Facebook, Twitter, and Google Summoned to Congressional Panel on Russian Election Interference

Hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1.

Representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google have been asked to appear on Nov. 1 at hearings on alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics called by the U.S. Senate and House Intelligence Committees, officials said.

Facebook and Twitter have already agreed to send representatives to the Senate committee hearing, a Congressional official said.

An official knowledgeable about House committee plans declined to disclosed whether the companies have agreed to send representatives to its hearing.

Sources said that Google had not yet notified the committees that it would send representatives to the hearings, though ultimately the company was likely to do so.

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Google Also Found Russia-Backed Ads on YouTube and Gmail

Google has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail, Google search, and other products, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook fb , which may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, the paper reported. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.

Google, owned by Alphabet googl , did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the story.

Google has downplayed the possibility of Russian influence on its platforms, but launched a probe into the matter, according to the Post. Both Twitter twtr and Facebook have said that Russia bought ads and had accounts on their platforms.

Meanwhile, Congress has started multiple investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, with lawmakers on both political sides saying Russia intended to sow discord in the United States, spread propaganda, and sway the election to elect President Donald Trump.

Google officials are expected to testify publicly before both the House and Senate intelligence committees on Nov. 1 alongside Facebook and Twitter about Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the election.

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Famed Architect’s Lawsuit Against Google Just Got Much More Serious

Eli Attia alleges he wasn’t the only one mistreated by the search giant.

A long-running lawsuit filed against Google by a prominent architect has just gotten much broader.

Last week, the Superior Court of California granted a motion adding racketeering charges to the civil case being pursued against Google by Eli Attia, an expert in high-rise construction. Attia claims Google stole his idea for an innovative building design method – and now he wants to prove that it does the same thing frequently.

Attia’s suit was originally filed in 2014, four years after he began discussions with Google (prior to its reorganization as Alphabet) about developing software based on a set of concepts he called Engineered Architecture. Attia has said Engineered Architecture, broadly described as a modular approach to building, would revolutionize the design and construction of large buildings. Attia developed the concepts based on insights gleaned from his high-profile architecture career, and has called them his life’s work.

Google executives including Google X cofounder Astro Teller came to share his enthusiasm, and championed developing software based on Engineered Architecture as one of the company’s “moonshots.” But Attia claims the company later used his ideas without fulfilling an agreement to pay to license them.

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Attia’s suit names not just Google, but individual executives including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It also names Flux Factory, the unit Attia’s suit alleges was spun off specifically to capitalize on his ideas.

Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, Attia’s lawyer claims Google told Attia his project had been cancelled, “when in fact they were going full blast on it.” Flux Factory is now known as Flux, and touts itself as “the first company launched by Google X.”

Attia’s suit will now also seek to prove that his case is representative of a much broader pattern of behavior by Alphabet. According to court documents, the motion to add racketeering charges hinged on six similar incidents. Those incidents aren’t specified in the latest court proceedings, but Alphabet has faced a similar trade-secrets battle this summer over X’s Project Loon, which has already led to Loon being stripped of some patents.

The idea of racketeering charges entering the picture will surprise many who associate them with violent organized criminals. But under RICO statutes, civil racketeering suits can be brought by private litigants against organizations and individuals alleged to have engaged in ongoing misdeeds. The broader use of racketeering charges has slowly gained ground since the introduction of RICO laws in the 1960s, with some famous instances including suits against Major League Baseball and even the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tech

Facebook, Google, Twitter asked to testify on Russian meddling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Executives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter have been asked to testify to the U.S. Congress in coming weeks as lawmakers probe Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election, committee sources said on Wednesday.

A Senate aide said executives from the three firms had been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to appear at a public hearing on Nov. 1.

The leaders of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said the panel would hold an open hearing next month with representatives from unnamed technology companies in an effort to “better understand how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election.”

Representatives for Facebook and Google confirmed they had received invitations from the Senate committee but did not say whether the companies would attend. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The House panel did not immediately identify any companies, but a committee source said lawmakers expected to hear from the same three firms the Senate had asked to testify.

The requests are the latest move by congressional investigators to gain information from internet companies as they probe the extent of Moscow’s alleged efforts to disrupt last year’s U.S. election. Lawmakers in both parties have grown increasingly concerned that social networks may have played a key role in Russia’s influence operation.

Facebook revealed this month that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $ 100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle, a revelation that has prompted calls from some Democrats for new disclosure rules for online political ads.

On Wednesday, Trump attacked Facebook in a tweet and suggested the world’s largest social network had colluded with other media outlets that opposed him. The president has been skeptical of the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election and has denied his campaign colluded with Moscow.

The salvo prompted a lengthy rebuke from Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who said both Trump and liberals were upset about ideas and content on Facebook during the campaign.

“That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page.

Other internet firms besides Facebook are also facing rising scrutiny over how Russia may have leveraged their platforms. Twitter is expected to privately brief the Senate panel on Thursday.

Republican Senator James Lankford, who has received classified information about Russia’s interference as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that the country’s attempts to sow discord in U.S. domestic affairs had not abated.

Russian internet trolls over the weekend fueled the debate ignited by Trump over whether NFL players should have the right to kneel during the national anthem, Lankford said.

Also on Wednesday, the Daily Beast, citing unnamed sources, reported that a Facebook group named “United Muslims of America” was a fake account linked to the Russian government and that it was used to push false claims about U.S. politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The group bought Facebook ads to reach targeted audiences, promoting political rallies aimed at Muslims, the website reported.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are two of the main congressional panels probing allegations that Russia sought to interfere in the U.S. election to boost Trump’s chances at winning the White House, and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz, additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Peter Cooney and Andrew Hay

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

How Facebook, Google Handle Political Ads Will Inevitably Change, Marketers Say

Facebook and Alphabet’s Google have little choice but to rein in internet political ads in the face of growing U.S. government pressure, a panel of advertising consultants and executives said on Monday.

Speaking at a trade conference, the marketers seized on allegations that Russian operatives bought U.S. political ads on Facebook as evidence that the sector cannot go on being unregulated.

“I think there will be more scrutiny, and there better be more self-regulation. Otherwise, I think regulation will be coming,” Brent McGoldrick, a political ad consultant and a Republican, said at Advertising Week New York.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to do more to deter governments from using Facebook to manipulate elections in other countries, after the company disclosed $ 100,000 in Russian ad purchases in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The 3,000 ads included some that highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women, as well as others that showed a deep understanding of U.S. social divides, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Facebook shares ended down 4.5% on Monday, closing at $ 162.87, as some investors worried the tech sector had become too expensive.

Zuckerberg has also unveiled sweeping changes to how his company handles political ads, saying it would make them visible to all users regardless of whom the ads target.

Andrew Capone, senior vice president of NCC Media, a cable trade group, joked on Monday’s panel that during the 2016 election campaign, “Facebook took in over 300 million rubles – I’m sorry, dollars.”

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McGoldrick said on the panel: “If I were Facebook and Google and everyone else, I would be developing a code of conduct and a set of criteria. They may already exist, but obviously it’s not either robust enough or transparent enough.”

Google has said it has no evidence on its ad platform of a Russian propaganda campaign like the one Facebook found.

The two Silicon Valley firms are set to take a combined 63% of the U.S. market this year, according to research firm eMarketer.

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Though Facebook and Google have for years resisted regulation of political ads, congressional investigators and U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller have helped to change the situation, said Jefrey Pollock, president of public relations firm Global Strategy Group.

“Things change with a subpoena,” Pollock, a Democrat, said as part of the panel.

Tech

Uber vs Google: And now, the self-driving car war gets nasty

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Even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world are at the mercy of a grade-school concept: supply and demand.

That’s how a person like Anthony Levandowski can get paid $ 120 million by Google, leave to start his own company, watch that company get acquired by Uber just months later, and then find himself barred from working on self-driving car technology by a U.S. court.

That goes to show just how important Levandowski—and other engineers like him—truly are to the arms race around self-driving cars. 

“It’s not like [you] can hire any one of the thousands or tens of thousands of people who have a particular certification,” said Nidhi Kalra, who heads the RAND Corporation’s self-driving car policy work. “They’re looking for people who are innovators in the fields of machine learning, deep learning, LIDAR design—and there aren’t a lot of those people out there.” Read more…

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This week in apps: Instagram face filters, Medium audio stories, Google Assistant on iOS and more

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Reading all the news from Google I/O may have kept you too busy to keep up with this week’s app news. We’ve kept up for you.

Each week we round up the most important app news along with some of the coolest new and updated apps to help you stay in the loop with everything you need on your phone.Here’s what caught our eye this week. If you’re looking for more, make sure to check out last week’s roundup of top apps.

Google Assistant comes to iOS

Starting today, we’re bringing the #GoogleAssistant to iPhones. Whether at home or on the go, your Assistant is here to help#io17 pic.twitter.com/a6T20HwnU9

— Google (@Google) May 17, 2017 Read more…

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How to post Google Photos’ awesome animations to Instagram

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If you use Google Photos, you know the service is so much more than just the best way to store and back up all your photos and videos into the cloud.

Using advanced machine learning, Google Photos can intelligently identify people, places, and things — and it’s all easily searchable. One of the cooler things in Google Photos is the Assistant (not to be confused with Google’s other Assistant on Android and Google Home).

In the Google Photos app on iOS and Android, the Assistant is a card-based panel that does three things:

  1. Shows you the status of your backup.

  2. Automatically creates “movies” based on related video clips.

  3. Creates “animations” using batches of bursted photos. (You can also create your own animations by manually selecting between 2-50 photos, but the end result is the same — you still get a GIF file.) Read more…

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IDG Contributor Network: How Google Cloud will bring AI, machine learning to enterprise software

Google has been quietly hard at work for some time now, developing its artificial intelligence and cloud capabilities to do something new. And at the Google’s Cloud Next conference in March the company announced that it was developing tech to aid machine learning for enterprise business.

Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said the company had invested $ 30 billion into the Google Cloud Platform in order to develop its analysis and artificial intelligence capabilities for the program. The move, he said, was an effort to get into the game of big data, information Schmidt said nations would fight for.

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Snap to Pay Google $400M a Year for Cloud Services

Over the next five years, the company behind Snapchat will pay Google at least $ 2 billion in cloud bills.

On Thursday, Snap revealed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it signed a five-year contract to pay Google at least $ 400 million a year for cloud services. That’s a steep figure, considering that Snap made roughly $ 404 million last year. 

In return for the massive commitment, Snap will receive reduced pricing, though it’s not clear how deep the company’s discounts will be. Sinking a bunch of money into Google Cloud makes sense, because Snapchat began its life built on top of Google’s AppEngine platform-as-a-service offering.

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