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Hillicon Valley: Commerce announces new Huawei restrictions | Russian meddling report round five | Google’s ad business in spotlight

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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.


Wednesday, May 20: The Vir[tech]ual World Ahead

On Wednesday, May 20 The Hill Virtually Live will explore the lessons we are learning in our new digital reality. Accommodating the new normal means an increased reliance on telecommunication networks and an accelerated digitalization of industries. Yet, digital literacy is uneven, as is basic access to the internet. How should policymakers approach the goals of coverage, access, affordability and capacity? Editor-at-large Steve Clemons will be joined by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and more. RSVP today


HUAWEI IS HAVING A BAD DAY: The Commerce Department announced Friday that it would restrict Chinese telecom group Huawei’s ability to use American technology and software to manufacture semiconductors, the latest step by the Trump administration to crack down on the company. 

The new rule requires companies selling chips — semiconductors used in cellphones and other electronic devices — to Huawei that are made abroad with any U.S. parts or technologies to obtain a license, blocking Huawei from access to a large share of chip production. 

Short reprieve: The Commerce Department also extended the temporary license allowing certain American companies to do business with Huawei despite the company’s inclusion on its “entity list,” which essentially blacklists the telecom group. 

Huawei was added to the list last year, but the agency has issued a temporary extension since then to give U.S. businesses time to transition away from using Huawei equipment. The new 90-day extension runs through August. 

“Despite the Entity List actions the Department took last year, Huawei and its foreign affiliates have stepped-up efforts to undermine these national security-based restrictions through an indigenization effort. However, that effort is still dependent on U.S. technologies,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement on Friday.

“This is not how a responsible global corporate citizen behaves,” he added. “We must amend our rules exploited by Huawei and HiSilicon and prevent U.S. technologies from enabling malign activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.”

Read more about the new rules here.


ANOTHER RUSSIA REPORT ON THE WAY: The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Friday it has submitted the fifth and final volume of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for classification review, marking one of the last steps before the sprawling probe concludes. 

The committee sent the fifth bipartisan report, which pertains to its counterintelligence findings, to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for review. The panel also said it submitted nearly 1,000 pages with redaction recommendations in the hopes that it may help speed up the review process for an unclassified version of the report to be approved.

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has submitted the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan investigative report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for classification review,” said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), who have led the panel’s Russia probe.

Follows other reports: The committee previously released four other volumes that examined election security, Russia’s disinformation campaign, the Obama administration’s handling of Russian interference and the committee’s review of the intelligence community assessment.

One day before the classification announcement, Burr announced that he is temporarily stepping aside as chairman of the Senate panel amid an investigation into his stock trades made shortly before the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more about the pending report here.


ANTITRUST NEWS: The Department of Justice (DOJ) and a group of state attorneys general are likely to file antitrust lawsuits against Google, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

People familiar with the matter told the Journal that the DOJ is moving toward bringing a case this summer. Some state AGs, lead by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), are reportedly likely to bring a case in the fall.

The states’ investigations have focused on Google’s advertising business, an arena where the company enjoys dominance at every point in the process.

Paxton told the Journal in a statement that “[w]e hope to have the investigation wrapped up by fall [and] if we determine that filing is merited, we will go to court soon after that.” 

The DOJ’s investigation is more broadly focused on concerns that Google uses its dominant search business to hurt competition, according to the Journal.

The Hill has reached out to the DOJ for comment on the report.

A spokeswoman for Google told The Hill that the company continues to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the DOJ and Paxton and “we don’t have any updates or comments on speculation.”

“Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition,” the spokeswoman said. 

Read more.


CURBING MISINFORMATION: A group of Democratic senators on Friday sent a letter to Facebook urging the company to take steps to curb coronavirus misinformation that is not in English.

The letter from Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) notes that more than 60 million Americans speak another language and cites a study that Facebook fails at a much higher rate to issue warning labels on content in those languages. 

“Unfortunately, it continues to be far too easy for anyone to share false, misleading and potentially dangerous misinformation and disinformation about the virus [on Facebook-owned platforms],” the lawmakers wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“As the world grapples with COVID-19 by remaining at home, millions of Americans and billions of people around the world are turning to social media platforms like Facebook as a way to connect with their loved ones,” they added.

The study cited by the lawmakers from nonprofit activism group Avaaz found that the social media giant failed to issue warning labels on 70 percent of Spanish-language content and 68 percent of Italian-language content, compared to 29 percent of English.

“This is a significant gap exposing non-English speakers to the perils of misinformation and disinformation,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Making sure that people, especially our most vulnerable communities, in the United States and around the world receive the most accurate information about how to prevent and protect themselves from COVID-19 is not only a moral imperative, it’s the only way we can beat this virus together,” they added.

Read more about the request here.


POTENTIAL FISA ROADBLOCK: The Justice Department is raising a red flag over an intelligence reauthorization bill passed by the Senate, raising fresh questions about the fate of the legislation.

“We appreciate the Senate’s reauthorization of three expired national security authorities. As amended, however, [it] would unacceptably degrade our ability to conduct surveillance of terrorists, spies and other national security threats,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement Friday.  

The Senate voted 80-16 on Thursday to pass a bill that paired a reauthorization of three provisions of the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 intelligence reform bill, with some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. 

The bill initially passed the House in March as part of a deal negotiated by Attorney General William Barr and leadership in both parties. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to pass the House bill without changes.

But the Senate, during a two-day debate this week, agreed to add an amendment from Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would increase the role of outside legal experts in FISA court hearings, including allowing them to weigh in on some FBI surveillance requests.

Opponents of the legislation warned that it would bog down the FISA process, while supporters countered that it would be manageable because it would only apply to a small subset of people. 

Read more here.


CHEMICAL PLANTS AT RISK: Chemical facilities are vulnerable to crippling cyberattacks due to outdated government cybersecurity guidance, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a report released this week.

The report released Thursday found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the security of “high-risk” chemical facilities through the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards program, hasn’t updated cybersecurity guidance for those facilities in more than a decade.

“A successful cyberattack against chemical facilities’ information and process control systems can disrupt or shut down operations and lead to serious consequences, such as health and safety risks, including substantial loss of life,” GAO wrote.

The agency found that DHS does not collect data to track or assess the cybersecurity knowledge of inspectors in the program who evaluate the facilities, jeopardizing overall security.

The GAO said that the “inspectors that are evaluating a facility’s cybersecurity posture may not have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to fully support the program’s cybersecurity-related mission.”

The watchdog agency said DHS should consider revising its cybersecurity guidance for chemical facilities, along with developing a plan to track and assess cybersecurity training for the inspectors. 

DHS concurred with all six recommendations laid out in the GAO report.

Read more about the assessment here.


GIFS FOR EVERYTHING: Facebook has acquired Giphy, a search engine for the moving images known as GIFs, the company announced Friday.

Giphy will be added to the Instagram team and be integrated into all Facebook services.

“By bringing Instagram and GIPHY together, we can make it easier for people to find the perfect GIFs and stickers in Stories and Direct,” the social media giant said in a blog post.

“Both our services are big supporters of the creator and artist community, and that will continue. Together, we can make it easier for anyone to create and share their work with the world.”

The acquisition comes as regulators and lawmakers are scrutinizing the size of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.

While Giphy is significantly smaller than previous Facebook acquisitions like Instagram and Whatsapp, the Federal Trade Commission announced in February that it would be investigating past purchases that did not trigger regulatory review.

Read more about the deal here.


Lighter click: Don’t sugar coat it

An op-ed to chew on: Congress is virtual in the new era 


Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) laid out his tech-focused plans (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum) 

A seventh Amazon employee dies of COVID-19 as the company refuses to say how many are sick (Verge / Josh Dzieza)

Apple and Google are building a virus-tracking system. Health officials say it will be practically useless. (Washington Post / Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell)

Facebook’s smooth new political fixer (Politico / Nancy Scola)

Tags Bob Menendez Elizabeth Warren Greg Walden Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Mazie Hirono Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Patrick Leahy Richard Burr Suzan DelBene Wilbur Ross William Barr

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