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Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll

The Hill logo The Hill 10/8/2021 Maggie Miller,Chris Mills Rodrigo and Rebecca Klar
Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll © Getty Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll

Today is Friday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here:

A major poll released Friday to round out a breakneck week in cyber and tech news found that while Americans are concerned about foreign governments spreading misinformation online, they place the blame for this far more on U.S. politicians and social media companies.

The White House also kicked off a fact-finding mission into artificial intelligence relying on biometric data, with some top advisers publishing an op-ed pushing for a new "bill of rights."

Follow The Hill's cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Let's jump in.

Americans worried about online misinformation

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The majority of Americans believe U.S. politicians and social media companies spread misinformation online more than China, Russia or other foreign governments, a poll released Friday found.

According to a poll carried out by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and the University of Chicago's Pearson Institute, around three-quarters of respondents believe that politicians, social media companies and social media users are responsible for spreading misinformation.

Less international concerns: By comparison, only 48 percent of respondents saw the U.S. government as responsible for spreading misinformation, and just over half saw the Russian and Chinese governments as culpable for this issue. Even less, around 40 percent saw the Iranian government and other nations as responsible for misinformation online.

Splits on the issue are present however, with respondents identifying as Republican twice as likely than those identifying as Democrats to hold the U.S. government accountable for misinformation, and those over the age of 45 more likely to believe a foreign government is responsible.

It wasn't me: The poll found that while almost all respondents see the spread of misinformation as a problem, and around three-quarters were concerned about being exposed to misinformation, more than half were not concerned with the idea they had personally spread misinformation online.

Read more about the poll here.


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Nine-in-Ten Voters in Key Frontline Districts Support Candidates Who Ensure U.S. Tech Remains Globally Competitive

A new survey released by Ipsos in partnership with the American Edge Project (AEP) shows that voters in frontline districts want their elected officials to focus on issues of national security, jobs, and health care as opposed to breaking up tech companies.

See the poll here.

AI Bill of Rights

Artificial intelligence wavelength © Provided by The Hill Artificial intelligence wavelength

Two of the White House's top science advisers called for an artificial intelligence "bill of rights" in an opinion piece published Friday on Wired.

President Biden's chief science adviser, Eric Lander, and the deputy director for science and society, Alondra Nelson, cautioned of the risks posed by technologies like facial recognition, automated translators and medical diagnosis algorithms.

Critics of the technology have said that the tools depend on data sets that are often biased in ways that replicate and amplify existing societal biases.

"Data sets that fail to represent American society can result in virtual assistants that don't understand Southern accents; facial recognition technology that leads to wrongful, discriminatory arrests; and health care algorithms that discount the severity of kidney disease in African Americans, preventing people from getting kidney transplants," Lander and Nelson wrote.

The two also cautioned about the potential security and privacy risks from the internet-enabled devices, from smart speakers to webcams.

The influential advisers called for a set of rules using the Bill of Rights as a template to ensure that emerging technologies respect democratic values and treat everyone fairly.

Read more.


President Biden on Friday signed into law legislation intended to strengthen the cybersecurity of K-12 institutions after a year in which cyberattacks aimed at schools spiked as classes moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The K-12 Cybersecurity Act requires the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to create cybersecurity recommendations and tools for schools to use to defend themselves against hackers after conducting a study on the cybersecurity risks facing K-12 institutions.

The bipartisan bill, approved by the House late last month following passage by the Senate, is sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) primarily sponsored the bill in the House, with Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) as co-sponsors.

Read more here.


The country's largest Latino civil rights organization on Friday severed its ties with Facebook, returning a recent grant from the social media giant.

UnidosUS, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, said in a statement its decision came "amid revelations on the role that the platform has played in intentionally perpetuating products and policies that harm the Latino community and undermine democratic ideals."

"This week's revelations from Facebook's own internal documents confirmed what we have long suspected: Facebook has engaged with us and the civil rights community in bad faith," said UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía.

"We have called attention repeatedly to concerns about the negative impact that the proliferation of hate and misinformation on the platform has had on the Latino community. We know now that Facebook's failure to adequately address those concerns was deliberate and resulted in even greater levels of hate and misinformation on the site," she added.

The Hill reached out to Facebook for comment.

Facebook has faced an avalanche of negative press over the last few weeks, starting with a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal sharing internal company research that found the platform worsening body issues for teen girls, failing to handle drug cartels and providing preferential treatment to high profile users.

Their problems compounded when the source of that research, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, appeared in a high profile interview on "60 Minutes" and then testified before Congress.

Read more about the company's issues with Spanish language content.


A group of Democrats on Friday urged the Biden administration to do more to confront the growing use of cryptocurrency markets in ransomware attacks, which have become an increasing national security threat over the past year.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the leaders of the Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury departments on Friday asking them to pursue "stronger coordination" between the agencies on the issue of cryptocurrency.

They pointed to a massive increase in ransomware attacks, with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center receiving reports of almost 2,500 ransomware attacks with losses over $29 million in 2020.

"The proliferation of cryptocurrency has facilitated this explosive growth in ransomware attacks, largely by offering easy, fast, and difficult to trace methods for laundering illicit gains," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe that increasing enforcement of existing money laundering and financial crimes statutes would play an important role in deterring ransomware attacks and facilitating the recovery of cryptocurrency paid to ransomware attackers."

Read more here.


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Ipsos + AEP frontline district poll across 32 districts found that:

There is virtually no constituency for breaking up U.S. tech companies. Despite recent efforts to break up U.S. tech companies, just 14% support such a move, including just 15% of Democrats, 12% of independents, and 12% of Republicans.

Voters believe breaking up tech companies will harm the economy, national security, and small businesses.

The poll results make it clear that policymakers who are pushing misguided tech regulation are out of touch with voters.

See the poll here.


An op-ed to chew on: Ceding regulatory power to Europe will weaken the security of the free world

Lighter click: Please don't buy this

Notable links from around the web:

Borrowed a School Laptop? Mind Your Open Tabs (Wired / Sidney Fussell)

I Designed Algorithms at Facebook. Here's How to Regulate Them. (New York Times Opinion / Roddy Lindsay)

Facebook is drawing a bipartisan backlash from Congress, but the SEC could deliver a tougher blow (Washington Post / Tory Newmyer)

One last thing: Another outage

a woman standing in front of a window © Provided by The Hill

Facebook and its apps were inaccessible for some users Friday afternoon, less than a week after the social media network was offline for roughly five hours.

Facebook's main app, as well as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp were all down starting around 3 p.m. Eastern, according to the error crowdsourcing site

Friday's outage was much shorter than the one earlier in the week, with all Facebook sites appearing to be up and running again by 4:15 p.m.

The company acknowledged on Twitter that there were issues accessing its products.

"We're working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience," it wrote.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill that Friday's outage was unrelated to the problems the platform had earlier this week, which was chalked up to a "faulty configuration change."

Read more about the impact of these outages.

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you Monday.


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