Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Facebook experiences widespread outage

Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Facebook experiences widespread outage
© Julia Nikhinson

Facebook whistleblower takes the spotlightToday is Tuesday. 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.

Fresh off its Monday outage, Facebook faced bipartisan outrage during a hearing featuring a company whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Lawmakers were largely unified in their fury at Facebook, and are pushing for another hearing with Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergRohingya refugees sue Facebook for 0B Hillicon Valley — Amazon draws COVID scrutiny Meta exec who co-founded Diem digital currency leaving the company MORE to probe the company’s CEO on questions raised by Haugen’s testimony and the documents she revealed. 

Meanwhile, the director of the NSA predicted that ransomware attacks would remain a major challenge in the years to come, while House lawmakers introduced a bill designed to protect critical groups from hackers. 

Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Let’s jump in.

A tough day for Facebook… again 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday that was fired up about the recent wave of revelations about the company. 

Lawmakers focused on Facebook’s own research finding Instagram made body issues worse for one in three teenage girls and the platform’s decision not to share those results.

The Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection also touched on algorithmic amplification of dangerous content, Facebook’s approach to moderation outside of the U.S. and how to craft policy.

Here are the biggest takeaways.

Haugen emerges as a real threat to Facebook: Witnesses at the last few congressional hearings focused on Facebook have fit into two categories: employees with vested interest in promoting the company’s interests or experts without insider knowledge of the social media giant’s operations.

Haugen’s unique position as a recent former employee not speaking on behalf of the company was on full display during her testimony.

Several times during Tuesday’s hearing she was able to give clear explanations of technical terms, like meaningful social interactions or engagement-based rankings, that have gotten muddled in the past.

Zuckerberg can’t stay silent much longer: Senators said Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should testify yet again before the committee given Haugen’s testimony.

“When it comes to what we would hear differently from Mr. Zuckerberg, we have these documents that have been turned over now, and it allows us to have a better look, so that we can do a deeper dive and be able to ask more direct questions,” Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' White House announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Demand Justice launches ad campaign backing Biden nominee who drew GOP pushback MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters. 

Lawmakers are fired up: Tuesday’s hearing built on the bipartisan outrage directed at Davis last week, highlighting the rare unity across the aisle especially in regards to children’s safety.

“I have rarely if ever seen the kind of unanimity on display today and Thursday. If you closed your eyes without knowing who was talking, you wouldn't know whether it was a Republican or Democrat, you wouldn't know what part of the country they were from. Because everywhere, red state, blue state, east and west, every part of the country has the harms that are inflicted by Facebook and Instagram,” Blumenthal said. 

Next steps remain unclear: Despite the bipartisan unity on the issue, the next steps for policy were no clearer after questioning concluded.

Haugen herself identified more oversight and transparency as the solution to problems at the social media giant.

“As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,” she said in her opening remarks.

Read more about the hearing here


Nine-in-Ten Voters in Key Frontline Districts Support Candidates Who Ensure U.S. Tech Remains Globally Competitive

A new survey released by Ipsos in partnership with the American Edge Project (AEP) shows that voters in frontline districts want their elected officials to focus on issues of national security, jobs, and health care as opposed to breaking up tech companies.

See the poll here.



National Security Agency (NSA) Director Paul Nakasone predicted Tuesday that the rate of ransomware attacks will not slow down in the next five years, and said efforts to counter those threats must remain constant as well. 

“Every single day,” Nakasone said when asked how often the U.S. would face ransomware attacks in five years, during a conversation at cybersecurity firm Mandiant’s Cyber Defense Summit Tuesday. 

“We are persistently engaged, and being persistently engaged, you have unique insights that you can develop, you have unique capabilities you can bring forward, there are matters upon which you can engage your adversaries,” said Nakasone, who also serves as commander of U.S. Cyber Command. “I think if you leave that, then your adversaries have determined in due course what they are going to do.”

Mandiant CEO Kevin Mandia, whose company responds to ransomware attacks and other cyber incidents, noted the need to “keep the uniform on” following Nakasone’s prediction around ransomware attacks.

Read more here


House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoKevin McCarthy is hostage to the GOP's 'exotic wing' McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (D-Va.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to help the federal government identify and further protect certain critical groups from cyberattacks. 

The Securing Systemically Important Critical Infrastructure Act would authorize the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to establish a process to designate groups as systemically important critical infrastructure (SICI). 

CISA would be required to work with sector risk management agencies to establish the criteria around what organizations qualify as SICI, and ensure CISA gives owners and operators of these key groups access to priority cybersecurity programs. 

“In recent months, we have collaborated extensively with industry to codify a transparent, well-understood, stakeholder-involved process for identifying SICI,” Katko said in a statement Tuesday. “Our goal is to understand the single points of failure and layers of systemic risk in our economy, because if everything is critical, nothing is.”

Read more here



An op-ed to chew on: For COVID recovery, the nation should take lessons from the heartland

Lighter click: Choosing to believe this happened

Notable links from around the web:

Taylor SwiftTaylor Alison SwiftThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pelosi takes victory lap after breaking months-long standoff The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens MORE fans are getting caught up in the Virginia gubernatorial race (The Verge / Makena Kelly)

How Can You Safely Store Your Vaccine Status on Your Phone? (The Markup / Malena Carollo)

The FTC's next privacy move is a dangerous game years in the making (Protocol / Ben Brody)

A new bill would requirement ransomware victims to report payments within 48 hours (CyberScoop / Tonya Riley)


Ipsos + AEP frontline district poll across 32 districts found that:

There is virtually no constituency for breaking up U.S. tech companies. Despite recent efforts to break up U.S. tech companies, just 14% support such a move, including just 15% of Democrats, 12% of independents, and 12% of Republicans.

Voters believe breaking up tech companies will harm the economy, national security, and small businesses.

The poll results make it clear that policymakers who are pushing misguided tech regulation are out of touch with voters.

See the poll here.

One last thing: Facebook’s ‘faulty configuration change’ 

Smart phone screen display of Facebook logo

Facebook’s outage across its platforms for most of Monday was the result of a "faulty configuration change," according to the company. 

The issue also impacted Facebook’s internal services, making it more difficult for the company to diagnose and resolve the problem, Facebook’s vice president of engineering and infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said in a blog post late Monday night. 

“Our services are now back online and we’re actively working to fully return them to regular operations. We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change. We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime,” Janardhan said. 

In an update Tuesday morning, Facebook said that "there was no malicious activity behind this outage.”

Read more here

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday.