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Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Facebook to pay $14M to settle discrimination claims

Today 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.

Following weeks of backlash after a Facebook whistleblower came forward publicly, the Department of Justice announced the tech giant will pay more than $14 million to settle a case brought last year. The suit alleges Facebook discriminated against U.S. workers by creating a separate hiring process for certain temporary immigration status holders. 

Meanwhile, cybersecurity group CrowdStike released a report finding that hackers potentially linked to China were continuously going after telecommunications companies...

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.

Pay up, Facebook

Facebook will pay $4.75 million to the federal government to resolve claims of discriminating against U.S. workers through its recruitment and hiring practices, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday. 

A record penalty: The company will also pay up to $9.5 million to "eligible victims" of the alleged discrimination to settle the case, which was brought by the DOJ in December under the Trump administration. A DOJ official declined to specify how many alleged victims may be eligible for the payments.

The allegations: The complaint filed against Facebook alleged it created a separate hiring process for certain temporary immigration status holders from at least Jan. 1, 2018, until at least Sept. 18, 2019. 

"Facebook is not above the law, and must comply with our nation's federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's civil rights division. 

"Companies cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status," Clarke added. 

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM XEROX

Telecommunications Tuesday

Hackers potentially linked to China are continuously targeting the telecommunications sector, a report released Tuesday by cybersecurity company CrowdStrike found. 

High number: According to the report, a threat group labeled by CrowdStrike as "LightBasin" has been "consistently targeting" the global telecommunication sector since 2016, and has successfully compromised at least 13 telecommunications groups in the last two years alone. 

"Given the significant intelligence value to any state-sponsored adversary that's likely contained within telecommunications companies, CrowdStrike expects these organizations to continue to be targeted by sophisticated actors, further underscoring the criticality of securing all aspects of telecommunications infrastructure beyond simply focusing on the corporate network alone," researchers warned in the report. 

The report stressed that it did "not assert a nexus" between the hacking group and China, but that the developer of the tool likely "had knowledge of the Chinese language."

"There is currently not enough available evidence to link the cluster's activity to a specific country-nexus," the researchers wrote.

Potential government link: However, CrowdStrike researchers did conclude that the hacking efforts were "consistent with a signals intelligence organization," potentially linking the attacks to a higher-level effort. 

Read more here.

DEMANDING A 'LIVING WAGE'

An international group of Facebook content moderators are calling on subcontractor Accenture to raise their pay.

The workers sent a letter Monday to Accenture CEO Julie Sweet making their demands clear. The letter was organized with support from the legal nonprofit Foxglove.

"Unfair pay is a problem you can fix today," the letter shared with The Hill reads. "Accenture can easily afford to pay every content moderator a living wage that reflects the immense value they offer your company."

Facebook's treatment of its out-of-house content moderators - who spend long shifts sifting through posts, photos and videos on the platform to determine if they violate the company's policies - has come under new scrutiny following extensive reporting.

Read more here

A MESSAGE FROM XEROX

 

 

SPOTLIGHT ON STATES

 

Facebook is rolling out a suite of features aimed at providing users with reliable information ahead of a slate of state-level elections next month.

Users based in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington will soon be shown details about how to go about voting in their upcoming elections.

The day before the statewide elections, Facebook will display a reminder with how to find polling locations and other important voting info.

Facebook is also proactively deploying teams to identify election misinformation and efforts to suppress votes.

"In addition to showing people reliable election information in their News Feed and working closely with state election authorities to identify and stop potential voter suppression, our independent fact-checking partners review and rate false content on our apps," the company said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more here

200K IN 2020

More than 200,000 businesses started selling their products on Amazon during 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic drew in-store shopping to a near halt.

That figure marked a 45 percent increase in sign-ups compared to the year prior, according to an Amazon report on small and medium businesses released Tuesday.

There are now roughly 2 million sellers worldwide on the platform, according to the company's vice president of customer trust, Dharmesh Mehta.

"They have an opportunity to establish their brands, grow their sales and create great jobs," he told The Hill in an interview. "Sellers account for roughly 60 percent of sales in our store and in many ways our success depends on their success."

Read more here.  

SAVE THE ANIMALS

An animal rights group is suing YouTube for breach of contract after the platform allowed videos depicting animal abuse to remain on their site. 

The case, filed on Monday in California Superior Court in Santa Clara, alleges that YouTube failed to take action when it was alerted to the abusive videos, according to The New York Times.

The content ranged from images of a giant python wrapping itself around a puppy's neck to a monkey tied to the ground as a snake slithers toward it. As of Monday, the videos remained accessible on YouTube, the Times reported. 

Read more here.

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Public officials are under physical and digital siege 

Lighter click: Save the zebras 

Notable links from around the web:

Burnout adds to cyber talent crisis, forcing bosses to get creative with hiring (CyberScoop / Jeff Stone) 

When WhatsApp went down, Brazilian workers' jobs went with it (The Verge / Nicole Froio)

Tech giants want to hire Afghan refugees. The system's in the way. (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)

One last thing: The former top US cyber diplomat weighs in

Christopher Painter, a former coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department under both the Obama and Trump administrations, says greater international engagement is required to face down malicious nations and cybercriminals alike.

"It's becoming more of an issue on the world stage," Painter told The Hill during a recent interview. "We saw on the one hand I think we have to band together, on the other hand we have to not just be worried about the technical challenges; there are policy challenges, too."

Concerns around cybersecurity on the world stage have increased substantially over the past year, which featured some of the largest cybersecurity incidents the U.S. has seen. But Painter has hope that cybersecurity at the State Department will be strengthened under President Biden. 

"It's welcome that the Biden administration has said right from the beginning that they're more committed to doing work with other countries, across the board but also in this area, and cybersecurity is going to be a priority at every level of the administration," he said. "I'm confident they're going to do something to elevate this and give it better resources."

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.

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