Hillicon Valley — Musk goes to war with Apple

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Twitter CEO Elon Musk has a new target: Apple. In a string of tweets, the billionaire attacked the tech giant for pulling ads from Twitter, collecting fees from in-app purchases and allegedly threatening to pull Twitter from the App Store.  

Meanwhile, layoffs at major tech companies could put pressure on some housing markets.  

This is Hillicon Valley, we’re Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Let’s jump in.

Musk’s latest target 

Twitter CEO Elon Musk publicly went after Apple on Monday for suspending some of its advertising on the social media platform, seemingly trying to take Twitter’s issues over a mass exodus of advertisers and turn it into a battle over “free speech.”  

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” Musk announced. “Do they hate free speech in America?” 

Musk called out Apple CEO Tim Cook in a second tweet, writing: “What’s going on here @tim_cook?” 

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who acquired Twitter in a $44 billion deal closed last month, has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and promised to advocate for it using his ownership of the platform.

  • Since Musk’s takeover, however, activists have warned that cuts to staff and decisions to reinstate formerly banned users raise safety issues and are leading to more hate speech and disinformation.  
  • Musk also claimed that Apple “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.” 
  • The Hill has reached out to Apple for comment on allegations.

Apple would not be alone in abandoning Twitter for advertising since Musk took over.

Left-leaning watchdog Media Matters for America found that 50 of Twitter’s leading 100 advertisers appear to have halted their work with the site. 

Antitrust allegations: As part of Musk’s string of tweets against Apple, he also attacked Apple over the up to 30 percent commission fees it gains from in app purchases, calling it a “secret 30% tax.”  

App store fees are a key concern among app companies pushing for Congress to pass the Open App Markets Act, a proposal that would add additional regulations to how dominant app stores, like Apple, operate.  

Read more about Musk’s attacks against Apple here.

Tech layoffs could put pressure on housing markets 

A series of layoffs at America’s major technology companies could put pressure on local housing markets amid a broader nationwide cooling.  

These layoffs, brought on in part by a series of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve and a decline in revenues, could cause forced sales, damage buyer confidence and lead to smaller down payments — even from buyers who remain employed.  

  • “The housing market is fueled by confidence, affordability, and most importantly, jobs. Housing demand in tech-heavy metros is expected to be lower in the near-term,” Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, told to The Hill.  
  • “In some cases, prospective homebuyers will lack both the financial ability to purchase a home and the consumer confidence needed to go through with the purchase,” she said in an email to The Hill.   

But some of the most immediate negative housing outcomes could come from damage to the community’s collective psyche as residents see peers lose their jobs. 

Over the last month, a host of Big Tech companies have collectively laid off thousands of employees after a period of explosive growth during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Read more here. 

GROUPS WARN AGAINT KIDS’ SAFETY PROPOSAL

A coalition of civil society groups sent a letter to Senate leaders Monday arguing a bill aimed at improving children’s online safety would have unintended consequences that would threaten privacy and safety for minors rather than improve it.  

The letter, signed by Fight for the Future, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and dozens of other groups, is in opposition to the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).

The bill would add regulations regarding how companies operate online for minors in a way that supporters say would help hold online companies accountable, especially in regards to how they serve vulnerable teen users.  

  • The letters’ signatories, however, argue the bill could undermine teen’s protections online. One concern the letter highlights is over a requirement to have online services prevent a set of harms to minors. The groups argue the prevention would “effectively”’ serve as an “instruction to employ broad content filtering” and that companies would face pressure to “over-moderate” and limit minor’s access to information including educational resources for LGBTQ+ youth.  
  • They also said the bill’s requirement to enable parental supervision of minors’ use of their services would undermine older minors’ independent rights to privacy. For example, they said the bill could subject teens who are experiencing domestic violence and parental abuse to additional forms of digital surveillance and control in a way that prevents them from reaching out for help or support.  

The letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).  

KOSA advanced out of the Commerce Committee with bipartisan support. It is led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).  

In a statement in response to the letter, Blumenthal said he is “always willing to work with stakeholders” but remained steadfast in his commitment to push the bill forward this year.  

“Inaction only benefits Big Tech. Kids and families can’t wait any longer and I will push for KOSA by the end of this year,” Blumenthal said.  
 

The senators are pushing for the bill to have a vote during the lame duck session. They recently hosted a briefing with a group of mothers whose children’s deaths were tied to social media. The parent advocates met with key lawmakers to urge a floor vote on the proposal this year. 

Experts praise officials for securing midterms

Despite the myriad of threats that faced the nation during the 2022 midterms, experts say security for the election proved successful overall. They warned, however, that some improvements are still needed in certain areas. 

Experts praised election officials for being well prepared and efficient at managing ongoing threats while communicating with voters on how to spot disinformation. 

“This was a remarkably smooth election given everything that we were facing as a country,” said Lawrence Norden, senior director of the Brennan Center’s elections and government program. 

In the months and weeks leading up to the election, government officials sent out regular alerts warning the public of threats that could impact the midterms, including cyberattacks, foreign interference, disinformation, insider threats and threats to election workers. 

Despite the success of the election security, experts said there’s still room for improvement, including through allocating more funding and resources to election officials as they combat physical threats to workers, cyber threats, disinformation and insider threats. 

Read more here. 

FCC BANS CHINESE TECH IMPORT, SALE 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has banned the import and sale of certain Chinese technology equipment that it determined poses “an unacceptable risk to national security.”  

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement on Twitter that the commission’s unanimous decision is the first time in U.S. history that it has voted to prohibit the authorization of equipment based on national security concerns. 

He said the order bars equipment from the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from approval, and equipment from Dahua, Hikvision and Hytera can be approved for import and sale only if they assure the FCC that their equipment won’t be used for public safety, security of government facilities or other national security purposes.  

Carr said the FCC’s decision also gives the commission the power to revoke existing authorizations for other equipment. 

Read more here. 

‘BE BETTER,’ CNN TELLS MUSK OVER FAKE HEADLINE

CNN on Monday chided billionaire tech mogul and Twitter owner Elon Musk for tweet that contained a months-old image of a fabricated headline on the network.

“This headline never appeared on CNN,” CNN’s PR department wrote to Musk. “Be better.”

Musk’s tweet contained a screenshot of an image that falsely showed that CNN had run a chyron on the air saying that “Elon Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely.”

Readers online quickly pointed out that the image, first created in April, was fake and that no such headline had run on the network, and a link to an AP Fact Check was attached to the billionaire’s tweet.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: No ‘bright-line rule’ shines on targeting commercial satellites 

Notable links from around the web: 

Twitter’s CEO is now Twitter’s main character (Vox / Whizy Kim) 

Pegasus spyware inquiry targeted by disinformation campaign, say experts (The Guardian / Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Sam Jones) 

How a Cyberattack Plunged a Long Island County Into the 1990s (The New York Times / Sarah Maslin Nir) 

???? Lighter click: Paging Tim

One more thing: Twitter’s ad exodus

Half of Twitter’s top advertisers appear to have halted their activity on the social media platform, amid billionaire Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of the company. 

Fifty of Twitter’s leading 100 advertisers have stopped advertising on the site as of Nov. 21, according to a recent report from the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters for America.  

Several of the companies officially announced their decision not to advertise on Twitter, including Chevrolet, Chipotle, Ford, Jeep, Kyndryl, Merck and Novartis. The remaining companies were identified by Media Matters’s analysis as “quiet quitters,” those that previously advertised on the social media site but have stopped for a significant period. 

Another seven companies appear to be slowing down their advertising to almost nothing, according to the Media Matters report. 

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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