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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

TWITTER BANS QANON ACCOUNTS: Twitter has banned thousands of accounts affiliated with QAnon as part of a crackdown on the conspiracy theory, a spokesperson for the platform confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.

Accounts and content tied to QAnon will no longer be included in email, push or follow recommendations. Twitter will also take steps to limit the spread of that content in trends and search.

Roughly 150,000 accounts worldwide will be affected by that change, according to Twitter.

More than 7,000 affiliated accounts have already been removed in recent weeks for violating the platform’s rules against spam, manipulation and evading bans.

NBC News first reported the takedowns.

The crackdown on the QAnon theory which posits that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than a dozen people wounded in shooting near Chicago funeral homeCleveland Indians players meet with team leadership to discuss potential name changePelosi calls coronavirus the ‘Trump virus’MORE and the military are working together to expose a shadowy cabal of figures in media, entertainment and politics comes amid problems with harassment against certain figures, according to Twitter.

Read more about the move here. 

ELECTION FUNDS GAIN SUPPORT: Bipartisan federal, state and local officials on Wednesday threw support behind Congress sending states more funds to address election challenges, such as increased mail-in voting, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a Senate Rules Committee hearing on 2020 election preparations, committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP discusses tying K-12 funding to in-person classesMcConnell: GOP coronavirus relief bill will include 5 billion for schoolsPelosi, Schumer set for first meeting with WH team on new COVID-19 relief billMORE (R-Mo.), a key player in securing the funds, said he was open to looking into giving states more election funding with low levels of required state matches.

I think we ought to go back and look at the money you currently have available to you, and maybe make that money more consistent in terms and times it has to be spent and give you more access to the money youve already got in addition to trying to identify the right amount of new money, Blunt said while addressing state officials at the hearing.

Pressure on the Senate to approve further election funding has increased in the wake of the primary elections, during which many local and state officials ran through much of their portions of the $400 million in election funds included in the CARES Act stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March. 

These funds came with a requirement that states provide a 20-percent match, which has become a stumbling block in states reeling from a drop in revenue due to the pandemic. 

A further $3.6 billion for elections was included in the House-passed HEROES Act stimulus package passed in May, the amount experts have pointed to as necessary to ensure states can hold safe and secure elections during the pandemic. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks fracture GOP unityOn The Money: McConnell previews GOP coronavirus bill | Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard | Economists warn about scaled-back unemployment benefitsDemocrats poke GOP over coronavirus relief: Where’s your bill?MORE (R-Ky.) has described the overall bill as a liberal wishlist, and said Tuesday that he plans to roll out a GOP stimulus package this week. He has not yet indicated where he stands on election funds, but backed the previous $400 million. 

Senate Democrats, voting rights advocates, and current and former officials from both sides of the aisle have pushed hard for funding and federal legislation to expand mail-in and early voting during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said during the hearing Wednesday that giving states more funding was essential, emphasizing that the previous $400 million was not enough.

I would rather be putting ballots in a mailbox than people in the hospital, Klobuchar said. Thats a choice we have for so many voters and thats why you see overwhelming support for getting funding, and something I believe we can get done on a bipartisan basis.

Read more about the election funds issue here. 

BAD NEWS KEEPS COMING FOR TIKTOK: The Senate Homeland Security Committee unanimously advanced a bill Wednesday to ban TikTok from government devices.

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese hackers accused of targeting COVID-19 research | House votes to ban TikTok on government devicesHouse-approved defense bill would ban TikTok from government devicesHouse passes defense policy bill that Trump threatened to vetoMORE (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), would bar federal employees from downloading the short-form video app onto government-issued devices.

The legislation will now be considered by the full Senate.

The successful approval from the committee comes amid rising scrutiny of TikTok as a national security threat because of its ties to China. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in and operates out of Beijing.

The Trump administration has suggested it will ban TikTok outright because of its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, although no specific timeline or mechanism has been provided.

TikTok has maintained that it does not transfer data to the Chinese government, arguing that it is being targeted by the U.S. because of America’s economic rivalry with China.

The U.S. has ramped up its opposition to China in multiple sectors recently, with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTop business groups file lawsuit over Trump order limiting work visasTwo US carriers through the Taiwan Strait in 48 years time for more The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Divided GOP to unveil COVID-19 billMORE delivering multiple speeches condemning human rights abuses in the Asian country. 

The administration has also sought to dissuade its allies from using Chinese technology like 5G infrastructure from telecommunications giant Huawei with nebulous claims about national security.

Read more about the legislative effort here. 

SLACK VS. MICROSOFT: Workplace messaging service Slack announced Wednesday it has filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission on Wednesday, alleging the tech giant is using its market dominance to crowd out competition.

The complaint accuses Microsoft of illegally tying its workplace product, Teams, to its suite of productivity tools, forcing millions of installs and hiding the true costs from enterprise customers.

Were confident that we win on the merits of our product, but we cant ignore illegal behavior that deprives customers of access to the tools and solutions they want, Jonathan Prince, vice president of communications and policy for Slack, said in a statement Wednesday.

Slack threatens Microsofts hold on business email, the cornerstone of Office, which means Slack threatens Microsofts lock on enterprise software.

A spokesperson for Microsoft told The Hill they “look forward” to answering any questions in a potential investigation.

“With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing,” they continued. “Were committed to offering customers not only the best of new innovation, but a wide variety of choice in how they purchase and use the product.”

Slack is asking that the European Commission, the bloc’s antitrust body, stop Microsoft from bundling Teams with its other products.

Read more about the case here. 

SENATORS WANT ANSWERS: Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators demand answers on expired surveillance programsDemocrats call for McConnell to bring Voting Rights Act to floor in honor of LewisHouse panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021MORE (D-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators demand answers on expired surveillance programsCongressional inconsistency continues regarding war powers Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose ‘bailouts’ of states in new adsMORE (R-Ut.) on Thursday pressed the Trump administration on whether and how mass surveillance programs authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have been halted since the act’s expiration.

The letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrSenators demand answers on expired surveillance programsLet’s stop the nonsense about federal agents in PortlandDOJ indicts Chinese hackers accused of targeting COVID-19 researchMORE and Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSenators demand answers on expired surveillance programsGraham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probeIn Russian bounty debate, once again this administration lacks intelligenceMORE raises concerns that the administration may be be continuing to conduct surveillance operations by relying on Executive Order 12333.

The order, issued on 1981, has been used before to conduct operations without statutory authorization or congressional oversight.

Congress and the American people have a right to know if this or any other administration is spying on people in the United States outside of express congressional approval, with no or diminished guardrails, Sens. Leahy and Lee wrote.

The rights of all Americans depend on their government exercising its power responsibly, adhering to the rule of law, and upholding its duty to act transparently. Any surveillance conducted in the absence of statutory authorities and congressional oversight would be extraordinarily concerning and illegal.

Reauthorization of the key FISA provisions under the USA Freedom Act has stalled.

After Lee and Leahy successfully added an amendment increasing the role of outside legal experts in FISA court hearings to the House bill in May, Democratic leadership in the lower chamber was unable to get enough votes together and sent the bill to committee.

The senators letter Tuesday asks for documentation showing the administration issued guidance to ensure surveillance activities under USA Freedom were halted on March 15.

Read more about their concerns here. 

Lighter click: Jimmy from LinkedIn

An op-ed to chew on: Mars and the year of Perseverance

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Palantir’s pandemic contracts stir concern ahead of IPO (NBC News / April Glaser)

The Amazon critic who saw its power from the inside (New York Times / Karen Weise)

Uber Deducts Millions from Drivers Wages for Airport Tickets They Can’t Appeal (Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)

Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Trump, GOP senators at odds over next stimulus billHillicon Valley: Russian hackers return to spotlight with vaccine research attack | Twitter says 130 accounts targeted in this week’s cyberattack | Four fired, dozens suspended in CBP probe into racist, sexist Facebook groupsTwitter says 130 accounts targeted in this week’s cyberattackMORE called the quarantine fascist. It didnt hurt Teslas bottom line. (Washington Post / Faiz Siddiqui)