Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds
Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Democrats press FTC to resolve data privacy 'crisis'
Today is Monday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Both chambers of Congress returned from summer recess with a bang this week, with a group of Senate Democrats sending out a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to take action on data privacy, while a key House Democrat criticized Facebook for allegedly not protecting users.
Away from Capitol Hill, agriculture group New Cooperative was hit by a ransomware attack over the weekend, with the hackers reportedly demanding $5.9 million, and Twitter paid up to settle a lawsuit alleging the social media giant misled investors.
Let's jump in.
Privacy work around
A group of Senate Democrats is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to develop new rules to protect data privacy amid stalled progress on a national framework.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led a letter signed by eight of his colleagues to agency Chair Lina Khan on Monday requesting new rules targeted at strengthening privacy, boosting civil rights and creating guardrails on the collection of consumer data.
The letter calls out Big Tech companies for having "unchecked access to private personal information" that they use to "create in-depth profiles about nearly all Americans and to protect their market position against competition from startups."
It argues that attempts to punish firms that violate existing data privacy rules have been insufficient.
"We believe that a national standard for data privacy and security is urgently needed to protect consumers, reinforce civil rights, and safeguard our nation's cybersecurity," the Democratic lawmakers wrote.
A MESSAGE FROM XEROX
Pressure ramps up on Facebook
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) is pressing Facebook for documents regarding what he calls the social media giants' apparent failure to protect user welfare based on recent reporting that revealed the platform is being used for human trafficking and that top executives had apparent knowledge of Instagram's detriment to young users' mental health.
Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday requesting documents and information following the series of reports from The Wall Street Journal.
The Democrat's first request relates to allegations of Facebook's facilitation of human trafficking on the platform after the Journal reported that tech giant knowingly allowed trafficking and other illicit content, such as organ selling and pornography.
"It would be troubling if an American company attempted to pad its profits through rapid expansion in lower-income countries without instituting the same safety measures it employs here and in other wealthy nations," Krishnamoorhi wrote.
Additionally, he is piling on the pressure for Facebook to release information and be forthcoming about its research into the impact of its products, primarily Instagram, on young users.
ANOTHER RANSOMWARE ATTACK
Agriculture group New Cooperative group was hit by a ransomware attack over the weekend, potentially endangering operations of a company key to the agricultural supply chain.
Security researchers shared posts detailing the attack across social media on Monday, and while New Cooperative did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the incident from The Hill, the company confirmed the attack to Bloomberg News.
"New Cooperative recently identified a cybersecurity incident that is impacting some of our company's devices and systems," the company told Bloomberg in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively taken our systems offline to contain the threat, and we can confirm it has been successfully contained."
Iowa-based New Cooperative is among the larger U.S. farm cooperatives, and according to Bloomberg received a ransom demand of $5.9 million from cybercriminal group BlackMatter.
In what are thought to be screenshots of a negotiation between a spokesperson for New Cooperative and the hackers tweeted out by security researchers, New Cooperative noted that 40 percent of the nation's grain production runs through its software, and that the ransomware attack would "break the supply chain very shortly" if the hackers did not relent.
A MESSAGE FROM XEROX
MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is demanding that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide information regarding their policies surrounding mitigating extremist content on their platforms.
Peters in a release on Monday said he wrote letters to each platform's CEO in an effort to combat domestic terrorism and investigate the events of Jan. 6, when rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
"Online platforms continue to be used to fundraise, recruit, organize, train, and plan for acts of domestic terrorism," Peters said in the letters before citing individual examples of this for each platform.
Twitter will pay $809.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the social media company misled investors, the company announced Monday.
As part of the settlement deal, Twitter and individually named defendants, including CEO Jack Dorsey and former CEO Richard Costolo, will continue to deny any wrongdoing or any other improper actions.
The complaint points to a November 2014 "pep rally with analysts" Twitter held to "buoy investor confidence." The complaint alleges Twitter provided "unrealistic growth projections" at the event to calm investors' skepticism.
The lawsuit alleges Twitter embarked in a "shell game" to "conceal the true state of the key metrics," such as user engagement, when sharing analytics with investors.
BITS AND PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: We need extreme measures to recover Afghans' personal data
Lighter click: Someone has to investigate
Notable links from around the web:
Amazon's AI Cameras Are Punishing Drivers for Mistakes They Didn't Make (Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)
Why Washington can't just fix Facebook (Protocol / Ben Brody and Issie Lapowsky)
How Amazon Ring uses domestic violence to market doorbell cameras (MIT Tech Review, Type Investigations, Consumer Reports / Eileen Guo)
Emerging from uncertainty, DOD cyber war college looks to navigate the future (The Record / Martin Matishak)
Momentum builds to strengthen FTC's role as privacy enforcer, though hurdles remain (CyberScoop / Tonya Riley)
One last thing: Facebook fights back
Facebook on Saturday pushed back against The Wall Street Journal's explosive series on the social media giant, saying the stories "contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook's leadership and employees."
The five-part series, which ran last week, examines how Facebook has handled a number of issues including anti-COVID-19 vaccine rhetoric, the effects of Instagram's app on younger users and the company's response to employees who raised concerns about human traffickers and drug cartels on the platform.
The Journal's reporting was based on internal documents such as online employee discussions, research reports and presentation drafts.