Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Carsten Rehder/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Facebook filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a controversial Israeli private surveillance contractor, NSO Group, for allegedly providing the tools that governments used to try to hack 1,400 cellphones and mobile devices through Facebook's WhatsApp platform.

The big picture: Intelligence groups and law enforcement agencies contract NSO Group to provide spyware that governments can use to surveil the cellphones of perceived threats. While the spyware is intended to track terrorists and criminals, in practice authoritarian regimes often use it to target activists, dissidents, journalists and opposition political figures.

Why it matters: NSO recently announced new processes to investigate human rights abuses, but critics believe misuse of the surveillance tool — as well as competitors' products in the space — will be difficult to curtail.

  • This is the first time that an entity with the power to take on disreputable foreign nations or the NSO itself has done so to prevent spyware misuse.

Facebook alleges that phishing messages harboring NSO's Pegasus surveillance tools were sent over WhatsApp 1,400 times. That, said Facebook, would be a violation of state and federal civil statutes, not to mention WhatsApp's terms of service.

  • Facebook filed the suit in a U.S. district court in San Francisco.

WhatsApp released a blog post explaining the reason for the lawsuit on Tuesday afternoon.

  • The chat app noted it had worked with the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab — a research group devoted to protecting civil society from nation-backed hackers — to investigate a major abuse of the platform discovered in May 2019.
  • The blog post and court documents allege NSO set up phony WhatsApp servers to breach phones in a way that did not require users to answer NSO's calls.
  • At least 100 victims appear to have come from civil society, which WhatsApp calls "an unmistakable pattern of abuse."

According to John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab, victims included (among others):

  • Prominent religious figures from multiple religions.
  • Well-known journalists and TV personalities.
  • Lawyers working on human rights.


What they're saying:
“In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today’s allegations and will vigorously fight them," NSO said in a statement. "The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. ... It has helped to save thousands of lives over recent years."

Read the lawsuit here:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from NSO Group.

Go deeper

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

CBC members nix border visit

A Haitian migrant carries a toddler on his shoulders today as he crosses the Rio Grande River. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week to investigate the conditions faced by Haitian migrants and protest allegations of inhumane treatment by U.S. agents.

Why it matters: It's a thorny proposition both in terms of timing and messaging. Going assures a new wave of negative headlines for President Biden amid sinking popularity. And with congressional deadlines in the coming days over infrastructure, a possible government shutdown and debt-limit crisis, Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the House.