Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Rand Paul suspended one week by YouTube over COVID-19 mask claims | Crypto industry seeks to build momentum after losing Senate fight | Senators introduce bill to promote app store competition

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

A busy mid-week work day saw a well-known Republican member of the Senate get temporarily suspended from YouTube due to allegations he was spreading incorrect information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, cryptocurrency leaders are gathering their strength and preparing to weigh in on the upcoming House debate on the infrastructure package, and legislation was introduced to promote app store competition. 

STRIKE ONE: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been suspended from YouTube for a week over a video claiming that masks are ineffective against COVID-19.

In a statement to The Hill, a YouTube spokesperson said the platform “removed content from Senator Paul’s channel for including claims that masks are ineffective in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19, in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies.”

“This resulted in a first strike on the channel, which means it can’t upload content for a week, per our longstanding three strikes policy. We apply our policies consistently across the platform, regardless of speaker or political views, and we make exceptions for videos that have additional context such as countervailing views from local health authorities,” the spokesperson added.

Read more here


CRYPTO FIGHT CONTINUES: Cryptocurrency leaders say that even though they failed to change language related to the regulation of their industry in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, the heated floor fight over it underscores their growing power in Washington.

They’re gearing up to use that momentum to push back on the bill in the House and take the lead on future cryptocurrency rules.

“I think we were an unexpected force to be reckoned with,” said Kristin Smith, executive director of the BlockChain Association.

The industry group, along with crypto companies and digital rights advocacy groups, created a joint front to push back on a provision in the bill that they argued included an overly broad definition of “broker” that would sweep in regulations for software developers and so-called miners.

“We were able to sort of work outside of some of our traditional allies and build a bigger coalition, and one that we think, despite not getting it across the finish line in the end, was actually pretty effective,” Smith said.

Read more here.


APPLE/GOOGLE WATCH: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday introduced legislation intended to promote competition among app stores.

The bipartisan Open App Markets Act takes aim at Google’s and Apple’s dominant app stores, which the lawmakers say use their gatekeeping power to stifle potential rivals.

“For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark—pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants’ ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”

The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee held a hearing on app stores earlier this year that featured companies criticizing the two big markets for imposing excessive commission fees on payments and threatening up-and-coming developers.

The Open App Markets bill would try to remedy those concerns by blocking Apple and Google from requiring developers to use their payment systems or taking punitive action against developers that sell their services at lower prices elsewhere.

Read more.


WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE: The bipartisan leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday raised concerns about the division of responsibilities among key federal cybersecurity officials, noting that without clarification, the situation could “stunt” the response to challenges. 

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.), subcommittee on Cybersecurity Chairwoman Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) sent a letter to White House National Cyber Director (NCD) Chris Inglis detailing their concerns.

The lawmakers asked him how his responsibilities complement those of Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology (DNSACET), and Jen Easterly, who was recently confirmed by the Senate to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 

“While the talent that you and other senior cybersecurity officials bring to bear is undeniably encouraging, we remain concerned that lingering confusion about the roles and responsibilities among the NCD, CISA Director, and the DNSACET will stunt whole-of-government efforts to address pressing cybersecurity challenges facing the nation,” the lawmakers wrote to Inglis.

Read more about their concerns here.


TAKEN: A cryptocurrency platform has lost about $600 million in digital tokens in a hacking attack believed to be one the largest ever thefts in the cryptocurrency market.

Reuters reported that decentralized finance platform Poly Network announced the hack Tuesday, calling on users to blacklist tokens coming from digital wallets they believe the money was transferred to.

Poly Network said it plans on taking legal action and called on the hackers to return the stolen funds.

…AND RETURNED: Hackers behind the breach of cryptocurrency company Poly Network on Wednesday returned almost half of the $600 million in digital tokens they stole following a plea from the company to do so.

Poly Network tweeted Wednesday afternoon that $260 million in stolen funds had been returned. This was a significant increase after Poly Network tweeted Wednesday morning that about $4.7 million of the $600 million stolen had been returned. 

Read more about the incident here.


ANOTHER ATTACK: Global consulting group Accenture confirmed Wednesday that it had been hit by a cyberattack, becoming the latest in a string of organizations in recent months to be targeted. 

CNN reported that the company had been the target of a ransomware attack by the LockBit cybercriminal group, and that encrypted Accenture files would be released by the hackers at the end of the day Wednesday if the ransom was not paid. 

A spokesperson for Accenture on Wednesday did not comment on whether the attack was a ransomware attack or on who was responsible, but confirmed to The Hill that an attack had taken place. 

Read more about the incident here.


NEW LIMITS: Instagram will let users limit comments and direct messages from people who don’t follow their account as part of a series of updates the platform is launching to mitigate abusive and racist comments. 

The feature is aimed at decreasing the abusive posts targeting public figures and creators, but will be open for all users on the platform to use, according to the company’s blog post published Tuesday. 

If users turn on the new “Limits” setting, Instagram will automatically hide comments and direct messages from people who don’t follow the user or who recently followed them. 

The update targets “sudden spikes” users can see in comments and direct messages from people they don’t know, such as after the racist attacks targeting Black players of the English national soccer team after the recent Euro 2020 final, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said in the blog post. 

Read more about the update

An op-ed to chew on: As Biden stands by, Chinese hackers build dossiers on US citizens

Lighter click: Pop-rap renaissance 


How Facebook Failed to Stem Racist Abuse of England’s Soccer Players (New York Times / Ryan Mac and Tariq Panja) 

A Powerful New Deepfake Tool Has Digitally Undressed Thousands Of Women (HuffPost / Jesselyn Cook)

The Pain Was Unbearable. So Why Did Doctors Turn Her Away? (Wired / Maia Szalavitz)

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bennie Thompson Hillicon Valley John Katko Marsha Blackburn Rand Paul Yvette Clarke

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