Christopher Lewis is President and CEO at Public Knowledge. Prior to being elevated to President and CEO, Chris served for as PK's Vice President from 2012 to 2019 where he led the organization's day-to-day advocacy and political strategy on Capitol Hill and at government agencies. During that time he also served as a local elected official, serving two terms on the Alexandria City Public School Board. Chris serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Local Self Reliance and represents Public Knowledge on the Board of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG).
Before joining Public Knowledge, Chris worked in the Federal Communications Commission Office of Legislative Affairs, including as its Deputy Director. He is a former U.S. Senate staffer for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and has over 18 years of political organizing and advocacy experience, including serving as Virginia State Director at GenerationEngage, and working as the North Carolina Field Director for Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign and other roles throughout the campaign. Chris graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelors degree in Government and lives in Alexandria, VA where he continues to volunteer and advocate on local civic issues.
Google updated its internal community guidelines for all employees last week in which the company urged workers to avoid “raging discussions about politics”. The key tenets of the new policy are to be responsible, helpful, and thoughtful. The policy change came in the wake of several instances in which Googlers called out the company publicly to protest Google’s alleged suppression of conservative voices and its controversial payout to Andy Rubin who was accused of sexual harassment, but left the company with a hefty severance package anyway.
Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon announced in a press release last week that he would soon release a new film that’s critical of Huawei, the Chinese tech company the Trump administration has accused of collusion with the Chinese government to spy on and steal trade secrets from U.S. firms. “Run by a radical cadre of the Chinese Community Party,” the press release states, “China’s Communism today is the greatest existential threat the West has ever faced.” The Trump administration has banned Huawei from doing business with the federal government. Trump extended by 90 days a similar deadline for U.S. companies to stop doing business with Huawei. Bannon’s announcement comes as Trump has been under fire for undermining the U.S. economy via its trade war with China, signals from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that point to slowing job growth, and an investor exodus away from long-term treasury bonds.
Republican Representative John Ratcliffe and Democratic Representative Adam Schiff both praised and called attention to the threat of Chinese interference with the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Ratcliffe urged Google and Facebook to view China’s removal of content posted by pro-Democracy Hong Kong protesters as a trial run of what could happen in 2020 if China targets the U.S. Schiff applauded Twitter and Facebook for acting quickly to remove hundreds of accounts linked to the Chinese government that garnered over a hundred thousand followers.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has renewed its surveillance contract with Palantir-the software company founded by Peter Thiel, a vociferous tech sector conservative who also serves as an advisor to President Trump. Tech companies and immigration groups have blasted the administration for working with Palantir, which helps ICE track immigrants. The Hill values the contract at around $49 million.
Finally, A new study by the American Psychological Association found that voters may form false memories from fake news stories, especially if the stories conform to their existing beliefs. The research was performed in Ireland, but researchers expect that there would be similar results in the U.S.
Patrick van Kessel (@pvankessel) is a senior data scientist at Pew Research Center, specializing in computational social science research and methodology. He is the author of studies that have used natural language processing and machine learning to measure negative political discourse and news sharing behavior by members of Congress on social media, and is involved in the ongoing development of best practices for the application of data science methods across the Center. Van Kessel received his master’s degree in social science from the University of Chicago, where he focused on open-ended survey research and text analytics. He holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining Pew Research Center, he worked at NORC at the University of Chicago as a data scientist and technical advisor on a variety of research projects related to health, criminal justice and education.
Many Turn to YouTube for Children’s Content, News, How-to Lessons by Aaron Smith, Skye Toor, and Patrick van Kessel
In a tweet Monday, President Trump cited a debunked study to claim that Google manipulated between 2.6 million and 16 million votes. Even the author of the study Trump cited, Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, said the president’s claim was false. Here’s the president’s tweet: “Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought!” Epstein says the report showed bias but not that Google manipulated votes. The report has been discredited many times since its release in 2017.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says he wants to hold tech companies accountable for hate speech, despite the fact that Section 230 shields tech companies from liability for content posted by third parties. The proposal is part of a sweeping gun reform proposal O’Rourke released and looks to connect the dots between online radicalization and real-world violence.
The Federal Communications Commission is considering designating the digits 988 as a national suicide prevention and mental health hotline. The proposal was laid out in a Joint Report to Congress last week by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and analytics. It’s endorsed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
A class of LGBTQ+ content creators is suing YouTube for allegedly discriminating against their content. The complaint states that YouTube concealed their content, limited their subscribers, and thwarted their ability to sell ads, according to The Hill. The case is filed in the Northern District of California, San Jose division. YouTube says their algorithms don’t demonetize or discriminate against content posted by the LGBTQ+ community.
Facebook and YouTube announced Monday that China has been using the platforms to spread misinformation about the uprising in Hong Kong. Twitter says it found 936 accounts originating from China that Twitter found were designed to spread discord in Hong Kong. Prompted by Twitter, Facebook found seven pages, three groups and five accounts spreading misinformation which collectively boasted some 15,000 users. Some 200,000 accounts were active in spreading misinformation, according to Facebook. Facebook said it’s striving to continually improve. Twitter suspended the accounts.
Finally, The FCC has a proposal on circulation that would increase oversight of the Lifeline program—the federal subsidy for broadband that offers users $9.25 per month to help defray the cost of broadband in low-income households—according to a report in The Hill. The FCC is zeroing in on “waste, fraud and abuse” it says pervades the program. An FCC Inspector General report found Lifeline subsidies were going to some 50,000 deceased individuals.
Johanna Blakley, PhD, is the managing director at the Norman Lear Center. Based at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Blakley performs research on a wide variety of topics, including global entertainment, cultural diplomacy, entertainment education, celebrity culture, fashion, digital media and intellectual property law. She has two talks on TED.com: Social Media & the End of Gender and Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture. She speaks frequently in the U.S. and abroad about her research and her work has been cited by Reuters, the New York Times, The Economist, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, Huffington Post, RAND, Forbes, Business Week, PR Week and GOOD. She has appeared on Good Morning America, MSNBC, Al Jazeera and Current TV, and on several radio programs, including On the Media, Planet Money, Marketplace and the TED Radio Hour.
Blakley is co-Principal Investigator, with Marty Kaplan, on the Media Impact Project (MIP), a hub for collecting, developing and sharing approaches for measuring the impact of media, primarily funded by the Gates Foundation. MIP seeks to better understand the role that media plays in changing knowledge, attitudes and behavior among individuals and communities, large and small, around the world. MIP currently works with the US State Department on three cultural exchange programs: American Film Showcase, Global Media Makers and the Middle East Media Initiative.
Much of her work addresses the intersection between entertainment and politics, including two nationwide polls on the relationship between political ideology and entertainment preferences, and she co-authored a report on the Primetime War on Drugs & Terror. With funding from the Pop Culture Collaborative, Blakley is currently analyzing the impact of narrative ingredients of scripted TV shows on viewers.
Blakley is a regular contributor to the Lear Center Blog, and she has guided more than forty manuscripts through the publication process at the Lear Center, including Warners’ War: Propaganda, Politics & Pop Culture in Wartime Hollywood. She has also overseen two major research initiatives about the impact of intellectual property rights on innovation and creativity – Ready to Share: Fashion & the Ownership of Creativity and Artists, Technology & the Ownership of Creative Content. At USC, she co-directed a university-wide research initiative on Creativity & Collaboration in the Academy; she developed course materials on cultural diplomacy for the new Masters in Public Diplomacy program at Annenberg, and she taught masters courses on transmedia storytelling.
She received a PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught courses on popular culture and twentieth-century literature. Blakley has held a variety of positions within the high-tech industry, including Web producer and digital archivist at Vivendi-Universal Games. She is on the advisory board of Women@Paley at the Paley Center for Media and FEM inc., a technology venture. She has served as an advisor to the Aspen Institute, Active Voice, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and TEDxUSC, the first TEDx event in the world. She’s on the editorial board of the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology and she’s a founding member of the board of directors for Les Figues Press, a venue for literary experimentation.
CBS & Viacom strike merger deal
CBS and Viacom have struck a merger deal worth about $50 billion, according to CNBC. The companies have been negotiating a merger deal for three years, which often put CBS and Viacom Vice Chair Shari Redstone at odds with former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who has since left the company mired by sexual harassment and abuse claims. The Redstone family-controlled National Amusements owns both companies. The combined entity will include CBS, as well as Viacom brands MTV, BET, Showtime, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Paramount.
Whole Foods workers protest Amazon’s work with ICE
Whole Worker, the anonymous group of Whole Foods workers seeking to unionize the Amazon subsidiary’s workforce, released a protest letter yesterday opposing Amazon’s work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The letter specifically calls out Amazon’s cloud support for Palantir—the mysterious company partially-owned by Trump supporter Peter Thiel that helps ICE use artificial intelligence to carry out deportations.
Federal Appeals Court rules Facebook users can sue over facial recognition
You know how Facebook figures out if it’s your face in the images you post? Well, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a class of Facebook users can sue Facebook under California law for using the facial recognition technology behind that feature. California’s Biometric Information Act requires companies to obtain consent before using the biometric data of their users. The 2015 lawsuit could put Facebook on the hook for billions of dollars.
Senator Marsha Blackburn calls out Huawei
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, who’s a member of the Senate’s Technology, Innovation, and the Internet subcommittee called out Huawei for allegedly implanting spyware on devices. Blackburn said the China-based company is part of China’s military industrial complex designed to spy on the United States and other countries. Huawei is still on the Commerce department’s blacklist. But last month President Trump said that he would allow U.S. companies to sell equipment to Huawei.
Democrats blast McConnell at DEFCON hacker conference
Senator Ron Wyden and California Representative Ted Lieu blasted Mitch McConnell at the main worldwide hacker conference, DEFCON, last week, for McConnell’s opposition to election security. McConnell has blocked legislation to strengthen election security—stating that federal legislation to defend election systems interferes with states rights.