drastically reduced under the Trump administration and how to move forward with the complex process of trying to provide internet access in a country that has periodically shut down internet service in the face of the protests.

Read more here.


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