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Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump’s final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress

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 with this LINK.

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

FRINGE PLATFORMS FEED OFF CAPITOL ATTACK: Fringe social media networks are seeing their user bases swell in the aftermath of last week’s insurrection at the Capitol building and the subsequent banning of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse GOP leader tells members to quit spreading lies on riot, antifa DC attorney general says Trump Organization improperly paid K bill incurred during inauguration 70K QAnon Twitter accounts suspended in the wake of Capitol riot MORE and some of his loudest supporters from Facebook and Twitter.

That migration raises concerns from experts that otherwise peaceful supporters of the president are moving into close proximity with extremist groups that congregate in those spaces.

And the push by mainstream platforms to weed out accounts pushing the disinformation narratives may be too late to slow the spread of conspiracies, according to experts. 

“There are dozens of sites sitting around and already built that are ready to welcome in whatever waves of people are moving from platform to platform,” Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow at Digital Forensic Research Lab told The Hill. “Cracking down on platforms is undeniably a good way to minimize the spread of extremism outside of its own echochamber, but it doesn’t make extremism go away.”

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FUTURE THREATS: Right-wing extremist groups are planning demonstrations surrounding President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol Police confirm investigation into some officers’ behavior during riot GOP lawmakers told Trump takes some responsibility for Capitol riot Director of Army Staff disputes Capitol Police chief account of National Guard deployment MORE’s inauguration that experts warn could escalate into the kind of violence seen during last week’s deadly riots at the Capitol. 

Two days in particular are considered at high risk of coordinated and potentially violent activity: Jan. 17 and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

Similar to Wednesday’s mob attack at the Capitol, the demonstrations are fueled by election disinformation amplified by President Trump and his allies. And as with last week’s riot, right-wing fringe social media sites are rife with posts about potentially violent attacks. 

Read more here

ELECTION SECURITY SEES NEW LIFE: Efforts to secure more funding and legislation to give a boost to election security could gain new ground as Democrats take control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBiden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Senate Democrat tells Facebook to preserve digital evidence from Capitol riot Hillicon Valley: Facebook extends Trump’s suspension at least until Inauguration Day | Trump deletes tweets that led to Twitter lockout | Federal judiciary likely compromised as part of SolarWinds hack MORE (D-Va.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTwo Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots Colbert asks Republicans ‘have you had enough?’ in live show after Capitol violence Late-night hosts announce plans to discuss Capitol violence MORE (D-Minn.), the incoming chairs of two key Senate committees, told The Hill that they plan to again back the Honest Ads Act, a bill meant to increase transparency of election ads on social media. 

Republicans may also be likely to back election reform efforts following debunked concerns around voter fraud and interference in the 2020 general election.

“I think there is room for legislation, I think there is room for that to get a vote, but it’s important for people to work together, it’s important for people to recognize that we can improve our democracy,” Benjamin Hovland, the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, told The Hill.

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TRUMP’S (LATEST) TECH TIRADE: President Trump slammed tech giants on Tuesday, following Twitter’s decision to permanently ban him and Facebook’s decision to suspend his account at least until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

“I think that Big Tech is doing a horrible thing for our country and to our country and I believe it’s going to be a catastrophic mistake for them,” Trump told reporters. 

He accused the companies of being “divisive” and said it is “very, very bad for our country.”

The platforms banned Trump last week over his comments about a mob of his supporters that stormed the Capitol in a deadly riot. 

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TWITTER BANS QANON ACCOUNTS: Twitter on Monday announced that it has banned more than 70,000 accounts that share content surrounding the QAnon conspiracy theory in the wake of the riot that erupted at the Capitol last week. 

The social media giant confirmed in a blog post that it has removed the accounts as part of an effort following the riot last week “to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.”

“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon,” the blog post stated. 

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VACCINE SUPPLY CHAIN IN THE CROSSHAIRS: William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said Tuesday that he was concerned with efforts by China and Russia to target the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine supply chain.

“It’s a very complex problem, and I would definitely commend the women and men of the Army and the entire government that is part of Operation Warp Speed to ensure that we are able to facilitate that transportation of the vaccine safely full well knowing our adversaries are trying to disrupt that supply chain,” Evanina said during a virtual event hosted by The Washington Post.

When asked which countries he may be concerned were interfering in the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain, Evanina said, “China and Russia right now.”

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BAD NEWS FROM ACROSS THE POND: The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the agency responsible for evaluating COVID-19 vaccines for the European Union, said Tuesday that hackers leaked stolen COVID-19 vaccine data from a recent cyberattack.

“The ongoing investigation of the cyberattack on EMA revealed that some of the unlawfully accessed documents related to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines belonging to third parties have been leaked on the internet,” the EMA reported in a statement. “Necessary action is being taken by the law enforcement authorities.”

The announcement comes a month after both Pfizer and BioNTech, and later Moderna, reported that the EMA had informed the companies that documents related to the companies’ applications for approval of their COVID-19 vaccines had been accessed by hackers. 

Read more here.

STOPPING ‘STOP THE STEAL’: Facebook announced on Monday that it is taking down content on its platforms that contain the phrase “Stop the Steal” in the wake of the violent rioting by a pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol last week.

The company’s decision comes two months after it removed a group called “Stop the Steal” that had gathered a following of over 300,000 members and would spread misinformation about the election.

“We’ve been allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue. But with continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” the company said in the post Monday.

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GOOGLE LAUNCHES VACCINE MISINFORMATION FUND: Google said Tuesday it is launching a $3 million fund to help fight misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine as states ramp up rollout efforts. 

The COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Fund will support journalistic projects that aim to broaden the audience of fact checks, especially among communities disproportionately affected by misinformation, Google said in a blog post

The global fund is open to news organizations of all sizes that have a track record of fact-checking, or that partner with a fact-checking organization. 

Read more about the fund here

GOFUNDME BANS PROTEST TRAVEL GEARED FUNDRAISERS: GoFundMe announced Tuesday that it is banning fundraisers geared toward travel expenses to political protests, a decision that comes less than a week after the pro-Trump riots at the Capitol left five people dead. 

“Due to the violence, GoFundMe has removed numerous fundraisers intended to raise money for travel expenses,” a spokesperson said in a statement, adding it will remove future fundraisers travel to any political events where there is a “risk of violence by the attendees.”

The move comes after pro-Trump protesters used the platform to generate cash before last week’s violent siege at the Capitol attempting to challenge the president’s electoral defeat, according to CNN Business.

Read more here

AI GETS A PRESIDENTIAL BOOST: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced Tuesday the establishment of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office as part of wider efforts by the Trump administration to champion AI research.

“The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office will be integral to the Federal government’s AI efforts for many years to come, serving as a central hub for national AI research and policy for the entire U.S. innovation ecosystem,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said in a statement provided to The Hill.

Read more here.

Lighter click: Worried for their safety!

An op-ed to chew on: America must bolster cybersecurity


Parler Users Breached Deep Inside U.S. Capitol Building, GPS Data Shows (Gizmodo / Dell Cameron and Dhruv Mehrotra)

The Unlikely Connection Between Wellness Influencers and the Pro-Trump Rioters (Cosmopolitan / Clio Chang) 

Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes (New York Times / Nathaniel Popper)

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