Hillicon Valley — Dems use TikTok after voting to limit app

Democrats are turning to TikTok to campaign despite concerns raised by colleagues about security issues tied to the China-based app.  

Meanwhile, Congress is ramping up U.S. defenses against foreign spyware after incidents exposing its use on government officials, journalists and dissidents.  

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. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Democrats split on TikTok 

Campaign season has more Democrats turning to TikTok as they seek to reach new demographics ahead of the crucial midterm elections — despite warnings from colleagues about security issues tied to the popular app.  

While the app is primarily known for viral dance videos and dishing up a lighter side of the internet, lawmakers see it as an opportunity to reach new and different demographics, especially younger voters. 

But that opportunity presents security risks. So much so that intelligence officials have cautioned some lawmakers against using the app due to concerns that the China-based tech company could face pressure to share data stored by the platform with Beijing.   

“I would not use TikTok,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told The Hill, given fears about it being a “back door” to the Chinese government. 

  • Lawmakers were concerned enough about the security risks of the app that nearly every Democratic lawmaker backed a provision in the 2021 defense policy bill that barred federal employees from accessing the app on any government-issued device.  
  • But an increasing number of Democrats have been dabbling with posting content there, largely brushing off such warnings, saying they need to use the popular app to reach out to constituents in different ways. 

Read more here.

Congress takes steps to address spyware 

Congress is seeking to ramp up U.S. defenses against the evolving threat of foreign spyware following recent incidents exposing its use on government officials, journalists and dissidents. 

  • Last week, the House Intelligence Committee passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, which included a provision authorizing the Director of National Intelligence to prohibit the U.S. intelligence community from buying and using foreign spyware. 
  • The bill would also allow the president to impose sanctions on foreign government officials and firms that target U.S. officials with spyware.  
  • At a Wednesday hearing, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) shined a light on foreign government use of the Pegasus spyware, which was developed and sold by the Israeli company NSO Group, to monitor domestic and foreign officials, journalists, human rights activists and political opponents. 

“This spyware could be used against every member of this committee, every employee of the executive branch, every journalist or political activist,” Schiff said. 

Read more here


NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is calling out China for failing to share information about debris from a rocket booster falling back to Earth. 

“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” the former senator said in a statement on Saturday. 

The China Manned Space Agency reported Saturday that debris from a rocket crashed in waters off the Philippines, according to several news outlets

China’s “heavy-lift” Long March 5B rocket is especially dangerous, Nelson said, and carries “a significant risk of loss of life and property” with potential impact from debris. 

Read more here.  

Diversity challenges in the cyber workforce 

The White House now has a point person to carry out its pledge to expand diversity in the cyber workforce.  

Camille Stewart Gloster, a Google executive, was hired to head up Biden administration efforts to develop the nation’s ecosystem for tech talent, including building a more diverse cyber workforce and strengthening cyber education. 

It’s a tough task but a pressing one, with the cyber sector facing widespread workforce shortages. 

Suzanne Spaulding, a senior adviser for homeland security and director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Stewart Gloster’s hire was significant.  

“It’s not just the visibility of a woman of color taking a senior position on cyber in the government but one that has a high profile in the very communities we’re trying to reach,” she said. 

Read more here


Tesla CEO Elon Musk confidentially filed a countersuit against Twitter after the company sued him for trying to terminate a deal to buy the social media platform for $44 billion earlier this month, according to multiple news reports

The Friday countersuit was not made publicly available. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment to The Hill on the development. 

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that Musk is expected to counterclaim that the number of monetizable daily active users was changed by Twitter before the deal was expected to go through. 

In addition, the Journal reported Musk will likely claim that Twitter did not respond when the SpaceX CEO’s team made inquiries on spam number data that the team claimed were not sufficiently answered by the social media company. 

Read more here


An op-ed to chew on: Can NASA launch two Artemis missions to the moon per year?  

Notable links from around the web

National Park Booking App Leaves Users Feeling Lost in the Woods (The New York Times / Lauren Sloss) 

Thousands of lives depend on a transplant network in need of ‘vast restructuring’ (The Washington Post / Joseph Menn and Lenny Bernstein) 

Data brokers shrug off pressure to stop collecting info on pregnant people (Politico / Alfred Ng) 

🏠Lighter click: DC rent playing games

One more thing: Fetterman’s very online campaign

John Fetterman doesn’t want to be just another white guy from the Midwest promoting populism.  

He wants to be the reason Pennsylvania has two Democrats in the Senate, and he’s willing to do the most to get there.  

Accusing the competition of carpetbagging? Fine. Enlisting a reality TV star for laughs? Great. 

Fetterman’s quest to beat Republican nominee Mehmet Oz is helping shape an election narrative in which both parties are trying to deflate their competition by any means necessary. And the state’s very-much-online race for the upper chamber is emerging as one of the most eccentric — and consequential — contests of the cycle.

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.