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Six Things Trump’s FCC Chairman Doesn’t Want You to Know About Net Neutrality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/05/2017 - 8:11am in

Under its Trump-annointed chairman, Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission decided last Thursday to revisit its net neutrality ruling. The agency has reopened a docket for public comments on Pai’s proposal to undermine the safeguards needed to protect people from having their internet service providers block, throttle or de-prioritize the online content they want to see.

The last time the agency did this, in 2014 and 2015, it unleashed a torrent of public comments in support of the idea that the open internet should have basic protections under the law. Four million people voiced their concerns via the agency’s beleaguered website. The vast majority of these comments supported meaningful net neutrality protections.

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If FCC Chairman Ajit Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both

BY Kit Walsh | May 10, 2017

That’s just what the FCC put in place: It responded to the public outcry and reclassified ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

The 2015 decision was a stunning victory for the public interest. Millions of net neutrality supporters faced down a mighty phone and cable lobby, which had spent hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade to dismantle the one principle that makes the internet a tremendous engine for equal opportunity, democratic access, free speech and economic innovation.

So why do this again?

Well, this new FCC chairman has attached himself to a Trump White House that’s determined to punish the Obama administration for winning in 2008 and 2012, regardless of the cost to the public. This has put the 2015 ruling, passed under Pai’s predecessor, Obama appointee Tom Wheeler, squarely in the crosshairs.

To reverse the ruling, Pai needs to change the narrative around net neutrality — from a story of widespread popular support, economic growth and free-speech protections to one of perpetual doom and gloom.

In Pai’s dystopian view, the Obama FCC “decided to impose a set of heavy-handed regulations upon the internet” that have “flatlined” investment and “kept countless consumers from getting better internet access or getting access, period.”

For Pai, fabricating a net neutrality counternarrative means making things up — something he’s all too willing to do — while burying mounting evidence that the 2015 net neutrality rules are working well. It’s all part of Pai’s ongoing efforts to keep people in the dark as he tries to strip away the open-internet protections that millions upon millions of internet users demand.

As the Trump FCC moves forward with this misinformation campaign, it’s worth highlighting the six things its chairman doesn’t want you to know:

1. The American public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality protections
Ajit Pai likes to claim that he’s taking action against net neutrality to fulfill his duties as a public servant — “in order to help better the lives of my fellow Americans,” as he says.

But his fellow Americans don’t want his help.

The last time this issue came before the agency, internet users of every political stripe swamped the agency with comments. Most of those comments expressed strong support for enforceable rules. And this wasn’t the first time net neutrality activists voiced their concerns. More than a million contacted their members of Congress in 2006 and helped kill legislation put forth by the phone and cable lobby that didn’t provide meaningful net neutrality protections. Millions more spoke out in 2010 during yet another FCC proceeding on the matter.

It’s abundantly clear that the Trump FCC lacks a public mandate to take away the rights of internet users. Chairman Pai’s efforts to suggest otherwise are based on the sort of alternative facts that are common to the Trump administration and its devotees.

Poll after poll shows strong public support for net neutrality protections, even from Republican voters: A 2014 University of Delaware survey found that 85 percent of Republicans opposed allowing ISPs to prioritize some web content over others. A similar poll from the Internet Freedom Business Alliance found a large majority of self-identified Republicans and conservatives support net neutrality protections. According to the poll, some 83 percent of voters who self-identified as “conservative” wanted government action to guarantee that ISPs couldn’t “monopolize the internet” or “reduce the inherent equality of the internet” by creating fast and slow lanes based on what a given content creator could pay.

It’s abundantly clear that the Trump FCC lacks a public mandate to take away the rights of internet users. Chairman Pai’s efforts to suggest otherwise are based on the sort of alternative facts that are common to the Trump administration and its devotees.

2. The 2015 FCC rules are working

The centerpiece of Pai’s push to take away net neutrality is his demonstrably false claim that the mere existence of Title II authority has reduced broadband investment.

Free Press looked at the numbers, which show the opposite has occurred: Capital investments by publicly traded ISPs were 5 percent higher during the two-year period following the FCC’s vote on the Open Internet Order than they were in the two years prior to the vote.

After digging deeper, we found that telecom-company spending on fiber-to-the-home network terminals and terminal ports rose nearly 50 percent during 2016 alone.

In addition, more innovative online video services were launched in the two years following the FCC’s vote than in the seven preceding years. Online video companies like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix are making massive investments in new content and equipment needed to distribute their media over the open internet. The certainty the FCC’s rules created facilitated this growth in online video innovation.

Don’t believe us? Listen to the executives of all of the major broadband providers. Not a single ISP told its investors that the Title II rules have had a negative impact on its investments.

“Maybe Chairman Pai should have paid attention when AT&T’s CEO explained that Title II had nothing to do with his company’s capital spending,” said Derek Turner, Free Press research director and author of an extensive report on the broadband economics of the 2015 ruling. “If the FCC is interested in the truth and not ideology, it would pay attention to these irrefutable facts and stop peddling falsehoods.”

3. Net neutrality supporters aren’t crazy

We’re librarians, musicians, racial-justice advocates, gamers, entrepreneurs, engineers, students and educators, and so on. Support for net neutrality comes from every corner of society and across the political spectrum.

Don’t tell that to Chairman Pai, who wants you to think that advocates for open-internet protections are violent, left-wing racists.

While rolling out his proposal earlier this year, he devoted a portion of his speech to red-baiting open-internet supporters. He followed that with a video in which he read a few racist comments from the docket, implying that the entire net neutrality community is cut from the same cloth.

Support for net neutrality comes from every corner of society and across the political spectrum.

Net neutrality supporters and opponents alike have condemned the racist comments and called for a civil debate on the open internet. But that hasn’t stopped the chairman.

More recently, Pai staffers have been trolling social media to portray open-internet advocates as members of the anarchist “Black Bloc” protest group known for masking its identity and destroying private property during street demonstrations. Pai’s top policy adviser, Nathan Leamer, was seen outside agency headquarters during the FCC’s May 18 meeting directing reporters to photograph a small group of fake protesters who had attached themselves to a larger pro-Net Neutrality rally. These outliers were dressed up in Black Bloc garb holding signs that called for the censorship of right-wing websites, including InfoWars and Breitbart — promoting the falsehood that Net Neutrality protections restrict free speech.

Such gutter politics aren’t beneath this FCC chair and his minions — and signal their desperation to turn public sentiment against a ruling that immeasurably benefits the American public.

4. Without net neutrality protections, ISPs will wreak havoc on the internet

Prior to taking his position as chairman, Pai called the net neutrality rules a “solution that wouldn’t work for a problem that didn’t exist.”

Calling net neutrality a solution in search of a problem is a favorite talking point of phone- and cable-company surrogates. Pai, who once worked as a lawyer for Verizon, also likes to claim that internet blocking and throttling have never, ever happened.

In reality, providers in both the United States and abroad have violated the principles of net neutrality — and they plan to continue doing so should Pai’s FCC succeed in obliterating open-internet protections.

Providers in both the United States and abroad have violated the principles of net neutrality — and they plan to continue doing so should Pai’s FCC succeed in obliterating open-internet protections.

Whether it’s Comcast blocking access to peer-to-peer technologies (2005), or AT&T forcing Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services (2007–09), or Verizon Wireless blocking people from using tethering applications on their phones (2012), or any other of the multiple instances in which ISPs have taken away internet users’ right to choose, there can be no question that the problem exists.

An argument a Verizon attorney made in 2013 before a panel of judges underscores the way ISPs view the internet. If it weren’t for the net neutrality protections, the attorney said, Verizon would actively pursue arrangements to prioritize certain types of internet traffic while downgrading other websites and services. Verizon even told the court that the company should have the power to edit the internet — suggesting that ISPs are like newspaper publishers, with the power to pick and choose what their broadband customers and others are allowed to say online.

By 2013 and 2014, the nation’s largest providers at the time — AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — had allowed their networks to become critically congested. Millions of Americans were experiencing degraded speeds and unusable video connections. The ISPs were deliberately allowing congestion so they could demand new payments from transit networks and edge providers. “American internet users were just the collateral damage” in this game, said Joshua Stager of New America’s Open Technology Institute.

The 2015 FCC rules, which address this interconnection problem, came at just the right time.

5. Net neutrality is not government regulation of the internet

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ethernet cable

A Primer: Just What Is Net Neutrality — and Why All the Fuss?

BY Staff | April 25, 2017

In 2015, Pai offered a lengthy dissent when an FCC majority passed the agency’s historic ruling. In subsequent statements, he claimed the decision was part of an elaborate Obama plan to “regulate the internet.”

Hardly. The 2015 open-internet rules aren’t internet regulations but a set of safeguards preventing broadband providers from picking and choosing what online content gets priority and what content gets shunted to a slower lane. In other words, the rules regulate ISPs, not the internet. And companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon no more constitute the internet than a company like Georgia Pacific signifies the forest. The FCC’s decision reclassified broadband providers under an existing law that preserves the rights we’ve always had to defend ourselves against communications carriers bent on interfering with our speech.

The 2015 decision draws on thousands of pages of public-record evidence, and took into account the 4 million comments from internet users, all to return to a foundation built on decades of solid law. Common carriage originated in the rules that governed transportation of goods over public roads, rails and waterways. At its core, common-carrier law isn’t about regulating the pathways; it’s about ensuring that those who carry traffic and provide access to these networks are held to a standard of fairness.

Common carriage is a legal principle that operates across our 21st-century economy as well. “It extends free speech principles to privately owned carriers. It is an arrangement that promotes interconnection, encourages competition, assists universal service and reduces transaction costs,” wrote Columbia University economist Eli Noam.

This legal standard still holds water today, not as a regulation of the internet but as a safeguard against those who might abuse access to the open road. Chairman Pai knows this. But as the leading voice opposing Net Neutrality protections, he won’t give it to you straight.

6. Pai and his industry allies don’t support the open internet

Chairman Pai has repeatedly been proven wrong on the facts and the law. And he’s lost his argument against net neutrality in the court of public opinion. In a final act of desperation, he and his allies in the phone and cable lobby have decided to co-opt net neutrality language, pretending to embrace the idea while they move to dispense with the rules that make it enforceable.

“I think the issue is pretty simple,” Pai told reporters in January. “I favor a free and open internet and I oppose Title II. That’s pretty much all I can say about that topic.”

But Pai can’t have it both ways. To ostensibly support the principle but oppose the best and only legal framework to make net neutrality possible is akin to declaring one’s support for free speech, but not the First Amendment.

Such phone- and cable-lobby fakery extends to the FCC comment docket itself. Besides the large influx of legitimate comments, the vast majority of which support net neutrality protections, what appears to be a spambot has flooded the agency with at least 440,000 identical anti-net neutrality comments. These comments use the exact same language to condemn the FCC rules while claiming that repealing Title II “will help to promote a truly free and open internet for everyone.”

Many of the names attributed to the identical comments were drawn from data breaches, when hackers illegally gained access to personal data from leaked databases. What’s more, reporters contacted many of the people whose names and addresses were attached to the FCC filing to find that they hadn’t made the comments in question.

Despite the docket stuffing, there are now more than 2.5 million comments on Pai’s plan. A clear majority of these are from people who want to preserve the rules we won in 2015. The FCC will continue to take comments until Aug. 16, after which it’s supposed to take them into account before making a final decision later in the year.

As more and more people get engaged in this process, it will be difficult for Pai and industry lobbyists to ignore the public and take away net neutrality.

The next three months will be a critical time for people to weigh in. If we’ve learned anything from past fights, it’s that your voice makes a difference. Net neutrality supporters don’t need to fake it. We don’t need spambots, funky investment claims, an army of industry lobbyists or a disingenuous chairman to save the open internet.

Pai’s proposal to kill net neutrality is built on the politics of misinformation. It’s up to people across America, of every political stripe, to call out Pai’s lies and fight to save our hard-won internet protections.

The post Six Things Trump’s FCC Chairman Doesn’t Want You to Know About Net Neutrality appeared first on

Digital platforms and democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/05/2017 - 9:37pm in


Ideas, Internet

To the extent that they overcome the traditional
tyranny of space and time, digital platforms are tools for democratizing participation.
But their impact on citizen involvement varies considerably. Español Português

Pixabay. Public Domain.

For some years now, we have been witnessing the emergence of relational, cross-over, participative power. This is the territory that gives technopolitics its meaning and prominence, the basis on which a new vision of democracy – more open, more direct, more interactive - is being developed and embraced. It is a framework that overcomes the closed architecture on which the praxis of governance (closed, hierarchical, one-way) have been cemented in almost all areas. The series The ecosystem of open democracy explores the different aspects of this ongoing transformation.

impact of digital platforms in recent years affects all areas and all sorts of
organizations: from production to consumption, from political parties to social
movements, from business to public administration, trade unions, universities or
the mass media. The disruption they generate is cross-section and
intergenerational. Undoubtedly, their outstanding assets – at least from a
discursive point of view –, are self-management and disintermediation. Today, through
technology, people can participate actively in processes related to any
particular activity. This is why we often talk about digital platforms as tools
for democratizing participation, overcoming as they do the traditional tyranny of
space and time. If we analyze them in detail, however, and look at the
organizations that promote them, we realize that the improvement in citizen
involvement tends to vary, sometimes considerably, as does the logic behind
their approach.

Cooperativism and digital commons

Fairmondo is a virtual
market, similar to Amazon. A quick look at this platform originated in Germany
may not be enough to realize the current relevance of this project, which
happens to be one of the most paradigmatic projects in platform cooperativism
(conceptualized and popularized by Trebor
and Nathan
) or open cooperativism
(conceptualized by Michel
and the P2P
). In fact, Fairmondo is a digital cooperative owned
by its users, who are also its shareholders.

The impact of digital platforms in recent years affects all areas and all sorts of organizations: from production to consumption, from political parties to social movements, from business to public administration.

open source, innovation and the commons constitute its DNA. Launched in 2013, its
development has been made possible by a series of microfinancing campaigns, which
have raised hundreds of thousands of Euros. Although its dimension is global - more
than 12.000 members and two million products - its logic is local. Fairmondo is
now evolving into a federation of local cooperatives in each country where an
organization gets started. Unlike Amazon, democratic governance is key to its operation.

can distinguish different types of technological platforms, depending on what economic
model they promote. So, for instance, the role of technology as a space for interaction
between equals (P2P) can be linked to the emergence of the Collaborative Economy.
In any case, as
pointed out by Mayo Fuster
, if we are to attempt a critical
analysis, it is fundamental to ask what the business model is (basically, to
distinguish non-profit from for-profit projects), what technology they use (closed
or open source; that is, democratically replicable or not) and what access they
allow to the knowledge that is generated (if the data are public or private). Another
layer can be put on top of this trilogy: the governance of the platform - which
is nearly always intrinsically related to the organization that promotes it. This
is why, when ascertaining the democratizing role of any technological platform,
it is essential to undertake a holistic analysis of its economic, social and
political approach.

each project critically is particularly relevant in a playing field where
citizens no longer act as consumers of goods and services, but also as producers
and suppliers of their own goods. Some digital platforms have already been
denounced, in fact, by those offering services in this way for causing job loss
and favouring insecurity. The Uber app is a good example. Nor can the derived
social impact on the community be excluded from the assessment of their democratizing
function. That is, for instance, the impact in terms of citizen relocation of
the activity of Airbnb: in addition to observing the platform as a tool for exchanging
dwellings among equals, we must analyze in detail its actual use and its social
and economic impact.

short, platform cooperativism or open cooperativism, whether
it focuses on the social strength of cooperative values or on the need to
reappropriate common goods
, calls for a detailed critical
review of the local activity of its digital platforms. This is a different approach
from that of the global analysis of the impact of technology, which quite often
hides the replication of models generated by undemocratic digital environments.

, a
democratic digital platform

aware now of the risks of partial evaluation of the impact of technology and
the key elements to be considered in analyzing it, let us return to our
starting point: democratizing participation. Given the importance of local
assessment of global digital tools, let us now see the case of the multimedia
platform La
, which allows us to synthesize the aspects which, in
our opinion, shape democratic participation.

Platform cooperativism or open cooperativism, whether it focuses on the social strength of cooperative values or on the need to reappropriate common goods, calls for a detailed critical review of the local activity of its digital platforms.

initiative, launched in 2016 in Barcelona, organizes in real time a
collaborative structure with the aim of mapping distributed knowledge generated
in different parts of the city during conferences, meetings, workshops and
other offline meeting formats related to technopolitics and the commons. To do
this, it appropriates several open source tools (collaborative editor, wiki,
content storage spaces) and uses a Creative
license which, while recognizing authorship, allows
anyone to adapt the contents and even use them commercially. Two significant
apps illustrate the value of its functionalities in relation to democratizing

  1. In March 2016 La Teixidora covered, with
    a team of some twenty people, a debate on Collaborative Economy (Economies
    Col·laboratives Procomuns
    ). The classified data were then transferred to the Decidim Barcelona platform, which
    has helped to define, through a broad participatory process, the Municipal
    Action Plan of the Barcelona City Council.
  2. At the same time, the tool has been
    used to monitor the fifteen teams which have been following the economic
    development program La
    , whose aim is the promotion of social
    transformation projects and the advancement of entrepreneurship. Through La Teixidora,
    the participants have been able to establish a space for exchanging knowledge among
    them, with the mentors, with the city service managers and with citizens in
    general. All its contents are open and reusable.

short, through this platform, both processes have been able not only to contribute
proposals, but also to form an open learning space. And by mapping
participation, which makes these processes – both of which are promoted by the
Public Administration - transparent and accountable, thus improving their
democratic quality. At the same time, the information and the learning from their
use are helping to redesign the technological platform itself and adapt it to
the needs of the communities involved.

we have seen, although digital platforms tend to create spaces for interaction,
with no intermediation, they differ widely different in nature and scope. This
is why it is important to create analysis tools that allow critical review and
correct classification. In this sense, as Matthieu Lietaert
points out, while assessing the different types of digital platforms which are
being generated in and around the Collaborative Economy, it is crucial to show
their raison d’être and their impact.
Corporate unicorn platforms, which involve private codes and licenses,
reproduce socially unfair models, while open or cooperative platforms aim at
finding spaces for social and economic transformation.

Technological sovereignty

What economic and social impact does a digital
platform have? Who owns the software and the data generated by its use? Who
governs it? What is the relationship between its users and owners? These are
all relevant questions for the discussion of the role of technology in an open
democratic ecosystem. In our view, if we do not take them under consideration, we
risk providing ourselves with tools which reproduce hierarchical and opaque
intermediation and governance models. This is why, as
Bernardo Gutiérrez says
, the direction taken by some cities
- especially the so-called "rebel cities" - is particularly relevant.
On the one hand, the social and economic role of the new actors – and also
their governance model - is called for; on the other, technological tools for
inter-municipal participation are promoted.

What economic and social impact does a digital platform have? Who owns the software and the data generated by its use? Who governs it?

should come as no surprise that, in the context of the demand for greater
autonomy for the cities - networked and willing to increase their resilience
capacity through the recovery
of their sovereignty
(recognizing the worth of
electricity and water sources and suppliers, for instance, and the traceability
of foodstuffs) -, the technological dimension represents a new inevitable layer
to be taken into consideration in the era of the Net Society - an ecosystem which,
Manuel Castells says
, is currently redefining power

Related stories: 

Citizenship and democratic production


Civil society

Democracy and government




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The Internet Won’t Let Armenia Go Away

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/05/2017 - 3:37am in

Here’s a different kind of story about media and politics.

It demonstrates how the monstrosity of a crime a century old still divides and scorches the world. And it’s one more example of how digital technology is changing geopolitics at every level, from interfering with other nation’s elections to the current wave of ransomware cyberattacks and even the release of motion pictures.

Last Tuesday, Donald Trump had a chummy meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There was a lot to talk about — NATO, Syria, ISIS. They also discussed the continued presence in the United States of Fethullah Gulen, the Erdogan foe on whom the Turkish leader blames last summer’s failed coup d’etat.

In a Washington Post op-ed just prior to Erdogan’s visit, Gulen wrote, “The Turkey that I once knew as a hope-inspiring country on its way to consolidating its democracy and a moderate form of secularism has become the dominion of a president who is doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent.”

No wonder Erdogan wants Gulen extradited to Turkey, where he would probably face certain death. So far at least, we have refused to do so. Meanwhile, as Erdogan looked on, his security detail viciously beat protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.

So given this particular White House, and Trump’s expressed admiration for Erdogan, you know that one topic not up for discussion was Erdogan’s ever-escalating suppression of human rights, especially in the aftermath of the unsuccessful coup and the recent referendum in which he consolidated even more power.

This year, the anniversary of the beginning of the genocide has been marked by the release of two movies, each offering a very different account of what happened. Only one of them is truthful and the response has been both fascinating and troubling.

Here’s another forbidden but related subject that wasn’t on the agenda: the horrific Armenian genocide committed a century ago by Turkey’s Ottoman Empire. Between 1915 and 1922, at least 1.5 million were massacred, some 80 percent of the Armenian population.

Like his predecessors, and unlike the government of Germany after the Holocaust and World War II, Erdogan still refuses to acknowledge what the Turkish government did. Instead, he has admitted that yes, Armenians lost their lives, but as Cara Buckley at The New York Times wrote, “… He implied that they were victims of a war in which all Ottoman citizens had suffered — rather than the victims of a genocide.”

(Although Donald Trump and Barack Obama have condemned the atrocities committed against Armenians, for fear of offending their NATO ally neither used the word “genocide” while president. During the 2008 campaign, Obama pledged he would but never did).

This year, the anniversary of the beginning of the genocide has been marked by the release of two movies, each offering a very different account of what happened. Only one of them is truthful and the response has been both fascinating and troubling.

At the center of all this is the movie The Promise, co-written (with Robin Swicord) and directed by Terry George. It’s about a love triangle: an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an American photojournalist (Christian Bale) and a worldly, beautiful Armenian woman (Charlotte Le Bon) with whom both men are involved. As Turkey aligns with Germany during World War I and begins the systematic extermination of ethnic and religious minorities, their romantic rivalry is put aside and the three unite for survival.

In the interest of full disclosure, Terry George and I have known each other for a long time. Last year, he asked me and a few other friends to come screen The Promise while he still was adding the finishing touches. I thought it was terrific then and still do. The movie’s an old-fashioned love story in the style of David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago or Ryan’s Daughter, an epic set against a vast historical landscape devastated by cruelty and bloodshed.

With Jim Sheridan, Terry George wrote the movies In the Name of the Father, Some Mother’s Son and The Boxer, all of which dealt with the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. In 2004, Terry directed and co-wrote Hotel Rwanda, nominated for three Academy Awards, an unflinching look at the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the world’s indifference to it. So jumping into the middle of the Armenian genocide dispute was not unusual for him. He joked, “If it doesn’t cause controversy, what am I doing it for?”

Last year, Terry realized that another picture on the topic was about to be released. The Ottoman Lieutenant has a similar story structure but it presents a sanitized version of the genocide in which the murders of Armenians are not part of a systematic, state-sanctioned policy but random acts of violence committed by rebellious soldiers.

The New York Times reports, “According to several people familiar with the project, Turkish producers oversaw the final cut, without the director’s knowledge.

“The people familiar with the project said that tensions emerged on the ‘Ottoman’ set after producers pushed to minimize depictions of Turkish violence against Armenians. Several people who worked on the project felt that the final version butchered the film artistically, and smacked of denialism: Dialogue that explicitly referred to systematic mass killing had been stripped out.”

Writing for The Daily Beast, Michael Daly discovered that one of The Ottoman Lieutenant’s producers, “ES Film is based in Istanbul and its co-founders include Yusuf Esenkal, who is said to be a business partner in other ventures with Bilal Erdoğan, son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The younger Erdoğan has been accused by Russia of trading in oil with ISIS and is being investigated by Italy of laundering massive sums of money there, all of which he has denied.”

ES Film also is behind a current TV series that glorifies the life of the last sultan of Turkey, “perpetrator of the first wave of mass killings that were the lead-up to the Armenian genocide.”

So, suddenly a film appears running counter to The Promise narative, produced by Turks whose motives might be less than pure. (It should be noted that The Promise got most of its funding from the late movie mogul, Armenian-American Kirk Kerkorian).

Then things got even stranger. The Promise premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. After just three screenings, IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base, was flooded with 85,000 terrible reviews, a statistical impossibility. Only a handful could have seen the film.

As Mary Wald noted at HuffPost: “85,000 is not a few irate people. It is an organized mob. Or more likely a small network on laptops or in a boiler room working to make it look like a mob. Either way it is coordinated. And to coordinate something of this magnitude, you pay for it.”

IMDB removed all but the 32 or so reviews that they believed to be legitimate. But that wasn’t the end of it. According to Terry George, a similar smear campaign took place on the Turkish version of Twitter and the comment section at YouTube briefly had to be shut down. And he says that in Chicago and other cities large blocks of tickets were bought via the Fandango website and then refunded just before the movie was scheduled to start so that patrons would walk into near-empty theaters.

In the great scheme of things, this may seem like small ball when put up against election hacking, vast troves of leaked documents or taking down an entire national health service, but these insidious tactics add up, pile onto the “fake news” trope and give comfort to the denialists of every stripe. As Mary Wald wrote:

“Governments who are accustomed to controlling the media have put considerable energy into working out how the supposedly open and objective Internet can surreptitiously be harnessed to enforce a political agenda.”

That seems to be precisely what the Turkish government and its friends are doing as they continue to resist the reality of the Armenian genocide.

In 2014, Turkish President Erdogan tried to ban Twitter and YouTube, describing social media as a “knife in the hand of a murderer” when it was effectively used to mount protests against him. Now he has a Twitter account all his own and the knife is in his hand as well. Like deniers and haters here and everywhere, he and his allies have come to realize that the Internet, like any weapon, works both ways. It’s all about where you aim it.

The Promise opens in Spain next month and in Germany in August, and Terry George wonders whether the hostile reaction will be even more strident in Europe. Whatever happens, “We’re in it for the long haul,” he said, noting that he intends to utilize social media to generate outreach programs for classrooms that will heighten awareness of a bleak and overlooked time in world history. It’s a monstrous tale that must be told wherever it can, on movie screens or in cyberspace, never to be forgotten.

The post The Internet Won’t Let Armenia Go Away appeared first on

Should Facebook & Google be Taxed to fund Journalism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 2:50pm in

Ben Eltham | (The Conversation) | – –

There was a fascinating moment towards the end of Wednesday’s hearings of the Senate Inquiry into the Future of Public Interest Journalism. The Conversation

Journalist Michael West was at the stand. West’s experience is in many ways emblematic. Once a marquee investigator for Fairfax Media with multiple scoops to his name, West was made redundant in one of Fairfax’s seemingly endless rounds of job shedding in recent years. He used his redundancy cheque to found a startup,, and took a position as an adjunct professor at the University of Sydney.


West has long been a dogged investigator of corporate excess. He pointed out to the hearing that articles he and Neil Chenoweth wrote while at Fairfax several years ago had led directly to a Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance. The findings of that inquiry – that multinationals like Google and Apple were sending most of their Australian revenues offshore, and paying just cents in the dollar in tax – resulted in tighter laws for global corporations hiding profits in offshore accounts.

“As a result of that, in the budget last week, [Treasurer] Scott Morrison said that they were expecting $2.9 billion rather than $2 billion, as originally anticipated, from just seven companies,” West said.

So, as a result of political action from the Senate and public interest journalism, there is a billion dollars cash— bang!

West added that sources in the Australian Tax Office told him that “there are behavioural changes in the way that multinational companies are regarding this issue of how aggressive they can be on the tax front” and that the ATO is “expecting billions of dollars to flow from that”.

Committee member Senator Nick Xenophon then quipped:

If only you got one-tenth of one per cent of that, Mr West.

Public interest journalism is important for many reasons, including the vital role it plays in holding the powerful to account. But few would have predicted it would play such an instrumental role in plugging Australia’s leaky company tax base.

The senate inquiry comes at an important time. With Fairfax Media at play in the stock market and yet more redundancies at the big newspaper publisher announced, for-profit journalism in Australia has never seemed so vulnerable.

The market dominance of the two US tech giants Google and Facebook is such that they constitute an effective duopoly on online Australian media. These two companies now control the majority of the eyeballs of ordinary Australians. A single graph from market research firm Nielsen best illustrates this.

Facebook and Google dominate the online consumption of Australians. Graph shows sessions per person plotted against active reach; circle size indicates unique audience. Nielsen Digital Ratings, March 2017.
Nielsen Digital Ratings, March 2017

You can see that Facebook and Google have reached almost total saturation of the Australian audience in terms of “active reach” (the percentage of people accessing a particular site or platform). Not only do they have the two largest audiences, but they also soak up the most time spent online. Google’s true size is actually obscured by the fact that its subsidiary YouTube is broken out; YouTube and Facebook are ranked one and two for streaming in Australia.

When it comes to advertising, the duopoly is just as entrenched. A tweet by analyst Jason Kint went viral in late 2016. He estimated that Facebook and Google’s collective share of global digital advertising revenue was about 70%. All the growth in advertising revenue is being captured by the two duopolists; astonishingly, ad revenue outside the twin giants was actually falling. Given that advertising is increasingly digital and online, the two companies have quickly established market dominance.

Australian regulators have been slow to react. While Google is finally beginning to pay a meaningful amount of company tax here, there is apparently no appetite amongst competition or media regulators to come to grips with the digital duopoly. After the ACCC’s embarassing defeat in the High Court in its 2013 case against Google over whether its sponsored links constituted misleading and deceptive conduct, there has been no further attempt to address the company’s market power.

When it comes to media regulation, the touch is even lighter. The majority of the content streamed in Australia through YouTube and Netflix is foreign; the Turnbull government has no plans to implement local content quotas on digital streaming. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has just announced a sweeping deregulation of the existing, weak media policy regime.

Google and Facebook are also increasingly important in the distribution of news. The US presidential election and the British referendum on leaving Europe were both marked by massive digital advertising campaigns, often from parties outside the democratic process, that sought to directly influence the outcome.

The flap over “fake news” has been dismissed by some as merely the latest example of an eternal phenomenon. That would seem to underestimate the problem. The rise of Facebook and Google as aggregators has made it much easier than before to mimic the appearance and feel of legitimate news sites to produce authentic-looking, hyper-partisan news fakery.

A BuzzFeed investigation in 2016 found that “fake news” was shared more widely than real news in the last month of the US presidential election campaign. While some was authored by Macedonian teenagers, much was politically motivated and funded by unknown sources.

The Data & Society Research Institute has recently published an authoritative report concluding that:

the spread of false or misleading information is having real and negative effects on the public consumption of news.

What can be done?

As the inquiry heard this week, advertising once paid for muscular news organisations in the private sector. It doesn’t any more. The dominance of the aggregators now poses a real challenge to the continued existence of a robust fourth estate, outside of publicly funded media.

Still, while regulators have failed to keep up with the rapid pace of industry change, there are models available to address the current malaise.

The future of public-interest journalism and the question of what to do about Google and Facebook have been examined in detail in previous government inquiries. In 2011 and 2012, the Gillard government commissioned the Independent Media Inquiry, chaired by Ray Finkelstein, and the Convergence Review, chaired by Glen Boreham. In the feverish atmosphere of the late Gillard government, neither report gained any political traction. Hardly any of their recommendations were taken up. That’s a shame, because they included some valuable suggestions.

Local content quotas for free-to-air television are set at 55% in prime time. Rather than impose quotas on overseas digital media companies, Boreham suggested the idea of a “converged content production fund” – partly funded by a levy on them. It could support a range of journalism funding pools, just as the Australia Council or Screen Australia currently distribute funding for particular goals. (It could support, for instance, programs for investigative journalism, grants to news publishers, funding for community newsrooms, and so on).

Finkelstein’s inquiry recommended the government consider a public interest journalism fund that would directly subsidise news organisations to conduct investigative journalism. He argued:

The subsidy could be defined as a percentage of the wage bill of dedicated investigative journalism units established by publishers. It would be paid annually on the basis of eligible payroll cost in the preceding year.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We could levy Google and Facebook say, 25% of their domestic advertising revenue and redirect this to fund Australian journalism and other content.

Doing so would take Australia towards a more European model of media regulation and subsidy, in which the state plays a prominent role in feeding the hand that bites it. Countries like France and Norway directly fund for-profit media companies, and yet still maintain media diversity and freedom of expression.

Norway’s recent bipartisan Commission of Media Diversity, for instance, recommended direct subsidies and tax breaks for newspapers and broadcasters, as well as grants to online media and investigative journalists.

While many journalists remain understandably uncomfortable about state funding of the private media, such an outcome may be preferable to the current trend towards declining trust, vanishing scrutiny and fewer and fewer paid jobs in journalism.

Ben Eltham, Lecturer, School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Israeli Headmaster Objects to Use of Holocaust to Spread Fear and Xenophobia in the Young

Yesterday Counterpunch published a piece by Jonathan Cook attacking the Israeli government’s exploitation of the Holocaust and promotional days for the police and army to spread extreme nationalism and hatred of other, gentile nations, amongst its schoolchildren.

Cook describes how a video appeared last week, showing Israeli policemen acting out the killing of a ‘terrorist’ to a group of 10 year old schoolchildren. Meanwhile, on the country’s Independence Day last month, the army was also on parade, letting children play with guns, tanks and grenades. In one West Bank settlement, the children were painted with fake blood and equipped with fake amputated limbs as part of the fun.

Cook points out that the killing of the ‘terrorist’ in the police video, as he lay wounded on the floor, mirrored the real life murder of a wounded terrorist by an Israeli soldier. He also describes the killing of another ‘terrorist’, that has been denounced by the human rights group, B’Tselem. This was a 16 year old Palestinian schoolgirl, Fatima Hjejji, who had frozen after pulling out a knife a little distance away from an Israeli checkpoint. The soldiers then gunned her down. B’Tselem concluded that the girl was no threat, and did not deserve to die.

Cook states that the goal of the public relations exercises is to create a generation of traumatised children, intensely fearful of non-Jews. And the Holocaust is a part of this process indoctrination. He writes that a visit to Auschwitz is now a rite of passage for many Israeli schoolchildren. As for Holocaust Memorial Day, he writes

Holocaust Memorial Day, marked in Israeli schools last month, largely avoids universal messages, such as that we must recognise the humanity of others and stand up for the oppressed. Instead, pupils as young as three are told the Holocaust serves as a warning to be eternally vigilant – that Israel and its strong army are the only things preventing another genocide by non-Jews.

The result of this is that Israeli young people are now more extremely nationalist and ethnically and politically intolerant than their elders.

Four-fifths of Israeli schoolchildren do not believe there is any hope of peace with the Palestinians. Half of Jewish Israeli schoolchildren believe that Palestinians should not be allowed to vote. These attitudes are shared by the Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Liberman, who called Palestinian members of the Knesset, or those representing the Palestinians, ‘Nazis’ and said they should be treated as such.

And Israel’s declaration that it is the homeland of Jews all over the world turns the Palestinians into resident aliens in their own country.

Cook also describes the actions of some Israeli educators to criticise and act against all this. Zeev Degani, the headmaster of one of the country’s most prestigious schools, managed to cause outrage last year when he stopped the children at his school from going on the annual trip to Auschwitz. He stated that it was ‘pathological’ and intended to generate fear and hatred in order to inculcate extreme nationalism.

Degani and a few principals with similar liberal views have also invited the group, Breaking the Silence, into their schools. This is a group of former soldiers, who describe their participation in war crimes by the country’s military.

This naturally sent Naftali Bennett, a member of the Settler’s Party and the current education minister, into a fearful bate. Bennett then barred Breaking the Silence and other dissident groups, as well as books and theatre groups that threaten stability and order by encouraging Israeli schoolchildren to see the Palestinians as people worthy of compassion and sympathy.

Cook concludes

Degani and others are losing the battle to educate for peace and reconciliation. If a society’s future lies with its children, the outlook for Israelis and Palestinians is bleak indeed.


It’s a troubling, disturbing article, as clearly the goal of the Likudniks and their allies is to spread fear and distrust of foreign countries and non-Jews. Principal Degani and Breaking the Silence are to be applauded for standing up to the government’s demands to indoctrinate schoolchildren. As for Breaking the Silence, by recounting their part in atrocities committed by the military in order to spread a greater awareness of them, they are also doing what many servicemen in other countries have done. For example, when I was doing voluntary work some years ago in a private museum in Bristol, one of the books the museum received was a memoir by a former British soldier in Palestine of a war crime in which he had participated against the indigenous Arabs as a British squaddie. This man, like many others, who have been in similar situations, felt compelled to write his account in order to correct history and shine a light on the officers, who were really responsible for these atrocities.

I mention this as some of the attempts to defend Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians seem to suggest that Israel is unfairly being held to a different standard than other nations, or victimised because it is the Jewish state. This is not so. It is being criticised because it acts like other, non-Jewish, colonialist and Fascist settler states. And those former servicemen and women, who courageously speak out against the war crimes in which they have been involved, are doing exactly the same as other service personnel in other nations around the world, whose consciences similarly demand the public recognition of the injustices to which they, and their countries, are complicit.

As for the abuse of Holocaust Memorial Day to spread both fear of gentiles and the exclusion of any universal message against the persecution of other peoples and ethnic groups, this is one of the reasons why Jackie Walker, a Jewish woman of colour and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was libelled as an anti-Semite in a workshop on how the day should be commemorated last year. Walker, the daughter of a Black American mother and Russian Jewish father, who met during Civil Rights demonstrations in America, had objected to the exclusive concentration on Jewish genocide, and the way other groups were being ignored. Like the 12 million or so Africans, who were ripped from their homes in Africa during the centuries of the slave trade. The slavers killed the same number of people or more that they enslaved during their raids. Anti-Slavery campaigners in the 19th century claimed that whole regions of Africa had been left ravaged and depopulated through such attacks in search of men and women to sell overseas. And Black civil rights campaigners, such as W.E.B. DuBois in the last century have described this as a ‘Holocaust’.

But asking for such other Holocausts be commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day, at least if it is run by the group behind the event Walker attended, will get you libelled as an anti-Semite. Even if, like her, you’re Jewish, have a Jewish partner, and your child goes to a Jewish school.

I’ve also seen the scribbling on the net of right-wing Canadian groups connected to the Tory and Republican parties, who want to spread the same attitude over there. One such website, run by Kathy Shaidle, called ‘Five Feet of Fury’, regularly used to attack the ‘official Jews’ – the website’s term – of Canada’s main Jewish organisation, and its liberal leader, Bernie Farber. Farber and his fellows annoyed the rightists because they saw the Jewish Holocaust in universal terms, as one of the various genocides that have been perpetrated against different peoples, groups and ethnicities down the centuries. Thus, when the Janjaweed militias were enslaving and massacring the people of Darfur at the beginning of this century, Farber organised a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’. It was to be a solemn Jewish fast, to mark the solidarity of a people, who had suffered genocide, with the victims of another. And it sent Shaidle into further rage.

She and Ezra Levant, another right-wing journalist and broadcaster, also wanted there to be less concentration on White nationalists and Fascists, and more on Muslims. They argued that most non-Muslim Canadians were thoroughly decent people – which I’ve no doubt whatsoever is true – and that the Nazis in Canada had always been a tiny handful. The real threat, they said, came from militant Islam.

It’s very similar to the attitude taken by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Unlike Shaidle and her fellows, this outfit differs in that it massively plays up and exaggerates the amount of anti-Semitism in Britain, in order to scare Jews into emigrating to Israel. But it similarly has little or nothing to say about fighting the genuine Nazi fringe, and prefers to concentrate on painting Muslims in Britain as particularly anti-Semitic.

And you can see the same attitude in the American Zionist organisations. Jacques Torczyner, the head of the American chapter of the World Zionist Organisation, said that Jews should ally with the reactionaries, as this would result in greater numbers moving to Israel. You can also see it in Netanyahu’s own response to Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s another quasi-Fascist, who’s appointed Richard Spencer, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, to his cabinet. Last night, The Young Turks reported that Trump had also ordered the anti-terrorism department of the American security services not to investigate White nationalist and supremacist organisations. Instead, they were to concentrate on Islamic terrorism, despite the fact that White Fascists commit the greatest number of terrorist offences in America.

But Netanyahu isn’t worried, because Trump also supports Israel, and has sent a particularly hardline Zionist to Jerusalem as America’s new representative.

Right across the world, in Britain, Canada and America, Zionist organisations like the scandalously misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism are ignoring real Fascists and White supremacists, and promoting Islamophobia and a conscious retreat from a wider awareness of the persistence of genocide across societies and nations, in order foster an aggressive nationalism and exclusive sense of victimhood in Israelis and Jewish young people in order to encourage further emigration and solidarity with Israel.

And when they object, decent, anti-racist people, gentiles and Jews, who may themselves have suffered abuse and victimisation because of their ethnicity or friendship and solidarity with Jews, are smeared as anti-Semites.

FCC Anti-Net Neutrality Plan Sparks All Out Comment War, Bots Included

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/05/2017 - 12:37am in

This post originally appeared at Common Dreams.

Rarely do the public comments made on a federal agency website garner so many headlines, but the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to gut net neutrality protections has sparked an all-out war between open internet advocates and a pro-corporate bot—with a few additional bad apples sprinkled in.

The FCC website crashed last week after HBO host John Oliver urged viewers to share their concerns over the plan to roll back the rule that classifies the internet as a public utility and prohibits Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating against websites or charging more for faster loading times.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

That avalanche of criticism was swiftly met by another flood in support of the plan. However, reporters discovered that, as of Friday, at least 440,000 of the anti-net neutrality comments used identical language. What’s more, the comments were attached to names and addresses of people (more than 7,000 from Colorado alone) who, when contacted by reporters, said they had “no idea where that came from.”

Data scientist Jeffrey Fossett examined the comments and found that, once the anti-net neutrality spam was filtered out, an estimated 97 percent of the nearly 700,000 remaining filings supported the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality protections. Those findings prompted him to conclude that the FCC should “reconsider its position” before a preliminary vote on Thursday.

However, given that FCC chairman Ajit Pai has previously promised to take a “weed whacker” to FCC regulations and declared that net neutrality’s “days are numbered,” a reversal is unlikely.

Instead, Pai entered the fray over the weekend when he released what is meant to be a comical video of him reading “mean tweets” (as celebrities and even former President Barack Obama have done in the past for a popular segment on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show”).

MORE ON Civil Liberties

If FCC Chairman Ajit Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both

BY Kit Walsh | May 10, 2017

The video, produced by the conservative news site Independent Journal Review, highlights unsavory comments directed toward the chair and appears to be an attempt to undermine those who expressed criticism of the widely unpopular rule change, as well as distract from the fraudulent comment scandal.

Indeed, as Ars Technica senior journalist Jon Brodkin pointed out on Monday, following the agency’s promotion of the video, Pai’s chief of staff Matthew Berry tweeted that it’s “Pathetic that Title II activists have been reduced to trying to harass @AjitPaiFCC’s family.”

Brodkin continued:

Berry pointed to an article in the Washington Free Beacon that describes pro-net neutrality groups leaving leaflets on doors in Pai’s neighborhood and holding a vigil on the sidewalk outside Pai’s house. The article argued that the net neutrality protestors have “a history of participating in violent protests,” but none of the violent incidents mentioned by the Free Beacon involved Pai or his family.

Berry also condemned racist comments about Pai that were submitted to the FCC, and pro-net neutrality group Free Press agreed that racism and threats have no place in policy debates. The Internet Association also condemned threats and hateful comments directed at Pai.

HBO’s Oliver addressed the issue as well on Sunday evening, telling viewers that “writing racist things on the internet is not how you win the net neutrality debate, it’s how you win the presidency,” in a clear jab at President Donald Trump.

And despite Pai’s claim in the “mean tweets” video that he “enjoy[s] the public debate about the future of the internet,” Brodkin highlighted how one-sided his portrayal of the discussion has been. “[W]hile Pai and his staff have brought attention to net neutrality supporters whose opinions can be easily dismissed, they haven’t tried to highlight serious arguments from the pro-net neutrality side in the days before the FCC takes its vote,” Brodkin wrote.

To wit, Pai issued a statement Friday extolling a letter sent by more than a dozen corporate ISPs voicing opposition to net neutrality, hailing the statement as an “exceptionally important contribution to the debate.”

Yet, net neutrality proponents are undeterred. Despite the fact that the FCC is temporarily closed for comment as it is having a period of reflection before Thursday’s vote, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is continuing to collect feedback on its website Submissions will be posted when FCC re-opens public comment.

Free Press and Color of Change are also holding a rally outside the FCC headquarters on Thursday “to represent millions of people who need Net Neutrality and will fight for it.”

As many have pointed out, the fight to preserve net neutrality is far bigger than cable companies and loading speeds.

“We’re committed to this fight because we recognize that a truly open internet makes it possible for people to tell their own stories, organize their communities, hold their leaders accountable and improve their lives,” Free Press wrote in a call to action earlier this month. “Net neutrality is also essential for online activism — including the activism that saved net neutrality in the first place. Ending it would incapacitate the resistance, which many organizers and movement-builders understand all too well.”

The post FCC Anti-Net Neutrality Plan Sparks All Out Comment War, Bots Included appeared first on


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/05/2017 - 2:00pm in


The future of the internet depends on you

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/05/2017 - 5:41am in



People from
the freedom of expression, privacy and media development communities must
get engaged, to ensure that one of the most important communications platforms
ever invented remains open,
pluralistic and democratic.


lead Article 19, 2008. Flickr/Val Kerry. Some rights reserved.In this article Andreas Reventlow writes
about the role that new participants can play in human rights advocacy for internet
policymaking, now that these processes have become more accessible to
non-experts. These reflections also provide a timely introduction to the next
public event in the Defending
Human Rights in a Digital Age series, taking
place on 18th May 2017, at Goldsmiths (University of London) and entitled
Activism Behind the Screen.
Participants will discuss the implications of incorporating human rights
standards for future decisions the day-to-day functioning of the internet. More
information, and how to register, is available on Eventbrite here.

Online surveillance, phishing, content blocking, internet shutdowns. Governments around the world are not exactly
shy when it comes to controlling what their citizens are doing online. This
poses major challenges to our individual rights to freedom of expression and

But confrontations of a much more fundamental nature – of ensuring the
internet stays open, pluralistic and democratic in the long run – are being
waged somewhere else entirely: in the world of internet governance.

It is a world that those of us who come from the freedom of expression,
privacy and media development communities have an obvious interest in getting
involved in – a world where the policies and standards that define the future
path of the internet are being developed.

That future path has vast implications for all of us, whether we are in
Madrid, Mombasa or Mumbai, including for example our ability to buy a domain
name and broadcast our thoughts to the world, to securely transfer money and
manage our banking online, and to expect a reasonable level of security from
the private Wi-Fi networks in our homes. All of them are fundamentals of our
online lives that we have come to take for granted as essential parts of the
open internet, but which are not necessarily a given.

Rather, they are the outcomes of lengthy and often very technical
discussions inside internet governance bodies which host a variety of
critically important discussions; such as the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the
Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The International Telecommunications Union, for example, is discussing
5G, the next generation of wireless broadband, and the availability of what is
called unlicensed spectrum
. If telecommunication companies are successful
in their bid to limit the availability of unlicensed spectrum
, which makes
it possible to set up Wi-Fi networks, it could impose new restrictions on how to
connect to the internet and on people’s ability to access information and circumvent
content restrictions.

Other ongoing debates include the regulation of domain names by ICANN. Here, China and the network infrastructure company
Verisign have been
working to make it mandatory
for anyone registering a domain in the
country to go through a government-licensed service provider – one more method
by which the Chinese regime would be able to keep tabs on its opposition.

And in the Internet
Engineering Task Force
, great technical minds are working to apply
to what
is called the DNS protocol so that internet service providers and ultimately
governments and hackers will be unable to access our browsing history – an
essential requirement for critical journalists, human rights defenders and
others whose lives are
put in danger
that kind of information falls into the wrong hands.

You can help shape the
future of the internet

involved in this work can seem rather intimidating and overwhelming to an
outsider, but a recent report by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and ARTICLE 19 eases the learning curve and provides
excellent tips on how to get started, including which communities, research
groups and mailing lists to join, how to understand what are sometimes rather
arcane institutional structures, and how to find a mentor who can help
newcomers get embedded and feel welcome.

Because all the internet governance bodies, with the exception of the
ITU, are governed
through the multi-stakeholder model
, anyone who can devote the time and resources can help
shape the future of the internet. While there are certainly very legitimate concerns about the multi-stakeholder model, including that it does not automatically solve the problem of participation on unequal footing between corporate actors with deep pockets and civil society
groups from the Global South, it still represents the most advanced effort at
giving everyone a seat at the table when it comes to defining the future of the
internet. In the same way that democracy is not perfect, multi-stakeholder
governance is also far from the perfect solution, but it appears to be the best
alternative at the moment.

and ARTICLE 19’s report outlines, the open-access nature of a multi-stakeholder participatory model also
makes policy-making processes and technology standards development vulnerable
to co-optation by actors who do not necessarily prioritise human rights like
freedom of expression and privacy in
either the online or offline context

Corporate lobbyists, intellectual property lawyers are welcome
to join the discussion
alongside civil society and government
representatives, whether they come from the US, the UK, Russia or China. Clearly
hostile to open news and information environments, some of them will invest
significant time and resources into making sure that
the internet will work in ways
that suit their commercial interests and political
needs, whatever part of the world they come from.

Stakeholders who care

Working to make sure that this does not happen are groups like ICANN’s Non-commercial Stakeholders
and the Non-commercial Users
as well
as groups like Global Partners
, Association for
Progressive Communications
and ARTICLE 19 which promote public interest concerns and
human rights in the world of internet governance to ensure that journalists,
human rights defenders and regular
citizens around the world are to be able to exercise their rights to freedom of
expression, assembly and privacy.

work needs the support of more actors in the freedom of expression and media
development communities. Not only to make internet governance bodies more legitimate, inclusive and representative
of all of us, but also to ensure that one of the most important communications
platforms ever invented remains open,
pluralistic and democratic. The arenas that internet governance bodies offer is
truly where the future of the internet is being decided. Those of us who come from the freedom of expression,
privacy and media development communities need to get engaged, or it will be to
all of our detriment.

'Read On' Sidebox: 

More from the Human Rights and the Internet partnership.

Register for Activism Behind the Screen at Eventbrite here.


Civil society

Democracy and government

International politics



CC by NC 4.0

The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/05/2017 - 4:00am in

This post originally appeared at the Electronic Frontier Foundation*.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a plan to eliminate net neutrality and privacy for broadband subscribers. Of course, those protections are tremendously popular, so Chairman Pai and his allies have been forced to pay lip service to preserving them in “some form.”  How do we know it’s just lip service? Because the plan Pai is pushing will destroy the legal foundation for net neutrality. That’s right: if Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. And if he’s read the case law, he knows it.

Let’s break it down.

The FCC’s Proposal Makes It Impossible to Enforce Core Net Neutrality Requirements

MORE ON Money & Politics

Protesters march past the FCC headquarters in 2014, demanding that the agency protect net neutrality. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Congressman’s Vote? Not Much

BY John Light | May 3, 2017

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service,” like telephone service, that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider, or it can be an “information service,” like cable television or the old Prodigy service, that curates and selects what content channels will be available to subscribers. The 1996 law provided that “telecommunications services” are governed by “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934, which includes nondiscrimination requirements. “Information services” are not subject to Title II’s requirements.

Under current law, the FCC can put either label on broadband internet service — but that choice has consequences. For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to impose even a weak version of net neutrality protections the courts struck them down. Essentially, the DC Circuit Court explained [PDF] that it would be inconsistent for the FCC to exempt broadband from Title II’s nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: If it wanted meaningful open internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband service under Title II. It was also clear to neutral observers that reclassification just made sense. Broadband looks a lot more like a “telecommunications service” than an “information service.” It entails delivering information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an internet uprising to persuade the FCC that reclassification made practical and legal sense. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015, at the end of a lengthy rule-making process, the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and issued net neutrality rules on that basis. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, those rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

MORE ON Money & Politics

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) was one of the leading proponents of the recent legislation allowing ISPs to sell customer data. She has received close to $564,000 from the telecom industry over the course of her House career. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr cc 2.0)

Selling Out Internet Privacy: Members of Congress Were Well-Compensated for Their Votes

BY Center for Responsive Politics staff | March 31, 2017

But now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to reverse that decision and put broadband back under the regime for “information services” — the same regime that we already know won’t support real net neutrality rules. Abandoning Title II means the end of meaningful, enforceable net neutrality protections, paving the way for companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable to slice up your internet experience into favored, disfavored and “premium” content.

Title II Is Not Overly Burdensome, Thanks to Forbearance

While we are on the subject of the legal basis for net neutrality, let’s talk about the rest of Title II. Net neutrality opponents complain that Title II involves a host of regulations that don’t make sense for the Internet. This is a red herring. The FCC has used a process called “forbearance” – binding limits on its power to use parts of Title II – to ensure that Title II is applied narrowly and as needed to address harms to net neutrality and privacy. So when critics of the FCC’s decision to reclassify tell horror stories about the potential excesses of Title II, keep in mind that those stories are typically based on powers that the FCC has expressly disavowed, like the ability to set prices for service.

What is more, Title II offers more regulatory limits than the alternative of treating broadband as an information service, at least when it comes to net neutrality. Where Title II grants specific, clear and bounded powers that can protect net neutrality, theories that do not rely on Title II have to infer powers that aren’t clearly granted to the FCC. As proponents of limited regulation, these theories concern us. The proper way to protect neutrality is not to expand FCC discretion by stretching the general provisions of the Telecommunications Act (an approach already rejected in court), but to use a limited subset of the clear authorities laid out in Title II.

The FTC Cannot Adequately Protect the Privacy of Internet Subscribers

Reclassifying broadband as an information service not subject to Title II also creates yet another mess for subscriber privacy. The FCC crafted good rules for internet privacy, but Congress just rejected them. But it left in place the FCC’s underlying authority to protect privacy under Title II, which leaves privacy in limbo. Abandoning Title II for broadband altogether would mean that the FCC no longer has much of a role to play in protecting broadband privacy — and it’s not clear who will fill the gap.

Some have looked to the FTC to take up the mantle, but just last year AT&T persuaded a federal appeals court that, as a company that also owned a telephone business, the FTC had no power over any aspect of AT&T. That precedent covers the entire West Coast and leaves millions of Americans without recourse for privacy violations by their internet service provider. And there’s no doubt that AT&T and others will try to extend that precedent across the country.

Even without this precedent, the FTC’s enforcement authority here targets deceptive trade practices. The agency will only take action if a company promises one thing and delivers another.  If the legalese in a company’s privacy policy explains how it is free to use and sell your private information, and it follows that policy, the FTC can’t help you.

Tell the FCC What You Want It to Do

The FCC is now accepting comments on its plan. Make yourself heard via

*Editor’s Note: This post was edited slightly from its original form.

The post The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both appeared first on

What exactly does Macron, president-elect of France, stand for?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 8:30pm in

Does Macron leave the room for citizen participation? Will his pledges of social and economic
reforms include giving citizens a greater say? 

lead Parisian election posters showing candidate for the 2017 presidential election Emmanuel Macron, March 23, 2017. Apaydin Alain/Press Association. All rights reserved.Macron won the 2017 election with more than 65% of votes against Le Pen.
He became the new president on May 7 after starting a new political movement
just over a year ago. Sidelining the traditional political leaders and parties,
Macron wants to push for a new way of thinking outside of the traditional
left/right political spectrum. His political convictions are mainly liberal and he
has called for a strong country within the context of globalisation.
But does two-thirds of French voters
choosing Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential elections
mark the beginning of a stalemate in France’s participatory democracy? So far the newly elected president has offered few paths to
citizen empowerment.

The 2017
election has brought a period of instability where a political majority will be
hard to come by. Macron’s victory over Le Pen was only a partial success as he
needs a majority in parliament to be able to govern. His charisma will not be
sufficient for his candidates to win next month’s election for the legislature,
and he needs to show a clear political profile.

His En
Marche (“On the Move”) slogan is a tool created to win the presidential race,
but it does not come with a network in parliament.

It is
also rather doubtful that a political consensus will emerge regarding reforms
that need to be tackled. Macron’s plans are not particularly detailed, with
everything arranged around the concept of a strong leader.

So far,
the centrist En Marche movement has
most resembled a gospel show with songs, speeches, snappy one-liners and video

En Marche
itself is unlikely to be a strong movement as its profile is too weak. Nor is
it a movement marked by participatory democracy. En Marche and “La France insoumise”, a far-left
coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, share some similarities with the Spanish
movements Los Ciudadanos and Podemos.

Most of
all, I believe that the En Marche
movement represents a political transition where parties are being forced to
re-invent themselves. Parties are being forced to re-invent themselves. 


wants to use his mandate to initiate strong economic reforms, but so far he has
given no indication of how to shape a social dialogue with trade unions and
other organisations.

There is
also no real democratic element to his plans, although he said he might use the
referendum as a tool if his reforms are not successful in parliament.

even announced that he would cut short debates and govern by decree in order to
introduce strong economic reforms in the beginning of his presidency. He has
said too little about the environment, and there are no plans to give citizens
a greater say in environmental issues. Macron even announced that he would cut short
debates and govern by decree...

Nor is
there any proposal on the table to reform the institutions of the Fifth
Republic. Macron simply wants to use the ballot to his own ends in order to be
seen as a great reformist.

All this
is creating a political void in France which makes the current political
situation particularly interesting.

conservative Republicans might gain seats in the June election as they did well
in the last mid-term elections, while the Socialist Party will struggle to
survive as a bloc in parliament. As for the other parties, the far-right
National Front might emerge with a parliamentary group of around 20 to 30
members, but that is far from certain under the current electoral system which
stretches over two rounds.

With the
leftwing movement, La France insoumise, facing
the same uncertainty, En Marche and
the Republicans may dominate with two or three other minor political forces in


This is
the first time France faces such a fragmented situation since the Fifth Republic,
its current governmental system, was created by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. It
has often been argued that French voters are dissatisfied with their political
parties and leaders. He said he might use the referendum as a tool if his reforms are not successful
in parliament.

In fact,
this dissatisfaction is already written into the French constitution as there
are two ways of expressing national sovereignty in France: through the
parliament or by referendum.

Today, I
am convinced that direct democratic tools could help to reshape the French
political landscape.

politics has always been seen as a game reserved for professional elites who
have had a long career. But we need more change in political mandates with
collective tools that are less focused on a single person.

A new
political culture cannot emerge through decrees but through the implementation
of new tools that encourage citizen participation.

for democratisation?

often heard people say that “we get the politicians we deserve”, but I think
that with the help of new democratic tools we could transform that saying into
“we are responsible for what happens”.

deserve citizen empowerment. Macron has failed to present a plan to make the
representative government more democratic, showing little interest in this
matter as a candidate. This is a real pity as direct democratic tools could
help Macron legitimise the strong reforms he needs. We need more change in political
mandates with collective tools that are less focused on a single person.

So far,
he has merely recycled some ideas that other candidates put forward about
reducing the number of parliamentarians or introducting proportional
representation to a certain degree – an election pledge made by François
Hollande when he ran for president in 2012.

coming weeks will reveal Macron’s true political style as well as his
strategies to create a strong political consensus behind his social and
economic reforms.

The original article was first published on - a platform on direct democracy issues - on May 8, 2017. Thanks for permission to republish.

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