Tech Brief: Unilever Threatens to Pull Ads from Online Platforms If They Fail to Manage Toxic Content


Top Stories

  • Consumer goods company Unilever plc, one of the world’s largest advertisers, threatened to pull its ads from online platforms such as Facebook Inc. and YouTube LLC if tech companies do not minimize the amount of divisive content on their sites. Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed called on Silicon Valley giants to better police their sites against certain content, including “fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children” during a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif. (The Washington Post)

  • Google Inc. unveiled new technology that allows publishers to create visual stories in a mobile-friendly format, similar to the style of other social media platforms such as Snap Inc.’s Snapchat and Facebook’s Instagram. Publishers, including Vox Media, Condé Nast and Meredith Corp., were involved in the early development of AMP stories and have already begun creating stories for mobile platforms, which will feature swipeable slides of photos, texts, graphics and videos. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Google announced that it will allow other companies to purchase access to certain computer chips through its cloud-computing service. Google, which designed the tensor processing units to handle complex processes and help power its giant artificial intelligence systems, hopes to build a new business around the sale of its chips. (The New York Times)
  • The White House’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget would give the Department of Homeland Security a significant amount of money for technology, including $2.2 billion for high-priority investments in border security technology. The $2.2 billion request also includes $182 million for front-line border surveillance technologies, including towers, radars, cameras and sensors that would provide Border Patrol agents with greater situational awareness in high-risk areas. (FCW)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
NCTC winter educational conference 7 a.m.
CSIS event on global standards for emerging technologies 9 a.m.
NARUC 2018 Winter Policy Summit 9 a.m.
University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy hosted discussion on the future of U.S. science and tech policy 12 p.m.
Mass Media and Video Programming and Distribution Committees brown bag lunch 12:15 p.m.
AT&T event on 3.5 GHz, including FCC’s O’Rielly 12:30 p.m.
Intel event on quantum computing 5 p.m.
FCBA event on state regulation of VoIP 6 p.m.
Wednesday
NARUC 2018 Winter Policy Summit 8:30 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing with FTC nominees 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee oversight hearing on the NHTSA 10 a.m.
House Financial Services Committee hearing on data security and breach notifications 10 a.m.
House Science, Space and Technology Committee subcommittee hearing on emerging applications for blockchain tech 10 a.m.
Brookings event on federal cybersecurity framework 10:30 a.m.
Glen Echo event on citizens broadband radio service 1p.m.
House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on artificial intelligence 2 p.m.
House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of the FCC Reauthorization Act 3:30 p.m.
NG911 Institute annual honor awards reception, feat. FCC’s Rosenworcel 5 p.m.
Thursday
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry hearing on the CFTC and cryptocurrency regulations 9:30 a.m.
NG911 Institute’s 911 annual technology showcase 10 a.m.
House Small Business Committee hearing on the development of agricultural technology 10 a.m.
New York Metropolitan and Northern New Jersey 700 MHz and 800 MHz Regional Planning committees’ meeting 10 a.m.
Verizon event on Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Carpenter case 11 a.m.
AEI event on securing IoT, feat. Democrats Sen. Edward Markey, Mass., and Rep. Ted Lieu, Calif. 12 p.m.
Center for Democracy & Technology and American Constitution Society event on Supreme Court’s United States v. Microsoft 2 p.m.
Next Century Cities event on local voices and broadband decision-making, with Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. 3 p.m.
FCBA Privacy and Data Security Committee event on robocalling 6 p.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

Tracking Trump: The President’s Approval Rating in All 50 States

The inaugural edition of Morning Consult’s new monthly approval tracker is now live. Explore the data state by state, month over month.

General

Oracle Leaps Into the Costly Cloud Arms Race
Jay Greene, The Wall Street Journal

Oracle Corp. plans to quadruple the number of its giant data-center complexes over the next two years, a move that could significantly boost capital spending as it tries to chip away at Amazon.com Inc.’s massive lead in the cloud-infrastructure market. The expansion thrusts Oracle into an expensive arms race against the market’s biggest spenders, Amazon, Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

The Silicon Valley Giant Bankrolling Devin Nunes
Lachlan Markay and Sam Stein, The Daily Beast

Weeks after they hired a controversial former Trump national security aide with ties to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), top executives at the tech company Oracle made substantial donations to Nunes’ 2018 re-election campaign. The donations, which totalled nearly $35,000 came from five executives, several of whom gave so much that they surpassed the legal limit and had to be refunded.

UK to unveil new tech to fight extremist content online
The Associated Press

The British government is unveiling new technology to remove extremist material from social media. It says that the system uses advanced machine learning to analyze the sound and visual components of videos for “subtle signals” and determine whether they could be Islamic State propaganda.

Trump Budget Gouges Non-Defense R&D by 19 Percent
Jack Corrigan, Nextgov

The Trump administration plans to cut funding for federal researchers by about 1 percent next year, but the proposed budget would force virtually every agency besides the Pentagon to drastically tighten its research purse strings. The president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2019 allocates roughly $118.1 billion for federal research and development, down slightly from the $119 billion authorized in the most recent continuing resolution for 2018.

In Iceland, bitcoin mining will soon use more energy than its residents
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

Bitcoin-mining operations are set to overtake domestic residential energy consumption in Iceland later this year, according to a local energy company. As a result, one lawmaker is considering what could or should happen if Iceland continues to expand its role as a major bitcoin-mining hub.

European Stocks Retreat; Yen Rallies With Bonds: Markets Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

European shares edged lower following a late downswing in Asia as markets struggled to find stability after last week’s rout. The dollar weakened against most major currencies as the yen soared and Treasuries climbed.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

AT&T cliffhanger adds uncertainty into otherwise favorable year for global M&A
Lauren Hirsch, CNBC

The most important deal of 2018 was announced more than a year ago. AT&T and Time Warner are headed to court next month to defend their $85 billion deal, announced in 2016.

Icahn, Deason urge Xerox shareholders to oppose Fujifilm deal
Supantha Mukherjee and Laharee Chatterjee, Reuters

Xerox Corp’s plan to sell itself to Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings has come under further pressure with Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason urging fellow shareholders to oppose the $6.1 billion deal. The activist shareholders, who own a combined 15 percent of the U.S. printer and copier maker, said the agreement dramatically undervalued Xerox and criticized the deal structure, which calls for the U.S. firm to be combined into the Fuji Xerox joint venture, as “tortured, convoluted”.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Here’s What Comcast Is Up Against to Wrestle Fox From Disney
Joe Mayes, Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co.’s $52.4 billion deal for much of 21st Century Fox Inc. seemed to be moving along as planned. Then Comcast Corp. came back into the picture.

Hill Democrats Diss POTUS Infrastructure Plan
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Unlike Republicans, Democrats were not handing out laurels to President Donald Trump’s infrastructure investment plan, which was fleshed out in a White House document Monday (Feb. 12). “I am deeply disappointed that the president failed to include dedicated broadband funding in his infrastructure proposal,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-W. Va.), co-chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, said.

Net neutrality’s end lets internet service providers ‘almost direct what you see’: FCC member
Kendall Karson, ABC News

A Federal Communications Commission member who opposed the panel’s recent repeal of net neutrality rules for the internet said she is “absolutely worried” about the change that she said allows internet service providers to “almost direct what you see.” Mignon L. Clyburn, a Democratic commissioner on the FCC, told ABC News, “I’m worried, I’m absolutely worried,” after the agency voted in December to rescind net neutrality regulations imposed in 2015 under President Barack Obama to govern how internet service providers treat content and data.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

One of the world’s largest advertisers threatens to pull its ads from Facebook and Google over toxic content
Hamza Shaban, The Washington Post

One of the world’s largest advertisers warned that it could pull its ads from online networks, such as Facebook and YouTube, if the tech companies do not minimize divisive content any further on their platforms. Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, called on Silicon Valley on Monday to better police what he describes as a toxic online environment where propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content that exploits children thrive.

Google’s New AMP Stories Bring Snapchat-like Content to the Mobile Web
Benjamin Mullin, The Wall Street Journal

Alphabet Inc.’s Google unveiled new technology that lets publishers create visual-oriented stories in a mobile-friendly format similar to the style popularized by Snapchat and Instagram. Starting Tuesday, publishers will be able to try out a developer preview of AMP stories, which feature swipeable slides of text, photos, graphics and videos, Google announced in a blog post.

Google Makes Its Special A.I. Chips Available to Others
Cade Metz, The New York Times

A few years ago, Google created a new kind of computer chip to help power its giant artificial intelligence systems. These chips were designed to handle the complex processes that some believe will be a key to the future of the computer industry.

YouTube Revamped Its Ad System. AT&T Still Hasn’t Returned.
Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times

AT&T, one of the nation’s biggest marketers, has yet to return to YouTube nearly a year after pulling its advertising from the platform because of concerns that it could appear alongside offensive material. The company was among a wave of major marketers who paused their spending on YouTube last March after it was found that ads were appearing on videos promoting hate speech or terrorism and other disturbing content.

Days before Hawley launched Google probe, Peter Thiel donated to his Senate campaign
Bryan Lowry, The Kansas City Star

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel made the maximum contribution to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley four days before Hawley’s office launched an investigation into Google. Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook, wrote two checks to Hawley’s Senate campaign on Nov. 9 totaling $5,400, the maximum contribution for a federal race.

German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal
Hans-Edzard Busemann and Nadine Schimroszik, Reuters

A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook’s use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users. The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

DHS budget includes funds for wall, cyber and border tech
Mark Rockwell, FCW

President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget would give the Department of Homeland Security significant money for technology to support a border wall, maintain the ongoing Einstein and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation cybersecurity programs and support a key online immigration data portal. In addition to the almost $18 billion to construct a border wall, the president wants $2.2 billion for high-priority investments in border security technology, infrastructure and equipment to help Customs and Border Protection prevent, detect and interdict illegal border crossings.

As The Olympics Deal With A Cyberattack, All Eyes Are On Russia
Kevin Collier, BuzzFeed News

Hackers have disrupted the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and the world’s security experts are trying to determine if Russia is the culprit. For about 45 minutes on Friday night, some Olympic computers and networks, including Wi-Fi systems, were hit with malicious software that targeted users with a @pyeongchang2018.com email address.

Homeland Security calls NBC report on election hacking ‘false’
Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday pushed back against a recent NBC News report claiming that Russian hackers “successfully penetrated” U.S. voter roles before the 2016 elections, calling it misleading. “Recent NBC reporting has misrepresented facts and confused the public with regard to Department of Homeland Security and state and local government efforts to combat election hacking,” Jeanette Manfra, the department’s chief cybersecurity official, said in a statement.

The harmful drive-by currency mining scourge shows no signs of abating
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

The scourge of drive-by currency mining—in which websites and apps covertly run resource-draining code on other people’s devices—shows no sign of abating. Over the weekend, researchers added two more incidents: one involves more than 4,200 sites (some operated by government agencies), while the other targets millions of Android devices.

Equifax Hires Jamil Farshchi as Chief Information Security Officer
AnnaMaria Andriotis, The Wall Street Journal

Equifax Inc. said it has hired a new chief information security officer to help with the company’s overhaul of its security in the wake of its massive breach last year. Equifax said Monday that it hired Jamil Farshchi, as its new CISO.

Russia says hackers stole more than $17 million from its banks in 2017
Jack Stubbs, Reuters

Hackers stole more than 1 billion roubles ($17 million) from Russian banks using the Cobalt Strike security-testing tool in 2017, a central bank official said on Tuesday. Russia is under intense scrutiny over cyber crime following allegations hackers backed by Moscow have attacked targets in the United States and Europe, accusations the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Disney plots its own course with online streaming shows and movies
Stephen Kent, Washington Examiner

Family-friendly — that’s the first major detail offered to Deadline by Disney about their mysterious streaming platform set to launch in fall 2019. No R-rated film or TV-MA series will be found on the yet-to-be-priced service, answering some long-standing questions about how the platform will function and also what will become of Disney’s more edgy properties.

Social media has become a powerful political tool
Jeff Pavelcsyk, The Hill

The 2016 U.S. presidential election changed the game for marketers and political parties alike, heightening the need for real-time information on voters and the thoughts, feelings and opinions of consumers. With a 24-hour news cycle and constant exposure to information, it has become increasingly difficult to manage a successful political campaign.

The NASA Space Telescope Trump Wants to Cancel
Marina Koren, The Atlantic

The Trump administration has released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 and put dozens of federal programs on the chopping block, including a brand-new nasa space telescope that scientists say would provide the biggest picture of the universe yet, with the same sparkling clarity as the Hubble Space Telescope. The proposal, released Monday, recommends eliminating the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), citing “higher priorities” at nasa and the cost of the new telescope.

Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—and the World
Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein, WIRED

One day in late February of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg sent a memo to all of Facebook’s employees to address some troubling behavior in the ranks. His message pertained to some walls at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters where staffers are encouraged to scribble notes and signatures.

Research Reports

Election Security in All 50 States: Defending America’s Election
Danielle Root et al., Center for American Progress

In 2016, America’s elections were targeted by a foreign nation-state intent on infiltrating and manipulating our electoral system. On September 22, 2017, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states that were targeted by hackers during the 2016 election.

Growing the Future: State Efforts to Advance the Life Sciences
Joe Kennedy, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Over the last two decades, the medical life-sciences sector, consisting of 12 industries in the pharmaceutical (traditional chemical-based drugs and new biological drugs) and medical devices subsectors, has been a steady generator of increased output, higher employment, and rising wages for the U.S. economy. Because of these positive trends and future growth potential, a growing number of state governments have enacted policies to support new life-sciences start-ups, encourage firms already in the state to expand their investments, and attract new life-sciences activity to their jurisdictions.

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