Hillicon Valley — YouTube takes some heat

Today is Wednesday. 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. 

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

A group of fact checking organizations called out YouTube today for functioning as a conduit for the spread of misinformation worldwide. The company has managed to avoid much of the animus directed at Big Tech over the last few years, but critics have clamored for more scrutiny to be directed at it and this letter could precipitate some of that attention.  


In cyber news, several federal agencies issued an advisory warning that Russian hackers threaten to undermine critical American infrastructure.  

Let’s jump into the news. 

Fact-checkers put spotlight on YouTube

A group of 85 fact checking organizations wrote an open letter to YouTube to Wednesday faulting the video platform for spreading disinformation and misinformation globally. 

“As an international network of fact-checking organizations, we monitor how lies spread online — and everyday, we see that YouTube is one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide,” the letter addressed to YouTube CEO Susan Wojciki reads.  

The organizations, including the Philippines’ Rappler, Univision and The Washington Post Fact-checker, call YouTube's efforts to moderate content “insufficient.” 

Specifically, they argue, the platform has allowed dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 to circulate easily. 

And they say the problem is especially pronounced for content in languages other than English. 


“In the last year we have seen conspiracy groups thriving and collaborating across borders, including an international movement that started in Germany, jumped to Spain and spread through Latin America, all on YouTube,” the letter reads. “Meanwhile, millions of other users were watching videos in Greek and Arabic that encouraged them to boycott vaccinations or treat their COVID-19 infections with bogus cures.” 

Read more about the platform’s defense. 



Russia cyber alarms going off

Federal agencies are warning about Russian hackers potentially targeting critical infrastructure in the United States.  

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI and National Security Agency released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory on Tuesday detailing cyber operations sponsored by the Russian state, including commonly used tactics, techniques and procedures. 

The advisory also outlines detection actions, incident response guidance and mitigation measures. 

The agencies said they released the memo to “warn organizations of cyber threats and help the cybersecurity community reduce the risk presented by these threats.” It does not, however, mention any specific threats. 

“This overview is intended to help the cybersecurity community reduce the risk presented by these threats,” the advisory adds. 

Read more about the advisory. 



A U.S. judge on Tuesday denied Facebook's request to throw out a Federal Trade Communication (FTC) lawsuit that accuses the tech company of violating antitrust laws and maintaining a monopoly in the social media market. 

Facebook, now part of parent company Meta, had asked the federal court in Washington, D.C., to throw out the lawsuit, arguing the FTC has no factual basis for alleging the company holds a monopoly. 


But Judge James Boasberg said the case should go through to trial because "the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief.” 

"Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone's guess," he wrote in his decision. 

Read more here.




California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is reviewing Tesla’s driver assistance software to evaluate whether its vehicles should be considered autonomous, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday. 

The review, which was launched recently, seeks to determine whether the self-driving features that the electric car company offers reach the state’s definition of autonomous vehicles. 

If given that designation, Tesla would have to report how often its vehicles disengage from autonomous mode and would toughen test driver requirements. 

“The DMV shares the concern held by many other safety stakeholders about the potential for driver inattention, misunderstanding, or misuse as these systems become more prevalent,” spokesperson Anita Gore said in an emailed statement. 

The California DMV is separately reviewing Tesla’s use of the term “Full Self-Driving” to describe its drive assistance tech. 

The Los Angeles Times first reported that the agency is reviewing whether Tesla’s vehicles fall under its autonomous vehicle regulations.  

Unlike autonomous vehicle developers — such as Waymo, Argo or Cruise — Tesla has not been required to provide crash and disengagement data to the state because their vehicles still require human drivers. 


Read more. 

A digital literacy proposal


Rep. <span class=Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceMichigan Republicans sue over US House district lines House Democrats inquire about possible census undercount in Detroit, other communities Hillicon Valley — YouTube takes some heat MORE (D-Mich.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, October 27, 2021 with members of Congressional Black Caucus to discuss Black policy priorities." width="645" height="363" data-delta="4" />


Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) is proposing that the government create a new interagency commission to improve digital literacy nationwide 

The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission will be helmed by the secretary of Education, or a delegate from the secretary, and have members from across federal agencies, according to a copy of the legislation shared with The Hill. Lawrence will introduce the bill on Wednesday.  

Although Congress is laying the groundwork to ensure broad internet access, including through the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Lawrence said policymakers need to ensure Americans are able to access the digital services that are becoming more common. 

“But as we spend our tax dollars to invest and ensure that we're connected and that we can use the internet, no one has stopped to say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Are we creating a platform that is accessible and equal to everyone?’” Lawrence told The Hill.  

Read more here.  


An op-ed to chew on: Remote work is a saving grace — and can increase productivity 

Lighter click: Thank you Mark KellyMark KellyDemocrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Filibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats MORE 

Notable links from around the web: 

Google’s Staff Get Pricey Fast Covid Tests While Contractors Wait (Bloomberg / Nico Grant and Mark Bergen) 

Meet the women bringing tech’s worst secrets out of the shadows (Protocol / Anna Kramer) 

The Antitrust Case Against Facebook Draws Blood (Wired / Gilad Edelman) 

One last thing: Hurd weighs in on Trump bans



Former Texas Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley — YouTube takes some heat Former GOP rep: Social media companies should be able to suspend Trump, others for 'boldfaced lies' Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Tackling the misinformation 'crisis' MORE (R) said on Tuesday that social media companies should be able to suspend people like former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE when they are found to have violated policies and terms of use. 

While appearing on a Washington Post live stream about disinformation, Hurd was asked by technology policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski whether he agreed with Twitter's decision to suspend the accounts of prominent politicians in the past year. 

"Look, these companies should outline what their terms of use are, and enforce it, right? And so President Trump and these others have been violating those terms," said Hurd, noting the "boldfaced lies the former president and other members of Congress have been propagating." 

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 Thursday.