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The Houses Passes a TikTok Ban Bill That’s on the Fast Track

The Houses Passes a TikTok Ban Bill That’s on the Fast Track

A TikTok ban is back on the table after the House approved a new bill on Saturday addressing the issues that stalled it out in the Senate.

The bill would allow the Biden administration to ban TikTok nationwide if it doesn’t divest from its China-based owner, Bytedance, within a year. It’s different from a similar bill passed in the House last month and gives TikTok an additional six months to find a US buyer. The previous bill stalled out in the Senate after Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell raised several issues, including the short timeline for divestiture.

It passed easily, in a 360-58 vote.

“This app is a spy balloon on Americans’ phones,” said representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, in his introduction of the bill on the House floor Saturday. “It is a modern-day Trojan horse … used to surveil and exploit America’s personal information.”

The TikTok backlash had bipartisan support. “National security experts are sounding the alarm, warning that our foreign adversaries are using every tool at their disposal, including apps like TikTok, to amass troves of sensitive data on all Americans,” said representative Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat. “This bill takes decisive action to mitigate our adversaries’ ability to collect Americans’ data and use it against us.”

Digital liberties groups have pushed back against a TikTok ban over First Amendment concerns, and because they believe that getting rid of TikTok fails to address the underlying issue of pervasive data collection. “The only solution to this pervasive ecosystem is prohibiting the collection of our data in the first place,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, in a post last month. “Ultimately, foreign adversaries will still be able to obtain our data from social media companies unless those companies are forbidden from collecting, retaining, and selling it, full stop.”

Even X owner Elon Musk spoke out against the ban. “In my opinion, TikTok should not be banned in the USA, even though such a ban may benefit the X platform,” he posted Friday on X. “Doing so would be contrary to freedom of speech and expression. It is not what America stands for.”

Regardless, divestment or a ban now seems almost certain. This new measure had been tacked on to a multi-billion dollar foreign aid package directed at Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. After Iran’s retaliatory attack against Israel last week, this aid has been fast-tracked, which would make it more difficult for the Senate to avoid passing it.

Cantwell has endorsed this latest package, saying in a Wednesday statement, “I’m very happy that Speaker Johnson and House leaders incorporated my recommendation to extend the Byte Dance divestment period from six months to a year. As I’ve said, extending the divestment period is necessary to ensure there is enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done. I support this updated legislation.”

For several years, Congress has tried and failed to force a TikTok sale. Republicans and Democrats have feared that the app poses a risk to US national security, providing the Chinese government troves of American user data. But Congress has provided little evidence to support these claims, and TikTok and its supporters argue that banning the app would violate freedom of speech rights.

The Trump Jury Has a Doxing Problem

The Trump Jury Has a Doxing Problem

You’ve been asked to serve on the jury in the first-ever criminal prosecution of a United States president. What could possibly go wrong? The answer, of course, is everything.

A juror in former US president Donald Trump’s ongoing criminal trial in New York was excused on Thursday after voicing fears that she could be identified based on biographical details that she had given in court. The dismissal of Juror 2 highlights the potential dangers of participating in one of the most politicized trials in US history, especially in an age of social media frenzies, a highly partisan electorate, and a glut of readily available personal information online.

Unlike jurors in federal cases, whose identities can be kept completely anonymous, New York law allows the personal information of jurors and potential jurors to be divulged in court. Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing Trump’s prosecution in Manhattan, last month ordered that jurors’ names and addresses would be withheld. But he could not prevent potential jurors from providing biographical details about themselves during the jury selection process, and many did. Those details were then widely reported in the press, potentially subjecting jurors and potential jurors to harassment, intimidation, and threats—possibly by Trump himself. Merchan has since blocked reporters from publishing potential jurors’ employment details.

The doxing dangers potential jurors face became apparent on Monday, day one of the proceedings. An update in a Washington Post liveblog about Trump’s trial revealed the Manhattan neighborhood where one potential juror lived, how long he’d lived there, how many children he has, and the name of his employer. Screenshots of the liveblog update quickly circulated on social media, as people warned that the man could be doxed, or have his identity revealed publicly against his will, based solely on that information.

“It’s quite alarming how much information someone skilled in OSINT could potentially gather based on just a few publicly available details about jurors or potential jurors,” says Bob Diachenko, cyber intelligence director at data-breach research organization Security Discovery and an expert in open source intelligence research.

Armed with basic personal details about jurors and certain tools and databases, “an OSINT researcher could potentially uncover a significant amount of personal information by cross-referencing all this together,” Diachenko says. “That’s why it’s crucial to consider the implications of publicly revealing jurors’ personal information and take steps to protect their privacy during criminal trials.”

Even without special OSINT training, it can be trivial to uncover details about a juror’s life. To test the sensitivity of the information the Post published, WIRED used a common reporting tool to look up the man’s employer. From there, we were able to identify his name, home address, phone number, email address, his children and spouse’s identities, voter registration information, and more. The entire process took roughly two minutes. The Post added a clarification to its liveblog explaining that it now excludes the man’s personal details.

The ready availability of those details illustrates the challenges in informing the public about a highly newsworthy criminal case without interfering in the justice process, says Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director, professor, and James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

‘Trump 2024 To the Moon’: MAGA Fans Go All In on Truth Social Stock

‘Trump 2024 To the Moon’: MAGA Fans Go All In on Truth Social Stock

Truth Social, former President Donald’s Trump’s clone of Twitter, has a fraction of the users of competitors like Reddit and X. The company has never turned a profit, and just happens to be the place where Trump is currently posting.

But on the NASDAQ, the stock exchange where Truth Social became a publicly traded company today, there’s a different story: Truth Social has become a certified meme stock. Trump supporters seem to have conflated their support for the former president with the stock itself, and are buying en masse.

The stock quickly rose more than 40 percent after being listed and trades under a ticker of Trump’s initials, DJT. The company is now valued at more than $6.8 billion. The value, however, could change quickly; the stock was so volatile that it temporarily halted soon after it was listed. The company’s financial performance has been underwhelming. It posted $3.3 million in revenue and lost $49 million in the first three quarters of 2023, according to regulatory filings.

Still, Trump’s fans have posted on Reddit, X, and Truth Social about how they plan to hold the stock in defiance of traditional investing logic. Previous meme stocks like Gamestop and cryptocurrency culture have helped provide the script, but the rhetorical formula is simple: short sellers will perish, this stock is going to the moon, and don’t sell no matter what.

“Let’s go baby! Trump 2024 to the moon,” one user posted on reddit, followed by the rocket ship emoji.

In another Reddit thread, stockholders discussed at what price they would sell shares in the company. “At least waiting for the election win,” one user posted, with the tag Diamond DWAC, a reference to “diamond hands,” a desire to hold a stock despite volatility.

“$150 maybe… but probably waiting for the launch of TMTG+ streaming and also stories videos,” another replied. “Or when our founder is The Leader of The Free World (again) and most reported on person on the world with the most attention on him and his platform. So maybe never‼️”

Reddit user deepfuckingbagholder speculated the company could eventually be worth 1 trillion dollars. When another user replied, saying that valuation would be virtually impossible, deepfuckingbagholder wrote back: “This stock represents the value of Trump’s brand and I personally believe it can achieve that valuation.”

Truth Social is, predictability, a hotbed of conspiracy theories. Electron denialism, vaccine skepticisim, and the great replacement theory are all prominently featured on the site. The company has also been marred in controversy since it began, following Trump’s ban from Twitter after the January 6 riot at the Capitol. A former senior employee filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC, and other former employees have sued the company, alleging a breach of contract. Shareholders voted to take the company public last week, merging Trump Media and Technology Group with a publicly traded holding company, Digital World Acquisition Corp.

The outsized valuation of Truth Social has made Trump incredibly rich. His net worth rose $4 billion to $6.5 billion, making him one of the world’s 500 richest people, according to calculations by Bloomberg News. Trump is restricted from selling shares in the company for about six months, so his net worth could still tank, however, if the price of Truth Social falls.

On Truth Social, one user said a prayer.

“Bless all the patriots invested in #DJT,” GothamGal wrote. “Bless this investment, and make us successful so that we may do your will and bring glory to you. Bless and protect our president DJT, and our country. In Jesus name.”

He Promoted an Election Conspiracy Film. Now He’s Headed for Congress

He Promoted an Election Conspiracy Film. Now He’s Headed for Congress

Brandon Gill, the son-in-law of right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza, has won the GOP nomination for a US House seat in Texas’ 26th District. A former investment banker, Gill set up a right-wing website called the DC Enquirer in 2022 to promote 2000 Mules, his father-in-law’s disproven conspiracy film about the 2020 election.

Gill easily claimed victory over 10 other candidates in the race to replace Representative Michael Burgess, who is retiring after 21 years in Congress. Gill won almost 60 percent of the vote in the comfortably red district, according to AP, and he’s the overwhelming favorite to win when he faces Democrat Ernest Lineberger III in November.

Gill was unknown in the political world until 2022, when he set up the DC Enquirer and immediately fashioned it into a staunchly pro former president Donald Trump outlet that boosted a myriad of election conspiracies.

2000 Mules is changing minds, people are waking up and realizing that the 2020 election was neither free nor fair,” Gill wrote on Twitter in May 2022, a month after he attended the premiere of the film at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Gill’s website was one of the main promoters of 2000 Mules, a so-called documentary created by D’Souza that made wild allegations about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. The film was quickly debunked by multiple fact-checking organizations. In a court hearing last month, the group whose claims the film was based on told a judge they had no evidence to back up their claims.

In recent weeks, millions of dollars were spent on attack ads by two GOP super PACs to oppose far-right Republican House candidates, including Gill. But that was no match for the endorsements from a who’s who of the Republican Party’s MAGA faction, including Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Senator Ted Cruz, Representative Matt Gaetz, Senator Mike Lee, and even the McCloskeys—the far-right couple who became instant Republican celebrities in 2020 when they pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters walking past their St. Louis home.

And Gill still appears to be focused on boosting false claims of election fraud in 2020, posting on X in November: “No we are not going to ‘move on’ from a stolen election. Secure our elections!”

How a Right-Wing Controversy Could Sabotage US Election Security

How a Right-Wing Controversy Could Sabotage US Election Security

It remains unclear how many of Warner’s colleagues agree with him. But when WIRED surveyed the other 23 Republican secretaries who oversee elections in their states, several of them said they would continue working with CISA.

“The agency has been beneficial to our office by providing information and resources as it pertains to cybersecurity,” says JoDonn Chaney, a spokesperson for Missouri’s Jay Ashcroft.

South Dakota’s Monae Johnson says her office “has a good relationship with its CISA partners and plans to maintain the partnership.”

But others who praised CISA’s support also sounded notes of caution.

Idaho’s Phil McGrane says CISA is doing “critical work … to protect us from foreign cyber threats.” But he also tells WIRED that the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), a public-private collaboration group that he helps oversee, “is actively reviewing past efforts regarding mis/disinformation” to determine “what aligns best” with CISA’s mission.

Mississippi’s Michael Watson says that “statements following the 2020 election and some internal confidence issues we’ve since had to navigate have caused concern.” As federal and state officials gear up for this year’s elections, he adds, “my hope is CISA will act as a nonpartisan organization and stick to the facts.”

CISA’s relationships with Republican secretaries are “not as strong as they’ve been before,” says John Merrill, who served as Alabama’s secretary of state from 2015 to 2023. In part, Merrill says, that’s because of pressure from the GOP base. “Too many conservative Republican secretaries are not just concerned about how the interaction with those federal agencies is going, but also about how it’s perceived … by their constituents.”

Free Help at Risk

CISA’s defenders say the agency does critical work to help underfunded state and local officials confront cyber and physical threats to election systems.

The agency’s career civil servants and political leaders “have been outstanding” during both the Trump and Biden administrations, says Minnesota secretary of state Steve Simon, a Democrat.

Others specifically praised CISA’s coordination with tech companies to fight misinformation, arguing that officials only highlighted false claims and never ordered companies to delete posts.

“They’re just making folks aware of threats,” says Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Adrian Fontes. The real “bad actors,” he says, are the people who “want the election denialists and the rumor-mongers to run amok and just spread out whatever lies they want.”

If Republican officials begin disengaging from CISA, their states will lose critical security protections and resources. CISA sponsors the EI-ISAC, which shares information about threats and best practices for thwarting them; provides free services like scanning election offices’ networks for vulnerabilities, monitoring those networks for intrusions and reviewing local governments’ contingency plans; and convenes exercises to test election officials’ responses to crises.

“For GOP election officials to back away from [CISA] would be like a medical patient refusing to accept free wellness assessments, check-ups, and optional prescriptions from one of the world’s greatest medical centers,” says Eddie Perez, a former director for civic integrity at Twitter and a board member at the OSET Institute, a nonprofit group advocating for improved election technology.