Hillicon Valley: Instagram cracks down on anti-vaccine tags | Facebook co-founder on fallout from call to break up company | House Dems reintroduce election security bill | Lawmakers offer bill requiring cyber, IT training for House

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


INSTAGRAM GOES AFTER ANTIVAXXERS: Instagram this week blocked the hashtag #VaccinesKill amid its crackdown on vaccine-related misinformation, and it says it is looking into other hashtags typically used to promote false information about vaccines.

The Facebook-owned social media network had previously declined to block the #VaccinesKill hashtag, a popular gathering place for anti-vaccine activists on Instagram, arguing that the phrase “vaccines kill” did not count as medical misinformation. An Instagram spokesperson in an email to The Hill last month claimed there have been rare instances in which vaccine side effects have caused death.


But under pressure this week following a CNN Business report on the medical misinformation amplified under #VaccinesKill, Instagram blocked the hashtag and said it is expanding its crackdown on medical misinformation to include hashtags that are often used to promote debunked anti-vaccine sentiments.

Instagram, under enormous scrutiny from lawmakers and public health experts, has been engaged in an ongoing effort to remove a scourge of anti-vaccine misinformation that has spread across its platform.

The platform began taking action amid the largest measles outbreak the U.S. has seen since it eradicated the disease 19 years ago, a health crisis caused in part by the rise of the so-called anti-vax movement of people who refuse to vaccine themselves or their children due to untrue conspiracy theories about the side effects of vaccines.

Phase one of the crackdown involved removing hashtags promoting overt medical misinformation about vaccines — such as #VaccinesCauseAutism or #VaccinesCauseAIDs, both of which have been debunked by leading public health organizations.

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BREAKING UP OVER FACEBOOK: Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes said Friday that his friendship with CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset ‘deepfake’ threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children’s privacy Facebook pushes back after co-founder calls for company’s break-up Co-founder: Break up Facebook MORE is “probably” over after he called for the social media giant to break up.

“Mark is a good kind person … and I also think he has too much power,” Hughes said in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”

Hughes, who lived with Zuckerberg while the two were students at Harvard, said he doesn’t know if the two’s friendship will last.

“I really don’t know if we’re gonna be friends,” Hughes told CBS. “Probably not, but there are some friendships where you have disagreements, and big ones, and you still stay friends.”

Hughes’s comments Friday came a day after he published a lengthy op-ed in The New York Times in which he called for the company to break up.

Hughes, who left Facebook in 2007, wrote that he feels a “sense of anger and responsibility” for the company’s wrongs.

“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” he wrote.

Hughes pointed to Zuckerberg’s “staggering” influence at the company, which controls three major platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — and noted that Zuckerberg controls about 60 percent of voting shares for Facebook’s board, giving him immense control over algorithms, privacy settings and “even which messages get delivered.”

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ELECTION PROTECTION: House Democratic chairmen on Friday reintroduced a bill to protect U.S. election systems against cyberattacks, including requiring President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Comey after CNN town hall: ‘He brought the FBI down’ White House says US, China trade talks to continue Friday Giuliani traveling to Ukraine to push for probes that could be ‘very helpful’ to Trump MORE to produce a “national strategy for protecting democratic institutions.”

The Election Security Act is aimed at reducing risks posed by cyberattacks by foreign entities or other actors against U.S. election systems. The national strategy from President Trump would “protect against cyber attacks, influence operations, disinformation campaigns, and other activities that could undermine the security and integrity of United States democratic institutions.”

The bill is sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Trump signs cybersecurity executive order | Facebook bans ‘dangerous’ figures | Dems slam tech’s response to extremist content | Trump meets Foxconn CEO over Wisconsin factory plans Dems slam ‘vague explanations’ by tech firms on extremist content House bill seeks to bolster security for synagogues, mosques in wake of attacks MORE (D-Miss.), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHouse Administration Committee to make election security a ‘primary focus’ Lawmakers request information on reported pardon for acting DHS secretary Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesLeader McConnell, let us vote America has a democracy problem House passes sweeping electoral reform bill MORE (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Force.

The bill would also require the establishment of cybersecurity standards for voting system vendors and require states to use paper ballots during elections. Further, the legislation would establish a National Commission to Protect U.S. Democratic Institutions that would be tasked with countering efforts to undermine democratic institutions, and require the Director of National Intelligence to assess threats to election systems 180 days prior to an election.

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LEARN THE CYBER: Lawmakers on Friday introduced a resolution to require members and employees of the House of Representatives to undergo annual cybersecurity and information technology training.

The Congressional Cybersecurity Training Resolution, sponsored by Reps. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceList of former federal prosecutors accusing Trump of obstruction nears 700 House Dems ask DC, Virginia bar associations to investigate Barr Dems go after Barr’s head MORE (D-N.Y.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse votes to overturn Trump ObamaCare move The Hill’s Morning Report – Lawmakers split over Mueller findings: ‘case closed’ vs. ‘cover-up’ GOP distances itself from Trump’s ObamaCare attacks MORE (R-N.Y.), would require the chief administrative officer of the House to carry out annual cyber and IT training for House members, officers and employees. While House employees are already required to undergo this training, Rice in a statement said that “it’s past time” House members be “held to the same standard.”

“Cyberattacks continue to pose a growing and vexing threat at nearly every level of government and Congressional Offices are no exception,” Rice said. “If we want to effectively counter those threats, then we need to make sure Members of Congress are equipped with the tools and knowledge to play an active role in this fight.”

Katko, who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation, said it is “imperative” for members of Congress to be able to identify potential cyber intrusions.

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TRIAL OF THE CENTURY: Tesla CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskBezos-owned company wants manned moon mission in 2024 On The Money: Trump wants Moore on Fed despite controversy | Senate GOP women pose obstacle to Moore | Polls highlight economic worries for Trump | House Dems reject Trump cuts with Labor-Health spending bill | Warren trolls Chase Bank over viral tweet Tesla says it may seek alternative sources of financing MORE will go to trial over a defamation claim from a British diver who was involved in the rescue of a soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand, a judge ruled Friday.

In court filings Friday first reported by The Verge, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson wrote that “[a] reasonable fact-finder could easily conclude that [Musk’s] statements … implied assertions of objective fact,” referring to Musk’s now-deleted tweets and emails to BuzzFeed News that claimed the plaintiff, Vernon Unsworth, was a pedophile.

Musk referred to Unsworth, who was involved in the rescue of several young boys trapped in a flooded cave last year, as a “pedo guy” on his Twitter account, which is followed by millions of users, and later doubled down, writing: “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

In an email to a BuzzFeed News reporter, Musk implied that Unsworth had moved to Thailand in the hopes of finding a child bride while viciously attacking the reporter for “defending” Unsworth.

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f**king asshole,” Musk wrote, according to BuzzFeed. “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: What GDPR’s first year says about data privacy regulation.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Public service journalism.



Netflix issues first top ten list in the UK with ‘Our Planet’ and ‘The Perfect Date’ on top. (Variety)

China erodes U.S. dominance in tech with an avalanche of patents. (Bloomberg)

Uber goes public: everything you need to know about the biggest tech IPO in years. (The Verge)

Global regulators race to curb Silicon Valley. (The Wall Street Journal)

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