Senate Commerce Urges Facebook Probe, Chinese Export Restrictions, Microsoft IoT Security Survey

Senators are concerned over Facebook’s practices for advertising and hate speech moderation.

Senate Commerce Urges Facebook Probe, Chinese Export Restrictions, Microsoft IoT Security Survey
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

December 10, 2021 – In a potentially damaging move to Facebook, Senate Commerce Committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether parent company Meta has misled businesses over efforts to protect them from hate speech and overstated the reach of Facebook advertising.

On Thursday Cantwell expressed her concerns in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, and further stressed that Meta’s actions have had negative effects for the public. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also voiced Cantwell’s concerns later Thursday in a letter to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for criminal and civil investigations.

Warren had previously asked DOJ to investigate advertising deals Facebook and Google had allegedly made with each other.

Facebook reportedly controlled 74% of social media’s digital advertising market in July of 2020 and now controls 24% of all U.S. digital-advertising spending.

Cantwell is worried that Meta “could significantly misrepresent the effectiveness of Facebook’s algorithms” in taking down hate speech, citing whistleblower documents which show that despite Facebook’s claims of effectiveness it misses “more than 90% of hate speech content.”

All this comes following the initiation of FTC and state attorney general investigations into Meta following allegations made by company whistleblower Frances Haugen that the company has ignored and minimized harms caused by its products.

Defense Department Proposal for Chinese Export Bans

U.S. officials are considering discussing a Defense Department proposal to close regulatory loopholes that allow Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation to purchase critical U.S. technology, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Due to SMIC’s, China’s largest contract chipmaker, alleged ties to the Chinese military, the company was placed on a U.S. blacklist last year that denies it access to advanced manufacturing equipment from U.S. suppliers.

WSJ reports that some Commerce Department officials are attempting to block the Defense Department’s proposal.

Officials are also considering adding more Chinese technology companies to the Commerce Department’s entity list and to the Treasury list banning U.S. investment.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region due to concerns over forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the area.

Microsoft survey shows poor security for IoT devices

Amid increasing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, a recently-released Microsoft survey of corporations’ Internet of Things and Operational Technology devices has found few security precautions and low confidence in security among corporate information technology leaders.

Of IT officials, 64% who responded to the survey had low or average confidence that their IoT devices were patched and were unsure whether those devices had been compromised, and 63% said they believe attacks on their devices will increase significantly in coming years.

Additionally, great potential for hacks was found in the fact that IoT and OT devices were connected to corporations’ central networks. 51% of OT networks were found to be connected to corporate IT networks, 56% of respondents reported devices on their OT network were connected for remote access and 88% said their business IoT devices were connected to the internet.

Since prominent hacks of Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA occurred earlier this year, information has surfaced showing hackers may have gained access to the companies’ systems through vulnerabilities in their IoT devices.

A total of 615 information technology, IT security and OT security practitioners in total were included in the survey.

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