The CEOs of major social media platforms returned for another grilling by Congress Thursday that ended up looking a lot like the last few — although Jack Dorsey apparently Zoomed in from his kitchen. Meanwhile, the nation’s top military cybersecurity leader detailed measures taken to secure the 2020 elections against foreign interference, former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today Democrats face questions over agenda Democrats divided on gun control strategy MORE is reportedly in talks to create his own social media network, and lawmakers zeroed in on grid security.
HEARINGS ALL THE WAY DOWN: The CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday faced a congressional grilling over their platforms’ roles in the organization of January’s Capitol insurrection, but managed to give very few direct answers.
Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices Facebook’s Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden leans heavily into gun control MORE, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey dodged and deflected a broad range of questions over the course of the five-and-a-half hour long hearing before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees ostensibly focused on misinformation that ended up veering away from that topic for long segments.
Notable: The hearing was the first featuring the executives after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, which was largely organized on social media.
Near the beginning of the hearing, Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack House Democrats press Facebook on role as a ‘breeding ground for polarization’ MORE (D-Penn.) asked the CEOs whether they felt some responsibility for the attack after misinformation about the results of the presidential election and the #StopTheSteal movement proliferated on their platforms.
Zuckerberg declined to answer the question and was cut off, Pichai said his company “worked hard” around the election but also declined to provide a direct response, and Dorsey said yes before noting that the “broader ecosystem” should be taken into account.
Like many of the Big Tech hearings before it, Thursday’s event offered lawmakers a platform to raise several targeted concerns and yielded some important answers for the CEOs, but did not offer a clear path forward on legislation.
CYBER COMMAND IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The nation’s top military cybersecurity leader said Thursday that U.S. Cyber Command conducted dozens of operations ahead of the 2020 elections aimed at securing voting against foreign interference.
“USCYBERCOM conducted more than two dozen operations to get ahead of foreign threats before they interfered with or influenced our elections in 2020,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Degree of confidence: Nakasone testified later in the hearing that U.S. Cyber Command did “11 hunt forward operations in nine different countries for the security of the 2020 election,” adding that: “We know a lot of what our adversaries are doing when it comes to interference and influence of elections.”
Beyond elections, Nakasone on Thursday also highlighted the need for both Congress and the military to learn lessons from recent massive cyber espionage incidents carried out by Russia and China over the past year against the United States.
NEW TRUMP SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK: Former President Trump is reportedly in talks with multiple apps to partner with them in order to create his own social media network.
Axios, citing multiple sources familiar with the situation, reported Wednesday that FreeSpace, a new social media platform, is one of the top contenders for Trump and his social media adviser Dan Scavino.
“The FreeSpace Actions are backed by science to positively reinforce good habits & make the world a better place,” FreeSpace’s platform says.
PROTECT THE GRID: Bipartisan leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday urged Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmSenate confirms David Turk as deputy Energy secretary Energy Department awards million for automated vehicle development OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Republicans put procedural delay on Haaland’s nomination | Interior Department announces next steps in review of oil and gas lease moratorium | Judge approves .5B Daimler settlement in diesel emissions probe MORE to prioritize cybersecurity and maintain leadership for the agency’s key cybersecurity office in the face of growing threats to the power grid.
Committee Chairman Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today Democrats face questions over agenda Democrats divided on gun control strategy MORE (D-W.Va.), ranking member John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Senate confirms David Turk as deputy Energy secretary | 14 states sue Biden administration over leasing pause for public lands drilling | Regulator knocks Texas for failing to winterize power equipment Senate confirms David Turk as deputy Energy secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies MORE (R-Wy.) and almost a dozen other bipartisan members of the committee sent a letter to Granholm stressing the importance of the Energy’s Department Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER).
Their big ask: The senators asked Granholm to maintain CESER as well as its leadership by an assistant secretary in order to defend the electric grid against mounting cyber threats posing a threat to national security.
“The reliability and resilience of the electric grid is critical to the economic and national security of the United States,” the senators wrote. “Top officials within the intelligence, defense, and power communities have warned that the United States remains vulnerable to cyberattacks that could result in catastrophic damage to public health and safety, economic security, and national security.”
CONCERNS FROM ACROSS THE POND: Regulators in the United Kingdom announced Thursday that Facebook’s acquisition of animated image search engine Giphy raises competition concerns.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had first announced that it would be looking into the move in July.
In a statement Thursday, the regulatory agency said that Giphy had previously competed with Facebook in digital advertising via paid brand partnerships.
The CMA said that if the merger remains in place, Giphy may have “less incentive” to expand its digital marketing, thus lessening competition in that market.
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