Hillicon Valley — Obama slams tech giants on disinformation


Former President Obama took aim at tech companies during a speech Thursday over their lack of action on the disinformation problem he said the industry has helped fuel.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy announced a $12 million investment in cybersecurity, and tech giants disclosed spending record sums on lobbying in the first three months of the year.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar, Chris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare. Subscribe here.

Obama points finger at tech

Former President Obama placed blame on tech companies for failing to address the disinformation problem he said the industry has amplified during a speech Thursday at Stanford University.

The new information ecosystem, fueled by the rise of dominant social media platforms, is “turbocharging some of humanity’s worst impulses,” he said in the roughly hour-long speech.

“But not all problems we’re seeing now are an inevitable byproduct of this new technology. They’re also the result of very specific choices, made by the companies that have come to dominate the internet generally, and social media platforms in particular. Decisions that intentionally or not have made democracies more vulnerable,” he said.

Read more about his comments here.

DOE pours $12 million into cyber technology

The Department of Energy announced on Thursday that the agency is investing $12 million in cybersecurity innovations aimed at protecting critical infrastructure, including the energy sector.

The investment will fund six university-led projects that will focus on the research, development and demonstrations of new cyber technology that will help advance data-related fields such as anomaly detection, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Investing in cutting-edge cyber security technology keeps us at the forefront of global innovation and protects America’s power grid in the face of increasing cyber threats from abroad,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

“This funding will bolster our commitment to a secure and resilient clean energy future by fortifying American electricity systems and building a stronger grid,” she added.

Read more here.

BIG TECH’S BIG SPENDERS

Apple, Amazon and Meta spent record sums on federal lobbying through the first three months of the year as they fought bipartisan antitrust legislation, according to documents filed with Congress Wednesday night.

Apple spent more than $2.5 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 71 percent from the same period last year. Meta spent nearly $5.4 million, up 13 percent from last year’s first quarter. Amazon shelled out nearly $5 million, a 4 percent increase.

The rise comes as the big four tech firms attempt to derail the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a bill to prevent dominant digital platforms from favoring their own services and empower antitrust officials to more aggressively investigate tech giants.

Read more here.

MUSK REVEALS FUNDING FOR TWITTER TAKEOVER

Elon Musk revealed Thursday that he has received letters committing to provide the $46.5 billion he has offered to purchase Twitter.

In an updated securities filing, the Tesla CEO also said that because Twitter has yet to respond to his proposal sent April 15 he is now “exploring” a tender offer to acquire shares directly from shareholders.

Musk said in the filing that he has committed roughly $21 billion in equity financing.

Read more here.

HOUSE INTRODUCES CYBER-ENERGY BILL

House lawmakers introduced a cybersecurity bill on Thursday that would address rising cyber threats against U.S. energy sectors.

The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) and Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), would establish a grant program based at the Department of Energy intended to financially assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.

“Cyber threats on America’s energy sector have never been greater and must be met with urgent action to protect the critical infrastructure that makes modern life possible,” Carey said in a statement.

“Establishing the [program] will strengthen our resilience by further developing a high-skilled workforce with energy-specific cybersecurity expertise,” he added.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Cyber criminals are ‘drinking the tears’ of Ukrainians


Lighter click:
 Iconic celebrity siblings

Notable links from around the web:

Meta’s Sheryl Sandberg Pressured Daily Mail to Drop Bobby Kotick Reporting (The Wall Street Journal / Ben Fritz, Keach Hagey, Kirsten Grind and Emily Glazer)

The Amazonification of the American workforce (Vox / Jason Del Rey)

Spotify is ready to YouTubify itself (Protocol / Sarah Roach)

One last thing: Climate groups slam tech

Dominant social media companies fail to disclose their policies to combat climate misinformation, climate and human rights groups said in a new report released Wednesday.

The report, released by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Avaaz, ranked the public policies on climate misinformation from Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

The report said the companies are “largely leaving the public in the dark” about efforts to combat such misinformation.

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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