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News Every Day |

Hillicon Valley — Musk abandons Twitter’s COVID-19 rules

Twitter under new CEO Elon Musk quietly rolled back enforcement of its COVID-19 misinformation policy, adding to critics' concerns about how the billionaire is running the company.  

Meanwhile, advocacy groups are ramping up pressure for lawmakers to vote on two key antitrust bills before the end of the year through a new ad featuring a deep fake of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a letter to the White House.  

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 and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter?

Twitter stops enforcing COVID rules

Twitter is no longer enforcing its policy about COVID-19 misinformation as part of changes made under new CEO Elon Musk.  

Twitter did not formally announce the change, but a note was added to the top of the page about the policy to say that the rule was being rolled back.  

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the note stated

The platform suspended more than 11,000 accounts for violating the policy between January 2020 and September 2022, according to data published by Twitter

  • The cessation of the policy’s enforcement is part of changes Musk has made since closing his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter at the end of October. He has pledged to create a “free speech” platform, detailing a vision for having less content moderation measures in place in a way that critics have warned will lead to more hate speech and misinformation on the site. 
  • Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, called the rollback of the COVID-19 misinformation policy an “irresponsible decision” that puts lives at risk and “opens the floodgates to those who spread deadly lies.” 

Read more about the change.

A new approach to the antitrust push

A tech advocacy group used a deep fake of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an ad mocking Congress for inaction over antitrust reform and urged a vote on a pair of bipartisan bills before the end of the year.  

Demand Progress Action’s ad launched Tuesday features the Zuckerberg deep fake toasting Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for upholding their “side of the bargain” by “holding up new laws that hold us accountable,” according to a copy of the ad shared with The Hill. 

“Thank you for your service to me and all of my friends,” the deep fake of Zuckerberg states as the ad flashes to a screen showing the CEOs or founders of Apple, Google and Amazon.  

  • The ad ends with a note disclaiming that “the Zuck is fake, but the message is real,” and urges constituents to call Schumer and urge a vote on antitrust bills before the end of the year while Democrats still control both chambers. Throughout the ad there is also text staying “#FakeZuck” in the corner as the deep fake is speaking.  
  • Portions of the 2.5-minute video will air as TV ads in Washington, D.C., and New York, according to Demand Progress Action. 

Read more here.  

WHITE HOUSE PRESSURED ON RECUSAL

Advocacy groups urged the White House to recuse the director of the office of legislative affairs from interacting with Congress about key antitrust bills targeting tech giants, pointing to her past work as public policy director at Facebook.  

Revolving Door Project and six other groups said despite there being no legal requirement to recuse Louisa Terrell, the White House should “adopt a higher standard in this matter,” and insist on a recusal, according to a copy of a letter exclusively shared with The Hill.  

The letter was sent Tuesday to White House chief of staff Ron Klain. 

  • In addition to Terrell’s past at Facebook, the letter cites a Bloomberg report that in outreach to Capitol Hill, Terrell rarely mentioned the antitrust legislation and pivoted conversations to other tech issues, such as data privacy. 
  • The White House told Bloomberg Terrell has been supportive of the legislative effort and rejected claims that she was disengaged. 
  • The Hill reached out to a White House spokesperson for comment on the letter. 

Read more about the letter.

MUSK TO RELEASE ‘FREE SPEECH’ FILES

Elon Musk said “files on free speech suppression” will soon be published on Twitter as he pushes for less content moderation on the platform.  

Musk announced the plan in a tweet on Monday, saying “The public deserves to know what really happened.”  

“This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead,” he said in another tweet later on Monday. 

The Twitter and SpaceX CEO’s announcement comes as he has restored multiple high-profile accounts that were suspended for violating the platform’s policies and pushed back against accounts being suspended in many cases.  

Read more here

GOOGLE AI TO AID BREAST CANCER SCREENINGS

Medical technology iCAD Inc. announced on Monday it has signed a commercialization agreement with Google Health to utilize its artificial intelligence technology for the improvement of breast cancer screenings

In a statement, iCAD said Google will be licensing its AI tech for “breast cancer and personalized risk assessment.” This marks the first instance in which Google has entered into a commercial partnership to use its AI imaging technology for clinical practice. 

  • Google said in its own statement that its mammography AI technology will be incorporated into iCAD’s products. According to both companies, the ultimate goal of this partnership is to improve breast cancer detection and assessment of short-term personal cancer risk. 
  • “Joining forces with Google marks a historic milestone for our Company, as leveraging Google’s world-class AI and Cloud technology elevates the caliber of our market-leading breast AI technologies and may also accelerate adoption and expand access on a global scale,” said Stacey Stevens, iCAD’s president and CEO. 

Read more here

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Digital needs funding for its ‘social justice’ movement moment 

Notable links from around the web: 

Sympathy, and Job Offers, for Twitter’s Misinformation Experts (The New York Times / Tiffany Hsu) 

UK waters down internet rules plan after free speech outcry (The Associated Press / Jill Lawless)

☕ Lighter click: You can't take it from us

One more thing: $57M for 3D moon bases

A Texas-based company that aims to 3D-print future moon and Mars bases received $57 million from NASA this week. 

Austin-based ICON received the five-year contract to build out construction methods to fabricate future roads, landing pads and habitats from lunar or Martian materials. 

“In order to explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs,” Niki Werkheiser, a director at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. 

The grant is a continuation of an existing partnership to develop construction methods that allow infrastructure to be built from lunar or Martian soil, according to NASA. 

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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