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Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation


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 reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

UBER LAYOFFS: Uber is laying off 3,700 employees as the coronavirus pandemic drives down demand for its service, the company announced Wednesday.

The layoffs in its customer support and recruiting teams account for roughly 15 percent of the ride-hailing giant’s total workforce, according to recent estimates.

Uber expects to spend approximately $2 million on severance and related termination benefits.

In addition to the layoffs, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is waiving his base salary for the remainder of 2020.

Uber’s investors expect to get a clear picture of the company’s finances when it reports earnings on Thursday.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the ride-hailing industry hard as many Americans are staying home.

Demand for rides has cratered, leading Lyft to lay off roughly 17 percent of its corporate workforce late last month.

 

Read more about the layoffs here. 

 

CONTENT MODERATION BOARD: The independent oversight board created by Facebook to review content moderation decisions announced its first 20 members and co-chairs on Wednesday.

Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Experts worry U.S. elections vulnerable due to COVID-19 | Report finds states need more federal election funds | Republican senators to introduce coronavirus-related privacy bill Zuckerberg fears reopenings could ‘almost guarantee’ second coronavirus outbreak As Biden struggles, Hillary waits for the call MORE first revealed his intentions to launch the oversight board in November 2018 amid blowback over how Facebook manages hate speech and political content.

The oversight board will have final and binding say over whether content should be allowed on, or taken down from, Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook recruited the board’s four co-chairpeople, who then led the interview and recruitment process for the rest of the board along with the social media giant and an executive search firm.

“Each of our members has chosen to participate in the board because they believe there is no single company that can solve the most challenging online content decisions today,” Thomas Hughes, the oversight board’s administrative director, said on a press call.

The co-chairs are Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister, Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University, Jamal Greene, a Columbia law professor, and Catalina Botero-Marino, dean of Universidad de los Andes faculty of law.

Read more about the board here. 

 

FBI SURVEILLANCE POWERS: Senators are expected to vote next week on House-passed legislation to extend the FBI’s surveillance powers, setting up a battle between civil libertarians who want to curtail the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and allies of the intelligence community and law enforcement.

The legislation will extend core surveillance powers of the lapsed USA Freedom Act: the power to collect business records relevant to a counterterrorism or counter espionage investigation; the authority to use roving wiretaps to track suspects; and the ability to surveil “lone wolf” suspects not connected to a known terrorist group or foreign power.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell pressed to expand coronavirus testing in Senate Battle brewing over how to get more relief money to Americans Ratcliffe vows to deliver unvarnished intelligence MORE (R-Ky.) has told colleagues he plans to bring the House-passed bill to the floor next week and allow votes on three or four amendments, according to GOP lawmakers.

The amendments are expected to fail and the House bill is expected to advance to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump volunteers kept ‘VIP’ list of leads for medical supplies: report Over half of workforce at Tyson plant in Iowa tests positive for coronavirus Trump offers support for those who have lost family due to coronavirus MORE’s desk, although lawmakers caution there could be unexpected drama on the floor.

Senators will vote on three amendments to the House bill, which itself is a bipartisan reform compromise that would end the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk phone data and ban the collection of GPS and cellphone location data without warrants.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate steps into ‘strange’ new era Rand Paul says he doesn’t need mask after having coronavirus: ‘I’m about the only safe person in Washington’ Sen. Rand Paul: Reform health care by offering more choices MORE (R-Ky.) will get a vote on his amendment barring the FISA court from issuing warrants for American citizens and instead requiring law enforcement agencies such as the FBI to obtain a warrant from a normal court established under Article III of the Constitution.

Read more about the expected vote here. 

 

SAVE THE CHILDREN: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect children against online exploitation and to crack down on predators. 

The Invest in Child Safety Act would increase the number of agents at the FBI and the Department of Justice investigating child exploitation and obscenity, along with doubling funding for the Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. 

The legislation would also require tech companies to extend the time they securely store evidence of potential child sexual abuse to enable prosecution of older cases and would establish an office within the executive branch to direct the federal government’s response to child exploitation cases. 

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBattle brewing over how to get more relief money to Americans Ratcliffe vows to deliver unvarnished intelligence More than 800 public health experts call on Congress to fund mail-in voting MORE (Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandPelosi says she believes Biden’s denial of assault claim: ‘I’m not going to answer this question again’ Paid sick days and paid leave are health and economic recovery requirements Warren calls Biden’s denial of sexual assault claim ‘credible’ and ‘convincing,’ says she proudly supports him MORE (N.Y.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenators urge Pompeo, Perdue to back global food programs amid coronavirus pandemic Warren, Casey urge protections for disabled and older adults amid coronavirus pandemic Senate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers MORE (Penn.), and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Black workers may face disproportionate COVID-19 risk | Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog vows independence | Stocks inch higher as oil prices rise Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog pledges independence amid Democratic skepticism Coronavirus drives record number of complaints to consumer bureau MORE (Ohio). The bill was also introduced in the House by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooOvernight health care: White House plans to scale back coronavirus task force Democrats frustrated in coronavirus oversight efforts Ousted vaccine chief says administration put politics over science MORE (D-Calif.) and several other Democratic lawmakers. The bill does not have any Republican co-sponsors. 

Wyden said in a statement that the bill would provide funding to help address the “menace” of child exploitation online, along with funding organizations that protect children. 

“Nothing is more heinous than sexual abuse of child, but our ability to combat these crimes has not kept up with technology,” Gillibrand said in a separate statement. “This critical legislation will give federal law enforcement and prosecutors the tools to take on the scourge of child exploitation, prevent its occurrence and support victims and their families.”

Read more about the new legislation here. 

 

PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS: Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharMore than 800 public health experts call on Congress to fund mail-in voting Warren is Democratic voters’ top choice for Biden VP: poll Biden: Panel vetting ‘more than a dozen women’ as potential running mates MORE (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSanders not urging Biden to pick Warren as running mate: report Pelosi says she believes Biden’s denial of assault claim: ‘I’m not going to answer this question again’ Overnight Defense: Esper fires back at Senate criticism | Joint Chiefs of Staff chair says evidence suggests coronavirus occurred naturally | DOD identifies casualty MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday called for more protections to help defend small businesses against scams targeting coronavirus-related relief funds.

The letter comes as the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been doling out forgivable loans to small businesses willing to meet certain conditions. 

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), former presidential candidates Warren and Klobuchar led a group of Senate Democrats urging the agency to take action to defend small businesses, and to keep the businesses informed on how to defend themselves.

They specifically pointed to concerns that scammers were targeting the SBA funds going to small businesses, which have been hit hard by shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. The scams involve sending fake emails from the SBA to trick businesses into disclosing sensitive financial information, or scammers calling the businesses pretending to offer financial relief. 

The senators asked that the FTC take “bold actions” to address the scams. 

“We are calling on the agency to take stronger action to ensure that the huge population of potential victims—the nearly 60 million hardworking men and women who own or are employed by small businesses—are protected during this time of crisis,” the senators wrote.

The senators requested answers from the FTC around what steps the agency was taking to assist small businesses if they fall victim to the scams, how it is helping historically disadvantaged businesses, such as those in rural or minority communities, and whether the FTC needed additional resources to combat the scams. 

Read more about efforts to protect small businesses here.

 

NEW COUNTERINTELLIGENCE LEADER: The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm President Trump‘s counterintelligence chief after the nomination was stuck in limbo for nearly two years.

Senators voted 83-7 on William Evanina’s nomination to be the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Will Trump’s plan to reopen the economy work? The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump turns to lawmakers to advise on reopening Trump taps members of Congress to advise on reopening MORE (Ill.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Esper fires back at Senate criticism | Joint Chiefs of Staff chair says evidence suggests coronavirus occurred naturally | DOD identifies casualty Esper shoots back at Senate Democrats’ criticism of coronavirus response Overnight Defense: USS Kidd coronavirus outbreak jumps to 47 sailors | Senate Dems pan Esper’s coronavirus response | US military acknowledges civilian casualties in Somalia airstrike MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySome Democrats say charges against Biden merit independent investigation Hillicon Valley: Experts worry U.S. elections vulnerable due to COVID-19 | Report finds states need more federal election funds | Republican senators to introduce coronavirus-related privacy bill OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Global carbon dioxide emissions predicted to plunge ‘unprecedented’ 8 percent this year| Fed’s expanded lending program opens funding to oil and gas industry| Companies claiming carbon capture tax credit didn’t follow EPA requirements MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Oil prices jump amid partial reopenings | Bill aims to block fossil fuel firms from coronavirus aid | Tribes to receive some coronavirus aid after court battle Legislation aims to block fossil fuel companies from receiving coronavirus aid Some Democrats say charges against Biden merit independent investigation MORE (Ore.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThis week: Senate returns amid coronavirus pandemic Coronavirus drives record number of complaints to consumer bureau Capitol physician doesn’t have enough coronavirus tests for all lawmakers as Senate plans return MORE (Md.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) voted against the nomination.

The Senate’s vote comes two days after Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBattle brewing over how to get more relief money to Americans GOP senator lifts two-year hold on Trump’s nominee for counterintelligence chief Mnuchin defends IRS guidance on PPP loans MORE (R-Iowa) ended a nearly two-year blockade on the nomination, which he initially placed a hold on in June 2018.

“Due to the recent actions by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Attorney General to finally respond to my very longstanding oversight requests, I withdraw my objection to Mr. Evanina’s nomination,” Grassley said in a statement.

Grassley announced in 2018 that he was putting a hold on Evanina’s nomination because the intelligence community had been slow to respond to his oversight requests. He placed a hold on the nomination for a second time in March 2019, after the start of the new session of Congress.

Grassley said at the time, and again on Monday, that he was not stonewalling Evanina’s nomination for personal reasons.

“I did not question Mr. Evanina’s credentials in any way, and I put my statement of those reasons in the Record. I have done that consistently, not only since the rules of the Senate first required every Member to do that but even before that rule was put in place,” Grassley said Monday.

Read more about the new counterintelligence chief here. 

 

NEW ZOOM EMPLOYEE: H.R. McMaster, a former Trump administration national security adviser and retired Army lieutenant general, has joined the board of Zoom, the online conferencing company announced Wednesday.

McMaster, who currently teaches at Stanford University, worked in the White House for just over a year from 2017-2018, though his tenure was marked by reports that he and President Trump did not work well together.

“Zoom does significant good for our society, allowing people to connect and collaborate face-to-face from anywhere. This extraordinary capability is vital now more than ever,” said McMaster. “My goal is to help the company navigate rapid growth and assist in meeting Zoom’s commitment to becoming the world’s most secure video communications platform.” 

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan touted McMaster’s 34-year military career, saying he would bring “invaluable” experience in furthering Zoom’s mission of connecting people worldwide. 

“General McMaster is a welcome addition to our Board. During his decorated military career, he has built an expertise in leading through challenging situations and has demonstrated tremendous strength of character. His leadership will be invaluable as Zoom continues to enable people to connect on a global scale,” said Yuan.

Read more here. 

 

Lighter click: We hope you speak Polish

An op-ed to chew on: The pandemic exposes realities of failing to combat global censorship

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Taiwan’s state-owned energy company suffers a ransomware attack (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Hands on with the new National Health Service COVID-19 tracing app (BBC News / Rory Cellan-Jones) 

People are panic-buying meat, toilet paper…and pelotons? (The New York Times / Erin Griffith) 



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