Hillicon Valley: Facebook faces antitrust probe from state AGs | O'Rourke pushes tech to crack down on disinformation | Ransomware attacks force schools in Arizona town to close

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


FACEBOOK IN HOT WATER: A coalition of eight attorneys general has launched an investigation into Facebook over potential antitrust violations, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced Friday.

The bipartisan group of state attorneys general, led by New York, is probing Facebook’s dominance in social media and any potential “anticompetitive conduct” the company has engaged in.

The probe heightens the stakes for the embattled social media platform, which is already weathering antitrust investigations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  

Last month, Facebook agreed to pay a record-shattering $5 billion as part of a settlement with the FTC over charges of privacy violations. Now, the state attorneys general say they will look into whether Facebook’s position may have allowed the company to take advantage of its customers or advertisers.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” James said in a statement. “I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk.” 

“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising,” she said.

Read more here. 


BETO VS. DISINFORMATION: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeO’Rourke calls out Texas Gov. Abbott for executive orders following mass shootings: ‘Not one’ mentions guns Texas Poll: Biden leads 2020 Democrats by 6 points Trade war with China won’t end in 2020 MORE is demanding answers from major tech platforms following an unsubstantiated claim online that the gunman involved in last weekend’s mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, was driving a vehicle with an O’Rourke campaign sticker.

Jen O’Malley Dillon, campaign manager for the former House lawmaker from Texas, sent letters to Facebook, Google and Twitter on Friday asking for greater transparency about how the companies respond to disinformation on their platforms and calling on them to take action against any fraudulent accounts involved in amplifying the claim.

“As a campaign, we’re almost entirely powerless to stop misinformation,” O’Malley Dillon wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “We can tweet corrections, but only a fragment of the people exposed will see it. This rests on Twitter, Facebook, and Google who let this go completely unchecked.”

None of the companies immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill.

O’Malley Dillon said she traced the initial claim about the campaign sticker to a tweet from an account that Twitter had suspended and then reinstated. The tweet alleging that the shooter had an O’Rourke sticker is still up and has garnered more than 11,100 retweets and 15,400 likes.

Texas officials have said that there is no link between the gunman and the O’Rourke campaign.

Read more here.


THE KIDS ARE NOT ALRIGHT: Schools in Flagstaff, Ariz., were closed for a second day in a row on Friday as the school district struggled to recover from a debilitating ransomware attack.

The Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD), which includes 15 schools and more than 9,600 students, canceled classes on both Thursday and Friday after a ransomware virus was found on multiple servers. Preschools and child care centers within FUSD were also closed. 

FUSD spokesman Zachery Fountain told The Hill the choice was made to sever internet connections at school facilities to contain the virus.

Ransomware viruses typically encrypt systems and demand payment, often in the form of bitcoin, before allowing a user to access the system again.

“Unfortunately, revoking the internet accessibility, while enhancing security, limited our ability to hold school as a number of our systems were simultaneously taken down by that one decision – requiring that we close schools until our regular business systems and back-up systems are fully available,” Fountain said.

“This has taken time and now has moved into a second day of school closures while final steps are taken so that school can take place on Monday,” he added.

Read more here. 


PROTEST PROBLEMS: Twelve people were arrested Thursday at a protest at a Cambridge, Mass., Amazon building, police said. The protesters were calling for an end to private companies’ cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cambridge Police Department spokesman Jeremy Warnick told The Hill that the 12 individuals were arrested on trespassing charges after officers attempted to escort them out of the Amazon building peacefully. 

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The group of demonstrators, organized by “Never Again Action: Jews Against ICE,” began protesting in Boston, causing traffic issues throughout the city. The group similarly protested in July Boston Magazine reported, disrupting traffic in a demonstration against immigrant detentions and conditions at federal detention facilities.

Protesters ended up at the Amazon building in Cambridge, where they stayed in the lobby for a little less than two hours. The group said it was demonstrating against Amazon’s contracts with ICE, according to a video posted on its Facebook page.

Read more here. 


WHOOPS: Amazon has apologized and said that a “technical error” resulted in some copies of Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments” being sent out before the book is officially released.

The company said in a statement Thursday that a “small number” of people were sent the novel, the sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” before its scheduled release on Tuesday.

“Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Testaments,'” an Amazon spokesperson said.

“We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers,” the spokesperson added. 

The book’s publisher also acknowledged that the copies were shipped early, but said in a statement the book’s release date would not change. 

Read more here.


Lighter click: Last day of recess.


An op-ed to chew on:  With SpaceX’s Starhopper, spaceflight opportunities open for Texas.



DMVs are selling your data to private investigators. (Motherboard)

Apple made Siri deflect questions on feminism, leaked papers reveal. (The Guardian)

Huawei shows off ‘most powerful’ chipset as it forges ahead with 5G smartphone plan. (Reuters) 

New Google policy bars ads for unproven stem cell therapies. (The Washington Post)

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