Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 195

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

The Courts

Pepe the Frog's Creator Is Sending Takedown Notices To Far-Right Sites (vice.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property." The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear -- stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences. Furie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes.
Earth

Trump's Officials Suggest Re-Negotiating The Paris Climate Accord (msn.com) 243

Slashdot reader whh3 brings surprising news from the Wall Street Journal. "Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn't pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change, according to multiple officials at a global warming summit." Today an anonymous reader writes: Even an official White House statement in response to the article insisted only that the U.S. would withdraw "unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country." On Sunday White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster "said President Donald Trump could decide to keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accord if there is a better agreement that benefits the American people," according to ABC News, while CNBC reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also "said the United States could remain in the Paris climate accord under the right conditions. 'The president said he is open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue.'"
Social Networks

Facebook Shares Details Of Russia-Bought Ads With US Investigators (cnn.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information. Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller's office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election...

As CNN reported Thursday, Facebook is still not sure whether pro-Kremlin groups may have made other ad buys intended to influence American politics that it simply hasn't discovered yet. It is even possible that unidentified ad buys may still exist on the social media network today.

Social Networks

More Millennials Would Give Up Voting Than Texting (nypost.com) 350

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: As the staggering national student loan debt tally sits at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion, according to the Department of Education, many millennials say they would go to extreme lengths to wipe their slate clean. According to a new survey from Credible, a personal finance website, 50 percent of all respondents (ages 18-34) said they would give up their right to vote during the next two presidential elections in order to never have to make another loan payment again.
Yet only 44% said they'd be willing to give up Uber and Lyft -- and only 13% said they'd be willing to give up texting.
Government

Trump Blocks China-Backed Takeover of US Chip Maker 'Lattice Semi' (cnn.com) 151

MountainLogic shares a report from CNN: President Trump has stopped the takeover of an American chip maker by a private equity firm with ties to China. The deal, which would have seen China-backed Canyon Bridge Capital Partners acquire Lattice Semiconductors, was blocked over national security concerns. "Today, consistent with the administration's commitment to take all actions necessary to ensure the protection of U.S. national security, the president issued an order prohibiting the acquisition," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. The national security risk included "the potential transfer of intellectual property" to the Chinese-backed company and the "Chinese government's role in supporting this transaction," according to Mnuchin's statement. Those are sensitive matters: the Trump administration launched an investigation last month into whether China is unfairly getting hold of American technology and intellectual property. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews deals that could result in a foreign entity taking control of an American company, had previously recommended halting the deal. Lattice CEO Darin G. Billerbeck called the outcome "disappointing" and called the proposed acquisition "an excellent deal" for Lattice and for "expanding the opportunity to keep jobs in America." According to CNN, Lattice currently employs 300 people in Oregon -- and Canyon Bridge has committed to adding 350 more if the takeover deal went through.
Security

ISPs Claim a Privacy Law Would Weaken Online Security, Increase Pop-Ups (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The country's biggest Internet service providers and advertising industry lobby groups are fighting to stop a proposed California law that would protect the privacy of broadband customers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, Verizon, and some broadband lobby groups urged California state senators to vote against the proposed law in a letter Tuesday. The bill would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing and application usage histories. California lawmakers could vote on the bill Friday of this week, essentially replicating federal rules that were blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump before they could be implemented. The text and status of the California bill, AB 375, are available here.

The letter claims that the bill would "lead to recurring pop-ops to consumers that would be desensitizing and give opportunities to hackers" and "prevent Internet providers from using information they have long relied upon to prevent cybersecurity attacks and improve their service." The Electronic Frontier Foundation picked apart these claims in a post yesterday. The proposed law won't prevent ISPs from taking security measures because the bill "explicitly says that Internet providers can use customer's personal information (including things like IP addresses and traffic records) 'to protect the rights or property of the BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] provider, or to protect users of the BIAS and other BIAS providers from fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful use of the service,'" EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula wrote.

Businesses

Silicon Valley Bosses Are Globalists, Not Libertarians (economist.com) 308

From a report via The Economist: In a recently published survey of 600 entrepreneurs and executives in Silicon Valley, conducted by David Broockman and Neil Malhotra of Stanford University and Gregory Ferenstein, a journalist, three-quarters of respondents said they supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. But although technology-firm leaders hold views that in general hew much closer to Democratic positions than Republican ones, they are far from reliable partisan ideologues. As you might expect from captains of industry, Silicon Valley executives are much more likely to support free trade and to oppose government regulation of businesses than your average Democrat is. For example, just 30% of tech bosses believe that ride-hailing companies need to be regulated like the taxi industry, compared with 60% of Democrats.

Given their combination of socially liberal attitudes and a preference for free markets, you might call Silicon Valley executives libertarians. However, libertarians generally advocate shrinking the state as a share of the economy, which technology bosses resolutely do not. When asked if they "would like to live in a society where government does nothing except provide national defense and police protection, so that people could be left alone to earn whatever they could," just 24% agreed. In contrast, 68% of Republican donors concurred with that statement. Moreover, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are just as likely to favor redistributive economic policies, such as universal health care and higher taxes on the rich, as an average Democrat is. The outlook of our new robot-building overlords is far more communitarian than, say, the doctrines of Ayn Rand.

Government

Kaspersky Software Banned From US Government Systems Over Concerns About Russia (betanews.com) 91

Mark Wilson writes: The Department of Homeland Security has told US government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive was issued because of concerns about influence exerted over the company by the Russian government. Government agencies have been given three months to identify and start to remove Kaspersky's security products. Kaspersky has constantly denied connections to the Russian government, but the US is simply not willing to take the risk.
Privacy

Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders (reuters.com) 138

The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.
Government

Department of Energy Invests $50 Million To Improve Critical Energy Infrastructure Security (helpnetsecurity.com) 51

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing awards of up to $50 million to DOE's National Laboratories to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the Nation's critical energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure. The electricity system must continue to evolve to address a variety of challenges and opportunities such as severe weather and the cyber threat, a changing mix of types of electric generation, the ability for consumers to participate in electricity markets, the growth of the Internet of Things, and the aging of the electricity infrastructure. The seven Resilient Distribution Systems projects awarded through DOE's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC) will develop and validate innovative approaches to enhance the resilience of distribution systems -- including microgrids -- with high penetration of clean distributed energy resources (DER) and emerging grid technologies at regional scale. The project results are expected to deliver credible information on technical and economic viability of the solutions. The projects will also demonstrate viability to key stakeholders who are ultimately responsible for approving and investing in grid modernization activities. In addition, the Department of Energy "is also announcing 20 cybersecurity projects that will enhance the reliability and resilience of the Nation's electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure through innovative, scalable, and cost-effective research and development of cybersecurity solutions."
Businesses

Equifax Lobbied For Easier Regulation Before Data Breach (wsj.com) 104

WSJ reports: Equifax was lobbying lawmakers and federal agencies to ease up on regulation of credit-reporting companies in the months before its massive data breach. Equifax spent at least $500,000 on lobbying Congress and federal regulators in the first half of 2017, according to its congressional lobbying-disclosure reports. Among the issues on which it lobbied was limiting the legal liability of credit-reporting companies. That issue is the subject of a bill that a panel of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the industry, discussed the same day Equifax disclosed the cyberattack that exposed personal financial data of as many as 143 million Americans. Equifax has also lobbied Congress and regulatory agencies on issues around "data security and breach notification" and "cybersecurity threat information sharing," according to its lobbying disclosures. The amount Equifax spent in the first half of this year appears to be in line with previous spending. In 2016 and 2015, the company's reports show it spent $1.1 million and $1.02 million, respectively, on lobbying activities. While the company had broadly similar lobbying issues in those years, the liability matter was new in 2017.
Advertising

Facebook Sold Ads To Russian-Linked Accounts During Election (cnet.com) 138

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to inauthentic accounts likely linked to Russia during the election. The ad spending spree took place between June of 2015 and May of 2017, and was associated with roughly 3,000 ads. CNET reports: "Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, wrote in a blog post. Facebook said it's continuing to investigate the issue and reported its findings to U.S. authorities.

Most of the ads and accounts didn't have to explicitly do with the election or either of the then-candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Instead, they were focused on divisive political topics, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights.

Businesses

The Trump Administration Has Announced the End of DACA -- Unless Congress Can Act To Save It (recode.net) 817

The Trump administration said on Tuesday it plans to scrap a program that allows about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children to stay and work in the country, shrugging off criticism from within the president's own party and prominent business figures. From a report: The Trump administration is essentially leaving Congress a six-month window of time to try to save it. The legal shield is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and since its enactment in 2012, it has allowed roughly 800,000 undocumented young adults to live in the United States and obtain work authorizations every two years. [...] In practice, implementation is complicated. Those previously approved under DACA, with the permission to work in the United States, can continue to work without interruption until those approvals expire. And those who have already applied for protection or are seeking renewals will still have their applications considered by the U.S. government. For those whose permits are set to expire before March 5, 2018, though, the U.S. government will also allow them to renew their DACA status -- provided their applications are received before Oct. 5, 2017. Currently, there are about 201,000 young adults whose authorizations are set to expire this year, officials at the Department of Homeland Security explained Tuesday.

Tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google are no doubt going to blast the Trump administration's decision: Last week, those executives joined more than 400 other business leaders in calling on the president to preserve DACA. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who previously (and privately) pressed Trump on the issue, said on Sunday that 250 of his "co-workers" would be affected by the change. Microsoft indicated that about 27 workers spanning fields like finance and sales would be hurt from Trump's move.
Zuckerberg said, "This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it."
Patents

IP Lawyer Who Represented TiVo Is Trump's Pick As USPTO Chief (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Donald Trump has selected Andrei Iancu, the managing partner of a major Los Angeles law firm, to be the next head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Iancu has been a partner at Irell & Manella since 2004 and was an associate at the firm for five years earlier. His most notable work in the tech sector is likely his representation of TiVo Corp. in its long-running patent battles with companies like EchoStar, Motorola, Microsoft, Verizon, and Cisco. TiVo ultimately succeeded in compelling those defendants to pay up for its pioneering DVR patents, and payments to TiVo ultimately totaled more than $1.6 billion, according to Iancu's biography page. Iancu also had a hand in Immersion Corp.'s $82 million jury verdict against Sony Computer Entertainment, in which a jury found that Immersion's patent claims on tactile feedback technology were valid and infringed. Those big wins aside, most of Iancu's work has been on the defense side. He's represented eBay in a case against Acacia Research Corp., a large, publicly traded non-practicing entity, and he worked for Hewlett-Packard when it defended against Xerox patent claims. He's also worked in the medical device area, enforcing patents for St. Jude Medical on vascular closure devices.

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