With help from Leah Nylen, Cristiano Lima and Mark Scott
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— The counting continues: As the country’s largest social networks rush to flag premature victory claims and false content while we await a winner, that misinformation is finding new homes on TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other tech platforms.
— Tech ballot measures get thumbs up: After Proposition 22 passed in California, securing a major win for gig giants like Uber and Lyft, proposals dealing with privacy, monopolies and personal data passed across the country on Wednesday.
— The view from Congress: Several of the highest-stakes congressional tech races are still too close or too early to call, but no matter how the chambers fare, expect bipartisan talks around Section 230, privacy and competition to continue.
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SUNRISE, SUNSET. SUNRISE, SUNSET. STILL NO WINNER — Following another marathon day of vote-counting and tech platforms playing whack-a-mole to flag premature victory claims, we’re still without conclusive results in the presidential election.
— Though we may be nearing the finish line, misinformation experts fear that this is the point when violent rhetoric could increasingly boil over from online into real life. “Extremist activity is starting to pick up,” Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, said Wednesday. “We’re seeing a lot of ‘standby’ rhetoric. As we get more results, I would expect to see a possible uptick in localized violence.” The lab, which studies misinformation around the world, is tracking potential activity in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” Brookie added. “This is the point in the election that is most prone to disinformation.”
— A caveat: Misinformation researchers from the Election Integrity Partnership, which has been flagging its findings and concerns to social media platforms in real time, say the calls to violence are so far “nonspecific” and “aspirational.” Brookie’s colleague Emerson Brooking, resident fellow at the lab, stressed in a partnership briefing Wednesday evening that “though the temperature may be rising in the nation regarding vote tallying, overt discussion of violence is not.”
— The misinfo fight on Facebook, Twitter: “Facebook and Twitter struggled Wednesday to contain a deluge of false claims from President Donald Trump and his supporters that Democrats were trying to steal the election — sparking criticism from the left that their labels and fact checks weren’t going nearly far enough,” my colleague Steven Overly reports. “Posts using the hashtags #StealTheVote and #VoterFraud garnered more than 300,000 interactions, including likes, comments and shares, on Facebook in the hours after Trump falsely declared victory.”
— The misinfo fight beyond: These false and misleading claims are spilling over from the more mainstream social networks to platforms like TikTok, LinkedIn and Pinterest, often in the form of screenshots or through searchable hashtags that have yet to be banned, researchers from the partnership said during the briefing Wednesday evening. Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, separately warned Wednesday that fake social media accounts purporting to be reliable news organizations (like The Associated Press) were feeding the misinformation fire by preemptively declaring election winners in states that had not been called.
MORE TECH BALLOT MEASURES GOT THE GREEN LIGHT — In addition to the passage Tuesday of Prop 22 in California — which as we noted in MT will have major implications for gig economy companies including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart — voters have pushed through several other ballot measures on tech issues from privacy to facial recognition. Some big outcomes to note from Wednesday:
— California’s Prop 24: Voters gave the green light to an overhaul of the state’s landmark (and relatively new) consumer privacy law. “Proposition 24 expands the California Consumer Privacy Act, beginning in 2023, giving Californians the ability to restrict how companies may use their ‘sensitive’ personal information while also allowing them to block the sharing of personal information — not just its sale,” my colleague Katy Murphy reports. More here on the measure, and who came out for and against it.
— Massachusetts’ Question 1: Voters passed a statute that would require car makers to allow third-party repair shops to obtain vehicles’ computer data for repairs. Automakers already provide that data to dealerships, and independent mechanics — who often offer less expensive repair services — wanted the same access. Car manufacturers warned that the “right to repair” proposal could create cybersecurity and privacy risks, while consumer, auto parts and mechanic groups suggested that automakers were opposed because dealerships wanted to maintain their monopoly on repairs. The two sides combined spent about $50 million on the ballot initiative, my colleague Stephanie Murray reports.
— Local spotlight on Maine’s fight against facial recognition: Portland voters approved a ballot measure (Question B) tightening rules around the city’s ban on the use of facial surveillance by public officials. Residents will now be able to sue officials who violate that ban; more here from the Portland Press Herald.
48 HOURS LATER: THE VIEW FROM CONGRESS — Regardless of who takes the Oval Office come January, the government may well remain divided. But no matter how the Senate fares, expect wheels to keep turning (even if slowly) on the tech policy issues that have seen at least some bipartisan momentum in the 116th Congress — from Section 230 and pressure on China to privacy and antitrust.
Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, a telecom-savvy Senate Commerce member and the top Dem on the Homeland Security Committee, defeated Republican challenger John James Wednesday night in Michigan’s Senate race. But several other high-stakes congressional tech races we’ve been tracking are still too close or too early to call. Below, a brief rundown on those nail-biting battles, as of early Thursday morning:
— North Carolina’s Senate race: Sen. Thom Tillis, a key Republican leader in legislative efforts to revamp copyright law, was leading in the race against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, who on the campaign trail called for boosting technology infrastructure.
— California’s 50th District: Just two years after retiring from Congress, tech-savvy former Republican leader Darrell Issa is still in a tight race with Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar. (Read more on what an Issa comeback would look like via Cristiano.)
— New York’s 11th District: Rep. Max Rose, a Democratic subcommittee leader who has skewered tech companies for not cracking down harder on extremist content, is still in one of the chamber’s tightest races with Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis.
Roxy Young, former vice president of marketing at Reddit, was named its first chief marketing officer, and Nellie Peshkov, Reddit’s former vice president of people and culture, was named its first chief people officer. … Rakuten Mobile joined the O-RAN Alliance, and the company’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, Tareq Amin, was appointed to the alliance’s board of directors.
Sigh of relief: Despite the usual technical glitches, all signs (for now) point to a surprisingly hack-free election, POLITICO reports.
ICYMI: In the latest edition of POLITICO’s Future Pulse, I wrote about how so-called long haulers — who’ve recovered from Covid-19 but are enduring long-term, sometimes debilitating, after-effects — are turning to technology as they search for answers.
Buried in the election barrage: “T-Mobile will pay a $200 million civil penalty to the U.S. Treasury to settle a government probe into its subsidiary Sprint’s previous alleged misuse of federal telecom subsidies,” John reports.
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