Randy Abreu (@AbreuForNYC) is an author, attorney, tech-policy nerd and former candidate for New York City Council from the Bronx. Abreu served in the Obama Administration where he was appointed to the Department of Energy's Office of Technology Transitions and Clean Energy Investment Center. He is an alum of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Google Policy fellowships and is currently a Google NextGen Leader, Internet Law and Policy Foundry fellow, and member of the Bronx Progressives.
The FOSTA bill—the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex trafficking bill—cleared the House Rules Committee on Monday. It now moves to a floor vote and it includes California Republican representative Mimi Walters’ amendment to allow victims to sue and prosecutors to charge website operators who enable sex trafficking. The bill now moves to a floor vote and it now has the support of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
The National Rifle Association awarded FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with a “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire” award. The NRA wanted to recognize Pai for enduring the incredible public outcry over the push to repeal the net neutrality rules.
The FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, giving Congress 60 days to block the repeal under the Congressional Review Act before the first few rules take effect. Senators who support the measure to block the repeal need one more vote. Eric Limer reports in Popular Mechanics. Meanwhile, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general have now refiled their lawsuits to block the repeal as well.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission against AT&T claiming the company throttled customers can move forward. The FTC alleges that AT&T slowed down customers’ data even though the customers had unlimited data plans. As Harper Neidig notes in the Hill, the decision is seen as affirming the FTC’s role as enforcer of net neutrality principles.
Intel concealed the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws from US officials until they were made public some six months after Google’s parent company, Alphabet, told them about them. Intel now faces 32 pending lawsuits related to the flaws, as well as an insider-training investigation concerning the company’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, who sold a chunk of company stock in the fourth quarter of last year, after the security flaws were known. Tom Warren has the story in the Verge.
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Google was justified in firing former Google computer engineer James Damore. Despite all the recent so-called research about a supposed lack of “viewpoint diversity” in Silicon Valley, and all of the histrionics around high profile individuals leaving Silicon Valley because they don’t feel free to express themselves—the NLRB found that Damore’s derogatory comments in a memo about how women’s biological traits affect their work performance were “unprotected discriminatory comments”. Edward Moyer has a report in CNET.
In another case, an employee who criticized Damore, whom Google also subsequently fired, is also now suing the company for letting him go. The employee, Tim Chevalier, who is queer and transgender, posted that Damore’s memo was misogynistic and also that “’white boys’ expect privilege and feel threatened if they don’t receive it.’”
Forty-seven percent of parents are worried that their kids are addicted to mobile devices. That’s according to a new survey from Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey. But 89% believe that they are in control of their kids’ device use. Brett Molina reports in USA Today.
SpaceX launched two experimental satellites that will test the internet service it wants to provide to everyone on the planet via 10,000 low-orbiting satellites whizzing around the earth at over 200 miles per hour. The project has FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s blessing. Pai urged his fellow commissioners to approve SpaceX’s proposal to provide broadband worldwide. Jackie Wattles reports in CNN.
Facebook announced last week that it would begin sending postcards to ad buyers in order to verify their identities. In the aftermath of revelations that Russian hackers relied extensively on Facebook to push Russian propaganda, the social media giant wants to prove to regulators and the public that they are committed to weeding out bots and fake profiles. Dustin Volz reports for Reuters.
Nancy Scola reported for Politico that Facebook will now study economic inequality in the United States using its own, massive data trove. The Stanford-led team will be led by economist Raj Chetty.
Michael Laris and Jonathan O’Connell reported for the Washington post that the Washington, D.C. government has granted Elon Musk a permit to start digging for the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop would be a vacuum-based transportation system that’s capable of traveling at 670 miles per hour.
It was a tough week last week for right-wing conservatives on social media. Luis Sanchez reports for the Hill that conservatives on Twitter have been bleeding followers since itreportedly suspended thousands of user accounts. One claimed to have lost as many as 2,000 in a single night
Twitter also announced Wednesday that it will be limiting users’ ability to automate and post duplicate posts across platforms and accounts.
Ali Breland of the Hill reports that over at Medium, the blogging platform suspended the accounts of far-right bloggers Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer
And the YouTube channel of the far right outlet InfoWars posted a conspiracy video claiming that one of the Parkland survivors was an “actor”. YouTube issued an apology and issued a strike against InfoWars. According to YouTube’s community guidelines, users that get 3 strikes within 3 months will have their channels terminated. Abby Ohlheiser has more at the Washington Post.
Dr. Desmond Upton Patton (@SAFELab) is an assistant professor at the Columbia School of Social Work and a Faculty Affiliate of the Social Intervention Group (SIG) and the Data Science Institute. His research utilizes qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine how and why youth and gang violence, trauma, grief and identity are expressed on social media and the real world impact they have on well-being for low-income youth of color.
His current research projects examine:
Dr. Patton’s research on Internet Banging has been discussed on several media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, NPR, Boston Magazine, ABC News, and Vice; it was most recently cited in an Amici Curae Brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in the Elonis v. United States case which examined the issues of interpreting threats on social media. Before coming to Columbia in July of 2015, Dr. Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Information. He received a BA in Anthropology and Political Science, with honors, from the University of North Carolina- Greensboro, an MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and a PhD in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
You have undoubtedly heard by now about FBI special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s indictment of 13 Russians who allegedly maintained a vast network of content creators in order to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. The defendants used social media by amplifying primarily mainstream news content, according to a new Columbia University study. The network stole Americans’ identities, and created fake social media profiles to spread divisive content that favored Donald Trump.
But the hacking began in 2014, prior to president Trump’s announcement that he would be running for president. The defendants even promoted content that favored Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. So the Trump administration is using this to try to illustrate that the Russians’ primary effort was to subvert our entire political system, rather than support Donald Trump’s election, specifically. Trump’s opponents argue that Russian conspirators saw the seating of Donald Trump as President as a no-brainer, given his susceptibility to blackmail because of his alleged hiring of prostitutes in 2013 in Moscow and his real estate deals with Russians. Sharon Lafraniere and Matt Apuzzo report for the New York Times. Craig Timberg reports for the Washington Post. But you can find coverage everywhere.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Director of National Intelligence warns that there is “no doubt” that Russians are planning to hack this year’s midterm elections. The consensus is that we’re not prepared for that. In fact, the website Hamilton 68, reported that Russian bots flooded Twitter with pro-gun messaging following Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland Florida that left 17 dead.
Cecilia Kang at the New York Times reported last week that the FCC’s Inspector General is investigating FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for illegally paving the way for Sinclair Broadcasting. Pai led the agency in several efforts that, appearing to some, seemed timed to Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, including the relaxation of the media ownership cap and newspaper broadcast cross-ownership rules.
Spencer Soper, Naomi Nix, Ben Brody and Bill Allison report for Bloomberg that Amazon has significantly increased its lobbying spending in Washington. A number of policy issues have taken center-stage for the company, as Amazon seeks to expand into different areas, including healthcare. The company’s lobbying spending has grown by over 400% since 2012, according to Bloomberg. You can find the full report there.
In a major victory for on-demand takeout company Grubhub, the U.S. Dictrict Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Grubhub drivers are contractors not employees. The plaintiff sued Grubhub for paying subpar wages based on his classification as a contractor. The court ruled that Grubhub does not exercise a requisite amount of color over drivers’ work to justify classifying them as employees. Dara Kerr reports in CNET.
Google tested a new system that would improve the ability of 911 operators to locate emergency callers. Currently, 911 calls made via cell phone are difficult to pinpoint. Ryan Knutson has the story in the Wall Street Journal.
Brian Howard is a Research & Policy Analyst with the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) at Arizona State University. Prior to joining the AIPI team in November 2016, Brian served over five years as a Legislative Associate with the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, DC. Working on behalf of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, Brian’s work included developing and advocating tribal policy initiatives in Congress and the Administration on issues such as Telecommunications, Government Contracting, and Cultural Protections (Sacred Places, Eagle Feather/Eagle Protections, NAGPRA, and Mascot issues). Brian’s work experience has included numerous D.C.-based research and policy internships, as well as with the New Mexico House of Representatives and the Gila River Indian Community Council’s Office.
Brian graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2009 with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Native American Studies focusing on Federal Indian Law and Policy with a minor in Political Science. He is Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, and Pi-Pash, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community where he grew up in the Komatke District.
Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Jr. Vine Deloria
N.Y. Times: U.S. spies paid Russians for cyberweapons/Trump secret
Remember the dossier on Donald Trump that former British spy Christopher Steele built that made headlines about a year ago? The one that alleged encounters with prostitutes, bribes, and evidence of collaboration with Russians to hack Democrats? Well the problem with the dossier until now was that none of the allegations have been corroborated. But, over the weekend, the New York Times reported that U.S. spies paid a “shadowy Russian” some $100,000 in exchange for stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons. The Russian also promised secret information about President Trump. The total payout was to be $1 million. This was just the first installment. And the spies, according to the Times, delivered the cash in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel. The White House and CIA have obviously been trying to contain the report. Matthew Rosenberg reports in the New York Times.
Russian hackers continue to exploit U.S. cyber vulnerabilities
The Associated Press reports that Russian spies have continued to exploit vulnerabilities in U.S. defenses. According to the report, the spies fooled contractors with phishing scams disseminated via email, which allowed them to gain access to data acquired by spy drones.
Waymo and Uber reach a settlement
Uber and Waymo reached a settlement last week. Uber agreed to give Waymo, the self driving car company built by Google, a $245 million stake in Uber’s equity, or about .34 percent. No cash was part of the settlement. Uber continues to deny that they either stole or used any of Waymo’s trade secrets or self-driving car technology. Alex Castro reports for the Verge.
U.S. arrests 36 in cyberfraud crackdown
The Justice Department reported last week that it had arrested and charged 36 people for running a cyberfraud ring that stole some $350 million. Officials allege that Svyatoslav Bondarenko created Infraud in 2010 to make online purchases with counterfeit or stolen credit card information. Tom Schoenberg reports on the details of the scheme in Bloomberg.
Internet giants back net neutrality bill
The Internet Association--the trade association that represents internet giants like Google, Facebook and others--wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week in support of a bipartisan legislative solution that would overturn the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.
British officials grill Google, Facebook and Twitter in Washington
Eleven members of the British Parliament came to Washington last week to grill tech executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter about fake news. Hamza Shaban of the Chicago Tribune reported that the meeting was far from cordial, with the lawmakers sharply criticizing the companies’ moral compass and failure to curtail the spread of misinformation online. YouTube maintained that it hadn’t found any evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit vote.
In a separate story last week, CNN brought to Twitter’s attention the fact that hundreds of Russian propaganda videos remained on Vine—the video sharing platform that Twitter owns--until well after Twitter should have been aware that the Kremlin posted the videos
Also, YouTube had to change some of its policies after YouTuber Logan Paul engaged in an ongoing pattern of posting really repulsive videos such as the video of a suicide victim in Japan. Google decided to suspend advertising on Paul’s channel and announced a broader policy change under which it would make YouTube channels that post offensive content less discoverable. Ingrid Ludent reports for Tech Crunch
Winter Olympics were cyberattacked
An organizer of the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang reported that there was a cyberattack during the opening ceremony. However, the organizer won’t disclose who carried out the attack. Peter Rutherford reports in Reuters
New study finds gender pay gap among Uber drivers
A new University of Chicago study found a gender pay gap among Uber drivers. The study found that women driving for Uber earned some 7% less per hour than their male counterparts.
Mark Warner tees up ‘tech addiction’
At a speech last week, Senator Mark Warner teed up tech addiction as a concern for policymakers. The remarks came amidst several studies conducted recently that purport to illustrate Americans’ addition to tech. David McCabe has more in Axios
M.I.T. study shows facial recognition AI skin color bias
A new study from the M.I.T. Media Lab shows a commercial facial recognition technology is correct 99% of the time when it comes to identifying white man. But when it came to identifying black folks, the software was wrong 35% of the time. Steve Lohr reports in The New York Times
Spouses of highly skilled immigrants face job losses under Trump
The spouses of high skilled workers who enter the country under an H1B visa are permitted to work under an H-4 visa. But Trump’s Department of Homeland Security is seeking to end the program, potentially affecting that additional source of income.
Cleaver wants white supremacists out of cryptocurrencies
Several reports say that white supremacists have been raising funding with Bitcoin to circumvent the established tech sector. So Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver wrote a letter to the Bitcoin Foundation and Digital Chamber of Commerce, asking for measures to curtail white supremacists’ cryptocurrency fundraising activities. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.
Senators pressure CFPB on Equifax
Thirty Senators want to know why Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, a Trump appointee has delayed the investigation into the Equifax breach that compromised the data of some 143 million Americans. Thirty Senators, led by Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz, want to know why CFPB hasn’t taken preliminary steps in the investigation. So far the CFPB has declined comment.
Trump administration wants to privatize International Space station
Christian Davenport reports for the Washington Post that the White House is planning to stop funding for the International Space Station after 2024. It is working on a plan to turn the space station into a commercial enterprise.
Dr. Simone Browne (@wewatchwatchers) is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She teaches and researches surveillance studies and black diaspora studies.
Her first book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, examines surveillance with a focus on transatlantic slavery, biometric technologies, branding, airports and creative texts. You can read the Introduction to Dark Matters here.
She is an Executive Board member of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory). She is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists. Along with Katherine McKittrick and Deborah Cowen she is co-editor of Errantries, a new series published by Duke University Press.
Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Noble
Patrick Rucker at Reuters reported on Sunday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Acting Director, Mick Mulvaney, has been blocking the investigation into Equifax's massive September data breach. The breach exposed the data of some 143 million Americans to hackers. But Mulvaney has been working behind the scenes by not ordering any subpoenas, seeking sworn testimony, or really anything that would suggest CFPB is doing anything to further the investigation. CFPB has also blocked other agencies such as the FDIC and Federal Reserve from even stepping in to help out with the investigation. The U.S. Court of Appeals also affirmed Mulvaney's poltically-charged appointment.
A new University of Chicago Crime Lab and ideas42 study that was funded, in part, by the MacArthur Foundation, found that texts reminding people about court appearances in New York City, reduced Failure to Appear "FTA" arrest warrants by as much as a third. Changes to the summons form, that put the most relevant information on top, such as the date, time and place of the court appearance, plus the penalty associated with failing to appear, translated to a reduction of FTA arrest warrants by 17,000, when the form changes were implemented system-wide.
The U.S. Census Bureau is bowing to an apparent effort by the Trump administration to ensure that as many people as possible claim their race as "White" for census purposes. The Census Bureau released a statement on January 26th saying that the 2020 Census would ignore the Obama Administration's recommendation to allow census respondents to check specific ethnicities along with racial categories. Instead, the Bureau will continue to emphasize the broader racial categories of White and Black, with Hispanics and Latinos only being able to write-in their heritage, but also having to choose their race as Black or White. The form also indicates "Egyptian" as an example of "White". Additionally, the "White" racial category will continue to be listed first. But that would have been the case on the form that the Obama administration recommended as well. The Census Bureau has until March 31st to make its final determination.
YouTube’s plan to flag government-sponsored content isn’t going over so well with PBS. PBS receives some, but not all, funding from the federal government. So the powerful, non-profit broadcast network is concerned that YouTube will lump all of its content into one bucket. Hamza Shaban reports for The New York Times.
The Federal Trade Commission last week released a new infographic warning about dating site scams. Some of the things to look out for include, well, weirdos, basically – people who profess their love quickly, ask for money, or say they need help with an emergency. You know, standard stuff. The FTC says people lost $220 million from scams like these in 2016. DON’T let it happen to you.
Google’s parent company Alphabet has announced its new Chairman to replace outgoing Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. John Hennessy has taken the helm. Hennessy is the former President of Stanford University and he’s been an Alphabet board member since it was founded in 2015, and prior to that was a Google board member since 1997. Hennessy is a passionate defender of the DREAM Act. Schmidt remains an Alphabet board member and technical advisor to the company. He has also joined MIT as an innovation fellow.
Twitter reports that Trump’s State of the Union Speech last week broke the Twitter record. The 3 million tweets during Trump’s speech surpassed the 2.6 million tweets Barack Obama’s garnered in 2015.