July 23 2021

This Week in Washington

Nextgov Bill Would Require Federal Agencies and Contractors to Report Cyber Intrusions Within 24 hours
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., has introduced legislation that would shield companies from liability associated with cybersecurity intrusions they experience in exchange for reports of such incidents that could be used to track perpetrators and mitigate the harm from major breaches across U.S. critical infrastructure.

Bloomberg Biden Names Tech Foe Jonathan Kanter as DOJ Antitrust Chief
President Joe Biden plans to nominate Jonathan Kanter as head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, the White House said Tuesday, the latest sign that the administration is preparing a broad crackdown on large technology companies. Kanter, 47, who left one of the country’s biggest law firms last year to start his own firm, is a long-time foe of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, representing companies that have pushed antitrust enforcers to sue the search giant. Kanter has “been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House said in a statement.

Reuters Five U.S. senators want to ensure Verizon TracFone deal does not raise prices
Five Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensure Verizon’s proposed $6.9 billion acquisition of pre-paid mobile phones provider TracFone does not raise prices or impact government programs to provide access to mobile phones for low-income Americans. TracFone is one of the largest providers of telecommunications services under the government subsidy program known as Lifeline with 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

CNBC White House says social media networks should be held accountable for spreading misinformation
Social media giants should be held accountable for publishing misinformation, the White House’s communications director said Tuesday. The comments are the latest from the Biden administration in a tiff over whether or not social media companies, specifically Facebook, are harming users by showing Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. When asked by MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski whether these companies should be held liable for publishing false information that causes people harm, Kate Bedingfield said the administration is reviewing policies.

Wired The Pentagon Is Bolstering Its AI Systems – by Hacking Itself
The Pentagon sees artificial intelligence as a way to outfox, outmaneuver, and dominate future adversaries. But the brittle nature of AI means that without due care, the technology could perhaps hand enemies a new way to attack. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, created by the Pentagon to help the US military make use of AI, recently formed a unit to collect, vet, and distribute open source and industry machine learning models to groups across the Department of Defense.

CNBC Bipartisan infrastructure plan could get another chance after Senate setback
A failed Senate test vote dealt a blow to the bipartisan infrastructure framework, but the plan could have a chance to move forward again as soon as Monday. The Republicans working to craft the $1.2 trillion proposal voted Wednesday against advancing it as they draft final legislation. Despite the setback, the 22 Democratic and GOP senators drawing up the plan said they hope to release and push ahead with a bill “in the coming days.”

Broadcasting + Cable House Passes Media Diversity Bills
The House Tuesday passed a bill and a resolution aimed at achieving greater media diversity. The votes on each were 319-105 — they were part of a block vote on a handful of communications-related bills. H.R. 1754, the MEDIA (Measuring the Economics Driving Investments and Access) Diversity Act, was introduced by Reps. Billy Long (R-Mo.) and Marc Veasey (D-Tex.). It would require the FCC to take into account barriers to market entry for “socially disadvantaged individuals.”

Article Summary

Microsoft Official Blog Fighting an emerging cybercrime trend
On July 16, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) again secured a court order to take down malicious infrastructure used by cybercriminals. As we continually explore new ways to combat emerging trends and techniques to better protect our customers, we filed this case to target the use of “homoglyph” ­– or imposter – domains that are increasingly being used in a variety of attacks. As a result, a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a court order requiring domain registrars to disable service on malicious domains that have been used to impersonate Microsoft customers and commit fraud.

StateScoop Ohio introduces data-privacy bill, skips private right of action
Ohio lawmakers this week introduced a bill to protect consumer data-privacy that Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said represents a comfortable “middle ground” amid the field of existing state privacy laws. Introduced by Republican state Reps. Rick Carfagna and Thomas Hall, the Ohio Personal Privacy Act contains many of the provisions found in the three states that have passed data-privacy laws — California, Colorado and Virginia. In Ohio, these would include the establishment of a set of consumer “data rights,” such as the right to ask companies what personal data they’ve collected, request corrections to that data, have that data deleted upon request, request companies stop selling personal data and complain to the attorney general’s office of infractions.

Forbes More Than 200 Facebook Groups Have Been Actively Circulating Coronavirus Vaccine Misinformation
After President Biden came down hard on Facebook last week over coronavirus vaccine misinformation, the company responded with almost equal force, insisting in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t responsible for how that type of content has spread on the web. But new research released Tuesday suggests Facebook does indeed remain a place where such misinformation is circulating: Media Matters for America, a liberal tech watchdog organization, says it has found 284 active private and public Facebook Groups currently distributing vaccine misinformation, more than double the amount the researchers found in April.

The New York Times Constant but Camouflaged, Flurry of Cyberattacks Offer Glimpse of New Era
The world woke up on Monday to revelations of a sort that have become disconcertingly routine. Chinese hackers had breached governments and universities in a yearslong campaign to steal scientific research, according to a U.S. Justice Department indictment. Separately, several governments, including the Biden administration, accused Beijing of hiring criminal hackers to infiltrate the world’s largest companies and governments for profit.

Microsoft Official Blog The growing threat of ransomware
On June 20, Kemba Walden, Assistant General Counsel, Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for a hearing “Stopping Digital Thieves: The Growing Threat of Ransomware.” Read Kemba Walden’s written testimony below and watch the hearing here.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Equitable Tech Skilling 
    During the pandemic, the employment gap between Black and Hispanic Americans and white Americans reached record highs. They were the first fired and the last hired. At the same time, while the technology sector is struggling to fill 410,000 open computing jobs nationwide, only around 72,000 computer science graduates will enter the workforce this year. Yet, widened by the pandemic, the technological skills gap in computer science—which disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic individuals—continues to grow. Of projected computer science graduates, less than 20% are women, less than 8% are Black, and less than 9% are Hispanic. (TechTank – Inclusive and equitable tech reskilling at LaunchCode in St. Louis, July 21, 2021)