Hillicon Valley — House panel to grill former Twitter staff

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A House panel will grill former Twitter employees at a hearing next week focused on the social media platform’s decision to limit the spread of a Hunter Biden story during the 2020 presidential election.

Meanwhile, a Senate Democrat asked Apple and Google to remove the popular video sharing app TikTok from their app stores.

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Oversight to hear from ex-Twitter employees

Three former Twitter employees will testify before a House panel next week at a hearing focusing on the platform’s decision to limit the spread of a New York Post story about President Biden’s son Hunter Biden in the runup to the 2020 presidential election.

Republicans are using their new majority in the chamber to push forward an agenda aimed at targeting social media companies over allegations of censoring conservative viewpoints.

Wednesday’s House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing will feature testimony from Twitter’s former chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, former deputy general counsel James Baker and former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth, the committee announced Thursday.

  • After Elon Musk took control of Twitter as CEO at the end of October, closing his deal to purchase the company for $44 billion, he released some internal communications from Twitter staff about the decision to censor the New York Post story through a Twitter thread posted by journalist Matt Taibbi.

  • Republicans and right-wing media figures used the release of the communications in Taibbi’s thread to fuel their claims of censorship and accusations that the government was involved in discussions to get Twitter to remove the claims.

  • The thread, though, largely showed internal debates among employees over high-profile decisions and lacked details of influence from Democrats.

Read more here.

Microsoft unveils premium messaging powered by AI

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a new premium messaging service that will be powered by Open AI’s ChatGPT messaging service.

In a blog post, Microsoft Teams vice president Nicole Herskowitz wrote that its new service, Teams Premium, will use the latest technologies in an effort to “make meetings more intelligent, personalized, and protected — whether it’s one-on-one, large meetings, virtual appointments, or webinars.”

The company also said that ChatGPT will generate meeting notes and recommend tasks and action items, and help users create templates so their meetings can “adhere to company best practices and policies.”

Read more here.

Bennet asks tech giants to remove TikTok

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has written a letter to the chief executive officers of Apple and Google to ask them to remove TikTok from their app stores, warning the video sharing app’s “vast influence and aggressive data collection pose a specific threat.”

Bennet emphasized that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, which is based in Beijing, is obligated by Chinese law to support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work, potentially giving the Chinese government access to troves of Americans’ personal data.

The senator noted that about 36 percent of Americans over the age of 12 use TikTok, including 61 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 34, and American TikTok users spend an average of 80 minutes a day on the app.

“TikTok collects vast and sophisticated data from its users, including faceprints and voiceprints,” which raises national security concerns because it is required to share that information with Chinese security officials if asked, he said.

Read more here.


An op-ed to chew on: A conservative case for the Affordable Connectivity Program

Notable links from around the web:

Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value (The New York Times / Isabella Simonetti and Mike Isaac)

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz (AP News / Matt O’Brien)

A day in the life at TikTok as it tries to win Americans’ trust (Vox / Shirin Ghaffary)


Nathaniel Fick, U.S. ambassador at large for cyberspace and digital policy, said on Thursday that the Russia-Ukraine war prompted the government to significantly increase its partnership with the private sector, a practice that was less common in prior years.

Fick, who was confirmed in August to head the State Department’s new cyber bureau, said that over the last year he has seen a fundamental change in how the government and the private sector collaborate on cybersecurity issues.

“When I was a cybersecurity CEO, public-private partnership was a feel-good buzz term,” he said. “It generally meant I shared my data with the government, the government classified it, and I got nothing back.”

“That is emphatically no longer the case,” he added.

Fick made his remarks during an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund, where he was responding to a question about how the Russia-Ukraine war has changed the game in cyberspace.

Read more here.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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