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Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills'

The Hill logo The Hill 2/22/2021 Rebecca Klar,Maggie Miller and Chris Mills Rodrigo
Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills' © Getty Images Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills'

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE.

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

Google is lifting its ban on political ads. DHS is taking steps to prioritize cybersecurity. A letter from two Democrats is setting the scene for a contentious Wednesday House Energy and Commerce hearing on disinformation in the media. Thirty-three Democratic congresswomen are urging President Biden to appoint acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on a permanent basis. And that unknown number is just checking in.

GOOGLE TO LIFT BAN: Advertisers will be able to buy political ads with the search giant starting Wednesday for the first time since Jan. 13, when a ban was implemented a week after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

"We will continue to rigorously enforce our ads policies, which strictly prohibit demonstrably false information that could significantly undermine trust in elections or the democratic process," a spokesperson told The Hill.

Google had previously used its "sensitive events" policy to freeze advertising for the five weeks directly following the general election.

Read more.

DHS ZEROS IN ON CYBER: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday announced a range of steps it will take to bolster the nation's cybersecurity posture, including increasing funding for key cybersecurity issues.

"Cybersecurity is more important than ever, and we will build on the Department's excellent work as we transform our whole-of-government approach to tackle the challenge we face as a nation," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

As part of its focus on cybersecurity, DHS announced Monday that Mayorkas would increase cybersecurity spending through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant awards. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will also evaluate what other resources it needs to protect the nation's critical infrastructure against cyber threats.

Key House lawmakers applauded the move by DHS to prioritize cybersecurity.

Read more here.

WE HAVE SOME QUESTIONS: Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Jerry McNerney (Calif.) on Monday sent letters to cable and streaming service companies questioning their "ethical principles" involved in deciding which channels to carry and when to take action against misinformation on a channel.

"Some purported news outlets have long been misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm," they wrote.

The letter specifically calls out Newsmax, One America Network (OANN) and Fox News.

Newsmax and Fox News both pushed back on the letter, as did some Republicans who accused it of being an attempt to stifle free speech.

The letter, and the GOP pushback on it, comes just days ahead of a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday about "disinformation and extremism in the media."

Read more about the letter here.

FCC HEAD NEWS: Thirty-three Democratic congresswomen urged President Biden to appoint Jessica Rosenworcel as chair of the agency on a full time basis.

Gallery: Facebook took the nuclear option in Australia. It may be on a collision course with at least 7 other countries. (Business Insider)

"[She] has spent years raising the important voices and unique needs of women that have been ignored for far too long in technology and telecommunications policy," the lawmakers led by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) wrote.

Rosenworcel would be the first woman to head the FCC permanently.

Read more.

ON THE RISE (AGAIN): GameStop stock rose 13.3 percent Monday after Keith Gill, the popular online trader behind last month's frenetic rally, announced he had doubled his investment in the struggling retailer.

Shares of GameStop opened Monday at $46.8 and closed at $46 even. GameStop closed at $40.68 per share Friday. Gill announced on Reddit after the market closed Friday that he purchased another 50,000 shares of the company to bring his total investment to 100,000 shares.

Gill, a Massachusetts financial advisor better known on Reddit as "deepf---ngvalue" or YouTube as "RoaringKitty," is widely credited with planting the seed that turned into a massive rally in GameStop shares. The company's share price rose roughly 1,800 percent in January, peaking at $483 last month before collapsing.

Read more here.

(IL)LEGAL DATA: Law enforcement agencies may be on shaky legal ground when purchasing cell phone location data without a warrant, according to a new Treasury Department watchdog report.

The agency's inspector general said in the report reviewing the Internal Revenue Service's use of a commercial platform, Venntel, to track devices that a 2018 Supreme Court case may block warrantless tracking using data from apps.

The Carpenter v. United States case holds that warrants must be obtained by law enforcement to get data from wireless carriers, and many government lawyers have argued that it does not apply to GPS data taken from apps.

The watchdog's report, which came at the request of Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), suggests that that interpretation is flawed.

Read more.

STRONGER PROTECTIONS: A coalition representing more than 500 companies in creative industries is calling on the Biden administration to support tougher copyright protections.

In a letter from the CreativeFuture coalition, stakeholders from the film, television, music, photography and publishing industries said the coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in digital piracy with many Americans spending more time at home during lockdowns.

"At a time when many are still unable to work, piracy is cutting into the already reduced legitimate revenue streams from our creations, exacerbating our economic challenges," the coalition wrote to the White House on Monday.

Read more here.

ICYMI: SOME CONCERNS ABOUT CLUBHOUSE: The rise of the audio only social media platform Clubhouse is raising some concerns about how the app will handle the spread of misinformation.

Clubhouse's chat room conversations are not recorded by the app, making it "essentially impossible" to discern the spread of false information or harassment, Emerson Brooking, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told The Hill.

But experts also said that Clubhouse's lack of a "reblog" function may mitigate the chance of viral misinformation spreading to wide audiences.

"If there's anything that really sets it apart, it's the diminished capacity for virality built into the platform itself," said Aram Sinnreich, a professor at American University's School of Communication.

The app is still in an invite only phase, but experts warned as more people join the platform the shifting user base and culture of the app could also lead to further risks of misinformation spreading.

Read more about Clubhouse here.

Lighter click: A tale as old as time

An op-ed to chew on: We would not survive a true first strike cyberattack


Clubhouse Chats Are Breached, Raising Concerns Over Security (Bloomberg / Jamie Tarabay and Kartikay Mehrotra)

Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Almost $600,000 (The New York Times / Erin Griffith)

"Mark Changed The Rules": How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures (BuzzFeed News / Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman)


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