Hillicon Valley: Senate package brings cybersecurity billions | Twitter suspends Taylor Greene, again | Amazon gets NSA contract

Hillicon Valley: Senate package brings cybersecurity billions | Twitter suspends Taylor Greene, again | Amazon gets NSA contract
© Julia Nikhinson

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.

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

What an avalanche of a news day! Albany aside, the Senate has finally approved the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. Democrats also started debate over their multi-trillion spending plan, with cybersecurity and tech investments included in both. 

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In other news, Twitter could be getting close to permanently suspending Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) for consistently violating platform policies.

 

GOOD DAY FOR CYBER POLICY: The Senate included more than $1.9 billion in cybersecurity funds as part of the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package approved Tuesday.

The funds will go toward securing critical infrastructure against attacks, helping vulnerable organizations defend themselves and providing funding for a key federal cyber office, among other initiatives.

The infrastructure bill, which now goes to the House after it was approved by the Senate following weeks of negotiations, includes $1 billion in funds for state and local governments to strengthen their cybersecurity. Cybercriminals have launched more attacks as many services moved online during the pandemic.

The infrastructure package also included $21 million to provide funding for the White House National Cyber Director office. Former National Security Agency (NSA) Deputy Director Chris Inglis was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the first national cyber director in June, but his office has so far not received funding, making it more difficult to carry out his duties.

Read more about what was included here.

 

TWITTER TIME OUT: Twitter has suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for a week after she wrote that vaccines are “failing.”

A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that her tweet on Monday “was labeled in line with our COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

Her account will be in read-only mode for one week “due to repeated violations of Twitter Rules,” the spokesperson added.

Greene said in the tweet that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "should not approve the covid vaccines."

"There are too many reports of infection & spread of #COVID19 among vaccinated people," Greene said.

Read more here.

 

CURIOUS CONTRACT: The National Security Agency (NSA) has awarded a cloud computing contract worth up to $10 billion to Amazon, Nextgov reported Tuesday.

The contract, named “WildandStormy,” according to filings obtained by the outlet, appears to be part of the NSA’s attempts to modernize its repository for classified data.

The award is being challenged by Microsoft, according to Government Accountability Office records.

Amazon referred questions about the contract to the NSA.

A spokesperson for the agency confirmed to The Hill that it “recently awarded a contract for cloud computing services to support the Agency” and that another company bidding for the contract has filed a protest.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that it is filing the protest “based on the decision.” 

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“We are exercising our legal rights and will do so carefully and responsibly,” they added.

Read more.

 

IMAGE CROP UH-OH: Researchers say Twitter’s image-cropping algorithm is more biased than previously known.

The social media giant largely stopped using its cropping tool this year after it went viral last September for automatically highlighting white people in photos that also included a Black person.

Researchers have now found that the algorithm for highlighting faces in photos also discriminated against Muslims, people with disabilities and older people.

The image-cropping system also favored thinner and younger-looking people, another researcher showed.

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The findings were part of a contest hosted by Twitter at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas over the weekend to find new ways that the algorithm coded bias.

Read more.

 

KIDS’ SAFETY UPDATES: Google is rolling out a series of updates to YouTube and its search feature aimed at increasing safety for kids and teens on its platforms, the tech giant announced Tuesday. 

The changes include measures to give minors more control over their digital footprint and to further constrain commercial content for children. The rollout follows mounting pressure the Silicon Valley giant has faced from advocacy groups and lawmakers. 

On YouTube, default privacy settings for users aged 13 to 17 will be the “most private option available,” which only lets content be seen by the user and whomever they choose. Teen users can make their content public by changing the default upload visibility setting, according to a YouTube blog post

YouTube will also start to remove “overly commercial content” from YouTube Kids, "such as a video that only focuses on product packaging or directly encourages children to spend money.” 

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Read more about the updates.

An op-ed to chew on: Cyber preparedness could save America’s ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’

Lighter click: But what’s the source

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:  

Virus Misinformation Spikes as Delta Cases Surge (New York Times / Davey Alba)

No Adults In The Room (The Verge / Zoe Schiffer)

COVID-19 social media disinformation campaign sought to exploit TikTok, Instagram influencers (CyberScoop / Tim Starks)