Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Presented by Nokia — Groups warn about Russians’ internet access

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

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. 

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

The Biden administrations plan to strangle Russia’s economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine could have the unintended side effect of robbing Russian citizens of access to the web, a collection of organizations warned Thursday. 

Russia’s war has exposed just how ad hoc most online platforms handle content moderation, something which was made very clear today with a report that Meta will bend a fundamental policy to allow some users to call for violence against Russians. Let’s jump into the news. 


Advocates to WH: Don’t disconnect Russians

A group of over 40 human and digital rights organizations published an open letter to the Biden administration Thursday cautioning against limiting Russian’s access to the internet in response to the country’s invasion in Ukraine. 

Two major internet providers have already cut service in Russia since its Feb. 24 incursion into eastern Ukraine. 

Several software and telecommunications companies have also halted sales, a combined removal of services that threatens to leave Russian citizens without access to international services. 

Pressure on other crucial technology providers to pull out, including from Ukrainian officials, has only risen as the war has continued.  

 “[W]e write to express our concerns about growing calls to interfere with the Russian people’s access to the internet, which we fear will hurt individuals attempting to organize in opposition to the war, report openly and honestly on events in Russia, and access information about what is happening in Ukraine and abroad,” wrote the groups, including Access Now, Human Rights Watch and the Wikimedia Foundation.  

 “These measures could also unnecessarily facilitate further repression by the Russian government,” they added.  

Read more. 



Meta makes a hate policy change

Facebook and Instagram will temporarily allow users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers within the context of the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported Thursday, a substantial shift to their rules on hate speech and violence and incitement.  

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will also temporarily allow some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, Reuters reported, citing internal emails detailing the change. 

The calls for death will not be allowed if they contain other targets or if they have two indicators of credible threats, such as the location or method, according to Reuters. 

A Meta spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Read more here.  


Twitter is launching a version of its site that would allow Russians to bypass the country’s ban on the platform. 

Russians will be able to access Twitter if they download the Tor browser and use a .onion suffix at the end of the site instead of .com, The Associated Press reported. 

The .onion sites on the Tor browser allows websites to run without the interference from others, including governments. 

Twitter was banned by Russia for restricting the country’s state-run media on the platform after Moscow invaded Ukraine. Russia’s war is now in its third week, and there have been reports of strikes on civilian targets including hospitals. 

Read more here.  

Multiple removals: Twitter also removed multiple tweets posted by the Russian Embassy in London about the bombing of a children’s hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, and one of its victims, saying the tweets “were in violation of the Twitter Rules.” 


The Future of Education—Thursday, March 17 at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT

After two years of virtual and hybrid learning, many students are still playing catch up. The federal government has provided billions of dollars in relief funds to school districts across the country. How have state officials been using these funds and how can equity issues be tackled? Join us at The Hill’s annual Future of Education Summit for headliner conversations with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Govs. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Chris Sununu (R-N.H.). Save your spot here.


Google Cloud will stop accepting new customers in Russia, a company spokesperson said Thursday.  

The announcement is the latest action from Google and other tech companies who have sought to punish Moscow and distance themselves from its war in Ukraine. 

“We can confirm we are not accepting new Google Cloud customers in Russia at this time. We will continue to closely monitor developments,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. 

Google Cloud’s action follows similar suspensions from other top cloud providers, including Microsoft and Amazon.  

Read more here.  




The legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre will suspend plans to require guests to scan palms for entry after a months-long campaign. 

The Amazon-developed palm scanning tech, which critics have cautioned would amount to invasive biometric surveillance, will not be used at any venues run by the Red Rocks management agency. 

Digital rights group Fight for the Future organized the push against the use of palm scans, bringing together over 300 artists to sign an open letter. 

“Red Rocks’ decision to abandon Amazon palm scanning puts the venue on the right side of history, as a defender of human rights and the privacy of music fans,” one of the group’s campaigners Leila Nashashibi said. 



An op-ed to chew on: Why ventilation and filtration won’t make indoor air COVID-free 

Lighter click: Need budgeting help 

Notable links from around the web: 

Working with the military is lucrative. For enterprise AI companies, it’s also a minefield. (Protocol / Kate Kaye) 

A Tech Executive Is Privately Funding Hundreds Of Soldiers To Fight For Ukraine (The Verge / Makena Kelly) 

Islam has a rich tradition around finance. Crypto is prompting new questions. (The Washington Post / Gerrit De Vynck) 


One last thing: Climate change a ‘dealbreaker’  

Opinions surrounding climate change are the biggest “dealbreaker” out of several topics when it comes to finding a match on the popular dating app OKCupid, new data from the company shows. 

Among 250,000 users surveyed worldwide over the past year, OKCupid found that 90 percent of daters said that it’s “important” for their match to care about climate change. 

Meanwhile, among 6 million users surveyed over the past three years, 81 percent of daters said they were “concerned” about climate change — topping other potential dealbreaker issues like gender equality and gun control. 

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.

Tags Bill Cassidy Chris Sununu Jahana Hayes Jared Polis Miguel Cardona

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