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.
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.
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.”
A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI
Russia cyber alarms going off
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.
FACEBOOK DISMISSAL DENIED — AGAIN
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.
A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI
CALIFORNIA DMV GETS INVOLVED
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.
A digital literacy proposal
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.
BITS & PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: Remote work is a saving grace — and can increase productivity
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
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.