Policymakers often discuss privacy as something that is lacking. But what if there is too much privacy? Michele Gilman joined Joe Miller to explain.
Michele Gilman (@profmgilman) is the Venable Professor of Law; Director, Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic; and Co-Director, Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is also a faculty fellow at Data & Society in New York, where she focuses on the intersection of data privacy law with the concerns of low-income communities.
Before joining the faculty, Professor Gilman was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice; an associate at Arnold and Porter in Washington, D.C.; a law clerk to United States District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman of the District of Maryland; and an editor of the Michigan Law Review. Professor Gilman's scholarship focuses on issues relating to poverty, privacy, economic inequality, and feminist legal theory and her articles have been published in the California Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review and the Washington University Law Review, among others. She was a visiting associate professor at the William and Mary School of Law during the 2005-06 academic year and a professor in the University of Aberdeen summer program in summer 2009. In 2009, she received the Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Faculty Member Award.
Professor Gilman directs the Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic, in which student attorneys represent individuals and community groups in a wide array of civil litigation and law reform projects. She is involved in numerous groups working on behalf of low-income Marylanders. She is a member of the Committee on Litigation and Legal Priorities of the ACLU of Maryland and the Judicial Selection Committee of the Women's Law Center. She is the past president of the board of the Public Justice Center, where she served from 2004-2014, as well as a past member of the Maryland Bar's Section Council on Delivery of Legal Services. She received the 2010 University System of Maryland Board of Regents' Award for Public Service. Professor Gilman is the former co-chair and a member of the Scholarship Committee of the AALS Clinical Legal Education Section, and a former editor of the Clinical Law Review Review and the Journal of Legal Education. She is also a co-director of the Center on Applied Feminism, which works to apply the insights of feminist legal theory to legal practice and policy. She is a member of the Maryland and District of Columbia bars.
Professor Gilman will be a faculty fellow at Data & Society in New York during the 2019-2020 academic year. She will be focusing on the intersection of data privacy law with the concerns of low-income communities.
The Surveillance Gap: The Harms of Extreme Privacy and Data Marginalization by Michele Gilman (New York University Review of Law & Social Change, 2019).
Uber was victorious last week in a sexual assault lawsuit brought against it by a woman who says she was raped near a San Francisco shopping mall last year, by a suspended Uber driver who still had the Uber decal on his window. In her pleadings before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, the victim claimed that the suspended driver was acting within the scope of his employment and that she legitimately thought it would be a safe ride. But the court disagreed. Judge Corley did find, however, that the victim had made out a plausible claim for negligence and permitted her to refile for punitive damages for negligence stemming from Uber’s apparent failure to ensure the driver removed the decal from his window. The driver still faces a criminal trial which could send him away for life.
Separately, Uber has begun videotaping rides. But the effort has faced resistance from privacy advocates.
West Virginia prisoners will have to pay $.03 per minute to access e-books via Project Gutenberg, which otherwise offers the public free access to over 60,000 books. The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR) entered into a deal with Global Tel Link (GTL) to provide tablets to 10 prisons in West Virginia which will also allow inmates to watch videos and send written messages and photos. But the rates for those services, ranging between $.25 and $.50 per minute, are still very high relative to the $.04 per hour to $.58 per hour prisoners can earn in wages. The prisons will lift a current restriction on accessing books in print. But advocates who oppose the exploitative $.03 per minute fee for e-books note that the use of books in print comes with many more restrictions.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine is suing DoorDash for pocketing tips the company solicits from customers. The Office of the Attorney General has been investigating the company since March, and now says that evidence shows that DoorDash routinely kept the tips to reduce the amount they had to pay drivers in wages.
Florida Congresswoman Val Demings, a Democrat, has introduced new bipartisan legislation to improve law enforcement’s access to digital evidence from tech companies. The bill would create a new Office of Digital Law Enforcement within the Department of Justice to train law enforcement on how to handle digital evidence. It would also create a Center for Excellence for Digital Forensics to centralize tech expertise and legal assistance within the same building. The bill would also set up infrastructure for the DOJ to issue digital evidence program grants, as well as a Technology Policy Advisory Board to advise the Attorney General on digital evidence best practices.
A Brooklyn landlord has cancelled plans to install facial recognition technology after resistance from tenants and advocacy groups. Robert Nelson, President of Nelson Management Group, owns the 700-unit Atlantic Plaza Towers building in Brownsville where most tenants are black. Tenants and their supporters are now pushing for statewide legislation that would outlaw facial recognition technology throughout the Empire State.
Democratic lawmakers who are members of the House Tech Accountability Caucus, the Tri-Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus’ Diversity Task force called out Oracle for its lack of diversity in a letter to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The letter notes that Oracle has 0% board diversity, saying it is unacceptable given Oracle’s attempts to earn business from firms that serve people of color.
Tyler McIntyre (@tmcpro) is the founder & CTO of Novo, a small business challenger bank in the United States that is building technology to help small and medium-sized businesses better understand where and how they are spending their money. Tyler has a strong technology background and understanding of business through his previous startups. He has also consulted for Fortune 500 companies. Tyler has been working with building artificially intelligent assistants since 2011. He has a Bachelors in Management from the University of Miami and a Certificate in Business Management from the University of Pennsylvania. His company is based in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
Microsoft is stepping up its fight to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on behalf of its 66 DACA employees, referred to as “Dreamers”. The Obama-era program grants relief to the children of undocumented migrants who have spent their entire childhood in the United States. Applicants to the program do need to meet several requirements in order to qualify for DACA. For example, they can’t have any felony convictions or more than 3 misdemeanors. They also have to have earned a high school diploma or GED. If they qualify, Dreamers get renewable, 2-year deferrals from being deported and can ultimately become eligible to obtain a work permit. President Trump has said he would end the program. So many, including Microsoft, have been pushing Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, since the program was established under the Obama administration through an executive memo. The courts, including the Supreme Court which prevented its expansion, have held that the program is likely unconstitutional without action from Congress.
Big tech companies are investing billions to address California’s public housing shortage. It started with Apple announcing a $2.5 billion investment, followed by pledges from Google and Facebook who pledged to contribute $1 billion apiece. But local California officials have said that the investment will not be enough to address decades of rapid employment growth in the tech sector. This growth has pushed some 28,000 people out of their homes, according to the Hill. Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders also criticized the program, calling for tax hikes, saying that its disingenuous for tech company tax evaders, who he says created the problem, to attempt to distract from it with investments that won’t be enough.
Social media companies reconsider microtargeting in political ads
Facebook, Google and Twitter are reconsidering allowing politicians to microtarget their ads based on user location and other factors. Twitter, for one, has banned all political advertising. Google is reportedly reconsidering its political ad policy with an announcement expected this week. These developments come amid criticism from Mozilla as well as an International Committee composed of lawmakers from Australia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Singapore, the UK and the United States, who have objected to microtargeting practices across social media.
Facebook and YouTube have said that they will remove content revealing the name of the potential whistleblower who disclosed President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to require Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for aid. The whistleblower’s complaint is at the heart of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into the president.=
Twitter however, will continue to allow users to post the name of the whistleblower, but will remove personally identifiable information such as his or her phone number and address.
Avaaz, a global advocacy organization that tracks misinformation online, issued a study of the most viral fake political news stories in 2019. It found the stories generated nearly 160 million views, compared to 140 million views of fake news stories posted during the 2016 election. Some 62 percent of the fake stories were anti-Democrat.
The New York Times reports that staffers of the New York City Police Department took kickbacks from health clinics, doctors, lawyers, and a fraud insurance ring in Queens, in exchange for data from car accident victims. Prosecutors have charged 27 individuals for their alleged involvement. Fifty-one year-old Anthony Rose allegedly directed the scheme in which 911 call operators sent car accident victims in low-income areas in New York City to fake call centers that directed them to partnering accident victim service providers. In exchange, the call centers allegedly paid kickbacks to Rose, a portion of which he then distributed to co-conspirators who worked for the NYPD.
The American Prospect reports that it has tied Kyrsten Sinema, the only Democrat in the Senate who opposes the pro-net neutrality Save the Internet Act, to a Super PAC that’s funded by telecom lobbyists. The report states that Sinema directed contributions to the Super PAC that ultimately funded her own campaign.
Finally, beginning this week, Instagram is expected to hide the number of ‘likes’ users generate from their posts. Users will reportedly continue to be able to see likes on their own posts, but not the likes of others’. But the new policy will only affect some of Instagram’s users. The Hill reports that YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are also considering hiding likes.
Elisa Shearer (@elisashearer) is a Research Associate at the Pew Research Center. She earned her Masters in Communications, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Houghton College, from which she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Motherboard reports on Facebook’s comfortable relationship with the Menlo Park Police Department. Apparently, Facebook is paying the City of Menlo Park some $2 million per year – a large some for a small city – to have a dedicated police force for Facebook’s campus. One of the things the Facebook unit does is monitor for thefts of bikes the company sets out for its employees. The employees aren’t permitted to leave the bikes outside of Facebook’s campus, but they often do it anyway.
Sometimes citizens in the neighboring community, East Palo Alto, use the bikes. The majority of citizens on East Palo Alto are black or Latinx. One of the people the cops picked up for using one of the bikes was Latinx. But it turns out the employee was a Facebook contractor. So citizens and advocates have called out the police and Facebook for working together on racial profiling. It’s a long read, but you can find the full report in the show notes.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Facebook on Twitter on Saturday, calling the company’s political behavior “increasingly disturbing”. Connecting the dots, the Congresswoman noted that Zuckerberg claimed he didn’t know when Facebook discovered the Cambridge Analytica scandal, that Zuckerberg met with Trump, and the far right thenm started allowing disinformation ads, and that Zuckerberg didn’t tell the whole truth about fact checkers. She says that Facebook acts like they’re just an innocent bystander but that Facebook’s decisions have become more and more disturbing. According to the New York Times, Hundreds of Facebook employees wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging him to hold ads placed by politicians to the same high accuracy standard as those placed by any advertiser.
The House has passed a third election security bill designed to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 election. The bill passed 221-181 mostly along party lines. The act is dubbed the SHIELD act and it targets paid online political ads. Republicans raised First Amendment concerns about the bill, and the American Civil Liberties Union said that it sweeps to broadly.
According to Reuters, Russian operatives attempting to interfere with the platform ahead of the 2020 election are trying to remain invisible by sacrificing followers. Facebook is specifically flagging accounts that grow very quickly.
Google employees are claiming that the company is creating a tool to monitor calendar invites to try and prevent staffers from organizing. The tool would apparently flag employees that create events with more than 10 rooms or 100 people. Google denies that the tool is designed to thwart organizing efforts.
The Pentagon awarded its 10 year, $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to Microsoft, closing it off from Amazon, which was expected to win the deal, as it was considered by many analysts to have the best capabilities. But Microsoft too has the highest military security rating possible.
A former speechwriter for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that President Trump wanted to “screw over” Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post—one of the news outlets the president thinks is biased against him. But the Pentagon states that its awarding of the contract to Microsoft is in line with an overall multi-platform strategy, that can’t be handled by a single vendor.
Google announced a quantum computing milestone last week, saying that it had developed a microprocessor that took minutes to perform a calculation that would have taken the world’s best super computer thousands of years.
Andrew Free (@ImmCivilRights) is an abolitionist lawyer fighting alongside immigrant communities in the Deep South and across the country to defend deportations and advance civil rights.
A Good Provider is One Who Leaves by Jason DeParle
Mark Zuckerberg defends decision to allow misinformation by politicians
Zuckerberg delivered remarks on Thursday at Georgetown defending his company’s policy to leave up false political ads. But his speech was roundly criticized.
Both Democrats and civil rights organizations blasted Zuckerberg for deliberately refusing to fact-check ads placed by politicians. Leadership Conference for Civil Rights President Vanita Gupta, NAACP Legal Defense Fund head Sherrilyn Ifill, and Bernice King—the daughter of slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.—all pointed to the historical role that disinformation has played in suppressing the voices of and inciting hatred against people of color.
Elizabeth Warren also escalated her attacks against Zuckerberg, challenging Facebook to remove an ad that her campaign posted. In order to illustrate the absurdity of Facebook’s policy to leave up false ads placed by politicians, Warren’s ad contained a deliberately false claim that Zuckerberg had endorsed Donald Trump for president. Facebook responded that it would prioritize free speech over facts and that it wouldn’t step in to police false claims made by politicians.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sent a letter to Facebook after a political action committee posted an ad that falsely claimed that Biden blackmailed the Ukrainian government to stop investigating his son, Hunter Biden, by threatening to withhold aid. Biden’s campaign says the ad wasn’t posted by a politician—it was posted by a PAC—and should’ve been taken down. The ad has since been removed.
On Monday, Facebook announced that it found and disabled misinformation campaigns apparently being conducted by Russia and Iran. The company also announced plans to label content posted by state actors.
Warren pledges to reject donations from big tech
In a blog post ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren also pledged to reject campaign funding from executives at Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Lyft, and other big tech companies. Those executives would otherwise be allowed to donate up to $2,800.
Harris and Warren spar over Twitter
During the Democratic debate Tuesday night, Kamala Harris went after Elizabeth Warren for the latter’s refusal to support Harris’ call for Twitter to disable Trump’s Twitter account. Warren responded that her goal is to get Trump out of the White House not off Twitter. Twitter has said that it would not disable Trump’s account unless he specifically violates the social media company’s rules against threatening individuals, promoting terrorism or self-harm, or posting private information like a phone number.
Bernie Sanders wants to break up big media
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is taking a slightly different tack. The presidential candidate released a plan to dismantle the mergers of large media companies that have been approved during the Trump era. Sanders specifically mentioned Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox as an example of corporate greed that he would seek to tamp down as president.
Facebook loses support from major Libra allies
Facebook has lost the support of major banks it relied on to make its cryptocurrency, Libra, a reality. Mastercard, Visa, Ebay, Stripe and Latin American payments company Mercado Pago all pulled out of the partnership with the so-called Libra Association, citing regulatory concerns and a number of other factors. The companies joined PayPal, which left the association the week before last. Lyft and Vodafone are still in, according to Reuters.
FCC approves Sprint T-Mobile merger
The Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to approve the Sprint-T-Mobile merger last week, with Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks opposing based on pricing concerns, including the lack of a resolution regarding the broadband subsidy program known as Lifeline. The deal got the DOJ’s stamp of approval in July. But the merger still faces a multistate lawsuit from ten states seeking to block the merger.
AT&T ‘s keeps hiking prices
AT&T has continued to hike prices by as much as 50%, according to Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica. The company’s new “TV Now” package is rising by $15 per month, from $50 to $65. The company is also raising prices on its “Live a Little” plan from $50 to $60 in November. This is the second time the company has raised prices for this plan. In April, it hiked it from $40 to $50—that’s a $20 monthly increase over the span of just 7 months.
Ora Tanner (@odtanner) is Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of South Florida (USF). She previously worked as a nuclear physicist, science educator, and more recently as a graduate researcher on NSF-funded grant projects related to digital game-based learning and assessment. Ora earned her B.S. and M.S. in physics from Dillard University of New Orleans and USF, respectively, and expects to complete her doctorate in Instructional Technology and Educational Measurement in 2019. She studies the latest emerging technologies and explores how they can be used to empower both K-12 students and teachers in science education.
Right to Petition: A Practical Guide to Creating Change in Government with Political Advocacy Tools and Tips by Nicole Tisdale (Advocacy Blueprints Press, 2019)
Email questions about the safety portal to: email@example.com
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Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign targeted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week in a new social media ad. The ad facetiously alleges that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has endorsed Donald Trump for President. The assertion wasn’t true, of course, but that was the point: Warren says that endorsing Trump is essentially what Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are doing by allowing politicians to post false ads on the platform.
In recent weeks, the social media giant has refused to remove false ads from politicians. As recently as Friday, Facebook declined to remove a Trump campaign ad questioning Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s alleged role in ousting a Ukrainian prosecutor, after the Democratic National Committee called for the ad to be removed. Facebook is uniformly refusing to take down false ads, claiming to prioritize freedom of expression over truth.
But Zuckerberg has also been defending himself for meeting with conservative groups, politicians, and pundits in private dinners and other gatherings. Zuckerberg’s terse response to those who criticized the meeting was, “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning … If you haven't tried it, I suggest you do!" Zuckerberg is set to return to Washington on October 23rd, to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Maxine Waters.
Public demand for government intervention in online extremism clashes with civil liberties groups
According to a recent Morning Consult poll, some 58% of Americans want Congress to take a more active role in moderating online content. But the efforts of Democrats in Congress to push for legislation to curtail online extremism are getting resistance from civil liberties groups, including NYU’s Brennan Center.
The Hill reports that the Democrat-controlled House Homeland Security Committee is pushing for a bill that would create a bipartisan, 12-member commission with the power, not only to study online extremism, but also to subpoena certain communications. Civil liberties groups oppose any expansion of government surveillance, stating that such surveillance could have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, such as communities of color.
Meanwhile, online extremists who used to post on 8chan until it was shut down, have now been migrating over to Telegram, according to a new Vice News investigation published last week finding that more than two thirds of the 150 extremist groups on Telegram were established in 2019. And extremist content on YouTube shows few signs of slowing. A violent YouTube video containing fictitious movie footage of a shooting surfaced over the weekend, after it was shown at a pro-Trump event hosted by the conservative group American Priority on a Trump golf course. In it, Trump’s image is superimposed on top of ashooter’s, and those of his political opponents, including Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and logos of major media companies, were superimposed on top of the faces of the victims in the movie, to make it appear as though the president was massacring his opponents inside a church. The president stated that he strongly condemns the video, but that he hasn’t seen it. On Friday, in an ostensible coincidence, Trump stated at a rally that there is an “unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians, deep-state bureaucrats and the fake news media.”
California blocks facial recognition in police body cams
California governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill last week that prevents the police from using facial recognition in body cams. The bill remains in effect until January 1st, 2023. New Hampshire and Oregon have passed similar legislation.
Domino’s must make its website and app accessible to people with disabilities
Finally, In a case that carries significant implications for every online platform, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling that a blind customer can sue Domino’s pizza, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for failing to make its website fully accessible. Fast Company reports though that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing back, saying that allowing customers to sue can open the floodgates of litigation and thereby harm small businesses.
Data journalist Meredith Broussard (@merbroussard) is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and the author of “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World.”. Her academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She is also interested in reproducible research issues and is developing methods for preserving innovative digital journalism projects in scholarly archives so that we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Moore Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science, a 2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, and her work has been supported by the Institute of Museum & Library Services as well as the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. Her features and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, and other outlets.
Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press, 2018)
The New York Daily News reports that Google apparently sent out contractors to pay homeless people $5 gift cards to train facial recognition on ‘dark skinned’ homeless people. The revelation comes after several former Google temp workers came forward. Google has acknowledged the program, though, and said its primary goal is to have a diverse and inclusive data set. Better security is also a goal, said the Google spokesperson, because the company is seeking to protect as many people as possible. But the workers took issue with some of the specific tactics they were asked to employ via their staffing agency, Randstad, under the direction of Google.
The CEO of the Democratic National Committee, Seema Nanda, went on CNN last week and accused Facebook of catering to Trump by allowing him to “mislead the American people”. The previous week, Facebook refused to remove posts and ads from politicians even if they violate Facebook’s community rules.
Also, Scott Lucas of BuzzFeed wrote a piece on Facebook’s growing popularity among older and more conservative voters, and whether Facebook may in fact be Trump’s secret weapon against Democrats in the 2020 election.
In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Senator Kamala Harris, who is running for president, called on Twitter to suspend Trump’s Twitter account, citing the president’s attempts to “target, harass, and attempt to out” the first Ukraine whistleblower. She also referred to the president’s tweet stating that there would be a Civil War-like fracture, if he’s impeached, saying it was an incitement to violence. The president also referred to the impeachment investigation as a “coup” to which Harris retweeted with a comment saying “Hey Jack … time to do something about this.” But Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom are also running for president, disagreed that Twitter should suspend the president’s Twitter account. The two lawmakers said that “we can’t just cancel or shutdown or silence those who we disagree with or who hold different views or who say things even that we strongly disagree with or abhor.”
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules. The court sided with the FCC in saying that the internet isn’t a “telecommunications service”. But the court did say, however, that the FCC didn’t make a compelling argument that the FCC preempts state law, clearing the way for states to enact their own net neutrality rules, provided that they don’t undermine the repeal order. The court also said the FCC failed to properly consider the effect the rules would have on public safety, serving the underserved, and a wonky area of telecom law that deals with regulations around how ISPs should attach telecom equipment to existing telephone poles.
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a rule that would allow the widespread collection of DNA from detained migrants. The Trump administration argues that the effort would aid the U.S. in identifying undocumented individuals. But policy experts cited in Roll Call are concerned that the program is just another way to target people of color.
Tim Cook filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging the Court to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood (DACA) arrival program. If the Supreme Court rules against the program, hundreds of thousands of individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children, some of which work at Apple, could face deportation.
Google researchers presented a model that recognizes speech in 9 “data scarce” Indian languages at Interspeech 2019 last week. The researches say the model allows for real-time speech recognition of all of the languages and does so better than other models. The languages include Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Gujarati.
The House Financial Services Committee, for which California Representative Maxine Waters serves as chair, is demanding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify regarding its plan to introduce its Libra cryptocurrency. The company has planned to send COO Sheryl Sandberg, but the Committee indicated that sending Sandberg is insufficient. Waters has called for Zuckerberg to testify by January.
Microsoft reported a hacking attempt linked to Iran on 2,700 email accounts, of which 241 were successful. Some of the accounts included presidential candidates, according to the Hill, which also noted that an undisclosed source indicated that the Trump campaign was among the targets. The Trump campaign has said that it does not have any evidence of an attack.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved UPS’ plan to operate an unlimited fleet of drones nationwide. The drones are permitted to operate at night, but not yet in populated areas. UPS has not announced plans to train existing drivers to pilot the drones.
Charlton McIlwain (@cmcilwain) is Vice Provost or Faculty Engagement and Development; Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at
New York University. His recent work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He recently wrote Racial Formation, Inequality & the Political Economy of Web Traffic, in the journal Information, Communication & Society, and he co-authored, with Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark, the recent report Beyond the Hashtags: Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, published by the Center for Media & Social Impact, and supported by the Spencer Foundation. Today, Tuesday October 1st, 2019, his new book entitled Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, releases via Oxford University Press and available wherever you buy books.
McIlwain, Charlton. Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AFRONET to Black Lives Matter (Oxford University Press, 2019)
The New York Times reports that the Electronic Frontier Foundation shared with it scores of documents uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act request that reveal the extent to which federal law enforcement officials issue subpoenas to companies in an effort to uncover personal data about individuals the Justice Department suspects of being a threat to National Security. The Justice Department has issued the so-called National Security Letters (NSLs) to companies as diverse as Equifax, Verizon, Google, and Microsoft seeking things like user names, IP addresses, locations, and records of purchases made by their customers.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is pushing for more tech expertise on the Hill, saying that it would help resist tech companies’ growing lobbying influence in Washington. Warren says tech companies’ strategy has been to purport that they understand tech issues better than congressional staffers. So she’s advocating for the reestablishment of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which Newt Gingrich dismantled in 1995. For about two decades, the OTA was tasked with helping to keep Congressional staffers abreast of tech issues.
The NAACP slammed Comcast for asking the Supreme Court to curtail section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which outlaws discrimination in contracting. Comcast and Trump’s Department of Justice are asking the Supreme Court to water down the statute by requiring plaintiffs to prove that race was the only motivating factor for why a defendant didn’t award a contract, as opposed being one of several factors. Comcast is requesting the more conservative reading of the statute in the context of a $20 billion lawsuit Byron Allen brought against it and Charter for opting out of carrying Allen’s cable channels. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief on Comcast’s behalf. Allen is arguing that race does not need to be the only motivating factor in a contract discrimination lawsuit and that Comcast and the Trump administration are conspiring to eviscerate this landmark civil rights law, which was passed in the wake of the Civil War—the first one.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that seven (7) companies including Capital One, Edward Jones, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Enterprise Holdings, Renewal by Andersen, Drive Time Auto, and Sandhills Publishing discriminated against women and older workers by targeting ads based on age and gender. The Commission found that while targeting based on ages an gender may be appropriate in some cases, it’s not appropriate for housing, real estate, financial services, and job opportunities.
The Federal Trade Commission is suing dating platform Match Group, owner of Match, Tinder, OKCupid, Hinge, PlentyofFish and other dating apps, for fraud, TechCrunch reports. The lawsuit targets Match.com specifically saying the platform is overrun by bots and spammers that Match encourages and profits from.
Online delivery service DoorDash is one of the latest targets of a hack. This time, the hack exposed the data of 4.9 million people. Even though the hack happened in May, DoorDash didn’t discover it until September.
Finally, the Government Accountability Office wants the FCC to take more active measures to address a shortage of spectrum on Tribal lands. The report indicates that Tribal lands, especially those in rural areas, lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to broadband access. It says that wireless can help close the divide. GAO says the FCC needs to do more to assess the extent to which Tribal organizations participate in spectrum auctions and to which unused spectrum across tribal lands could be used to deliver broadband access.
Jeffrey Cole has been at the forefront of media and communication technology issues both in the United States and internationally for the past three decades. An expert in the field of technology and emerging media, Cole serves as an adviser to governments and leading companies around the world as they craft digital strategies.
In July 2004 Dr. Cole joined the USC Annenberg School for Communication as Director of the newly formed Center for the Digital Future and as a Research Professor. Prior to joining USC, Dr. Cole was a longtime member of the UCLA faculty and served as Director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, based in the Anderson Graduate School of Management. Cole founded and directs the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal look at the effects of computer and Internet technology, which is conducted in over 35 countries. At the announcement of the project in June 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a “true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media.” Nineteen years into the project, the World Internet Project, through its unique data on Internet users around the world, is the leading, unrivaled international project examining the ways in which technology changes our lives.
Cole regularly presents trends and insights of the project to the White House, FCC, Congress, Department of Defense and heads of governments around the world. He has worked closely with the CEOs of GroupM, Ericsson, Telstra, Wesfarmers and others. On the advisory side, his long-term relationships have included Microsoft, Sony, Time Warner, AT&T, AARP, CBS, NBC, ABC, CPB, PBS, HP, Coca-Cola and many more as they learn to navigate the digital future. He also sits on Unilever’s (the world’s second largest advertiser) Global Digital Strategy Board.
In 2016 Cole was one of the founders of the Global Disruption Fund (GDF), a technology investment fund based in Australia (www.globaldisruptionfund.com.au). Cole is one of the members of the Investment Committee identifying innovative companies and those about to be disrupted, making investments based on his work. The Fund is now worth close to $1 billion and growing; it achieved a 40% return in its first year. Since 2017 he has written a popular and widely circulated column on disruption, media, technology and entertainment (www.digitalcenter.org/cole).
Under Cole’s leadership, the Center has conducted deep examinations of the entertainment, sports media, transportation and banking industries to identify where the next wave of disruption will occur. More than just identifying trends, the Center works closely with industry to create policies and make the concrete changes that will keep them competitive. That work includes all five (formerly six) motion picture studios, all four networks and now streaming companies, as well as sports networks, leagues, automotive companies and banks.
In the 1990s, Cole worked closely with the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) dealing with television programming issues under an anti-trust waiver that allowed the networks to work together for the very first time. He issued annual reports to the television industry, Congress and the nation. Upon the release of the 1996 report, Cole held a joint press conference with President Bill Clinton, who referred to the Center for Communication Policy as “the premier educational institution setting trends in entertainment.” Nationwide there was unanimous praise for the quality of the reports and their contribution to the television content debate.
Cole has testified before Congress on television issues and has been a keynote speaker at more than 750 conferences on media and technology (many can be seen on YouTube). He has worked with the White House during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations on media and telecommunications issues. He regularly makes presentations across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Cole was a member of the Executive Committee of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) from 1997 to 2001 and was the founding governor of the ATAS Interactive Media Peer Group. At UCLA, Cole taught over 35,000 students. In 1987 he received UCLA's Distinguished Teaching Award.
Mitch McConnell, whom Democrats had started to call “Moscow Mitch”, backed a $250 million spending bill last week to help states beef up election security. McConnell had previously blocked two bills that would have boosted security and required paper ballots.
Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps after an internal audit revealed that they could either have be a threat or didn’t respond to Facebook’s requests for information. Facebook says the move comes after a review of millions of apps following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The FTC fined Facebook $5 billion over the summer for privacy violations. Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in town meeting with members of Congress and President Trump at the White House, meetings which sources say were “constructive”.
Well, there’s not much else we can say about the 71st Emmy Awards other than the fact that this year’s awards offered shockingly little diversity. National Urban League CEO Marc Morial and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel penned a joint Op-Ed in the Hill released prior to the awards discussing this year’s lack of nominees of color. For example, not one woman of color was nominated for lead actress in a comedy. This year, just 26 nominees were people of color, compared to 38 last year. Just three people of color ended up winning—RuPaul Charles won for hosting RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jharrel Jerome won for When they See Us, and Bill Porter won for Pose. When are we gonna stop begging these people to include us, fam? Seriously.
The FCC released its open meeting agenda. The meeting will take place at 10:30 at the FCC. A proposal for $950 million in funding for Puerto Rico’s communications infrastructure is first on the agenda.
The New York Times is ending Spanish language coverage. “While the Español site did attract a new audience for our journalism and consistently produced coverage we are very proud of,” the Times said in a statement, “it did not prove financially successful”. New York Times in Español launched in response to President Trump’s hate speech against Mexicans.
NBC/Universal has launched a new streaming service dubbed Peacock, which is slated for launch in April. NBC/Universal will join the long list of new Netflix streaming competitors including the likes of Disney, Apple, and HBO Max.
CJ Johnson is an award-winning creative entrepreneur, speaker and internet personality. First known as the go-to “branding guru” supporting hundreds of startups and Fortune 500 companies worldwide with his impactful creative strategies to cultivating hundreds of thousands of social media followers as an influential millennial voice in the fight against social media depression.
Currently based in Los Angeles and New York, CJ is best known for his work in next-generation marketing that includes: creative strategies, the future of work, diversity and inclusion, and influencer marketing.
He was first introduced to the world of business and marketing early in his career but it soared to new heights during the explosion of the startup movement and as the YouTube generation reshaped the industries of the world. Using his professional creative skills, he broke down racial barriers and became a strong voice in the Silicon Beach movement.
After successful ventures overseeing marketing/publicity for several on-demand mobiles apps and startups, he went on to pursue his entrepreneurial passion by creating the digital agency, Januel+Johnson. After a couple of successful years with the agency, CJ and his partner decided to part ways to pursue their own personal passions.
CJ has helped a total of over 128+ Startups, Entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies worldwide find success with effective growth strategies. He now focuses on his primary mission of supporting and inspiring YOU to chase after YOUR dreams.
Twitter took down the tweet of a Texas state lawmaker for violating Twitter’s policy against promoting violence. The Republican legislator, Briscoe Cain, wrote that his “AR is ready for you” after presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke tweeted “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s”. O’Rourke called Cain’s tweet a death threat.
The Intercept reported that the National Rifle Association increased its spending on Facebook ads following last month’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton, in which 32 total people were killed. The Intercept reported that the NRA’s Facebook spending reached a high point of $29,000 on August 18th, with $360,000 spent on ads in the month following the attacks. Compared to just $9,400 during the month prior.
The DOJ announced the arrest of 281 individuals worldwide who were allegedly co-conspirators in a pervasive wire scam targeting banks and their customers. The Hill reports that the scammers target bank employees with access to financial information, whom they then persuade to transfer funds to a fraudulent account. More than half the arrests were made in Nigeria but law enforcement officials also made arrests in the UK, Turkey, Japan and several other countries. The DOJ conducted the operation—dubbed Operation ReWired—along with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Treasury.
Facebook announced its efforts to prevent self-harm as part of its participation in World Suicide Prevention Day last Tuesday. The company said it’ll be hiring a health and well-being expert, as well as seek to explore ways to share relevant data with the public that could be used to prevent self harm. Also, Facebook will no longer allow triggering content, such as images of self-harm or cutting.
Finally, Facebook suspended a chatbot on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page. The chat bot promised site visitors that Netanyahu would pursue a right wing agenda against quote “Arabs who want to destroy us all”. Facebook suspended the bot for 24 hours and promised to take additional action if they detect any further violations.
Jen Schradie joined Joe Miller on the WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast to discuss her work challenging the alleged "social media bias" that has been claimed by conservatives.
Jen Schradie is an Assistant Professor at the Observatoire sociologique du changement (OSC) at Sciences Po in Paris. Previously, she was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, based at the Toulouse School of Economics, as well as at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, Université de Toulouse. She received her PhD from the Department of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley with a designated emphasis in New Media from the Berkeley Center for New Media. She also has a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School. Her broad research agenda is to interrogate digital democracy claims with empirical data. Despite recent panic about digital threats to democracy, many theorists have still suggested that the Internet can enable a more participatory, pluralist society, but her research challenges these claims, spanning three areas: the digital divide, digital activism, and digital labor. Schradie has found that inequalities, ideologies, and institutions shape participation in our new information society.
Released in May of 2019 by Harvard University Press, The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives, traces what she calls the Digital Activism Gap. Rather than early utopian claims of Facebook and Twitter Revolutions or more recent dystopian ones of Russian bots, state-sponsored hacking, or fake news farms, she reveals a more insidious problem. Instead of the internet spawning democracy or then taking it away, it does not have a life of its own. A Digital Activism Gap is driven by social class inequalities, organizational hierarchies, and reformist conservatism. The prototype of the radical left digital protester did not fit the mold of the 34 groups she studied in North Carolina. Digital activists were much more likely to be Tea Party members than student anarchists. These findings challenge the view of the internet as a pluralist space for social movements. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, has also generated three journal articles in The International Journal of Communication, Social Problems and Social Media + Society.
She has published four articles on what she coined as “digital production inequality.” After articles on this topic were published in Poetics and Information, Communication and Society, the publicity she garnered from these publications earned her the 2012 Public Sociology Alumni Prize at UC Berkeley. Currently, she is examining egalitarian claims of tech start-up entrepreneurs in a comparative research project between France and the United States.
Her current projects are on the digital economy – a comparative study between France and the United States and the role of the state in mediating risk with start-ups, with a focus on gender and class inequality. She is also working on a European Commission funded project with partners in the UK and Italy to analyze online hate speech against Muslims.
Before entering academia, Schradie directed six documentary films, including, “The Golf War – a story of land, golf and revolution in the Philippines.” Most of her films, however, focused on social movements confronting corporate power in the American rural South. Schradie’s documentaries have screened at more than 25 film festivals and 100 universities. She is also a beginning banjo player and an occasional yoga teacher.
The Revolution that Wasn't: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives by Jen Schradie (Harvard University Press, 2019)
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that public officials should be able to block certain Twitter users for harassment. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she blocks only a tiny percentage of users. She also tweeted that users are free to speak their minds, even if others find that speech offensive, but that no one should have to require themselves to be subjected to harassing or abusive speech. Interestingly, a federal appeals court found that the president, because he uses Twitter in his official capacity, can’t constitutionally block users.
The Federal Communications Commission activated disaster reporting for Hurricane Dorian as the hurricane moved up the east coast over the weekend. The FCC wants communications providers in affected areas to provide updates on outages via The Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) at https://www.fcc.gov/nors/disaster/.
The tariffs that Trump promised to impose on China as part of his trade war against the country went into effect on Sunday. The tariffs will affect some $110 billion worth of Chinese imports across a broad range of goods. Another tranche of tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese goods like laptop computers and other consumer devices is set to take effect on December 15th.
Google publicly announced a hacking attempt that it found and reported to Apple back in February that targeted iPhones. The company said that going to certain websites using your iPhone gave hackers access to your data by installing malware that would run in the background without your knowledge. Hackers were then able to do things like copy your photos or even access encrypted messages sent via apps like Facebook Messenger or Telegraph. Google representative Ian Beer advised consumers to continue to be wary of the possibility of being hacked, even on devices with robust security features.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Twitter accounted was hacked last week. The hackers commenced to tweet racial slurs and other offensive messages until the posts were deleted within the hour, the Hill reports. Twitter says the hackers gained access to the account due to a security oversight by the wireless carrier that exposed Dorsey’s phone number.
Politico reported Friday that Google will have to pay up to $200 million to settle allegations that YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from collecting data from children under 13 without parental consent. Some were disappointed by the news, including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who said the penalty wouldn’t be high enough.
A group of ninety or so contract workers at Google voted to unionize last week, challenging how the company treats them compared to their full-time employees with whom they, in many cases, work side-by-side. With the help of the United Steelworkers union, about 2/3rds of the data analysts and other white collar professionals voted to unionize. The petition now heads up to the National Labor Relations Board which may formally authorize a union vote.
The city of Fort Collins, Colorado is launching its own municipal broadband network offering up to 1GB of broadband for $60/month. Right now, the service targets 20-30 households but the city’s looking to ramp up. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica reported that the cable industry vigorously opposed the effort. But voters approved the build out anyway.
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.
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.
Francella Ochillo (@franochillo) is the Executive Director of Next Century Cities. Previously, Francella was the Vice President of Policy and General Counsel for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Francella is a digital rights advocate who is committed to expanding access for unserved and underserved communities. Francella has worked on a variety of technology and telecommunications issues with a specific focus on assessing the impact of policy proposals on marginalized communities. Having worked for more than a decade with government and public interest organizations, she understands the challenges associated with getting various stakeholders to agree on connectivity solutions. Francella helps policymakers and lawmakers understand how broadband access can change socioeconomic outcomes and revitalize communities. It motivates her work to ensure that state and local leaders are given every opportunity to resolve their own connectivity issues and have a voice in shaping federal policies.
Francella is based in Washington, DC and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. She earned a B.S. in Marketing from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and a J.D. from John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
The day after Robert Mueller gave testimony warning about election interference happening right at this very moment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two election security bills last week intended to bolster election integrity. One of the bills would have required paper ballots to be used and passed the House 225-184. Another bill—a Senate bill from Senator Richard Blumenthal—would have required candidates, campaign officials and their family members to report to the FBI any assistance they’ve been offered from foreign agents. Leader McConnell blocked consent on both bills saying they were partisan.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report found that Russians interfered in U.S. elections as far back as 2014. It also found Russian activities continued into 2017. The committee released the 67-page report the day after Robert Mueller’s testimony.
French President Emmanuel Macron signed into law a 3% digital services tax last week on U.S. tech companies that make at least $750 million Euros in revenue annually. President Trump said he intends to retaliate, that only the U.S. should tax American-based companies, and that American wine is better than French wine.
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard sued Google last week claiming that the company censored her presidential campaign advertisements. The complaint alleges that by suspending Gabbard’s presidential campaign’s Google Ads account for several hours last month, that Google effectively censored her. Google says that they have an automated system that flags unusual activity. Gabbard is claiming $50 million in damages.
The Justice Department has approved the proposed, $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint merger. However, a lawsuit brought by several state Attorneys General needs to be resolved before the merger takes effect. In exchange for the merger approval, the Hill reports that the Department of Justice is requiring T-Mobile to turn over subscribers and spectrum to Dish Network, which will become a facilities-based, carrier that will compete with the merged company.
Finally, Facebook has settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $100 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission had claimed that Facebook misled investors for more than 2 years after the company became aware of the Cambridge Analytica breach in 2015. Facebook disclosed the breach in February of 2018.
Michael J. Alkire (@AlkirePremier) is the President of Premier, Inc.. As President, Alkire leads the continued integration of Premier’s clinical, financial, supply chain and operational performance improvement offerings helping member hospitals and health systems provide higher quality care at a better cost. He oversees Premier’s quality, safety, labor and supply chain technology apps and data-driven collaboratives allowing alliance members to make decisions based on a combination of healthcare information. These performance improvement offerings access Premier’s comparative database, one of the nation’s largest outcomes databases.
Alkire also led Premier’s efforts to address public health and safety issues from the nationwide drug shortage problem, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives regarding Premier research on shortages and gray market price gouging. This work contributed to the president and Congress taking action to investigate and correct the problem, resulting in two pieces of bipartisan legislation.
Prior to serving as President, Alkire was president of Premier Purchasing Partners, which offers group purchasing, supply chain and resource utilization services to hospitals and health systems. Premier remains among the top group purchasing organizations in the industry as the value of supplies purchased through its contracts has increased to more than $56 billion. Upon joining Premier in late 2003, Alkire worked closely with the Purchasing Partners team to develop and implement a three-year transformation plan designed to dramatically increase returns to the alliance’s shareholders while building stronger relationships with members and suppliers.
Alkire is a past board member of GHX and the Healthcare Supply Chain Association. He recently was named one of the Top 25 COOs in Healthcare for 2018 by Modern Healthcare. In 2015, Alkire won the Gold Stevie Award for Executive of the Year and in 2014 he was recognized as a Gold Award Winner for COO of the Year by the Golden Bridge Awards. He has more than 20 years of experience in running business operations and business development organizations at Deloitte & Touche and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Before joining Premier, he served in a number of leadership roles at Cap Gemini, including North American responsibilities for supply chain and high-tech manufacturing.
Alkire graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from Indiana State University and an MBA from Indiana University.
Premier, Inc. and 10 Hospitals Launch Initiative to Improve Maternal and Infant Health (Press Release, July 11, 2019)
HEADLINES: The FTC fines Facebook $5 billion—many say it’s not enough; Trump goes on a racist tirade on Twitter; and Michael Alkire is my guest.
The Federal Trade Commission has fined Facebook some $5 billion with many saying it’s a slap on the wrist. One commentator on Twitter called it a parking ticket, although it was a record fine. But the New York Times notes that the fine concludes just one of several investigations currently pending around the world. Facebook’s revenue last year was $56 billion.
You already know about Trump’s racist tweets over the weekend in which he told democratic, progressive Congresswomen of color, obviously including Representative Ilhan Omar, who fled to the U.S. from Somalia, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. Of course the other Congresswomen to whom he was clearly referring, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were born in the U.S. But Brian Stelter from CNN pointed out something interesting – media outlets like Fox News are avoiding calling the president’s tweets racist, and instead relying on third-party commentators to do that. Twitter even said that the president’s tweets didn’t violate its policies. Twitter though is in a difficult predicament since it’s currently under fire by Trump, along with several other tech companies, for allegedly having an anti-conservative bias.
The Trump administration held a social media summit with conservative content creators and politicians last week. The president told those in attendance that he would invite tech companies to the White House to explain their alleged anti-conservative bias. But the president didn’t provide any evidence.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Huawei, the China-based company that’s been besieged by the Trump administration for allegedly sharing the confidential and sensitive information of U.S. companies with the Chinese government, will be laying off as many as 850 people in the U.S. The U.S. Commerce Department has blacklisted Huawei, which Huawei estimates will cost it some $30 billion.
Andrew Liptak reported in the Verge that the U.S. government is planning to test armed, robotic vehicles beginning next year. The Army will conduct the live-fire tests in Colorado and Europe. The vehicles will be remote controlled.
Scientists at the University of Glasglow photographed, for the very first time, two photons interacting and sharing physical states for a brief moment. What does it mean? Well the photograph will advance the field of quantum mechanics because it proves that photons physically interact with one another—something that was theoretical before. Also, the process of taking the photograph was very involved, creating a model that scientists can use to capture other scientific phenomena that are difficult to observe.
Christopher Lewis, a seven-year veteran of progressive tech policy think tank and advocacy group Public Knowledge, has succeeded Gene Kimmelman as President & CEO. Previously, Chris was a staffer in the late Ted Kennedy’s office.
House Commerce Committee
New America, 740 15th St., NW
New America, 740 15th St., NW
Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonTGB) is Co-Founder of The Giving Block. The Giving Block is a DC-based start-ups focused on helping non-profits incorporate Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into their funding model. Previously he was a Director at Block Shop, also DC-based, which is a blockchain incubator focused on building real blockchain solutions beyond the hype. a blockchain incubator focused on building real blockchain solutions beyond thehype and serves as Washington DC's blockchain hub for top startups and events. He’s also a Senior Consultant at Optimity Advisors – a Management Consulting Firm in DC. He’s earned his BA at Wake Forest’s School of Business.
HEADLINES: ProPUblica deiscovers an obscene Border Patrol facebook Group insulting migrants and Latina Congresswomen, Twitter’s right wing attacks Kamala Harris, and Alex Wilson is my guest
ProPublica uncovered a secret Facebook Group containing some 9.5 thousand members in which Border Patrol Agents ridiculed migrants and members of Congress with obscene photos. In one comment, one of the agents suggested they throw a burrito at Representatives Veronica Escobar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when they come to visit an El Paso area border Patrol facility. Another group member posted the photo that went viral last week of a man lying face-down in the water next to his young daughter. The poster referred to them as “floaters” and suggested the photo wasn’t real. There were several other racist and sexist comments that I’ll let you find on your own … Customs and Border Patrol says they’re investigating but skeptics believe there to be a pervasive culture at the agency that encourages this type of bigotry.
Twitter accounts identified as bots by researchers Josh Russell and Caroline Orr retweeted a conspiracy by Trumpworld personality Ali Alexander, in which Alexander wrote that Kamala Harris is “not an American Black” because she is half Indian and half Jamaican. Sound familiar? Anyway, Twitter denies that bots were involved and claimed that all of the users who contributed were actual human beings. The social media company said the tweets did not violate its terms of service.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Senators Warren and Jaypal criticized the FCC’s Communications, Security, Reliability and Interoperability Advisory Committee for having to many corporate members on board. Currently, out of 22 members, 15 are corporate, 6 are government officials, and just one is from the nonprofit sector. Neither the FCC nor Chairman Ajit Pai have commented publicly.
In defiance of the FCC’s overturning of the 2015 net neutrality rules, Maine has become the 12th state to pass its own net neutrality rules. These include Colorado, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and California.
President Trump has relaxed the ban he imposed earlier this year preventing American companies from selling products to Chinese device manufacturer Huawei. The policy shift came as part of a deal with China to ease trade restrictions.
Facebook has released the latest findings from the civil rights audit being conducted by prominent civil rights attorney Laura Murphy. It’s been received by many social justice advocates working on tech policy as a restatement of things they’ve been calling Facebook out on for a long time, such the need for board diversity, better treatment of people of color and women. The company announced that a task force will be created to address some of the issues raised in the report. But some some say the task force will just be a networking opportunity for members of the task force.
Fri., 7/5-Sun. 7/28
Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble (@safiyanoble) is an Associate Professor at UCLA in the Departments of Information Studies and African American Studies, and a visiting faculty member to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor in Department of Media and Cinema Studies and the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press), which has been widely-reviewed in journals and periodicals including the Los Angeles Review of Books, featured in the New York Public Library 2018 Best Books for Adults (non-fiction), and recognized by Bustle magazine as one of 10 Books about Race to Read Instead of Asking a Person of Color to Explain Things to You.
Safiya is the recipient of a Hellman Fellowship and the UCLA Early Career Award. Her academic research focuses on the design of digital media platforms on the internet and their impact on society. Her work is both sociological and interdisciplinary, marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology. She is regularly quoted for her expertise on issues of algorithmic discrimination and technology bias by national and international press including The Guardian, the BBC, CNN International, USA Today, Wired, Time, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The New York Times, and Virginia Public Radio, and a host of local news and podcasts, including Science Friction, and Science Friday to name a few. Recently, she was named in the “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers of 2019” by Government Technology magazine.
Dr. Noble is the co-editor of two edited volumes: The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Culture and Class Online and Emotions, Technology & Design. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, and is the co-editor of the Commentary & Criticism section of the Journal of Feminist Media Studies. She is a member of several academic journal and advisory boards, including Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Fresno where she was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2018.
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya U. Noble (NYU Press: 2019)
Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media by Sarah T. Roberts (Yale University Press: 2019)
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating YouTube over children’s privacy concerns, according to the Washington Post. The Alphabet subsidiary faces steep fines if it’s found to have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits tracking and targeting children under 13. The FTC and YouTube both declined to comment.
The Hill reports that GOP lawmakers are divided over election security, with some, including Mitch McConnell, who think additional legislation is unnecessary to deal with the challenges posed by technology. Other Republicans, like Lindsay Graham think there’s more we can do.
We reported last week that Facebook announced plans to launch its own cryptocurrency called Libra. But House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters is pushing back. Waters asked Facebook to place a moratorium on the release of its cryptocurrency until after Congress has had a chance to review it. Virginia Senator Mark Warner agreed. Both lawmakers said the company’s troubled past is a warning sign. Waters has scheduled a hearing for July 17.
The Department of Homeland Security stated in request for information it released last week that it would be moving the data of hundreds of millions of people around the globe to Amazon Web Services. The DHS is moving the data to a Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) System, hosted by AWS, which will upgrade the agency’s ability to link biometric and biographical data to DNA. The system is designed to quickly identify anyone who’s in the database such as suspected criminals, immigration violators, terrorists and, frankly, you, if you’re in the database.
The Guardian reports that Google parent Alphabet’s board of directors voted down thirteen shareholder proposals that would have ended forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims by contract workers, addressed ethical concerns stemming from AI and China, and several other social concerns. The board voted against the proposals despite a protest happening outside the company’s headquarters during the vote.
Apple CEO Tim Cook called out big tech at a Stanford Commencement speech last week. He said tech companies need to accept responsibility for the chaos they create and that “Lately it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation – the belief you can claim credit without accepting responsibility … We see it every day now with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning out national conversation, the false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood.”
In a letter penned by Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver, members of the House of Representatives are calling on tech companies to diversify the ranks of outside counsel the companies use. Currently, tech companies retain large law firms notorious for their dismal diversity records and segregating lawyers of color into contractor roles. Congressman Cleaver, along with Representatives Robin Kelly, G.K. Butterfield, and Barbara Lee sent the letter to Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Intel, HP, Cisco and Facebook.
Fairfax County Virginia and Dominion Energy landed a $250,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for an autonomous electric shuttle in Merrifield. The pilot will be part of a larger potential effort to build a largescale autonomous transportation system in Virginia. This first pilot will connect the Dunn Loring MetroRail Station with the Mosaic district. Under the deal, Dominion will purchase or lease the vehicle and Fairfax County will handle operations.
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Continuing Challenges to the Voting Rights Act Since Shelby County v. Holder
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Election Security: Voting Technology Vulnerabilities
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NASA’s Aeronautics Mission: Enabling the Transformation of Aviation
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Monica Anderson (@MonicaRAnders) is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center primarily studying internet and technology issues. Much of her recent work has focused on the impact of the digital divide, the role of technology in the lives of teenagers, and activism in the age of social media. She has a master’s degree in media studies from Georgetown University, where her work focused on the intersection of race, politics and media.
Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences by Monica R. Anderson (Pew Research Center, 2018)
U.S. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is demanding that Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim recuse himself from the DOJ’s antitrust investigation of Google and Apple. In the past, Delrahim lobbied on behalf of both companies. Senator Warren wrote directly to the Assistant Attorney General saying that not recusing himself would create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a data breach last week. The agency says thieves obtained traveler photos and license plate numbers via a malicious cyberattack to a subcontractor’s network. The hackers did not directly access CBP’s database.
The Wall Street Journal reports that internal documents may show that Facebook knew about shady data practices happening at the company. Sources say internal emails in which executives are seen grappling with how to comply with the requirements of an FTC consent decree included silence by Zuckerberg as to the implications of an app that had the ability to reveal Facebook user data on its own site, irrespective of the users’ privacy settings on Facebook.
New America’s Open Technology Institute, Free Press and Georgetown Law Center’s Center on Privacy and Technology lodged a complaint at the FCC Friday, claiming that AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint & Verizon have threatened public safety by enabling stalkers, people posing as police officers, debt collectors, and others by disclosing subscribers’ location data to bounty hunters.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Visa, Mastercard, Uber and Paypal will each be investing around $10 million in Facebook’s new cryptocurrency called Libra, which Facebook’s planning to announce this week. Facebook’s been largely quiet about the currency but the Wall Street Journal reports that it would be a currency that’s pegged to government-backed cryptocurrencies and allow users to use the digital coin to make purchases across the internet. Some experts are worried about money laundering.
DC-founded Sweetgreen—the salad giant—is stepping up its delivery game. Even though Sweetgreen is now headquarted in LA, it announced its acquisition of Galley Foods last week, also a DC-based company, to handle delivery logistics. This is Sweetgreen’s first acquisition.
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Alfred Mathewson (@hubisoninthe505) is the former Emeritus Professor of Law and Henry Weihofen Chair of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He joined the UNM law faculty in 1983 after working as a corporate, securities and banking lawyer in Denver. He was named the Director of the Africana Studies Program in 2013 after having served as Acting or Interim Director since 2009. From 1997 through 2002, he was Associate Dean of Academics. In that position, he oversaw the curriculum, clinical law program, faculty appointments, the faculty promotion and tenure process, library, faculty development and related issues. Professor Mathewson served as a Co-Dean of the law school from 2015 to 2018.
Mathewson's teaching and research focuses on antitrust law, business planning, sports law, minority business enterprises and corporate governance. He frequently supervises in the Business and Tax law Clinic and has served occasionally as Acting Director of the Clinical Law Program during the summer. He recently added Transactional Negotiations to his teaching portfolio. He has published numerous articles and given speeches in these areas and he brings this expertise to his teaching.
He is a member of the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute. He has served on several ABA accreditation inspection teams. He is a member of the AALS Section on Law and Sports Law, of which he has previously served as chair. He currently is serving another stint as chair of the UNM Athletic Council. He serves as the faculty adviser of the UNM Chapter of the Black Law Students Association.
He is active in various community organizations, including the Albuquerque Council on International Visitors. He has served as the president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association and the Sam Cary Bar Association (Denver).
His recent publications include The Bowl Championship Series, Conference Realignment and the Major College Football Oligopoly: Revolution Not Reform, 1 Miss. Sports L. Rev. (2012) and Remediating Discrimination Against African American Females at the Intersection of Title IX and Title VI, 2 Wake Forest J. L. & Policy (2012). He presented “Times Have Changed: A New Bargain for Sharing the Revenue Stream in Intercollegiate Athletics with Student Athletes,” a paper prepared for panel at AALS 2014 Annual Meeting Section on Law and Sports program entitled, “O'Bannon v. NCAA: Is There An Unprecedented Change To Intercollegiate Sports Just Over The Horizon?”
Race in Ordinary Course: Utilizing the Racial Background in Antitrust and Corporate Law Courses by Alfred Mathewson, 23 St. John’s J. Legal Comment 667 (2008).
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
Civil Rights and the Anti-trust Laws by Philip Marcus
Race, Markets and Hollywood’s Perpetual Dilemma by Hosea R. Harvey
Amazon Antitrust Paradox by Lina M. Khan
Claire Stapleton, one of the organizers of last year’s global walkout at Google following revelations that the company allegedly hid sexual harassment allegations against Android developer Andy Rubin, has left the company, saying she was retaliated against. She wrote in an internal document, later posted on Medium by Google Walkout for Real Change, “These past few months have been unbearably stressful and confusing. But they’ve been eye-opening, too: the more I spoke up about what I was experiencing, the more I heard, and the more I understood how universal these issues are.” Stapleton said she’s leaving the company because she’s having a baby. Google has refuted the allegations.
The State of Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, signed a new privacy bill into law last week requiringcarriers to get consumers’ permission before selling their data to third parties. It specifically prohibits ISPs from retaliating against consumers for refusing to allow their data to be sold.
YouTube shifted gears and revoked the ads of far-right commentator Steven Crowder over Crowder’s use of homophobic language. The company backtracked following outcry over the company’s initial defense of Crowder. But the ban isn’t permanent. Crowder simply must remove the offensive content, including the homophobic t-shirts he was selling in his online store.
The FCC allowed carriers last week to ban even more robocalls by allowing them to stop calls on behalf of subscribers. The order had bipartisan support, but Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel said it opens the door for carriers to charge for the service since the order doesn’t contain any language to prevent that from happening.
Pew reports that rural communities lag the rest of the country when it comes to tech adoption. At 63%, rural households are 10 points lower than the rest of the country. Smartphone penetration, at 67%, is also 10 points lower. Tablet penetration and the number of households with desktop computers also lags.
Finally, it looks like you’re going to have an alternative to Turbo Tax. The tax preparation service is facing some competition from the IRS itself. Congress has killed a provision of the Taxpayer First Act that would have prevented the IRS from creating its own, free online tax filing service.
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Chris Jones (@cjones2002) is the Chief Marketing Officer of Dragonchain and Co-founder of the Blockchain Seattle Conference. He’s a long-time entrepreneur and an expert in strategy, product marketing and user acquisition. He is adept at translating complex, technical features and functionalities into easy to understand concepts. Previously Chris held executive roles with Adidas America, Mattel and Boost Mobile. Chris is an evangelist for blockchain technology and the people and projects. In addition, he consults to other blockchain & technology companies including Storm, a gamified microtasks platform and Sirqul, a leader in the IoT space. He attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate and earned an MBA from Northwestern University.
Blockchain Use Cases
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Reuters reports that Amazon is considering purchasing Boost from T-Mobile. The report comes as the Department of Justice has called for Sprint and T-Mobile to spin off some property to ensure their proposed merger maintains at least 4 mobile competitors.
The New York Times reports that visa applicants planning to enter the U.S. will need provide their social media profiles from the last 5 years. They implemented the policy on Friday. The crackdown comes amidst a staggering anti-immigration posture that largely targets Muslims and people of color, China, and Mexico.
Tech shares tumbled Monday following reports that the DOJ, FTC and Congress will begin investigations against Google parent Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. The New York Times reported that the DOJ has an investigation of Alphabet and Apple teed up. And the Federal Trade Commission will investigate Amazon and Facebook, according to sources. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler also announced his committee will conduct its own investigation. The Nasdaq was down 1.6% and tech stocks in indexes around the world rode the rollercoaster in Monday’s trading.
The FCC released its broadband report last week, concluding that carriers are building high speed internet service in a reasonable and timely fashion. This is even though some 23 million Americans lack access to broadband. FCC Commissioner Starks said the report’s findings are “fundamentally at odds with reality”. For example, in DC, some 9,000 people lack access to high speed internet service defined as 25mbps download speed. DC concentrates most of those lacking broadband internet in Wards 5, 7, and 8.
An New York City Airbnb host—an Asian woman—called her black guests monkeys and criminals and then called the police. The guests ended up leaving and staying in a hotel. You can find the link to the Instagram video in the show notes.
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Kriti Sharma (@sharma_kriti) is an Artificial Intelligence expert and a leading global voice on ethical technology and its impact on society.
She built her first robot at the age of 15 in India and has been building innovative AI technologies to solve global issues, from productivity to inequality to domestic abuse, ever since. Kriti was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was included in the Recode 100 List of Key Influencers in Technology in 2017. She was invited as a Civic Leader to the Obama Foundation Summit. She is a Google Anita Borg Scholar and recently gave expert testimony on AI Policy to the UK Parliament in the House of Lords.
While much of Silicon Valley worry about doomsday scenarios where AI will take over human civilization, Kriti Sharma has a different kind of concern: What happens if disadvantaged groups don’t have a say in the technology we’re creating? In 2017, she spearheaded the launch of the Sage Future Makers Lab, a forum that will equip young people around the world with hands-on learning for entering a career in Artificial Intelligence.
Earlier this year, she founded AI for Good, an organization creating the next generation technology for a better, fairer world. Kriti also leads AI and Ethics at Sage.
Kriti's Ted Talk: How to Keep Human Bias out of AI
Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
Two Amazon shareholder resolutions to curb Rekognition—with a K—the company’s facial recognition platform—failed to garner shareholder approval last week. One proposal would have required the company to determine whether the technology violates civil liberties before rolling it out to law enforcement. The other resolution would have required Amazon to conduct a study of human rights violations posed by Rekognition. While Amazon is reluctant to address these issues, Google and Microsoft have pledged not to sell their facial recognition to law enforcement.
The Financial Times reports that U.S. National Security Advisor Dan Coates has been warning U.S.-based companies about doing business with China. Coates has even gone as far as sharing classified information with executives. The classified briefings come amidst a U.S. trade war with China which includes a ban of China-based tech company Huawei from doing business in the U.S. because of a cozy relationship it allegedly had with Iran and the fact that China is alleged to be using the company’s components to spy on the U.S. The Financial Times says the briefings have largely focused on the espionage and intellectual property threats China poses.
A bi-partisan bill introduced by Senators Ed Markey and John Thune, that would slap robocall offenders with a fine of $10,000 per call, passed the Senate with a vote of 97 to 1 on Thursday. The legislation also increases penalties for scammers and works to combat number blocking. The bill is called the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACE) Act and now heads to the House where Democrat Frank Pallone’s got a similar bill in the works.
Google has tweaked it policy for abortion ads after several misleading abortion ads showed up on the platform. Now, the company’s saying that it will certify advertisers who want to place abortion-related ads as either abortion providers or non-providers. Any advertiser that doesn’t fall into one of those categories won’t be able to run abortion ads on Google.
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Harold Feld is Public Knowledge's Senior Vice President. Before becoming Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge, Harold worked as Senior Vice President of Media Access Project, advocating for the public interest in media, telecommunications, and technology policy for almost 10 years. Prior to joining MAP, Harold was an associate at Covington & Burling, worked on Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, and accountability issues at the Department of Energy, and clerked for the D.C. Court of Appeals. He received his B.A. from Princeton University, and his J.D. from Boston University Law School. Harold also writes Tales of the Sausage Factory, a progressive blog on media and telecom policy. In 2007, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised him and his blog for "[doing] a lot of great work helping people understand how FCC decisions affect people and communities on the ground."
The Case for the Digital Platform Act by Harold Feld
In a 5-4 the decision, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to Apple in a class action lawsuit claiming that company’s app store is a monopoly. The case will now proceed in the district court. The issue was whether regular consumers have standing to sue Apple for antitrust violations, or whether it was just competitors who have standing to sue. Justice Kavanaugh sided with the court’s liberal justices, saying that if consumers didn’t have standing, that retailers would be able to evade antitrust enforcement, by structuring deals with suppliers and manufactures in a way that complies with the black letter of the law, but still effectively have a monopoly.
Police in Pittsburgh arrested an Uber driver, Richard Lomotey, who is also an assistant professor at Penn State’s Beaver campus, for allegedly locking two female passengers in his car and telling them, “you’re not going anywhere”. Lomotey is charged with two counts of kidnapping.
Protestors converged on Palantir’s headquarters around the country over the company’s $38 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the Intercept, Palantir, which was founded by Trump adviser Peter Thiel, has been working with ICE to help them target and deport unaccompanied children and their families. Palantir says that it only helps ICE with investigations. But the Intercept found written documents, obtained via a FOIA request, that show Palantir pursued an “Unaccompanied Alien Children Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative” with both of ICE’s two major divisions: Homeland Security and Investigations and its other division, which is called Enforcement and Removal Operations.
The New York Times reports that Symantec has discovered that Chinese spies hacked into the National Security Agency and stole its hacking tools. Then it took those tools and used them against the United States. Experts are now questioning what role the U.S. should now play in defining cybersecurity practices around the world. The New York Times describes what China did as being similar to a “
gunslinger who takes an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away”, making cybersecurity, in a lot of ways, like the Wild West.
The Justice Department has charged two Chinese nationals for hacking Anthem back in 2015 that affected some 78.8 million Americans. The DOJ says the hackers used “extremely sophisticated techniques” to hack into Anthem and three other companies. DOJ officials call it one of the worst attacks in U.S. history.
Amazon reported that over 6 months last year, it was hit by what it termed an “extensive fraud” with hackers siphoning funds from merchant accounts.
Pew reports that despite all of the breaches, and hacks and problems in the tech sector and Facebook, in particular, Americans’ interest in tech remains unchanged compared to last year. Black and Hispanic adults’ use of YouTube exceeds that of Whites by 6 and 7 points respectively, with 78 and 77 percent saying they’ve ever used YouTube. Notably, Hispanic adults far outpace Whites on Instagram—by some 18 points, with 51 percent of Hispanics saying they’ve ever used the platform compared to just 33% of Whites. Blacks and Hispanics also far outpace Whites on WhatsApp, by 11 points and 29 points, respectively. You can find a link to the report in the show notes.
Uber drivers around the world protested Uber and Lyft on the day of Uber’s IPO last week. The largest number of protestors, hundreds, appeared outside Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco. But the turnout in other cities around the world, were more modest. This underscores the difficulty of organizing in a company without a central company-wide email system that drivers can use to organize.
Oracle is suing the Pentagon for eliminating it from a bidding process after Amazon allegedly offered a job to a Department of Defense employee for crafting the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure in a way that benefitted Amazon.
DC City Council member Phil Mendleson threatened DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on Twitter, saying that he would withhold building permits for government projects if the Mayor fails to implement a law designed to regulate short -term rentals like Airbnb. The Mayor’s office is saying the law may be unconstitutional because it limits owners of units that don’t actually reside at their property from sharing with renters for more than 90 days per year. The law is scheduled to take effect on October 1st.
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This event has a high demand and the location isn’t public. But you can find the link to the interest list in the show notes.
Randy Abreu (@AbreuAndTheCity) is the Senior Legislative Advisor to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). 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.
Abreu has a personal history of advocating for social justice, and federal experience producing regulations and initiatives on intellectual property, drones, self-driving cars, cybersecurity, broadband access, spectrum allocation, e-privacy, and tech-transfer.
Read more at https://washingtechpodcast.libsyn.com/randy-abreu-tech-policy-in-the-bronx-and-beyond-ep-128#ySt87YOYc4MbviFm.99
Mark Zuckerberg comes under direct assault ahead of a shareholder vote to keep him on the Board, Microsoft defends election security, and Randy Abreu is my guest
Two civil rights groups—Color of Change and Majority Action—are circulating a proposal and meeting with Facebook’s shareholders pushing to oust Mark Zuckerberg from the board. Color of Change President Rashad Robinson wrote “ "Lasting change to address the misinformation, discrimination, violent movements and data breaches that put users, especially Black users, at risk cannot subject to the whims of a single person." Currently, Zuckerberg controls 57.7% of voting shares. The Hill notes that 35% of Facebook’s shareholders withheld votes last year.
Here in DC Senators Blumenthal and Hawley wrote to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to wrap up its investigation into Facebook, calling for significant damages that exceed the $5 billion that some reports have anticipated.
Several sources have reported that Facebook has told federal regulators at the Federal Trade Commission that, in addition to paying what’s expected to be a multibillion dollar fine, it will also bend to additional oversight. Any major changes that Facebook plans to make to the platform would now need to go through a more rigorous approval process. And Facebook would need to hire a new privacy executive that the FTC pre-approves. Facebook has also redesigned its website to emphasize group messages over the news feed in order to address privacy concerns.
The Trump administration has expanded its collection of biometric data from migrant families at the U.S. border with Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security will now conduct DNA tests and a pilot to collect fingerprints from children under 14.
Russia took a huge step last week to close itself off from the internet. Vladimir Putin signed a new bill that would allow his country to develop a “sustainable, fully-functioning, and secure sovereign internet” to defend itself against potential cyberattacks. The bill envisions doing this by creating a Russia-specific Domain Name Server.
Senators Steve Daines And Gary Peters introduced a bipartisan bill that would prevent the Customs and Border Protection’s ability to sell personally identifiable information, like addresses and social security numbers, to third parties. The senators say the new measure could help prevent identity theft and credit card fraud.
Uber and Lyft have stopped adding new drivers in New York City approximately 3 months after a new law went into effect that requires drivers to earn at least $17.22 per hour after expenses. The new law is intended to address low pay but also reduce the number of unused ride-sharing vehicles on the street. Politico noted that Uber and Lyft drivers have earned some $56 million more than they would have prior to February first.
Several hundred employees at Google offices around the world, including in London, staged a sit in last week to protest alleged retaliation against Google employee Meredith Whittaker for organizing a 20,000-employee walkout to protest forced arbitration f. During the sit-in other employees spoke about instances of retaliation that they too have allegedly experienced. Google released a statement saying it takes retaliation seriously and that it offers multiple channels by which employees have the ability to complain about retaliation, including anonymous complaints.
Microsoft is taking the initiative to beef up election security by offering a free software that secures and validates votes and elections with new encryption methods. The company says it is ready to release “early prototypes” by 2020. Keep in mind though that it won’t be prepared for “significant deployments” until after the 2020 elections.
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Jelani Anglin is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Good Call. Good Call’s mission is to ensure that anyone who is arrested will have immediate access to a lawyer via its hotline 833-3-Goodcall. Jelani is a community organizer and serial entrepreneur. During High School, Jelani started his first online business, for which he was awarded the NYS FBLA Business Plan of the Year award, and was featured on national TV. Prior to founding Good Call, Jelani worked on a variety of issue-based and electoral campaigns, in addition to being a community organizer at AirBnb. Growing up in Far Rockaway, NY, and organizing in low-income communities across the east coast, Jelani experienced firsthand the pitfalls that exist for those oppressed by the criminal justice system. He works every day to better communities similar to where he grew up, and hopes his work will be a stepping stone for other young black males. In addition to being Co-executive Director at Good Call, Jelani is an Echoing Green fellow and a Civil Justice Fellow at Blue Ridge Labs.
Mastery by Robert Greene
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Twitter, Facebook, and Google dominate the headlines in another week of near chaos as tech and public policy still fail to see eye-to-eye on privacy, hate speech, and workplace issues, and Jelani Anglin is my gust
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called Representative Ihan Omar the same day he met with President Trump, after she started receiving death threats following Trump’s tweet of her giving a speech alongside images from the September 11th terrorist attacks. The Washington Post says he called her to tell her he stood by his company’s position to keep the tweet up because he concluded it didn’t violate Twitter’s rules. He also said that taking it down wouldn’t have done much since the tweet had already been widely shared. Dorey also said the company needed to do a better job monitoring for and removing hate speech and harassment. At the meeting with Trump, Trump complained to Dorsey that too many of his followers had been removed. But Dorsey reportedly said that it removes followers based on how much spam they tweet and that he also lost a lot of his own followers.
So Twitter won’t ban certain hate speech, apparently because certain GOP politicians would also be affected by it. During an all hands meeting someone asked why the company could ban Islamic State propaganda but not white supremacist content. An executive and engineer responded saying societal norms allow some Arabic language to be banned in order to sweep up ISIS tweets, but that societal norms wouldn’t allow sweeping up politicians’ tweets flagged as hate speech.
So yeah … Just total armchair policymaking at Twitter. Although, to be fair, Twitter did release a statement saying that this approach did not reflect the real approach at all.
But why won’t Twitter take down David Duke, for example? Not even Jack Dorsey knows since, when he was asked at a Ted event to explain, he just punted.
In any case, reading all of the news reports it’s clear that Twitter has absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on or how to design algorithms that prevent it from being used as a political propaganda machine. But the company is reportedly working on a way to make the context for political tweets more transparent—whatever the hell that means.
And meanwhile, we’re just supposed to sit here and deal with the mass shootings, and deal with the death threats and there’s absolutely not a single mechanism in this democracy that can handle it?
Recall that last week we reported that Facebook swept up some 1.5 million user emails to help it build new products and services. Well, users didn’t authorize the use of their emails for that purpose. So New York Attorney General Letitia James is now investigating.
The Washington Post reports that up in Canada, regulators are planning to sue Facebook for breaking privacy laws. Canada began an investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and found that the company’s privacy protections are merely “superficial”.
The Hill reports that Ireland is now also investigating Facebook for exposing the passwords of “hundreds of millions” of users . Ireland’s looking into whether the company violated the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Facebook has hired Jennifer Newstead as its new General Counsel. Newstead previously helped draft the Patriot Act under George W. Bush when she was an attorney in the Bush administration. She’d previously worked for OMB, Justice, and the White House. Before she was appointed as Facebook’s GC, she was Trump’s appointed legal adviser at the State Department according to Politico.
Facebook is scheduled to report its first quarter earnings tomorrow, Wednesday May 1, so keep an eye out for that.
A report in USA Today discusses how Facebook censors black users from talking about race. So you’re going to want to check that out.
Google has changed its reporting and harassment protocol for harassment and discrimination. The change comes after two employees who helped organize the walkout of some 20, 000 other employees in protest of Google’s forced arbitration for such complaints claimed the company retaliated against them. Google will now have a dedicated site where employees can report harassment and discrimination, and the company will also now make arbitration an option for employees. The company has also expanded its annual internal misconduct report to include information about sexual harassment investigations,
Oversight Hearing: 2020 Census Preparation
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Ben Green joined Joe Miller to discuss how stakeholders can develop a more inclusive approach to smart cities by engaging local residents.
Ben Green (@benzevgreen) is a PhD Candidate in Applied Math at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. He studies the implementation and impacts of data science in local governments, with a focus on “smart cities” and the criminal justice system. Analyzing the intersections of data science with law, policy, and social science, Ben focuses on the social justice and policy implications of data-driven algorithms deployed by governments. His forthcoming book, The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future, will be published in April 2019 with MIT Press (Amazon link).
Ben’s research draws on his extensive experience working with data and technology in municipal government. He most recently spent a year working for the Citywide Analytics Team in the City of Boston, where he developed analytics to improve public safety operations and civic engagement strategies for the City’s new open data program. Ben previously worked as a Fellow at the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, and partnered with the City of Memphis, TN using machine learning to identify blighted homes. He also worked for a year at the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking, where he managed the deployment of new parking meter payment technology.
Ben completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematics & Physics at Yale College. His graduate work has been funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the Herbert Winokur SEAS Graduate Fellowship.
The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future by Ben Green (forthcoming MIT Press, April 9, 2019).
It was a rough week for Google in the LGBTQ community.
First, the Human Rights Coalition suspended Google from its rankings, for which Google had a perfect rating, because Google allowed an app promoting conversion therapy to remain in its app store. Google has since pulled the app.
Also, several Googlers took aim at Google’s new Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) last week for naming Heritage Foundation President Kay Cole James as a member. Cole has repeatedly spoken out frequently against LGBTQ interests and trans folks in particular. So over a thousand Googlers signed on to a letter published on Medium opposing Cole’s appointment.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson also criticized Google for failing to include civil rights leaders on the council.
Facebook announced that it will now ban content promoting white nationalism and white separatism. The company will ban content with phrases that explicitly refer to white nationalism and white separatism. But Facebook said that finding implicit instances of white nationalism and white separatism will take some time for Facebook to learn how to identify. Mark Zuckerberg also wrote a Washington Post Op-Ed seeking a third-party tribunal that would reinforce Facebook’s efforts. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr weighed in opposing such a framework.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has already sued Facebook for allowing real estate advertisers to exclude certain ethnicities and zip codes, is now investigating Twitter and Google as well, according to the Washington Post.
A group of IBM ex-employees sued the company in federal court in New York City for failing to disclose how many people it laid off who were over the age of 40. It’s the second lawsuit following a ProPublica report last year that documented rampant alleged age discrimination at the company. At issue is a provision in IBM’s separation agreement that requires employees to agree not to sue the company in exchange for severance pay.
Google and Cuba’s state-run telecommunications monopoly ETECSA have agreed to begin negotiations on bringing better connectivity to the island. The agreement entails Google’s and ETECSA’s engineers working together to bring better connectivity to the island via Google’s points of presence in Florida, Mexico, and Colombia without having to pay the hefty interconnection fees it’s been paying to a third party carrier to connect to Venezuela.
Finally, Nipsey Hussle, the rapper and community champion who was murdered in front of his clothing shop in L.A. on Sunday, was an avid supporter of science, technology, engineering, and math education for underrepresented youth and diversity in tech. John Ketchum writes in AfroTech that in an LA Times interview last year, Hussle was quoted as saying that kids are often nudged to emulate athletes and entertainers but that there should be more messaging around emulating tech leaders like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.
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