Morning Consult Tech: FTC Leaders Reportedly Met Thursday to Discuss Facebook Probe, Signaling the Investigation Could Be Nearing Completion



Top Stories

  • Bipartisan leaders at the Federal Trade Commission met Thursday to discuss the next steps in their antitrust investigation into Facebook Inc., according to three people familiar with the matter, in a sign that the probe could be coming to an end soon. The FTC’s investigation has focused on Facebook’s market power in the social networking space and the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, the people said. (The Washington Post)
  • California’s court of appeals ordered Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to start classifying their drivers as employees, rather than independent contractors, within the next 30 days — affirming a preliminary injunction from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleging that the ride-hailing companies were violating California’s new state employment law. However, the ruling wouldn’t go into effect until after California votes on Proposition 22, a ballot measure that would exempt gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft from that state law. (The Verge)
  • Facebook’s Oversight Board, a review body that recommends policy changes and can make final decisions on whether controversial content should remain on the platform, is officially open to start accepting cases from users who have gone through the company’s entire appeals process and from Facebook itself. However, Facebook said it’s unlikely that the board will be able to handle any cases related to the U.S. elections and that it won’t submit any cases for expedited review before Nov. 3. (Reuters)
  • Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas compelling Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to testify before the panel about their handling of the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden; all 10 Democratic committee members were not in attendance as they were boycotting the vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. (CNBC)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

10/23/2020
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
Business Insider’s Global Trends Festival
Tech Policy Institute’s annual conference – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
10/27/2020
VHA Innovation Experience – virtual
CCA’s 2020 annual convention – virtual
FCC October Open Commission Meeting 10:30 am
2020 Forbes CIO Next Virtual Series – Episode 1 2:00 pm
10/28/2020
VHA Innovation Experience – virtual
Senate Commerce hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google 10:00 am
The Wall Street Journal’s artificial intelligence executive forum 10:55 am
Silicon Flatirons’ virtual event on the digital divide 11:00 am
View full calendar


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General

Palantir to Help U.S. Track Covid-19 Vaccines
Peter Loftus and Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal

Data-mining company Palantir Technologies Inc. is helping the federal government set up a system that will track the manufacture, distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines, state and local health officials briefed on the effort said.

Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative
Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, The Washington Post

A group of gig workers in California on Thursday sued Uber for up to $260 million in penalties. They allege that the company has violated their employment rights with aggressive in-app messaging urging them to support the company’s position on a November ballot measure.

Amazon workers threaten to shut down warehouses if employees don’t get a day off to vote.
Karen Weise, The New York Times

Workers at Amazon are calling on groups around the country to help shut down Amazon warehouses temporarily on Halloween if the company does not give all its employees a paid day off to vote. The move is an escalation of the internal pressure being put on executives at the company, the country’s second-largest private employer.

Twitter terminates its political action committee and donates leftover money to 2 charities that promote diversity and inclusion
Dave Levinthal, Business Insider Premium

Twitter — President Donald Trump’s favorite social-media platform — terminated its federal political action committee on Thursday, donating its remaining cash to a pair of nonprofit charitable organizations that preach inclusion and diversity, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Facebook Promised To Label Political Ads, But Ads For Biden, The Daily Wire, And Interest Groups Are Slipping Through
Craig SIlverman and Ryan Mac, BuzzFeed News

With less than two weeks before the US presidential election, Facebook is failing to label who paid for some election ads, including some on behalf of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign. As of Thursday morning, the Facebook page of Mitú, a news and entertainment website focused on Latino youth, had 11 active ads promoting Biden, none of which carried the payment disclosure required for election ads.

The U.S. vs. China: The High Cost of the Technology Cold War
Stu Woo, The Wall Street Journal

The world is paying a high price for the technological Cold War between its two greatest powers. The U.S.-China conflict has already upended the tech industry in both countries, disrupting giant hardware manufacturers, computer-chip designers and even social-media services.

The Network: How a Secretive Phone Company Helped the Crime World Go Dark
Joseph Cox, Motherboard

Vince Ramos wanted Phantom Secure to be the Uber of privacy-focused, luxury-branded phones—flood the market with devices, and sort out the law later. Then the FBI investigated him.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Google’s Antitrust Woes Seen Helping Microsoft’s Bing
Aaron Tilley, The Wall Street Journal

The target of the U.S. government’s last major tech antitrust campaign could be the biggest beneficiary of its newest lawsuit. Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine is the only major competitor to Google’s dominant product, though it has less than 7% of the market.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Representatives propose bill limiting presidential internet ‘kill switch’
Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch

A pair of U.S. Representatives — one from each party — are proposing a law that would limit the president’s ability to shut down the internet at will. That may not strike you as an imminent threat, but federal police disappearing protestors into unmarked vans probably didn’t either, until a couple months ago. Let’s keep an open mind.

June T-Mobile U.S. network outage disrupted more than 250 million calls: FCC
David Shepardson, Reuters

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said a June nationwide T-Mobile outage resulted in at least 250 million calls failing. FCC chairman Ajit Pai said a staff report released on Thursday found the company did not follow several established network reliability best practices that could have potentially prevented or mitigated the outage.

Huawei’s revenue growth slows as US tightens sanctions
Yuan Yang, Financial Times

Chinese tech group’s local smartphone sales drop for first time while inventory fears grow

Far-right conspiracists face more legal battles over voter-suppression robocalls
Dara Kerr, CNET

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have made names for themselves on the internet as vocal far-right conspiracy theorists and orchestrating over-the-top media stunts. Over the past couple of months, as the election has neared, the duo have set their sights on Black voters.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Trump campaign press secretary temporarily suspended on Twitter over mail-in voting tweet
Adam Shaw, Fox News

The Trump campaign’s national press secretary had his Twitter account suspended Thursday, just hours before the presidential debate, after he tweeted about his experience of being sent absentee ballot materials intended for someone else. National press secretary Hogan Gidley tweeted about receiving an envelope in the mail that was addressed to someone else, by the name of “Daniel.”

Twitter and White House deny claims that researcher hacked Trump’s account
Adi Robertson, The Verge

A security researcher claims he hacked President Donald Trump’s Twitter account earlier this month, guessing that his password was “maga2020!” and possibly posting a tweet where Trump appeared to take a satirical article seriously. Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant and magazine Vrij Nederland reported the news earlier today, citing screenshots and interviews with the researcher, Victor Gevers. But when reached for comment, both Twitter and the White House vigorously denied the claim.

TikTok will better explain video takedowns in lead-up to election
Rachel Lerman, The Washington Post

TikTok will issue more detailed notifications when it removes videos for violating its policies, the company said Thursday, as social media companies continue to work to clarify their content policies in the lead-up to the election. TikTok’s new notifications will pop up when the video app removes a post and tell users exactly which policy they violated with a link to the app’s rules.

YouTube Is So Flooded With Political Ads It Can’t Place Them All
Mark Bergen, Bloomberg

Less than two weeks before the U.S. election, some political campaigns are dealing with an unexpected obstacle on YouTube, the internet’s largest video site: There isn’t enough space to run their ads. Campaigns have flooded YouTube with commercials in search of voters they may not be reaching on television.

Patreon says it won’t support accounts promoting QAnon
Abrar Al-Heeti, CNET

Membership site Patreon on Thursday shared an update to its policies, saying it would no longer support creator accounts that “advance disinformation promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.” QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that falsely alleges there’s a “deep state” plot against US President Donald Trump.

Inside the campaign to ‘pizzagate’ Hunter Biden
Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News

Some of the same people who pushed a false conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton that first emerged in 2016 are now targeting Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, with similar falsehoods. Their online posts are garnering astronomical numbers of shares on social media.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

‘Dumb mistake’ exposed Iranian hand behind fake Proud Boys U.S. election emails – sources
Christopher Bing and Jack Stubbs, Reuters

Government analysts and private sector investigators were able to rapidly attribute to Iranian hackers a wave of thousands of threatening emails aimed at U.S. voters because of mistakes made in a video attached to some of the messages, according to four people familiar with the matter.

DHS, FBI say Russian hackers targeting US state and local systems
Maggie Miller, The Hill

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Thursday warned that a Russian state-sponsored hacking group is targeting U.S. government systems and the aviation industry, successfully accessing at least two servers. In a joint alert, the FBI and CISA report that a Russian advanced persistent threat (APT) group known in the security community as “Energetic Bear,” among other names, has been attacking U.S. state, local, territorial and tribal (SLTT) government networks, among other targets, since September.

Ransomware hits election infrastructure in Georgia county
Brian Fung, CNN

A Georgia county is ground zero for what may be the first ransomware attack to hit election infrastructure this political season. The attack on Hall County — home to Gainesville and located roughly an hour north of Atlanta — was disclosed on Oct. 7, but the impact to election infrastructure is only now coming to light.

Facebook Promises Privacy Reform. Critics Aren’t Convinced
Lily Hay Newman, Wired

In July 2019, Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission over a litany of the tech giant’s privacy violations. The agreement, the Justice Department’s civil division approved at the end of April, is most memorable for levying a $5 billion fine against Facebook.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Case Against Google
Spencer Bokat-Lindell, The New York Times

Democrats and Republicans in Washington make common cause on few issues these days, but recently they have found a common enemy: Google. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing the tech behemoth of illegally protecting its monopoly over online search services and the ads that run on them, a move that could prove to be the government’s most significant challenge to a tech company’s market power since it took on Microsoft in 1998.

DoJ case puts the detente between Google and Microsoft in spotlight
Richard Waters, Financial Times

Bing owner is notably silent on the complaint against search engine rival

Americans Can Undermine Their Own Election, Thank You
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

Earlier this month, curious emails began arriving in the inboxes of some Florida Democrats. Claiming to be from the Proud Boys, a group known for street altercations with leftists, they warned: “Vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”

Research Reports

International Cyber Benchmarks Index – Sept. 2020
Neustar International Security Council

The latest International Cyber Benchmarks Index, for September 2020, is 39.3, maintaining the upward trend. Two-fifths of organizations indicate that the threat data they receive is not timely and actionable and so does not fully enable them to make key security decisions.

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