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Hillicon Valley — Musk leans in on whistleblower complaint

Elon Musk used the Twitter whistleblower’s complaint in his latest request to back out of his deal to purchase the company for $44 billion.  

In other app news, former President Trump’s Truth Social app’s is awaiting approval for the Google Play store over content moderation concerns.

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare. Subscribe here.

Musk’s new approach

Elon Musk’s legal team cited allegations from a Twitter whistleblower in a new request to terminate Musk’s agreement to purchase Twitter for about $44 billion, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Monday.  

The filing is the latest salvo in Musk’s battle to back out of the deal as he awaits a trial set for mid-October with Twitter to resolve whether he has to go through with the purchase.  

  • Musk’s argument to retreat from his purchase, agreed to in April, is based largely on allegations that Twitter failed to provide him with accurate information about the number of spam bot accounts on the platform in breach of the term agreements.
  • In former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko’s complaint, reported by The Washington Post and CNN last week, he alleged the company is susceptible to hacks by foreign governments and is not in compliance with a 2011 consent decree from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to improve security on the platform. 
  • He also alleged the company does not accurately represent the number of spam bots on the account based on its count of monetizable daily active users. 

Twitter’s response: Twitter filed Tuesday in response to Musk’s latest request calling the argument “invalid and wrongful” under the terms of the agreement.  

“It is based solely on statements made by a third party that, as Twitter has previously stated, are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lack important context,” the letter states.  

Read more here.  

Trouble for Truth Social in Google store

Content moderation concerns are holding up the approval of former President Trump’s Truth Social app on Android devices, a Google spokesperson said Tuesday. 

Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes claimed last week that the Android version of the app was ready and waiting on Google’s approval. 

However, a Google spokesperson said in a statement that the platform lacks the “effective” content moderation needed to meet the Google Play app store’s terms of service.

“On August 19 we notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies in their current app submission and reiterated that having effective systems for moderating user-generated content is a condition of our terms of service for any app to go live on Google Play,” the spokesperson said. 

Axios first reported on Google’s hold up of the app. 

Read more here.

Self-harm hashtags up on Twitter

The prevalence of Twitter hashtags related to self-harm has increased about 500 percent in the past year, despite many of those posts violating the platform’s policy on the subject, according to a new report.  

The report from the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent research organization that studies misinformation and hate on social media platforms, and Rutgers University states that users have made tens of thousands of posts per month related to self-harm since October. Many of the posters appeared to be adolescents and young adults, according to the report.  

The report states that 5Rights, a United Kingdom-based children’s digital rights charity, alerted Twitter to the hashtag #shtwt, which stands for “self-harm Twitter,” in October. 5Rights said the platform’s algorithms were promoting profiles that use this hashtag to other users who were searching “self-harm” instead of connecting them with resources to help. 

A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill that self-harm is an “extremely complex and sensitive” issue that the company takes very seriously. They said Twitter works with a group of independent experts to determine its approach to the issue. 

Read more here.  


An op-ed to chew on: We’re not prepared for our runaway space debris problem 

Lighter click: not the choice we would suggest

Notable links from around the web: Snap plans to lay off 20 percent of employees (The Verge / Alex Health) 

California Approves Bill to Punish Doctors Who Spread False Information (The New York Times / Steven Lee Myers) 

Ready or not, mass video deepfakes are coming (The Washington Post / Steven Zeitchik) 

One more thing: Union support rises

Seventy-one percent of Americans indicated support for labor unions in a Gallup poll released on Tuesday, the highest percentage since 1965. 

The latest measure is a slight uptick from the 68 percent who supported labor unions when the survey giant polled the question last year. 

Gallup has tracked union approval for decades, and support has gradually increased since 2009. 

Support fell below 50 percent for the only time in 2009, but ever since has been improving to levels now not seen in more than a half-century. 

The increased support comes as workers at many major companies have pursued union campaigns. 

In April, workers at one of Amazon’s New York City facilities voted to become the first of the e-commerce giant’s U.S. locations to unionize. 

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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