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Hillicon Valley — Florida brings tech law to Supreme Court

The Hill logo The Hill 9/21/2022 Rebecca Klar
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Florida asked the Supreme Court to hear a case over the state’s controversial law targeting social media companies, ramping up action as states seek to pass laws regulating content moderation.  

Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, is urging the Senate to pass the Cyber Diplomacy Act, one of the key recommendations his commission has been pushing for as part of its strategic approach to defend the U.S. against cyberattacks. 

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Content moderation battle keeps brewing  

The state of Florida filed a petition to the Supreme Court on Wednesday to hear a case against its embattled law regulating how social media platforms moderate content, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Hill. 

Florida asked the high court to weigh in after a court of appeals in May blocked major provisions of the law, ruling in favor of tech industry groups that filed a case against it. The groups argued that the law infringes on First Amendment rights and could lead to more dangerous content and hate speech online.  

Florida’s law seeks to prohibit tech companies from banning users or moderating content based on political views. It was passed after mounting accusations from members of the GOP that tech platforms are censoring content based on anti-conservative biases, an allegation that became more common following Twitter and Facebook’s suspensions of former President Trump’s accounts.  

  • A Texas law similar to the one passed in Florida notched a major win in court last week when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the measure. The law restricts social media companies from removing users or violative content. The court’s decision lifted a previous injunction by the Supreme Court, allowing the measure to take effect. 
  • The brief filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) references the 5th Circuit’s decision last week to uphold the Texas law. The decision by the 11th Circuit to block the Florida law “squarely conflicts” with the ruling for Texas, she wrote. 

Read more here.  

King urges Senate to pass cyber bill  

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, is urging the Senate to pass the Cyber Diplomacy Act, one of the key recommendations his commission has been pushing for as part of its strategic approach to defend the U.S. against cyberattacks.  

King said although key components of the act have been implemented, including establishing a cyber bureau within the State Department and confirming an ambassador-at-large to lead it, the bill itself has yet to pass the Senate. 

  • “I think the biggest missing piece right now is almost done, and that is the Cyber Diplomacy Act,” King said. 
  • The bill passed the House last year and is now sitting in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee awaiting a vote. 

The legislation would help the new cyber bureau get its footing in the State Department and establish how it will be funded as the office expands over time. 

Read more here

TIKTOK UPDATES POLICIES FOLLOWING MISINFORMATION 

TikTok on Wednesday announced new policies for political accounts after a report last week found rampant misinformation on the social media platform. 

Blake Chandlee, the president of Global Business Solutions for TikTok, wrote in a blog post the platform will begin testing out a mandatory verification system for accounts connected to governments, politicians and political parties throughout the midterm elections. Currently, verification badges are optional. 

TikTok will also prohibit campaign fundraising on the app and will seek to further limit the monetization of political accounts by barring them from accessing financial features such as gifting, tipping and e-commerce. 

Political accounts will also be ineligible from accessing the Creator Fund, which rewards popular TikTok creators with funding. 

Read more here

SHARING REVENUE FOR SHORTS 

YouTube announced on Tuesday it will soon provide creators with a portion of advertising revenues earned from the company’s short-form video platform.  

YouTube runs advertisements between the short videos posted to the platform, which is similar to TikTok and dubbed “YouTube Shorts.”  

The company said beginning in early 2023, it will expand its existing YouTube Partner Program (YPP) — which allows eligible content creators who make longer-form videos to receive ad revenue from their content — to Shorts by pooling together the ad revenue and awarding some of it to creators based on view counts. 

YouTube will allow creators to keep 45 percent of the ad revenue, the company wrote in a blog post. The amount given to each creator will be based on their share of total views on the platform and will not differ if they use music in their videos, which often comes with licensing fees for the platform. 

Read more here.  

JUUL SUES FDA  

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs is suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the agency’s refusal to disclose documents supporting its order to remove Juul’s products from the U.S. market. 

In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., the company alleged the FDA is violating the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to turn over the “scientific disciplinary reviews” underlying the FDA’s sales ban. 

“The agency invoked one of the most widely abused exemptions—the deliberative process privilege—to withhold the majority of those materials,” the lawsuit claimed. “But the withheld materials are central to understanding the basis for FDA’s marketing denial order” and whether the agency balanced the public health benefits and risks of Juul’s products as legally required, as well as whether the agency’s reasoning is “scientifically sound.” 

The FDA in late June announced a ban on the sale of Juul e-cigarettes nationwide, saying the company did not prove that keeping its products on the market “would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.” 

The next day, a federal appeals court granted a temporary administrative stay of the decision. 

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Big Tech’s new ‘Big Lie’ to address: all elections are corrupt 

Notable links from around the web: 

QAnon videos are getting millions of views on TikTok as Trump embraces conspiracy theory (NBC News / Ben Goggin) 

Regulators Accuse Amazon of Singling Out Union Organizers for Discipline (The New York Times / Noam Scheiber) 

Meta: We’re not-so-big tech now (Axios / Ashley Gold)

🥤 Lighter click: A cultural reset

One more thing: Shielding election workers 

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) turned down a multimillion-dollar proposal by a federally funded nonprofit to protect election officials from harassment ahead of November’s midterms, CNN reported on Tuesday. 

Citing multiple people familiar with the matter, the outlet reported the proposal would track foreign influence activity and increase resources for reporting misinformation and disinformation surrounding the midterm elections, but officials raised concerns about the initiative being seen as partisan. 

DHS shut down its Disinformation Governance Board in May after receiving condemnations from Republicans, some of whom compared the effort to the dystopian novel “1984.” 

“DHS got very spooked after the failed rollout of the Disinformation Governance Board, even though the message [from administration officials] was clear that we can’t back down, we can’t be bullied by the right,” a senior U.S. official told CNN, which reported that the proposal originated this spring from the Center for Internet Security, a nonprofit CISA partially funds. 

Read more here

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 tomorrow.

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