Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves

Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves
© Greg Nash

Today is Thursday. 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.

Thursday was a busy day for Capitol Hill technology policy after a relatively quiet handful of months. First, a surprisingly large group of senators from both sides of the aisle got together to announce that a self-preferencing bill is coming next week. Next, the top four Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce committee introduced their proposal to go after “malicious” algorithms by amending everyone’s favorite 26 words, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Meanwhile, the two-day global ransomware summit hosted by the White House wrapped up with the more than 30 nations participating that vowed to work together to combat attacks, and a coalition of federal agencies issued an alert warning of cyber threats to water and wastewater systems. 

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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.

Antitrust is back, back again 

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Klobuchar says 'best way' to protect abortion rights is to codify Roe v. Wade into law Sunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant MORE (D-Minn.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 Alarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season GOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting MORE (R-Iowa) will be introducing legislation to block the country’s biggest tech companies from prioritizing their own products over their rivals.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit dominant online platforms — likely Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — from engaging in discriminatory behavior like giving preference to their own goods or disadvantaging rivals.

It would impose fines up to 15 percent of a company’s revenue during the time it was violating the legislation to provide antitrust enforcers much needed funding.

“As dominant digital platforms — some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen — increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace,” Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee focused on antitrust, said in a statement.

“Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner,” added Grassley, the ranking member of the full committee.

The companies targeted by the forthcoming legislation have been criticized by small businesses and rivals for abusing their gatekeeper status to maintain monopoly power.

Amazon, for example, faces allegations that it uses data from third-party sellers to develop its own products and then gives them preferential treatment in search. Google has been accused of prioritizing its own features, like Google Maps or Flights, on its search engine.

Read more about who’s back this bill.

A MESSAGE FROM LOOKINGGLASS

In 2021, LookingGlass observed 170,000 instances of DIB assets acting as C2s for malware. Learn how LookingGlass can provide a global attack surface view to better protect critical infrastructure.

Ransomware is definitely a global problem

Government cybersecurity leaders from the U.S. and more than 30 countries on Thursday formally recognized ransomware attacks as an "escalating global security threat,” and pledged greater cooperation and diplomacy in fighting against these incidents. 

“Ransomware is an escalating global security threat with serious economic and security consequences,” the leaders wrote in a joint statement released Thursday. 

Big meeting: The recognition came at the end of the two-day Counter Ransomware Initiative meeting hosted by the White House to help tackle the increasing ransomware attacks against critical organizations around the world, including some in the U.S. this year such as Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA. 

“As with other cyber threats, the threat of ransomware is complex and global in nature and requires a shared response,” the leaders wrote. “A nation’s ability to effectively prevent, detect, mitigate and respond to threats from ransomware will depend, in part, on the capacity, cooperation, and resilience of global partners, the private sector, civil society, and the general public.”

“Governments recognize the need for urgent action, common priorities, and complementary efforts to reduce the risk of ransomware,” the leaders stressed.

Promises made: The nations pledged to try to address “safe haven” countries where malicious actors are able to operate, do more to “address the abuse” of the use of virtual currency exchanges for victims to make ransomware attack payments, continue diplomatic efforts to counter ransomware attacks and prioritize law enforcement collaboration to disrupt the threat ecosystem.

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Read more about the meeting here.

HOUSE BILL ALERT

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday announced legislation aimed at holding online platforms accountable for content promoted by their algorithms.

The Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides platforms with immunity from content posted by third parties and allows good faith moderation, to make platforms liable for certain dangerous content.

The bill would only apply to platforms with over 5 million unique monthly visitors and contains exceptions for web hosting sites.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term Midterm gloom grows for Democrats MORE (D-Pa.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyModerate Democrats press for score before vote on Biden package Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-Ill.) and Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Democrats to target Section 230 in Haugen hearing MORE (D-Calif.), is not the first House bill targeting Section 230 reform, but does have some of the most high-profile lawmakers behind it.

“Social media platforms like Facebook continue to actively amplify content that endangers our families, promotes conspiracy theories, and incites extremism to generate more clicks and ad dollars,” Pallone, the committee chair, said in a statement.

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The legislation specifically carves out Section 230 liability protections in cases where platforms knowingly or recklessly make a personalized recommendation that “materially contributed to a physical or severe emotional injury to any person.”

Click here to read about the last time lawmakers tried this.

DRINKING BOTTLED WATER FROM HERE ON OUT

A coalition of federal agencies on Thursday warned that hackers are targeting the water and wastewater treatment sectors, strongly recommending that organizations take steps to protect themselves.  

In a joint advisory, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) warned of “ongoing malicious cyber activity—by both known and unknown actors—targeting the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) networks, systems, and devices of U.S. Water and Wastewater Systems (WWS) Sector facilities.”

“This activity — which includes attempts to compromise system integrity via unauthorized access — threatens the ability of WWS facilities to provide clean, potable water to, and effectively manage the wastewater of, their communities,” the agencies wrote in the advisory. 

The agencies noted that targeting of the water and wastewater sectors had not increased, but that “cyber threats across critical infrastructure sectors are increasing.”

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Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM LOOKINGGLASS

 

Protect critical infrastructure with an outside-in approach and actionable threat intelligence. Learn how LookingGlass can help mitigate vulnerabilities, exposures, and threats before an attack occurs.

WARREN TAKES ON AMAZON

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) is calling for the breakup of Amazon after Reuters reported that the online retail giant created knock-off products and manipulated product searches in India. 

In response to the report, Warren tweeted that the documents at the heart of the news service's article “show what we feared about Amazon’s monopoly power—that the company is willing and able to rig its platform to benefit its bottom line while stiffing small businesses and entrepreneurs."

"This is one of the many reasons we need to break it up,” she added.

Reuters, citing internal emails, strategy papers and plans, reported on Wednesday that Amazon ran a campaign to copy products and then sell them on its own platform in India, which is one of the company’s largest growth markets. According to the news service, Amazon’s private-brands team in India exploited internal data to copy products from other platforms and then offer them on Amazon. 

Read more here.

LAW AND ORDER AND BITCOIN

Miami Mayor Francis SuarezFrancis SuarezHillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs Miami residents to receive city cryptocurrency proceeds, mayor says Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves MORE (R) says he is moving forward with a proposal to pay city workers in bitcoin.

During an interview on Bloomberg Technology on Tuesday, Suarez said the city will request a proposal this month to allow employees to get paid in bitcoin, and even allow residents to pay fees and even taxes in bitcoin if the county allows.

Suarez said it was a “major priority” for him as he wants to differentiate the city as a “crypto capital of the United States or of the world.”

Suarez further said he wants the city to be able to hold bitcoin on its balance sheet, which is not currently allowed in the state of Florida.

Read more here. 

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Let’s build a superhighway in space

Lighter click: Stop the Sonification of movies!

Notable links from around the web:

Amazon Puts Its Own “Brands” First (The Markup / Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin)

‘Urgent Pizza:’ The Untold Story of the Largest Hack in Twitch’s History (Motherboard / Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai)

Dead-End SF Street Plagued With Confused WayMo Cars Trying To Turn Around ‘Every 5 Minutes’ (KPIX / Wilson Walker)

A former top US election official urges sweeping security improvements, warning ‘democracy is in trouble’ (CyberScoop / Tim Starks) 

One last thing: 5G hits some bumps in the rollout

Blue-toned photo illustration of cellphone towers, empty phone in center with white highlights and emphasis

The rollout and expansion of next generation wireless technology is running up against some pandemic-related hurdles.

The move toward 5G is forcing some industries to make upgrades at a time when hiring is proving challenging and supply chain issues have led to shortages of semiconductor chips and other crucial materials.

The fiber optic cable industry, which helps build out the infrastructure needed to link small cell sites together for 5G deployment, says it’s unable to staff and supply much of that work.

“We are concerned about the labor. Right now we’re looking at an investment cycle that’s going to be 4-6 times the traditional run rate … and our industry right now is only able to grow at about 15 to 20 percent a year,” Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Gary Bolton told The Hill.

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 Friday.