With help from John Hendel
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— Trouble for Telegram: A coalition that tracks radical content across tech platforms is calling for a boycott of Telegram, which it calls “the most utilized” messaging app among extremists who are promoting violence at protests in the U.S.
— In the U.K.: Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube will appear (virtually) today before a parliamentary subcommittee investigating online harms and disinformation.
— DoD moves on 5G: Pentagon officials are redoubling U.S. efforts to keep pace in the global 5G race, naming seven more American military bases that will soon become new testbeds for the technology.
IT’S THURSDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine.
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EXTREMISTS’ APP OF CHOICE? TELEGRAM — Leading tech companies are facing pressure to boot Telegram off Apple and Android app stores after experts and federal officials found that the encrypted messaging platform has played a significant role in inciting violence around the protests that have followed the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. (Telegram, though mainstream, is said to have only limited content moderation relative to other popular social media platforms like Facebook.)
— The Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement officials on Friday that in the days following Floyd’s killing, “a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the ‘boogaloo’ — a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War — by shooting in a crowd,” as POLITICO reported.
— Now, the Coalition for a Safer Web, a nonprofit that advocates for the takedown of terrorist or extremist content on tech platforms, is launching an advocacy campaign calling on Apple and Samsung to cut Telegram’s access to the app stores on their smartphones. The group said Wednesday that it has been monitoring extremist activity across several social media sites and encrypted messaging apps, including Signal and Facebook’s WhatsApp, but called Telegram “the preferred neo-Nazi/white nationalist communications channel fanning anti-Semitic and anti-black incitement during the current wave of protests.”
Extremists on Telegram were encouraging violence against black and Jewish Americans, the coalition found, and sharing information from police monitors to direct their followers to riot in areas with little to no police presence. Coalition president Marc Ginsberg said Wednesday that social platforms like Telegram “no longer deserve to be shielded from content liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” (More about Telegram via NYT.)
TODAY: U.S. TECH GIANTS FACE U.K. LAWMAKERS — Executives from Facebook, Twitter, Google and Google-owned YouTube face a grilling today in the U.K. at a virtual hearing before Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation.
— The “infodemic” of coronavirus misinformation will provide fodder for some of the questions today, as the pandemic has inspired misleading claims about quarantine and social distancing; vaccines; and testing, among other topics. It is the second time the American social media giants have been called before this parliamentary panel during its inquiry into online harms, and today’s testimony comes “in a week that has seen online reactions to U.S. protests renew the debate about actions to tackle disinformation,” the subcommittee said.
— Who we’ll hear from: Facebook’s head of product policy and counterterrorism, Monika Bickert; Twitter’s director of public policy strategy, Nick Pickles; Google’s global director of information policy, government affairs and public policy, Derek Slater; and YouTube’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, Leslie Miller. The subcommittee will also hear from frontline medical professionals expected to discuss how disinformation has threatened their work during the pandemic — an area where doctors and nurses around the world have been outspoken.
PENTAGON EYES NEXT STEPS ON 5G — Pentagon officials are pushing to make sure U.S. interests are represented in the global bodies that develop international 5G wireless standards, amid pressure from rivals like China and the department’s efforts to test potential applications for the next-gen technology.
— Stepping up on the issue of 5G standards represents “a new area for DoD” and involves a so-called tiger team, said Frederick Moorefield, deputy chief information officer at the Pentagon, during a webinar Wednesday. “We typically don’t engage in these kinds of [global] forums.”
— DoD, which sits on valuable 5G mid-band airwaves it has resisted giving up to the wireless sector, is suggesting that the commercial sector will need to embrace ways to dynamically share existing stores of spectrum. “How do we share the airwaves with 5G and 6G and 7G and what’s coming?” Moorefield said. “Within the department, we’re wanting more and more access to wireless stuff.” What’s needed, he said: “Overarching overhaul of how we do business.” These future Gs will require a closer probe of higher-band airwaves known as millimeter waves, which have greater bandwidth for transmitting data, he advised.
— The Pentagon is running 5G testbeds at military bases, and on Wednesday it named the next seven military installations where new experiments will begin, POLITICO reports. Joe Evans, who helps direct the Pentagon’s 5G work, said each tranche works on a timeline of about three to four years.
WICKER WEIGHS NEED FOR SPEED — Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is still eyeing ways to speed up the timeline for an FCC effort to dole out $16 billion in rural broadband subsidies to telecom providers. Companies are scheduled to start bidding for this FCC cash in October, but Wicker points out in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that a bill from Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) would speed that up. Wicker asked the FCC for answers to several questions about the feasibility of such fast-tracking by June 12.
Comcast named longtime lobbyist Mitch Rose as the head of its D.C. office, replacing Kathy Zachem, who is retiring, John reports for Pros. … Nkechi Nneji, who has most recently spent five years as a senior booking producer for MSNBC’s “Hardball,” will later this month join Facebook’s consumer comms team in D.C.
Snap’s stand: “Snapchat said it will stop promoting President Donald Trump’s account to other users because of the threats he has made on other social media platforms about unleashing violence against protesters,” Steven reports.
Washington reacts: “Snapchat drew a wave of repudiations from top Republicans but praise from Democrat Joe Biden,” Steven and Cristiano report.
Hey @jack: The New York Times analyzed one week of the president’s Twitter feed, compiling what it found (“a third of his posts contained falsehoods or murky accusations”) in this article addressed to CEO Jack Dorsey.
Amazon lawsuit: Several Amazon warehouse workers are suing the company, contending that lax safety policies at a Staten Island facility put them — and their family members — at risk of contracting the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports. (One of those family members died.)
More Zuck fallout: Nearly three dozen early Facebook employees called out CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Trump’s inflammatory posts alone, NYT reports.
Eyeballs watching emoji: The first case challenging Trump’s social media executive order, which the Center for Democracy and Technology filed on Tuesday, has been assigned to Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee on the D.C. District court. (h/t Josh Gerstein)
Silicon Valley’s Catch-22: Tech giants including Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have come out to express solidarity with protesters fighting against police brutality — but some of those same companies have police contracts or other business ties with law enforcement, Protocol reports. (AOC has made that same point.)
Notable wrinkle: “Looters who brought stolen iPhones home, or people who end up buying those phones in person-to-person transactions, are in for what may be a surprise: it appears that the stolen iPhones don’t work and may even be tracked by Apple or authorities,” Ars Technica reports.
Speaking too soon?: CES will be held in person in Las Vegas in January, The Verge reports.
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