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Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats

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

 

QANON QUARREL: President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeds investigating if alleged Hunter Biden emails connected to foreign intelligence operation: report Six takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall MORE refused to disavow QAnon during an NBC News town hall Thursday, saying he knows nothing about it beyond that supporters of the theory are “strongly against pedophilia.”

Host Savannah Guthrie asked the president to disavow the conspiracy theory after she described it as a theory about Democrats being part of a satanic pedophile ring.

“I know nothing about QAnon. I know very little,” Trump said. “You told me but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact. I hate to say that.

“I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard,” he continued. “But I know nothing about it.”

When Guthrie noted that Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseTrump refuses to disavow QAnon Sasse blasted Trump in constituent phone call: ‘He kisses dictators’ butts’ Booker ‘outs’ Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries ‘scurrilous attack’ MORE (R-Neb.) has said QAnon is “nuts” and that “real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories,” Trump again said he has no knowledge about the theory.

“He may be right. I just don’t know about QAnon,” Trump said. 

As Guthrie continued to press him, Trump replied, “Let me just tell you what I do hear about: it is they are very strongly against pedophilia and I agree with that. I do agree with that very strongly.” 

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory whose followers believe that an underground cabal of satanic worshipers run child sex trafficking rings and are in control of the so-called deep state government and that Trump is working to expose them.

Read more here.

 

TWITTER REVISES POLICY: Twitter changed its policy on hacked materials Thursday night after widespread criticism over its handling of the New York Post’s controversial story about Hunter Biden.

Going forward, posts with hacked materials will only be immediately locked if directly posted by the hackers or by individuals working with them. Labels with context will be added to tweets containing hacked materials.

Twitter said the link to the Post article, which includes unredacted emails purporting to be between Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian businessman, will still be blocked from being shared in tweets or direct messages under a separate policy prohibiting sharing personal information.

However, as of Friday morning the link could be posted. The Hill has reached out for clarification.

Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde said Thursday that the decision to make the policy change came after receiving feedback the previous day from users about concerns with how the previous policy could affect journalists and whistleblowers.

“Content moderation is incredibly difficult, especially in the critical context of an election,” she tweeted. “We are trying to act responsibly & quickly to prevent harms, but we’re still learning along the way.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet Friday that the original link blocking was a mistake.

Read more here.

 

HACKERS GONNA HACK: Google on Friday said it continues to see foreign cyber-targeting directed at individuals and campaigns involved in upcoming U.S. elections, along with efforts to target groups involved in COVID-19 research and treatment. 

Shane Huntley, a member of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), wrote in a blog post that the company had seen Chinese cyber group Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (APT31) deploy targeted malware campaigns and phishing emails at campaign staffers. He added that an Iranian group, known as APT35, is also using phishing emails to target staffers. 

Some phishing emails targeting officials on President Trump and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFeds investigating if alleged Hunter Biden emails connected to foreign intelligence operation: report Six takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall MORE‘s campaigns contained tracking links or efforts to steal credentials from the individual. 

The malware campaign by the Chinese-linked APT31 group involved emailing malicious links that would download malware hosted on GitHub. The links in some cases led to a page posing as computer security company McAfee that would prompt individuals to install the company’s antivirus software, ultimately downloading both the software and the hidden malware.

“Every malicious piece of this attack was hosted on legitimate services, making it harder for defenders to rely on network signals for detection,” Huntley wrote.

He emphasized that Google had not seen any evidence that the targeting of campaign staffers had been successful. 

Read more here.

 

FAKE NEWS: President Trump on Friday tweeted out a fake story from a satirical website attacking Twitter, with commentary suggesting he was not aware the piece was satire.

The president shared a link from The Babylon Bee, a conservative satire website, of a story that Twitter had crashed on Thursday to slow the spread of negative news stories about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T,” he wrote.

“Big T” began trending on Twitter, prompting a clarification from the president in a follow up tweet.

“Big T was not a reference to me, but rather to Big Tech, which should have been properly pointed out in Twitter’s Fake Trending Section!” Trump tweeted.

Read more here.

 

SENATE TO SUBPOENA ZUCKERBERG: The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week on whether to authorize a subpoena for Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns Trump slams Facebook, Twitter for limiting spread of New York Post’s Biden story Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week MORE after criticism over the platform’s handling of limiting the spread of a New York Post story, according to committee chairman Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPoll: Graham leads Harrison by 6 points in SC Senate race Feinstein’s hug of Lindsey Graham sparks outrage on the left Progressive group: Feinstein must step down as top Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (R-S.C.). 

Graham indicated to Politico on Friday that the committee will vote on whether to subpoena Zuckerberg, a day after Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech’s liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democratic super PAC launches .6M ad blitz supporting Hegar’s bid against Cornyn Facebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns MORE (R-Texas) said the committee will vote on whether or not to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyFacebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns Trump slams Facebook, Twitter for limiting spread of New York Post’s Biden story Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week MORE (R-Mo.) said Friday the committee should also vote to subpoena Zuckerberg amid harsh criticism from congressional Republicans over the platform’s decision to curb the spread of the Post story about Hunter Biden. The story drew skepticism over its sourcing. 

Graham indicated he would follow through with Hawley’s suggestion. 

“Yeah, I think I will,” Graham told Politico, when asked about Hawley’s remarks as Graham campaigned in North Charleston, S.C. 

Read more here.

 

K-12 CYBER PROTECTION: Reps. Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiThe Senate must act to reauthorize cell transplantation program Democratic lawmaker calls telehealth expansion the ‘silver lining’ of pandemic The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Delegates stage state-centric videos for the roll call MORE (D-Calif.) and Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Pandemic underscores demand for career and technical education Rep. Jim Langevin fends off Democratic primary challenge in RI MORE (D-R.I.) on Friday introduced legislation designed to funnel federal dollars and other resources to K-12 schools to defend against cyberattacks.

The Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act would establish a $400 million “K-12 Cybersecurity Human Capacity” grant program at the National Science Foundation to help expand the cyber workforce and improve infrastructure in order to better protect educational institutions against attacks.

The bill would also establish a “cybersecurity registry” at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to track cyberattacks on K-12 institutions, along with establishing a separate “cybersecurity clearinghouse” at CISA to provide best practices and guidance to educational institutions on how to defend against cyber-targeting.

Cyberattacks on K-12 schools have become an increasing concern over the past year and spiked when classes moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic continues to necessitate virtual platforms for learning, and we must do everything in our power to secure the networks and infrastructure our students rely on,” Matsui, who serves as vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said in a statement. “As children and their families adjust to a new learning environment, this bill will help ensure that we are protecting students from cyber threats that have been on the rise.”

Langevin, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threat and Capabilities, said in a separate statement that the bill will “help promote cybersecurity, protect student privacy and prevent interruptions to distance learning.”

Read more here.

 

TECH ‘TYRANNY’: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of Congress’s biggest critics of Big Tech, is writing a book about the companies he has long criticized, his publisher announced Friday. 

In Hawley’s book titled, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” the senator will argue that Facebook, 

Google, Amazon and Apple represent the “gravest threat to American liberty since the monopolies of the Gilded age,” according to Simon and Schuster’s description

“At a time when these platforms are determining elections, banning inconvenient political views, lining politicians’ pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars, and addicting our kids to screens, I want to draw attention to the robber barons of the modern era,” Hawley said in a statement to 

The Associated Press. “This is the fight to recover America’s populist democracy. That is why I am writing this book.”

The book is scheduled to be released in June. 

Read more here.

 

ELECTION EVENTS: A coalition of advocacy groups are coordinating over 170 events post-Election Day should President Trump either declare victory before all votes are cast or refuse to accept election results. 

The events are being organized nationwide on Nov. 4 by Protect the Results, which represents a coalition of more than 100 advocacy groups, labor unions and grassroots organizations, including Stand Up America, Indivisible, Republicans for the Rule of Law, the Sierra Club and many others. 

Protect the Results launched an interactive map to allow U.S. voters to RSVP to planned events and create their own, with the events meant to promote a peaceful transition of power if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential election, and to push for the counting of every ballot before the election is called. The groups expect more events to be added to the map prior to Election Day. 

The events are being planned in the wake of multiple comments and tweets from Trump in which he has raised concerns about potential voter fraud from the use of mail-in ballots and has encouraged his supporters to “watch” the polls to ensure no fraud is occurring. 

Read more here.

 

HEY, GOOGLE, WHERE DO I VOTE?: Google launched features to help voters locate places to vote or drop off ballots ahead of Election Day, the company announced Friday. 

Users who search queries such as “early voting locations” or “ballot drop boxes near me” will find details on where to vote or return mail-in ballots, whether voters choose to vote early or on Nov. 3, Google said in a blog post.

Using the voice-activated Google Assistant feature, users can also ask “Hey, Google, where do I vote?” and receive details on voting locations. 

Google will offer users information on how far away a location is and how to get there, as well as information on voting hours. 

Read more here.

 

FIGHTING MISINFORMATION:  A group formed by Black scholars, activists and writers aims to combat the disinformation and misinformation targeting Black Americans, the group announced Friday. 

National Black Cultural Information Trust will seek to fight misinformation that may stoke divisions in Black communities, influence how Black Americans vote or influence public opinions. 

The group said it will use communications, media and cultural awareness to share information and resources with Black communities.

“It’s critical to understand how misinformation and disinformation affects the Black community, specifically concerning how cultural issues are used by bad actors to infuse false information,” Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, founder of the National Black Cultural Information Trust, said in the announcement

“We’re being manipulated and influenced, not just concerning social issues but also concerning how we think about our lives, our cultures, and ourselves. It’s important to raise awareness both online and offline in Black communities,” she continued. “This requires serious action and concerted efforts.”

Experts have warned that misinformation campaigns have been targeting Black Americans, especially ahead of the November election.

Read more here

 

Lighter click: Diet starts tomorrow 

An op-ed to chew on: The pandemic’s digital shadow: Increased surveillance

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

The official Biden HQ in Animal Crossing has poll booths, ice cream, and no malarkey (The Verge / Makena Kelly)

How Mark Zuckerberg learned politics (Wall Street Journal / Deepa Seetharaman and Emily Glazer)

Brace for holiday ‘shipageddon’ (The New York Times / Shira Ovide)

Prop 22 is a dress rehearsal for this Biden cabinet hopeful’s confirmation battle (The American Prospect / Max Moran)

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