Hillicon Valley: Senate sends anti-robocall bill to Trump | Federal study finds bias in facial recognition | Tech cash flows to Dems despite scrutiny | Facebook to ban misleading census content

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HANGING UP ON ROBOCALLS: The Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to approve legislation passed by the House earlier this month to tackle robocalls, sending the bill to the president’s desk.

According to a source familiar with President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Buttigieg, Warren square off on donors at Democratic debate Sanders, Biden spar over Medicare for All MORE‘s plans, he is expected to sign the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, named after its sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: Senate sends anti-robocall bill to Trump | Federal study finds bias in facial recognition | Tech cash flows to Dems despite scrutiny | Facebook to ban misleading census content Democratic senators tweet photos of pile of House-passed bills ‘dead on Mitch McConnell’s desk’ Senate unanimously approves anti-robocall legislation MORE (R-S.D.).

Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Senate sends anti-robocall bill to Trump | Federal study finds bias in facial recognition | Tech cash flows to Dems despite scrutiny | Facebook to ban misleading census content House passes legislation banning government from buying Huawei equipment Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data MORE (D-Pa.) told reporters Thursday that the bill is likely to be “signed into law the next week or so.”

“Illegal robocalls have flooded Americans’ phones to the point that folks don’t want to pick their phones up at all,” Thune said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“No one is immune to these annoying and potentially dangerous calls.”

Read more on the bill here.



FACES AND BIASES: Many facial recognition technology systems misidentify people of color at a higher rate than white people, according to a federal study released Thursday.

The research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, comes amid pushback from lawmakers and civil rights groups over the software which scans faces to quickly identify individuals.

After reviewing 189 pieces of software from 99 developers, which NIST identified as a majority of the industry, the researchers found that in one-to-one matching, which is normally used for verification, Asian and African American people were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white men.

In one-to-many matching, used by law enforcement to identify people of interest, faces of African American women returned more false positives than other groups.

“In a one-to-one search, a false negative might be merely an inconvenience — you can’t get into your phone, but the issue can usually be remediated by a second attempt,” Patrick Grother, a NIST computer scientist and the report’s primary author, said in a statement.

“But a false positive in a one-to-many search puts an incorrect match on a list of candidates that warrant further scrutiny.”

Grother concluded that NIST found “empirical evidence” that the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race.

Read more here.


SILICON BUCKS: The technology industry is spending big to elect Democrats in 2020, even as the party’s presidential candidates vow to get tough on regulating Silicon Valley.

The tech industry, from its leading companies to its liberal-leaning workforce, has long been a major source for Democratic contributions. Numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics show that trend continuing even amid new scrutiny on big tech from Democratic lawmakers and candidates and as progressive groups push to bar donations from other powerful industries.

The numbers: The big four technology companies — Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple — and their employees have given over $5.3 million collectively in campaign contributions in the 2020 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The totals, based on Federal Election Commission data through the third quarter of 2019, include money from the companies, their owners and employees and immediate families, as well as their PACs.

Facebook and its employees have donated $824,600 so far in the 2020 cycle, and 70 percent of that has gone to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics numbers. In 2016 and 2018, 67 percent went to Democrats. 


Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and its employees have donated more than $2.1 million so far this cycle, and 81 percent of that — more than $1.7 million — has gone to Democrats. They gave more than $8.2 million in 2018 and 73 percent of that went to Democrats, while in 2016, 62 percent of Alphabet’s more than $9.1 million in donations went to Democrats.

Amazon and its employees have given more than $1.7 million in the 2020 cycle, and 74 percent of that to Democrats. In both 2016 and 2018, more than two-thirds went to Democrats.

Apple and its employees have contributed only $605,308 so far in the 2020 cycle, with 96 percent for Democrats. They have given more than 70 percent of each cycle’s campaign contributions to Democrats consistently since the 2004 cycle. In 2018, 90 percent of their more than $1.8 million in donations went to the party.

Those figures come even as the once cozy relationship between Silicon Valley and Democrats has entered a rough patch.

The tension: Democrats have pressed the tech industry on a number of fronts, including the biggest companies’ market power and competitive practices, the gender and racial makeup of the industry’s workforce, efforts to crack down on violent and extremist content and over how social media players handle political speech.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Buttigieg, Warren square off on donors at Democratic debate All female candidates pick ‘forgiveness,’ men pick ‘a gift’ when asked to choose at debate MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Buttigieg, Warren square off on donors at Democratic debate Battle for Iowa takes center stage at Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.), two presidential candidates, have both called for breaking up tech giants. And Warren has said she would not take money from prominent tech executives, just as other candidates, under pressure from progressives, have similarly sworn off cash from special interest groups, Wall Street and the oil and gas industry.

Read more here.



DEFENDING THE CENSUS: Facebook on Thursday announced it will ban posts, photos and other content that include misleading information about the U.S. Census in an attempt to stop interference in the once-a-decade count.

Advertisements that “portray census participation as useless or meaningless or advise people not to participate in the census” will also be barred starting next month under the new policy, even if they come from political figures, which are normally exempt from fact-checking.

Facebook over the summer had committed to fighting disinformation about the census, which is crucial to determining political representation and distribution of government resources.

The social media giant’s new policy comes after discussions with civil rights groups who have raised concerns that content Facebook allows on the platform could hurt vulnerable communities.

Some of the those groups praised the company’s announcement, calling it the “most comprehensive policy to date to combat census interference efforts on its platform.” 

“The Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups have long raised serious concerns about this issue, and it appears that Facebook has finally listened,” Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition representing more than 200 national organizations, said in a statement.


With Thursday’s rules, Facebook will now remove content that misrepresents dates, locations, times, eligibility for or information needed to participate in the census. 

Read more on Facebook’s announcement here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Wow!!!!!!!!! 



Twelve million phones, one dataset, zero privacy (NYT Opinion / Charlie Warzel, Stuart Thompson)

Could influencers help campaigns sidestep social media crackdown on political ads? (Morning Consult / Sam Sabin) 

Facebook separates security tool from friend suggestions, citing privacy overhaul (Reuters / Katie Paul)

Texas, Google battle over experts in states’ antitrust probe (Washington Post / Tony Romm)

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