Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Twitter to let users report election misinformation | Dem offers updates to child privacy rules | ACLU pushes back on Puerto Rico online voting proposal

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).


SAY NO TO MISINFO: Twitter is rolling out a feature allowing users to flag posts they believe contain misinformation about elections ahead of November, a spokesperson told The Hill Thursday.

Carlos Monje, the platform’s director of public policy, said in a statement that the new tool is part of a broader effort to stop the spread of content that might mislead people about elections.

“As caucuses and primaries for the presidential election get underway, we’re building on our efforts to protect the public conversation,” he said. “We’ve turned on a tool for key moments of the 2020 U.S. election that enables people to report deliberately misleading information about how to participate in an election or other civic event.”

Content flagged by users during “key moments” of the election cycle will then be reviewed using Twitter’s rules, which ban content that may mislead voters or suppress turnout.

The tool has previously been used in elections outside of the U.S.

“This reporting flow has been an important aspect of our efforts since early 2019 to protect the health of the conversation for elections around the globe, specifically in India, the UK, and across the EU,” Monje said.

Read more here. 


CHILD PRIVACY, TAKE TWO: Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) on Thursday introduced a bill to increase protections for minors online, an effort that could have legs this Congress as lawmakers fret over the mistreatment and exploitation of children on the internet.  

Castor’s bill, the Protecting the Information of our Vulnerable Children and Youth Act, would implement new safeguards around how social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube collect and use personal information about anyone under the age of 18.

It would offer sweeping updates to a decades-old children’s privacy law — the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) — which is accused of failing to adequately protect children amid rapid technological advancement that has unearthed novel privacy concerns.

“This bill is a modernization of the COPPA, and it comes at a time when our technology here in the 21st century — the tracking and data-gathering — have outpaced our current privacy protections in law, especially for kids,” Castor said on a call with reporters on Thursday. “Congress needs to update COPPA to provide families with the necessary tools to protect our kids, and this bill will do just that.”  

Castor’s bill would empower parents to sue tech companies including YouTube and Facebook for violating their children’s privacy, a provision that goes further than previous children’s online privacy proposals introduced this session. 

Read more here. 


ONLINE VOTING PROPOSAL SETS OFF ALARM BELLS: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this week strongly pushed back against a proposal in Puerto Rico that would move voting online, citing concerns over the increased ability for votes to be changed or interfered with through hacking.

Lawyers for the ACLU and for the ACLU of Puerto Rico wrote a letter to Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced on Wednesday urging her to veto the proposed “Puerto Rico Electoral Code of 2019,” which would move all voting in Puerto Rico to internet-based platforms by 2028.

“This measure is misguided, dangerous, and will needlessly expose Puerto Rico’s voting system to hacking and disruption,” ACLU attorneys Mayte Bayolo-Alonso and Adriel Cepeda Derieux wrote. “In Puerto Rico’s currently charged climate, such disruption will only result in greater public mistrust of key democratic institutions. A veto is imperative.”

The text of the measure, as translated from Spanish, states the proposal is meant to “empower voters by facilitating their access to processes related to the exercise of their right to vote,” and would take multiple steps to revamp the voting process in Puerto Rico, such as restructuring the main election commission. 

Should the proposal become law, online voting would be phased in, being used for primaries in 2024, and then allowing the electoral commission to decide whether to allow all voting in Puerto Rico to be online from 2028 onward. 

Read more here. 


NEW ELECTION SECURITY BILL: Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would seek to update a long-standing federal election law and secure voter registration databases from foreign hacking attempts.

The Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) would require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to establish the Emerging Election Technology Committee (EETC), which would help create voluntary guidelines for election equipment, such as voter registration databases, not covered under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

HAVA was signed into law in 2002 following problems with voting during the 2000 presidential election. The law established the EAC and set minimum election administration standards. 

The EETC would be empowered to bypass the existing Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines process, which is a voluntary set of voting requirements that voting systems can be tested against to ensure their security and accessibility.

The new bill would also establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, which would help connect state and local election officials across the country with cybersecurity experts who could provide technical support.  

Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, sponsored the legislation alongside other committee Republicans, Reps. Mark Walker (N.C.) and Barry Loudermilk (Ga.). 

Read more here. 


PLEASE LEAVE US OUT OF THE NARRATIVE: Corona brand beer is not concerned that people may somehow think it has some connection to the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the company told The Hill Thursday.

“Consumers, by and large, understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our beer/business,” Maggie Bowman, communications director at Constellation Brands, Corona’s producer, said in a statement.

Corona’s statement follows multiple reports suggesting, based on people’s Google searches, that some think there could be a link between the beer and the disease, which has killed 170 people in China.

While there has been an increase in Google searches for “beer virus” and “corona beer virus,” those are both dwarfed by searches for simply “beer” or “coronavirus.”

There is no link between the beer and the disease.

Corona, the beer, is named that way after its Spanish meaning — crown — while the disease is named coronavirus because of the crown-like spikes on the virus.

Read more here. 


HOLD UP: Democratic lawmakers and advocates warned at a congressional hearing Thursday that even with the proliferation of credit and mobile payments, putting restrictions on cash payments would harm low-income Americans who do not have a bank account.

Members of the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to debate whether businesses should be prohibited from refusing cash payments, particularly with the growing popularity of credit and debit cards and mobile platforms such as Venmo and PayPal.

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), who introduced a bill this year that would prohibit retail businesses from refusing cash payments, argued that Americans should be able to decide whether they want to use cash.

“It’s about choice,” Payne said in an interview with The Hill. “To eliminate a choice is un-American.”

Payne’s bill, the Payment Choice Act of 2019, has bipartisan support among its 34 co-sponsors.

He argued that a transition toward a cashless America would be to the detriment of people who do not have a bank account or who distrust banks.

Read more here.


THAT SOUNDS SKETCHY: A host of popular dating services and apps are under investigation from a House subcommittee for allegedly letting minors and sex offenders use them.

The more notable names under investigation by a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee include Bumble, Grindr, The Meet Group and the Match Group, which owns Match.com, Tinder and OkCupid, according to The Associated Press.

The subcommittee, which focuses on economic and consumer supply, on Thursday wrote separate letters to the companies in question requesting information on users’ ages, procedures for verifying ages, and complaints concerning assaults, rape or the use of the services by minors.

Most dating apps require that users are 18 years of age, with verification techniques such as linking an existing Facebook profile for identification. 

“Our concern about the underage use of dating apps is heightened by reports that many popular free dating apps permit registered sex offenders to use them … paid versions of these same apps screen out registered sex offenders,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) who heads the subcommittee, said in a statement. “Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers.”

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: This gives us anxiety


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: We all need to be deepfake detectors–but especially social media platforms



Wired profiled Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on cyber and tech issues (Wired / Garrett Graff) 

DNC is headed to Iowa to protect caucuses against disinformation and cyber attacks (The Washington Post / Joseph Marks) 

New Hampshire case to decide whether using evidence from Ring cameras violate wiretapping laws (Motherboard / Todd Feathers) 

Facebook settles facial recognition lawsuit for $550 million (CyberScoop / Jeff Stone)

Tags Kathy Castor Mark Walker Mark Warner Raja Krishnamoorthi Rodney Davis

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