Hillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight
Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.
Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).
THURSDAY IS COMING, GoT STYLE: Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s report will be released on Thursday morning, a Justice Department spokesperson said.
Democrats in Congress have been insisting on the release of the full report, but Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ to run long Thursday for deep dive into Mueller report Schiff, Nunes pressed DOJ for Mueller briefing MORE has said that certain information — like grand jury material and information relating to other ongoing investigations — will be redacted from the document.
Barr sent a letter to Congress late last month announcing the end of Mueller’s probe and outlining the core conclusions of the special counsel’s investigation, including a finding that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election.
The attorney general also wrote in that letter that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Dem hits back at Trump for giving ‘firefighting advice’ to Paris: ‘Do your own damn job’ French officials reject Trump suggestion to use ‘flying water tankers’ on Notre Dame fire Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog opens investigation into new secretary | Warren unveils 2020 plan to stop drilling on public lands | Justices reject case challenging state nuclear subsidies | Court orders EPA to re-evaluate Obama pollution rule MORE obstructed justice, but said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ to run long Thursday for deep dive into Mueller report Schiff, Nunes pressed DOJ for Mueller briefing MORE determined that the evidence was not sufficient to bring forward such a charge.
Barr had said last week during his testimony before a House panel that the report would be released “within a week,” and told senators the next day that it would come out “next week.”
The report’s release has been highly anticipated, as it’s expected to include the findings of Mueller’s 22 month-long investigation, as well as the evidence collected by investigators.
More on the week’s big event here.
YOUTUBE MISTAKENLY TIES NOTRE DAME FIRE TO 9/11: YouTube linked to information about the 9/11 terrorist attacks on livestreams of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire Monday even though officials had not identified the cause of the blaze.
The pages for the streams initially included YouTube’s new information panels right below the video with a brief note and a link to the Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on the 2001 attack. The cause of the fire is unknown.
YouTube began rolling out the information panels last month in order to combat conspiracy theories by providing context on controversial topics.
“This information panel will appear alongside videos related to the topic, regardless of the opinions or perspectives expressed in the videos,” YouTube’s help center says about the feature.
The panels have since been removed from the livestreams.
A spokesperson for YouTube, which is owned by Google, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Read more here.
DEBATING WAS HIS DOWNFALL: A federal judge on Monday ordered the release of previously sealed documents filed in the case against Julian Assange, offering up new details about the U.S.’s allegations against the WikiLeaks founder.
The original affidavit and criminal complaint were made public in a Virginia federal court for the first time since they were filed in 2017 and includes chat logs between Assange and former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Assange was arrested last week in London at the request of U.S. authorities, after the Ecuadorian government decided to stop allowing Assange to remain in their U.K. embassy. The Justice Department later unsealed its indictment against the WikiLeaks founder.
The U.S. is alleging that Assange sought to help Manning crack a password in order to access a Defense Department network, where classified information was stored. They point to chat logs allegedly documenting communication between the two individuals as evidence of the conspiracy.
The affidavit released Monday states that U.S. authorities were able to identify Assange as the person Manning was communicating with through hints he dropped during the chats.
For example, the individual wrote in March 2010 that he enjoyed debates and “[j]ust finished one on the IMMI, and crushed some wretch from the journalists union.”
IMMI referred to Icelandic Modem Media Initiative, a legislative proposal under consideration in Iceland at the time. Assange had recently participated in an event at the University of Iceland that included discussion of the IMMI, according to the court filing.
The affidavit also states that the individual “appeared to have extensive knowledge of WikiLeaks’ day-to-day operations, including knowledge of submissions of information to the organization, as well as of financial matters.”
Read more here.
A PETITION TO GAG THE TWEETER-IN-CHIEF: A petition calling for Twitter and Facebook to suspend President Trump’s social media accounts earned over 19,000 signatures over the weekend after the president posted a controversial video featuring freshman Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight Dems rally behind Omar as Trump escalates attacks It’s time for a ‘Congressional Jewish Caucus’ MORE (D-Minn.).
“Suspend [Trump] from Twitter and Facebook for inciting violence and engaging in hate speech,” the petition, sponsored by the national Women’s March organization, reads. “Remove his propaganda video targeting Congresswoman Omar.”
The president last week posted a Twitter video with images of the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attack spliced between footage of Omar delivering remarks about Muslims in the U.S. The video drew a backlash with critics calling it inflammatory and raising concerns about Omar’s safety.
Omar is one of the first Muslim-American women to serve in Congress, alongside Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight Dems rally behind Omar as Trump escalates attacks It’s time for a ‘Congressional Jewish Caucus’ MORE (D-Mich.). She said on Sunday that she has faced an increase in threats to her life since Trump posted the video last week.
“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” Omar wrote in a statement released Sunday.
As of Monday afternoon, the video was still up on Twitter.
Twitter has long held that most posts from public figures should remain online because they are “newsworthy,” even when they violate Twitter guidelines against hateful or inflammatory content.
Facebook in 2016 announced a similar policy, saying they will not censor graphic material that is “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards.”
More on the petition and controversy here.
CLASH OF THE CONSERVATIVES: Influential free market and conservative groups are pushing back against Republican lawmakers’ calls to rein in big tech companies over allegations of bias.
GOP lawmakers have accused tech platforms of bias against conservatives and are looking to take on the industry through antitrust action or by eliminating their legal protections.
Tech companies, which have long denied those allegations, are now finding a surprising ally in conservative groups that worry the government will hamper a growing industry and tamper with free speech protections.
Conservative groups, including many backed by billionaire conservative activist Charles Koch, are launching an aggressive campaign to voice their concerns even as lawmakers aligned with them on other issues, such as Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight Trump ditches one-on-one meetings with vice president: report Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown MORE (R-Texas) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Pelosi puts tech on notice with warning of ‘new era’ in regulation MORE (R-Mo.), threaten tougher regulations on tech firms.
Jesse Blumenthal, the lead on tech and innovation policy for the Koch network, told The Hill that many groups on the right believe GOP lawmakers are “playing politics” with the issue “in a way that is deeply unhelpful and really threatens core free speech protections.”
“That’s one of the reasons you’ve seen us be noticeable, more vocal over the last few months,” Blumenthal said, referring to the Koch network’s increasing involvement on tech issues. “And we’ll continue to be.”
Blumenthal added there is “no credible evidence that there is a broad campaign to silence conservatives online.”
The issue, though, is one that is resonating with GOP lawmakers and the party’s base.
Cruz stepped up the fight over bias during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, threatening to use antitrust laws to regulate tech or repeal a key provision that gives internet platforms legal immunity for content users post online, called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Read more on the conservative divide here.
CHINA WEAPONIZES SURVEILLANCE: China is reportedly using artificial intelligence to monitor its minority Muslim population.
According to The New York Times, Chinese authorities are using a widespread and secret facial recognition system to track the Uighurs, who are mostly Muslims, throughout the country.
China is using the facial recognition technology in combination with an existing network of surveillance cameras, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Times.
The newspaper reviewed databases of images used by Chinese police to reportedly track daily activities of the country’s roughly 11 million Uighurs.
The databases allow Chinese officials to search and review the whereabouts of Uighurs based on compiled images, according to the Times.
Many Uighurs have already been funneled into the country’s westernmost region of Xinjiang, with as many as 1 million being held in re-education camps, the newspaper noted.
Its reporting shows the widespread use of tracking through facial recognition software, initially thought to be limited to Xinjiang.
Nearly two dozen Chinese police departments across 16 provinces and regions requested the technology in 2018 alone, according to the Times.
Read more here.
BYE, BYE BIKEYS: Lyft is removing thousands of electric bicycles from bike-share programs in Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco because of a braking problem.
“We recently received a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel,” the company said in a blog post emailed to customers on Sunday and obtained by Reuters.
The company’s bike-share division is reportedly working to replace about 3,000 pedal-assist bicycles in the cities with normal bikes. The company has about 17,000 traditional bikes in those cities.
The bike-share services impacted by the removal include Citi Bike in New York, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., and Ford GoBike in the Bay Area, according to Reuters.
“After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service,” Citi Bike spokeswoman Julie Wood told the news service. “Safety always comes first.”
Read more here.
LIGHTS OUT? Facebook and Instagram on Sunday experienced widespread outages for the second time within the past month.
The websites for both social media companies were inaccessible to users worldwide, and the news feeds on their apps were not refreshing, The Verge reported.
The issues began around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, according to multiple reports, and service was restored at approximately 9 a.m.
Facebook, which is the parent company of Instagram, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Facebook and Instagram each experienced outages last month, when the sites were down for more than 24 hours in the longest outage in their history.
Facebook later attributed the outage to “a server configuration change.”
Read more on the outages here.
SPEAKING OF FACEBOOK…: Reed Hastings, chairman and chief executive of Netflix, and Erskine Bowles, president emeritus of University of North Carolina, will be leaving Facebook’s board next month, the social media company announced Friday.
The move comes as Facebook announced it was nominating Peggy Alford, a senior vice president at PayPal, to join the board. Bowles and Hastings, both of whom have served on the board since 2011, will not be nominated for reelection when the company’s board of directors votes on May 30 at its annual meeting of stockholders.
“Peggy is one of those rare people who’s an expert across many different areas — from business management to finance operations to product development. I know she will have great ideas that help us address both the opportunities and challenges facing our company,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in the announcement.
Both Hastings and Bowles reportedly clashed with other members of the board. The New York Times reported in 2017 that Hastings told fellow board member Peter Thiel that he intended to dock his performance review over his endorsement of then-Republican presidential-nominee Donald Trump.
“I’m so mystified by your endorsement of Trump for our President, that for me it moves from ‘different judgment’ to ‘bad judgment,'” Hastings reportedly told Thiel in an email. “Some diversity in views is healthy, but catastrophically bad judgment (in my view) is not what anyone wants in a fellow board member.”
Bowles also reportedly excoriated Facebook’s top executives over Russian disinformation campaigns that ran over the platform.
Read more here.
AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: This is not the time to abandon NASA’s Space Launch System.
A LIGHTER CLICK: He who must not be named.
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Behind every robot is a human. (The Atlantic)
From China to the U.S., sensor surveillance gets real. (Axios)
Google’s Sensorvault is a boon for law enforcement. This is how it works. (The New York Times)
Activists couldn’t get Facebook to tackle its discrimination problem–until the Russia scandal hit. (Mother Jones)