WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller

The WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast is your resource for tech law and policy news and interviews. Each week, the WashingTECH Policy Podcast presents the latest developments across the tech policy landscape plus interviews with a diverse array of tech policy influencers.
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WashingTECH Tech Policy Podcast with Joe Miller





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Aug 15, 2017

How to Build a Lobbying Presence in Washington

Before you build a lobbying presence in Washington, consider the fact that technology now touches almost every aspect of our lives. Accordingly, our policymaking has become more complex as companies develop new technologies and consumers use technology in ways that were unanticipated.

What are the key issues that policymakers and businesses should be focused on as they seek to fine-tune their policy strategies? How are policymakers dealing with issues, like diversity, that policymakers have historically considered less "substantive" but which have begun to take on monumental importance in American business and politics? Why is Washington, D.C. relevant to start up and early stage ventures and how can they build a lobbying presence in Washington?

You'll get answers to these questions and more on Ep. 102!


Named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper, Elizabeth Frazee (@EFrazeeDC) has a 30 year career in Washington. Elizabeth has worked in high-level jobs on Capitol Hill, as an entertainment executive, and policy representative of major companies.

Elizabeth interweaves a thorough understanding of policy, communications, politics and an impressive network of contacts to manage campaigns and coalitions.

A native of North Carolina, Elizabeth began her career working for her home state Senator. She then served as press secretary for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Additionally, Elizabeth ran the legislative office of then-freshman Representative Bob Goodlatte. Goodlatte now serves as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Following her time in Congress Elizabeth was director of government relations at the Walt Disney Company. There she served as the motion picture industry’s representative in Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) negotiations. Those negotiations resulted in revisions to the Copyright Act. Additionally, Elizabeth also negotiated with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). She joined AOL in the late 90’s as vice president of public policy and ran its Congressional team. While at AOL she served on the front lines of Internet policy debates, helped AOL merge with Time Warner, and helped secure the passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. Then, in 2003,  Elizabeth built a private lobbying practice. That practice became TwinLogic Strategies when she and co-founder Sharon Ringley launched the firm in 2009.

Elizabeth earned her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, while working full-time for Congress. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


TwinLogic Strategies

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman

News Roundup

Members Slam Google on Tech Diversity

Most of you are familiar by now with Google's firing of James Damore. Damore is the engineer who wrote the screed that reinforced stereotypes about women working at the company. Well, lawmakers are now urging Google to ensure its stated efforts to improve diversity lead to actual diversity. In a Medium post, Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna wrote that the incident highlights Google's diversity challenges. He called upon Google to do more. Further, eps. Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin and Robin Kelly -- all Democrats -- also weighed in. They urged Google to address diversity more effectively. Tony Romm reports in Recode.

In Punch to Disney, Netflix Signs Shonda Rhimes

Disney announced last week that it would be ending its contract with Netflix in 2019. Disney plans to offer its content on its own standalone service. However, Netflix responded by signing hit showrunner Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes previously created such shows as Grey's Anatomy and Scandal for Disney. Rhimes has been a boon to Disney's ABC unit for more than a decade. Netflix is also negotiating with Disney the possibility of Netflix continuing to carry Marvel content after 2019. Meg JamesDavid Ng and Tracey Lien report for the LA Times and Lizzie Plaugic reports for the Verge.

Major Tech Firms Lining Up to Support "Extreme Vetting"

Several tech firms are enthusiastically lining up to support President Trump's "extreme vetting" program.  Recall that on the campaign trail Trump advocated for the creation of an extreme vetting program.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) division is now working on building the program.  The program's  goal is to determine, with pinpoint accuracy, which persons entering the country are most likely to engage in acts of terrorism. IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lexis Nexis, SAS and Deloitte are among the companies interested in building this out. Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman report for the Intercept.


Benchmark Capital Sues Travis Kalanick

Benchmark Capital--a major Silicon Valley investor and Uber investor--is suing former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. In  a complaint filed in Delaware, Benchmark says Kalanick deceived the board into expanding Uber's board from 8 to 11. Now, Benchmark says, Kalanick holds one of the very seats he created and is attempting to pack the board with members who are sympathetic to him. Dan Primack reports for Axios.

More Tech Companies Oppose Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill

We reported last week that the House introduced a bill, with the support of 24 members, that seeks to curtail online sex trafficking. The bill is a response to, a site that hosted prostitution and sex abuse ads. Now the bipartisan bill is up to 27 sponsors. However, joining the opposition are Engine Advocacy and the Copia Institute which spearheaded a letter campaign that was signed by 30 tech companies including Kickstarter, Meetup, Medium and Reddit. They argue that the bill goes too far in restricting legal third-party content. Wendy Davis Reports in Media Post.


Aug 8, 2017

How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Affect Warfare?

In today's episode we discuss the role of artificial intelligence in the future of warfare. What are the risks? How is the United States likely to fare in confrontations involving the use of AI?

In a recent paper, Center for a New American Security Fellow Greg Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan, illustrate both the risks and opportunities for the use of AI in warfare. We discuss these findings plus lessons learned from previous revolutions in the use of military technology.


Greg Allen (@Grecory_C_Allen) is an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He focuses on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, and national security. Additionally, Mr. Allen's writing and analysis has appeared in WIRED, Vox, and The Hill.

In 2017, The Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs published  his report entitled “Artificial Intelligence and National Security”. Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan conducted this  study on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Mr. Allen currently works at Blue Origin, a space exploration and technology company. Prior to working at Blue Origin, he worked at Avascent, where he advised senior executives in government and the private sector.

Mr. Allen holds a joint MPP/MBA degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School. Further, his Master’s Thesis was honored with the Belfer Center Award for Excellence in International and Global Affairs.

In addition, he graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he was awarded the Arnold J. Lien prize for outstanding graduate in Political Science.



Artificial Intelligence and National Security by Greg Allen and Taniel Chan (Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2017)- AI and the Future of Warfare


Center for a New American Security

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari


After August 31, the feds don't have to tell you how they're storing your biometric data

If you're concerned about how federal law enforcement officials are storing your biometric data, you'd better act fast. After August 31, they will no longer have to tell you. The FBI's Next Generation Identification system stores things like iris scans and fingerprints that you gave during things like employment background checks.  Currently, you can find out how the feds are storing your biometric information. However, the FBI becomes exempt from the Privacy Act provision that allows this on August 31. You can find the story in

Senate confirms Rosenworcel and Carr

The Federal Communications Commission is now up to 5 Commissioners. So it finally has a full panel of Commissioners. The Senate confirmed Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr last week. Rosenworcel previously served as a Commissioner during the Tom Wheeler FCC for three years from 2012 to 2015. Carr is the the FCC's current General Counsel.

In addition, President Donald Trump had also nominated Chairman Ajit Pai. However, the Senate did not take up Pai's nomination before the recess.

The three Republicans at the Commission will now be Pai, Carr and Michael O'Rielly. And the two Democrats are Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Edward Graham has the story in Morning Consult.

Tech sector opposes legal immigration restrictions

The tech sector is opposing the GOP immigration bill President Trump endorsed last week which would cut legal immigration in half over 10 years. The so-called RAISE Act prefers highly skilled workers and English speakers and moves extended family members of immigrants to the back of the line.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC)-- the trade group that lobbies on behalf of tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others--opposes the measure. ITIC president Dean Garfield said in a statement “This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy.” Tony Romm has the story in Recode.

Meanwhile, Canada is emerging as the "New" New Colossus, welcoming Emma Lazaraus's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free". Canadian business and government leaders are seizing on the opportunity to welcome tech talent to Canada. David George-Cosh and Jacqui McNish report in the Wall Street Journal.

Apple and Amazon bow to China, Google complies with Russia

The tech sector is coming under increased pressure to conform to multinational norms. Paul Mozur at The New York Times reports that Apple has removed Chinese censor-evading VPN apps from its Chinese app storeAmazon also warned its Chinese customers to stop using software that evades China's Great Firewall.

Further, in Russia, Google has begun implementing terms it settled on in a dispute with its Russian competitor, Yandex. The agreement stipulates that Google would give Russians a choice of which browser to use on Android phones. In accordance with the agreement, Google began suggesting other browsers to Russian Android users last week. David Meyer reports in Fortune.

Senate passes 6 bills before recess

The Senate passed 6 bipartisan technology and communications bills before they departed for recess. They include bills  to expand spectrum availability (MOBILE NOW Act S. 19), improve service in rural areas ( S. 96) , and make it easier to call 911 from hotel rooms (Kari's Law Act of 2017, S. 123). Congress wrote the latter bill in response to Brad Dunn's fatal stabbing of his wife, Kari Hunt, in a hotel room in Marshall, Texas as Hunt's 9-year-old daughter tried to call 911.  Unbeknownst to the young girl, the hotel room phone required callers to dial 9 before 911, and she was unable to reach a dispatcher.

Other bills include:

  • Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017 (S. 134): Legislation to stop misleading or inaccurate caller ID information.
  •  Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2017 (S . 174): Legislation to require the FCC to condense duplicative reports on competition in the telecommunications market into one comprehensive report released every two years.
  •  Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act (DIGIT Act)(S. 88): Legislation to bring together private sector and government entities to assess the needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and study the readiness of government to support the IoT.

Senators introduce the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017

Several advocacy groups are opposing a new bipartisan bill entitled the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017. The bill has the support of six Senators--3 Republican and 3 Democrat--including Senators Portman, McCain, Cornyn, Blumenthal, McCaskill, and Heitkamp. The new law would allow victims of sex trafficking to sue and press charges against any website that "knowingly or recklessly" enabled sex trafficking. Additionally, it would criminalize conduct by websites that “assists, supports, or facilitates a violation of federal sex trafficking laws”. Further, it would allow the states to prosecute sites under federal sex crimes laws.

Advocates argue that this new legislation would eviscerate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 shields websites from liability stemming from content posted by their users. Without section 230, these advocates say, the internet as we know it simply would not exist. Further, the advocates argue that it would simply be too risky for sites like Facebook or Twitter to host user-generated content. Sarah Jeong covers this in The Verge.

Facebook's new diversity report shows little progress

Facebook released its fourth annual diversity report. Eighty-nine percent of its workforce self-identifies as white or Asian. However, the number of women working at Facebook has increased by 2 percentage points since last year to 35%. Nevertheless, women hold just 19% of tech positions at Facebook, although the company reports that 27% of its engineering hires are women.

Looking at the senior ranks ... 70% are white, 72% are male and of the women who have cracked the glass ceiling into the c-suite, 68% are white. However, the percentage of Facebook employees who identify as black went from 2 to 3%. Hispanics when from 4 to 5%. Clare O'Connor reports in Forbes.

Crowdfunding platforms block alt-right groups

Blake Montgomery at Buzzfeed reports that leading fundraising platforms like PayPal, GoFundMe, and Patreon have banned or limited some members of the alt-right from using their sites.

Researcher proves Amazon Echo can be a spying tool

A British researcher has demonstrated how he has been able to successfully install malware on an Amazon Echo that allowed him to eavesdrop. But the hack requires physical access to the target Echo and only works on pre-2017 Echo devices. Andy Greenberg has details in Wired.

Aug 1, 2017

Lobbying and Advocacy for Entrepreneurs: The Business Case

Lobbying and advocacy is not necessarily something that most entrepreneurs think about when they venture out on their own.

Despite the fact that my business focuses on tech policy, when I launched,  lobbying and advocacy couldn't have been further from my mind. I was more concerned with the minutiae: configuring and registering domains, setting up my workflow, designing my own site, etc. While I intended to include lobbyists on the podcast, I was more concerned with lobbying and advocacy issues as content. I did not remotely consider that a small business like mine would have any pull amidst the many "white shoe" lobbying firms up and down K St.: The big guns were for huge corporations, not businesses like mine.

But as I have progressed and interviewed 100 guests, I have learned that these issues indeed affect me. For example, I conduct most of my interviews via Skype. Buffering issues that I encounter during my guest interviews affect the quality of my work product, and thus my bottom line. That is a net neutrality issue. This is not "ivory tower" net neutrality. This is net neutrality from the perspective of how it affects my business.

How Regulations Can Affect Your Business

There are literally hundreds of laws and regulations, in addition to net neutrality, that could potentially affect your business. Changes to intellectual property frameworks like trademarks, copyright and patents are federal policy issues. If you operate an online business, you are subject to all federal regulations regarding how you collect and utilize customer data, register email subscribers, and many other consumer regulations. Differences and conflicts between U.S. regulations and those abroad could affect your business to the extent that you engage with international customers.

The number of regulations, new and old, that you could be affected by are essentially limitless. Congress and the federal agencies are continuously introducing and revising policies that could directly impact your profits.

Joining Forces: The Power of Strength in Numbers

The sheer number of entrepreneurs complicates our ability to organize and respond collectively to policy issues affecting out interests. However, just as the end of World War II brought with it the need for labor organizations to advocate on behalf of the workforce, the need for effective lobbying and advocacy on behalf of entrepreneurs will also grow. These advocates must be at least as effective at representing entrepreneurs' interests as those post-war labor advocates who preceded them.

Consider the growing number of Americans who are pursuing entrepreneurship as either a supplement to or substitute for full-time income. According to the U.S. Census's 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs released in July of this year:

  • the number of minority-owned employer firms grew by 4.9% (from 949, 318 in 2014 to 996, 248 in 2015).
  • firms owned by women increased by 3.0% since 2014 to approximately 1.1.million.
  • veteran-owned firms totaled approximately 398, 453.
  • most firms in the U.S. (78.2%) have fewer than 10 employees.

Start-up entrepreneurs also need a place to belong. Networking and developing the right relationships is a breeze for powerful corporations. Small businesses are powerful in scale, but not as powerful in scope in terms of the expansiveness of their networks. Melissa Blaustein is working to change all that by leading lobbying and advocacy efforts for startup firms around the world. I hope you'll consider joining her in her efforts.


Melissa Blaustein (@MentionMelissa) is the Founder of Allied for Startups, a global network of startup policy associations whose goal is to make the voice of startups heard in government. Allied for Startups counts more than 19 countries on four continents as members, including 13 in the EU alone. Her background in digital policy and advocacy spans the local, national, and international levels, having held roles at The White House, UN Women, the UNEP, the G20 Research Group, with Fmr. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and on the team of many San Francisco politicians.

Melissa's entrepreneurial spirit has led her to take on challenges in the startup and technology space, including advising the French government on a taxation structure for the digital economy, serving as an ambassador at an accelerator in Paris and working at the Vice President of International Outreach at France Digitale, an association dedicated to lobbying the government on behalf of startups in France. Blaustein holds a Masters Degree Cum Laude from Sciences Po in Paris and an undergraduate degree with honors from UC Berkeley. She speaks four languages and has lived in four countries.


Allied for Startups--The Voice for Startups in Politics and Government

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild



House Panel Green-lights Self Driving Car Legislation

The  54-member House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation to speed the commercialization of self-driving cars. The legislation would clear the way for the sale of up to 100,000 self-driving cars. It would also pre-empt state laws dealing with performance standards. States would continue to regulate things like licensing, liability, safety and insurance. David Shepardson has the story in Reuters.

Lyft announced last week that it too has created a self-driving car division. Read more from Heather Somerville in Reuters.

Congress seeks more government data on Kaspersky Labs

Members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology,  have asked some 22 cabinet-level government agencies for any information they have on Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky is the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm. Several U.S. officials and members of Congress don't trust Kaspersky. They allege that Kaspersky could be a front that Russian officials use to spy on the U.S. It's an assertion that Kaspersky has vehemently denied. Dustin Voltz reports in Reuters.

Russian Citizen Indicted for Bitcoin Laundering

The Department of Justice has indicted a Russian citizen for money laundering. The DOJ alleges that Alexander Vinnick laundered $4 billion through the digital currency Bitcoin to fund drug trafficking, identity theft and hacking. Ali Breland at the Hill reports that Vinnick was arrested in Greece for allegedly using BTC-e--one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges--to carry out the crimes.

Is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC 'Full of Sh*t'???

Remember when the FCC's site went down after John Oliver urged his viewers to submit comments regarding net neutrality? Ajit Pai claimed it went down because of a DDos attack. Gizmodo said, "Yeah right" and filed a FOIA request asking the FCC to provide documentation showing it was indeed caused by a DDos attack. Well, thus far, the FCC has apparently failed to corroborate the Chairman's story. So Oregon Senator Ron Wyden took the FCC to task last week, accusing the FCC of playing "word games".

Wyden also suggested the FCC may be violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide the information Gizmodo seeks. If there was indeed a 3,000 percent increase in network traffic at the FCC as FCC Chair Ajit Pai claimed, why wasn't anyone at the FCC freaking out??? Surely there would have been emails. But Gizmodo hasn't found emails, or anything else for that matter, to suggest that Chairman Pai was telling the truth. The FCC's net neutrality docket has thus far received over 10 million public comments. Jon Brodkin has the story in Ars Technica.

Tech Earnings Reports Off-Target

Major tech stocks showed lower than expected results in the second quarter. Amazon took a 77% hit to profits even though its sales were up. Google's parent Alphabet's profit fell 28%. The Wall Street Journal attributes the shortfall to the $2.74 billion fine the EU levied against Google last month for allegedly pumping its own search results. And while the number of clicks per ad were up at Google, revenues per click were down. Further, Twitter's stock dropped 12%. The company also reported flat user growth, which is stuck at 328 million, and a $116 million loss.

Foxconn to build a U.S. plant in Wisconsin

President Donald Trump indicated that Foxconn -- the  iPhone component maker-- would be spending $10 billion to build a Wisconsin plant. The president claims the plant would create 3,000 jobs.  Foxconn CEO Terry Gou did join Trump, Vice President Pence, House Speaker  Paul Ryan, and Wisconsin Senators Walker and Johnson at the White House. But it's not clear exactly what was discussed. Walker claims that the average job created by the plant will pay $53,000 per year.

Google to Spend $50 million to help displaced workers

Google announced last Wednesday that it would be spending $50 million to help workers displaced by technology to find new jobs. The company's head of philanthropy, Jacqueline Fuller, made the announcement in a blog post last week. Ali Breland has more details in the Hill.

In other Google news, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has joined the board of Google's parent company Alphabet. The move comes as Alphabet seeks to accelerate many of the other initiatives it has been working on, such as Fiber X and self-driving cars. Dieter Bohn has the story in the Verge.


Will Amazon's Whole Foods Alleviate or Promote Food Deserts?

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and 11 members of Congress are asking the DOJ and FTC to investigate the Amazon-Whole Foods merger. The lawmakers are concerned about how the merger would affect underserved-communities' ability to access quality groceries. Many consumers live in so-called "food deserts"leaving them isolated from quality supermarkets.

Airbnb and NAACP Team Up

Airbnb and The NAACP have teamed up to open up the Airbnb platform to underserved communities. The company has come under fire for helping to facilitate an environment in which hosts routinely refuse to rent to people of color. Some cases are more explicit than others. In California in recent weeks, a host was fined $5,000 for explicitly refusing to rent to an Asian woman for no other reason other than the fact that she's Asian. The host will also have to take a college-level racial sensitivity course. The NAACP will work with Airbnb to identify underserved areas in which residents can learn more about how Airbnb can generate extra needed income. NAACP will be compensated 20% of all revenues that come from this initiative. No word yet on how much of that extra revenue will go to fund local schools and other need services. Nick Statt has the story in The Verge.

Jul 25, 2017

The Rise of Technology is a Double-Edged Sword for many African Americans

Recent reports suggest that African Americans have the most to gain, and yet the most to lose, from advances in technology.

  • The digital divide persists. Recent Pew research shows 86% of blacks reported being internet users, compared to 90% of all respondents. However, just 65% of Black survey respondents to the Pew study have access to broadband at home, compared to 73% of Internet users overall, and 78% of white users.
  • African Americans are both disproportionately impacted by climate change, and underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations. Paradoxically, the Koch brothers' lobbying efforts have tended to focus on increasing STEM skills among African Americans to prepare them to work in the fossil fuels industry.
  • African American citizens have as much to gain as anyone else from law enforcement's proper implementation of technology. However, newer law enforcement technologies, such as facial recognition technologies, have proven to be less accurate in correctly identifying African Americans than they are at identifying others.
  • A recent Global Policy Solutions report entitled Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work illustrates the ways in which African Americans, who are highly represented in driving occupations, will could be negatively affected by a poorly-regulated self-driving vehicles industry.

How can local officials, particularly mayors, address these and other concerns? Stephanie Mash Sykes shares her insights.


Stephanie Mash Sykes (@StephMashSykes) is the Executive Director and General Counsel of the African American Mayors Association. Prior to joining AAMA, she served as the Director of Governmental Affairs for African Americans working with the Office of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Stephanie has also worked as an executive compensation and employee benefits attorney in top law firms in New York City, NY and Palo Alto, CA. As an attorney, she also devoted many pro bono hours to advising non-profit organizations and small businesses. She has received the New York Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding pro bono legal service.

Prior to law school, Stephanie worked as a policy analyst at the New Jersey General Assembly where she focused on legislation related to municipal governance, consumer affairs, and economic development. Stephanie also assisted with the Black Caucus of the General Assembly. Stephanie received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Princeton University . At Princeton, she majored in Politics and received certificates in African American Studies and Latin American Studies.


African American Mayors Association

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Compton, CA Mayor Aja Brown

Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs

News Roundup

Federal Judge reports sevenfold increase in warrantless searches

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia released information last week showing a sevenfold increase in warrantless data searches by law enforcement. Judge Howell released the previously sealed information following a petition by BuzzFeed investigative journalist Jason Leopold. According to the data release, law enforcement requests for phone location and internet activity jumped from 55 in 2008, to 1,136 in 2016. Spencer Hsu has the story in the Washington Post.

WH supports overturning net neutrality

The White House has endorsed overturning the FCC's net neutrality rules. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Congress needs to weigh in with new legislation instead of having the FCC write the regulations.

Sheriff's to implement iris scanners along U.S./Mexico Border

Demos's George Joseph reports for The Intercept that every sheriff's department along the U.S./Mexico border will now be using iris detection scanners. That's right. Trump's campaign promise to build a border wall has stalled, but the "digital wall", of sorts, is moving forward. Apparently iris scanners can detect as many as 240 unique identifying characteristics, compared to just 40 to 60 for fingerprints. And, of course, what would new law enforcement technology be without the typical disproportionate impact on communities of color? Check out the Intercept for more.

House approves self-driving car legislation

By a voice vote last week, the House Commerce consumer protection committee approved self-driving car legislation. The bill would set the annual number of autonomous cars that automobile companies can manufacture to 100,000. The legislation would also preempt state laws pertaining to autonomous vehicle manufacturing. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.

House passes bill to re-authorize the Department of Homeland Security

The House last week passed a new bill to re-authorize the 15-year old Department of Homeland Security. The bill includes provisions for TSA and the US Coast Guard to issue reports on cyber risks to airlines and ports. You can find the story in

Elon Musk claims provisional approval to build "hyperloop'

Finally, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted last week that he had obtained verbal pre-approval from regulators to build a "hyperloop" that would link New York and Washington. Musk claims this hyperloop would send commuters speeding in pods through vacuum tubes allowing them to travel from midtown Manhattan to downtown Washington in just 29 minutes. The increased speed would be achieved by having the pods travel on magnetic cushions. Of course, the first obstacle would be getting the cost to build down from $1 billion per mile. Peter Henderson has the story in Reuters.


Jul 18, 2017


 Philanthropists in Silicon Valley Want Your Ideas

The provincial Silicon Valley that was loathe to step outside of Northern California is practically ancient history. An industry that once shunned Washington, D.C.'s buttoned-up bureaucrats now leads in lobbying and campaign contributions. Increasingly, philanthropists in Silicon Valley are making investments that in many ways are changing the very structure of our institutions. The New York Times is running a series on the institutional investments Silicon Valley titans are making.  For example, Netflix's Reed Hastings and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are making investments to enhance and experiment with innovative new educational tools and models. Other tech philanthropists have long invested billions to fight more global, humanitarian problems, such as climate change and malaria. They also offer microloans to small businesses in developing nations.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency as not caused the mass tech exodus from Washington that was initially feared. Indeed, while Big Tech and the Trump administration remain worlds apart on net neutrality, there is some common ground. Issues like cybersecurity, government efficiency, and the effect of artificial intelligence on jobs are largely bipartisan. It is now inside-the-beltway institutions that are struggling to tweak their own insular tendencies.

What should policy professionals be thinking about as they develop their outreach efforts to philanthropists in Silicon Valley? How does tech sector philanthropy work? The goal of this episodes is to help answer these questions and more as you structure your efforts.


Gina Dalma (@ginadalma) is Special Advisor to the CEO and vice president of government relations at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). SVCF is the largest community foundation in the world, with more than $8 billion in assets under management. Gina is responsible for leading SVCF’s ongoing lobbying efforts in Sacramento and its emerging efforts in Washington, D.C.  SVCF’s California lobbying work is currently centered around education, affordable housing, immigration and economic security. In Washington, D.C., SVCF hopes to be a leading voice on topics that have the potential to advance the philanthropic sector.

Gina was pivotal in the passage of the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, which Gov. Brown signed into law on Oct. 5, 2015. SVCF sponsored this legislation.

She serves as a member of the California Department of Education’s STEM Taskforce Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the National Common Core Funders Steering Committee and an Advisory Board Member of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

Prior to her promotion to special advisor in 2015, Gina was SVCF’s director of grantmaking. In that role, she led the grantmaking team in using a diverse set of tools, including strategic investments, to solve our region’s most challenging problems. She also led SVCF’s education grantmaking strategy, as well as the Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative.

Prior to joining SVCF, Gina was director of innovation at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Before moving to the United States, Gina held several positions related to urban economic development and regulatory economics in the federal and state public sector in Mexico.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from ITAM in Mexico City, a Master of Science in economics from the University of London and a Master of Arts in international policy studies from Stanford University.


Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF)

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch

News Roundup

FCC's Net Neutrality Initial Comment Window Closes

The FCC's initial comment period regarding its proposed rules to overturn  the Obama-era net neutrality rules closed on Monday. The comments span the gamut. Some commenters favor overturning the existing rules. Other commenters advocated for new legislation that would replace the FCC's rules. Still others advocated for upholding the existing rules entirely, without new legislation.

A couple of data points this week on net neutrality -- Civis Analytics released one showing 81% of Americans are against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of some sites over others. Interestingly, Civis Analytics counts Verizon Ventures and Alphabet Chair Eric Schmidt among its investors. Another poll, this one by INCOMPAS and the GOP-polling firm IMGE, showed 72% of Republican voters oppose throttling and blocking sites like Netflix.

Further, a Morning Consult released a report showing Senators who support net neutrality enjoy high approval ratings. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has a 55% approval rating, and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has an approval rating of 61%.

America's Cybersecurity Issues Intensify

Verizon announced that "human error" that resulted in misconfigured security settings caused the personal data of some 6 million Verizon customers to be leaked online. We're talking customer phone numbers, names, and PIN codes. Apparently, an Amazon S3 storage server's settings were set to public instead of private. Selena Larson has the full story at CNN Money.

As far as Russia is concerned--President Trump keeps equivocating. One day he says he thinks maybe Russia interfered with the election. The next day, he's publicly less sure. This is all amidst an intensifying investigation that has zeroed in on Trump's son, Donald Jr. Trump senior also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany 2 weeks ago, as you know, at the G20 Summit in Hamburg.  After that meeting, Trump talked about needing to move forward with forming a cybersecurity unit with Russia. President Trump said he had questioned Putin about the hacks and that Putin had vehemently denied them. Republicans and Democrats quickly condemned the president's statements, questioning  the president's trust of Russia.

Then, 3 days later, the Trump administration moved to limit federal agencies' use of Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky Labs is the Russia-based cybersecurity firm.  Several officials believe the Kaspersky may be a Trojan Horse the Kremlin uses to hack government data. You can find coverage in the Washington Post by Phillip Rucker, as well as Politico, by Eric Geller, and Reuters' Phil Stewart.  

Meanwhile, Joe Uchill reported in the Hill on a new poll conducted by the cyberscurity firm Carbon Black which shows 1 in 4 voters do not plan on voting due to cybersecurity concerns.

Feds Uphold NSA's Gag Orders

The gag orders the National Security Agency routinely uses when it requests identifying information from tech companies don't violate the 1st Amendment. That was the holding of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week in a matter brought by Cloudflare and Credo Mobile. The companies wanted to notify customers when the National Security Agency obtained their information. The companies argued that notifying customers of such inquiries is their First Amendment right. But the Court disagreed. As long as certain civil liberties protections are in place, those gag orders that prevent companies from notifying customers that the NSA is investigating them are Constitutional. Joe Uchill has the story in the Hill.

New Documents Suggest Facilitated Sex Advertising/Trafficking

New evidence suggests did know alleged prostitution was going on on its website and that it indeed allegedly helped facilitate it,. Johnathan O'Connell and Tom Jackman report for the Washington Post. Documents show Backpage apparently did things like troll its competitors' websites for sex ads. After finding sex ad buyers, Backpage allegedly had staffers and contractors contact those buyers and offer them free advertising . 

A 16-year-old girl the FBI says was being trafficked on the site was found dead in a Chicago-area garage on Christmas eve. Again, you can find long form coverage in the Washington Post.

To report sex trafficking happening anywhere--you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. That's 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP or INFO to 233733. That's 233733. And those coordinates are available 24 hours a day 7 days per week.

DraftKings/Fanduel Merger a No-Go

DraftKings and FanDuel--the two leading fantasy sports sites--have dropped merger talks. The Federal Trade Commission was blocking the merger after finding the merged company would have controlled between 80 and 90% of the fantasy sports market. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

Musk: AI is "Biggest risk we face as a civilization"

At a meeting of the National Governor's Association last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Artificial Intelligence is "the biggest risk we face as a civilization". He called for more effective regulations. The Economist also published a report that shows China and the U.S. in head-to-head competition for dominance in the Artificial Intelligence market.  The article suggests China may account for up to half of the world's Artificial Intelligence-attributable GDP growth by 2030. By 2030, AI is expected to comprise some $16 trillion of total global GDP.

Racist Airbnb host to pay Asian customer $5,000

Finally, Tami Barker, the Airbnb host who denied a UCLA law student her reservation because she is Asian will have to pay $5,000 in damages to the student, Dyne Suh, and take an Asian American studies course. "It's why we have Trump", is what Barker wrote to Suh via the Airbnb app. "I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners," she said.

Jul 11, 2017

African American Women Engineers' Silent Struggle Against Indifference

I had a hard time finding a title for this post. I wanted to come up with something that would speak to what people were already searching for. So I went to Google Trends and entered "black women in engineering". The results showed zero interest over the past 5 years. I tried "African American women in engineering". Again, no one was searching for these terms, according to Google. I tried narrowing the search to just the United States. Still, there was nothing.

It takes me an average of about 4 hours to produce each podcast episode. This includes curating the news, writing the news summaries, recording the interview, editing the interview, writing the script for the show, recording the show, and a host of other tasks. Suddenly I found myself spending 45 minutes on the title alone.

I thought that perhaps I wasn't entering the correct search terms, or that something was wrong with Google's algorithm. Then, after a longer period of time than it probably should have taken, I realized that this is exactly the problem.  I concluded that the lack of search inquiries for "African American women in engineering" over half a decade is further proof of an epidemic. African American women engineers are almost completely invisible. To make matters worse, no one cares.

My Google Trends results for "African American women in engineering"

But you're going to find out today that only part of my conclusion was true. While African American women engineers are indeed working in near-anonymity, my guest today does care about them. Nicole Yates cares about the dearth of African American women engineers and she wants to do something about it, which is why she edited a recent paper entitled Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering. The paper pulls together insights from some of the best minds working on improving diversity, inclusion and retention in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.


ignored potential_tech policy podcast_Washingtech_nicole yates_stem

The paper is solutions-focused, but its recommendations address two central statistics:

  • African Americans comprised just 4% of engineering degrees awarded in 2015, which is down a full percentage point, from 5%, in 2006.
  • The number of engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to African American women has declined from 1,100 in 2005, to 809 in 2011 (Slaughter, J. B., Tao, Y., & Pearson, W. (2015). Changing the face of engineering: The African American experience. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press).

I hope you'll take some time to explore this issue further and include Nicole and her colleagues in your efforts.


Nicole Yates is the National Society of Black Engineers' Senior Research Analyst and Applications Specialist. In this role, she conducts training, produces original research, and coordinates with an external network of researchers who support NSBE's mission.
Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Stanford University. Her original thesis research focused on the dearth of women in STEM fields, an issue that personally concerns her. Nicole also completed her undergraduate degrees at Stanford (B.A., Psychology and B.A., Drama), where she participated in numerous activities including political advocacy, volunteer tutoring, and service-oriented trips. Prior to joining NSBE, Nicole served as an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.



Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Road Map for Increasing African-0American Women in Engineering edited by Nicole Yates (NSBE, 2017)


National Society of Black Engineers

10K Black Engineers Annually by 2025


Working Smarter Not Just Harder by Carl Reid

Changing the Face of Engineering  edited by Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, Yu Tao and Willie Pearson, Jr.

News Roundup

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued a joint report warning that hackers have penetrated the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power plants. Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post confirmed on Saturday that government officials have officially attributed the hacks to Russia. Russia has taken down entire electric grids in Ukraine, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. At this time, however, U.S. officials are not reporting an imminent threat to civilians as the hacks were executed against administrative and business systems rather than nuclear power operations. However, the hack could be part of larger scale planning operations. Further, the report came with an amber alert, which is the second highest threat level.

The U.S. is gradually lifting its laptop ban on flights into the U.S. from majority-Muslim countries. Qatar Airways announced last week that the U.S. government has lifted the laptop ban against it. Qatar Airways joins Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and Etihad Airways on the list of airlines on which the U.S. has lifted its laptop ban. The laptop ban on direct flights originating in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey is still in effect on passengers traveling with Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.

Amazon and Reddit have joined the list of companies that will be participating in an organized, online protest on July 12th against the FCC's proposed measure to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Details of what the protest will entail have been kept under wraps. However, Etsy, Mozilla and others will also be participating.

Microsoft has announced more layoffs. The company, which is in the midst of a reorganization, announced last week that it would be cutting some 18,000 sales jobs.  This is in addition to the nearly 3,000 jobs the company announced it would be cutting last July.The company is shifting its focus and strategy to cloud-based services according to a memo leaked to the press back on June 30th.

Diane Bartz at Reuters reports that President Trump is supporting Apple in the company's appeal against a European Union decision ordering it to pay 13 billion euros ($14.8 billion) in back taxes to Ireland. The Trump administration filed an application to intervene in the appeal which is likely to take place in 2018. The European Commission ruled last year that Ireland granted Apple illegal tax subsidies.

District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California is allowing Twitter's lawsuit against the United States government to proceed. The U.S. government routinely makes data requests in the course of criminal investigations but only allows Twitter and other tech companies to report to the the public the number range of requests it has received from the feds rather than the exact number. For example, if the government made 2, 700 data requests from Twitter, Twitter might only be able to disclose to the public that the government made between 2,000 and 3,000 data requests. Twitter is arguing, among other things, that this is tantamount to a prior restraint on free speech and that it should be allowed to disclose the exact number of data requests the government has made.

The phrase "only in New York" has special meaning for Uber and Lyft. Noam Scheiber at The New York Times reported that the ride sharing companies may have been ripping off their drivers by manipulating their collection of sales tax in New York City. Actual ride receipts show Uber deducted New York State sales tax from what drivers were paid rather than passing the sales tax on to passengers, which is what is required by law. Uber argues the sales tax is built into the base fare. But taxi advocates aren't buying it because receipts from other states show Uber added sales tax to the passengers' final bill. A local investigation into Uber's taxi receipts also showed Uber used the same base rate in both New York City and Connecticut even though Connecticut has different tax laws.

The FCC has a new Chief Economist. Jerry Ellig was a Senior Fellow at the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University where he had worked since 1996.

The Department of Homeland Security is delaying a rule that would help make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs and investors to enter the United States. The rule -- the International Entrepreneur Rule-- was set to go into effect on July 17, but DHS announced today that it's pushing it back at least until March 14, 2018. DHS claims this will give it enough time to solicit comments from the public on the new rule. Harper Neidig in the Hill has the story.



Jul 5, 2017

Can Using Emojis Get You in Trouble?

You know what emojis mean. Otherwise, you wouldn't use them.


One recent University of Minnesota study found that there can be vast differences between what you and your recipient think that emoji means.Use the wrong emoji, and you may have some explaining to do.  What you think is a smile on your iPhone could look more like a grimace on the recipient's end who is using a different device.

Cases in which courts must determine what emojis mean are few and far between, but they do appear from time to time. In one case, a University of Michigan law student accused a fellow student of stalking. The fellow student had texted the victim messages calling himself a "petty bastard" and saying that he wanted to make her "feel crappy". The fellow student attempted to argue that the "wry" emoticons he used negated the threatening and harassing nature of the other texts.   The court disagreed and held that the emoticons did not change the meaning of the texts.

My guests today believe that while litigation involving emojis is sparse, uncertainty around what emojis mean could have important implications in legal proceedings down the road.


Joe Sremack (LinkedIn: is the Owner of Boxer Analytics. Joe has over a decade of information technology and consulting experience. He develops and implements solutions to advise corporate and legal clients in matters involving complex technology issues. Mr. Sremack’s expertise is in IT assessments, electronic discovery, and complex data analytics involving transactional and disparate data.

A computer scientist by training, Mr. Sremack has conducted numerous matters involving system investigations, data analysis, and the evaluation of technology solutions. He has advised clients across the United States and internationally in matters such as class-action settlement distribution, intellectual property theft, bankruptcy, financial fraud, healthcare regulatory investigations, and antitrust disputes. He has worked with clients in industries including telecommunications, finance, healthcare, energy, government, retail, and insurance. He is a frequent publisher and speaker on issues related to electronic discovery and transactional data. He attended the College of Wooster where he majored in Computer Science and Philosophy, and North Carolina State University, where he earned his Masters in Computer Science.

Gabriella Ziccarelli (@IPwithGZ) is an Associate specializing in Intellectual Property at the law firm of Blank Rome. Ms. Ziccarelli has extensive experience advising and securing successes for her clients on a wide array of intellectual property matters. She provides full service intellectual property strategic guidance to her clients in a wide range of industries, including hardware and software, broadcast television, electrical power, and government contracting. Prior to joining private practice, Ms. Ziccarelli served as a volunteer law clerk to the Honorable Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal of the Northern District of California. She has also worked in-house at a variety of high-technology companies.

During law school, she was an active member of the intellectual property community where she helped forge important relationships between intellectual property students, academics, and practitioners through symposia, speaking engagements, and hiring events. She also served as the editor-in-chief of the nationally ranked Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal.  Ms. Ziccarelli was recognized for her excellence in the field as a 2013 nominee for the prestigious American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation Jan Jancin Award for excellence in Intellectual Property Law.

Before law school, Ms. Ziccarelli was an advocate for higher education initiatives and served as student body vice president to a more than 40,000-person constituency at the University of Arizona while working closely with the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona Students’ Association. She co-founded the Junior Cats Youth Mentoring program for at-risk youth and was a volunteer for the Pima County Attorney’s Office Community Justice Board.

Ms. Ziccarelli is an engaged member of both the intellectual property and high-tech communities. Ms. Ziccarelli speaks on a variety of issues that pertain to women in the technology profession and women in the law. She is also a regular contributor to American Intellectual Property Law Association publications. Ms. Ziccarelli is an Inaugural Fellow of the Internet Law and Policy Foundry. She is also a graduate of the Leading Women in Technology Wilpower program for female leaders in the technology industry. Ms. Ziccarelli currently serves as an advisory board member for Seed Spot DC, a startup accelerator serving minority entrepreneurs.

Ms. Ziccarelli a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Santa Clara University School of Law. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.



Blank Rome LLC

Boxer Analytics

IP with GZ


Bossypants by Tina Fey

Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis

Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation by Charna Halpern

News Roundup

Cybercriminals executed another massive, worldwide ransomware cyberattack last week which primarily hit the Ukraine, but also reached Russia, India, the United States and several other countries. The so-called Petya virus again used an exploit that was developed by the National Security Agency. Even Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko was hit. Andrew Roth and Ellen Nakashima report in the Washington Post. Many experts suspect Russia is responsible. Dustin Volz and Justin Menn report for Reuters that U.S. Senators are highly suspicious of Russia-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs and they are seeking to ban the U.S. military from using Kaspersky.

The E.U. has fined Google $2.7 billion. The E.U.'s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said Google suppressed its competitors' shopping search results in favor of its own. According to a blog post by Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker, the company is considering an appeal.  The implications for Google in the U.S. are unclear as, in recent weeks, President Trump has sought to engage Alphabet and Google in his effort to revamp government technology.   Michael Birnbaum reports in the Washington Post.

Wireless and cable companies are trying to figure out how to consolidate in an increasingly saturated and competitive marketplace. Cable companies are concerned about cord-cutters. Wireless companies are worried about a saturated mobile market in which most customers are already spoken for. To address these challenges, Sprint is in talks to provide wireless service to Charter and Comcast, according to the Wall Street Journal. Comcast and Charter would invest in Sprint's network, and Sprint would give Comcast and Charter access to its wireless network. Shalini Ramachandran, Ryan Knutson and Dana Mattioli report this in the Wall Street Journal.

Julia Floretti at Reuters reports that major social networks are combining efforts to take down terrorist content.  Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have formed a working group dubbed The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. The group will share solutions for dealing with content posted by terrorist organizations and individuals. In a separate matter, German lawmakers have passed a measure which would fine social networks up to $57 million for failing to take down hate speech within a reasonable period of time. That's set to take effect on October 1st . Anton Troianovsky and Schechner report in the Wall Street Journal.

A federal court in Northern California is allowing the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against Qualcomm to proceed. The federal government is accusing Qualcomm of anticompetitive practices in the mobile device chip market in which Qualcomm has a near monopoly. Stephen Nellis has the story in Reuters.

Dan Primack at Axios reported last week that Uber is in the process of negotiating with the Securities and Exchange Commission a way to allow Uber to share equity with its drivers. Industry experts see such an arrangement as a way to slow down driver turnover rates.

Finally, a new GAO report has found significant fraud and abuse with the FCC's Lifeline program. The Lifeline program subsidizes broadband for low-income consumers. The GAO audit found that it couldn't verify whether some 36% of subsidy recipients were actually eligible. As much as $1.2 million went to recipients who didn't exist or who were dead. Mike Snider has the story in USA Today.


Jun 27, 2017

America's History of Recalcitrance

George Wallace's resistance to desegregation was similar to hate speakers' resistance to efforts to curb racism online.

De jure discrimination

Racism online is evolving in a way that is consistent with the way racism has always evolved--from explicit to subtle.

Plaintiff-side civil rights lawyers have found it easiest to win -- if civil rights cases can ever said to be "easy"--  in cases in which they can convincingly demonstrate defendants' explicit discriminatory policies.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Educationand their subsequent cases and amendments comprise the bulk of American civil rights law.  The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Brown held segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

In interpreting a statute, judges will consider Congressional intent, which includes the circumstances under which Congress enacted the law. Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act  in an era of widespread de jure segregation in the South. Every 6th grader knows that, prior to Brown, state and local authorities in the South required "colored" and "white" students to attend segregated schools. Black students usually attended inferior schools with old books and in dilapidated buildings.  Southern authorities also required colored and white citizens to use separate facilities such as water fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms, and buses. They also enabled most private establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, to segregate as they pleased.

Following  Brown, Southern racists remained undeterred. For example, on June 11, 1963, fully 9 years after Brown, Alabama Governor George Wallace famously "stood in the schoolhouse door" to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood from entering and registering for classes at the University of Alabama. President Kennedy deployed the National Guard to remove Wallace, which they did.

Virginia's response to Brown is also illustrative of the Southern response to it. Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. and his brother-in-law, Virginia General Assembly leader James M. Thomson, together pursued a  "Massive Resistance" strategy to oppose desegregationUnder Massive Resistance, the Virginia Assembly passed laws to prevent and punish local school districts for integrating in accordance with Brown. Further, Virginia authorities continued to enforce Massive Resistance initiatives well into the 1960s, even after federal and state courts ordered them to end their recalcitrance.

The Civil Rights Act finally codified the nation's civil rights policy.

Given the context in which the Civil Rights Act was enacted, courts are most likely to strike down laws and policies that contain explicit "suspect" classifications; namely, those that refer to race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Indeed, courts subject such de jure discrimination statutes and policies to the Constitutional "strict scrutiny" standard--the highest standard of judicial review. Paradoxically, laws designed to help traditionally marginalized groups, and which mention those groups explicitly, are also subject to strict scrutiny and thus likely to be struck down. (The intricacies of the strict scrutiny standard go well beyond the scope of this post. However, if you are interested in learning more about strict scrutiny and the other levels of scrutiny courts are likely to apply in interpreting the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, click here.)

De facto discrimination

After many years of resisting civil rights laws, racists in the North and South had an a-ha moment. If they could figure out a way to maintain their supremacy using things that looked like something else, but achieved the same ends, they were golden! And so de facto discrimination--laws and policies that are not discriminatory on their face, i.e. they are facially neutral, but have discriminatory effects, have been the order of the day ever since. Stop-and-frisk? Check. Insanely long prison sentences for minor offenses? Check. School segregation based on merit? Check. Proposed cuts to Medicaid? Check.  Voter re-districting? You get the point.

Welcome to the age of stealth racism.

"I thought this post was about racism online."

It is.

The same racist ideologies that prevailed in 1964 prevail today. Since 1964, opponents of the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom are still alive today, and their descendants and allies, have persisted in their efforts to preserve their supremacy. They have taken racism online.

This is the story of some of the measures the tech sector has taken, such as Google's Conversation AI, to curtail racism online and how defiant hate speakers have evaded those measures by creating their own code language.

Hate speech is indeed protected speech and that's the problem.

Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology peeled back the top layer of the internet and found hate speech teeming underneath.

My guest today is Rijul Magu (@RijulMagu). Rijul co-authored, along with Shitij Joshi and Jiebo Luo at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a report entitled "Detecting the Hate Code on Social Media". He's the lead author. Rijul is currently a Masters Student at RIT and he earned his undergraduate degree at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology in Noida, India.



University of Rochester School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Department of Computer Science (homepage of Graduate Studies Faculty Advisor Jiebo Luo)

Detecting the Hate Code on Social Media by Rijul Magu, Kshitij Joshi, and Jiebo Luo

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

News Roundup

The New York State Commission on Forensic Science has adopted a new controversial policy regarding the use of suspects' DNA evidence.  The Commission voted 9-2 to allow police to collect not just suspects' own DNA evidence, but also the DNA evidence of close relatives. While the measure has the support of prosecutors, opponents of the bill pointed out procedural flaws with some describing the new policy as a kind of genetic stop and frisk. Nathan Dempsey has the story at Gothamist.

A Department of Homeland Security official --Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy undersecretary of cybersecurity and communications for the agency’s National Protection and Programs Directorate --  told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that Russia targeted election systems in 21 states during last year's presidential election. Ranking Member Mark Warner wrote Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to make public the names of the states that were targeted. However, Secretary Kelly has thus far not released that information claiming that to do so would harm national security. Edward Graham covers this in Morning Consult.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned following the fallout from former Attorney General Eric Holder's report on the company's frat boy culture. However, several employees have attempted to have Kalanick reinstated. Rebecca Savransky has the story in the Hill. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter Monday to Uber leadership urging them to improve racial and ethnic diversity in hiring and promotions at the company.

A new Politico and Morning Consult report shows 60% of Americans either strongly or somewhat support the FCC's current net neutrality rules the new Trump-era FCC under Ajit Pai appears to be in the process of overturning. Two-thousand and fifty one registered voters were surveyed.

The FCC has recommended a $122 million fine on a suspected robocaller--the highest-ever FCC fine. Officials suspect the alleged robocaller, Adrian Abromovich, a Florida man, made some 100 million robocalls over three months. Harper Neidig has the story in The Hill.

The FCC also unanimously passed a rule change last week that will allow law enforcement to bypass blocker called IDs belonging to callers making imminent threats. Harper Neidig has this one in The Hill as well.

We may soon be able to access Internet via an internet connection made from space. Doing so would significantly speed up upload and download speeds. The FCC approved a plan of Greg Wyler who plans to link up 720 satellites to deliver high speed broadband from space as soon as 2019. Brian Fung has the full story in the Washington Post.

President Trump met with tech executives, including drone developers last week. The president said he'd work to give tech companies the "competitive advantage they need" and "create lots of jobs". David Shepardson covers the story in Reuters.

In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled last week that a North Carolina law that prevents registered sex offenders from going on Facebook is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Lydia Wheeler covers this in the Hill.

FCC Chaiman Ajit Pai testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week about the agency's budget. Pai recommended a budget cut of over 5.2% since last year, or $322 million, which Chairman Pai conceded would come from the elimination of over 100 Commission jobs.

Jun 20, 2017

What is a SLAPP Suit?

Let's say you own a small business called "Policy Town Fajitas". You think your business is second-to-none. You've invested in it--time, sweat, money and otherwise ... But then, all of a sudden, one of your customers doesn't fancy your business as much as you do. So they post a negative review about your business on a site like Yelp. They say your "chicken fajitas taste like pigeon and that's how I know it's not authentic Mexican food."

If you're like most businesses, you try to improve (such as by switching to chicken meat). But some businesses try to turn the tables by putting the reviewer on the defensive.

Let's call the reviewer Mrs. Davis. So you file a lawsuit against Mrs. Davis that is simply designed to drive her absolutely nuts. Eventually, you hope, Mrs. Johnson will decide to delete her review.

That lawsuit is called a "strategic lawsuit against public participation", but we just call them SLAPP suits. 

Batman and Robin_YELP_SLAPP_Suits


Now, we know you would NEVER serve up pigeon fajitas. But what are the policy implications of SLAPP suits, particularly as they relate to online freedom of speech?

Here to discuss SLAPP suits is Laurent Crenshaw (@LCrenshaw), Yelp's head of Federal Public Policy in Washington DC. At Yelp Laurent has championed the company’s federal efforts to protect consumer freedom of speech on the Internet, and worked to implement Yelp as a tool for the federal government.

Prior to joining Yelp in 2013, Laurent worked in the House of Representatives for over 11 years. During his tenure he served as the Legislative Director for Representative Darrell Issa focusing on technology policy issues, particularly in the areas of intellectual property, telecommunications and Internet law; and also worked in the offices of the House Majority Whip and House Republican Conference. Laurent successfully worked on numerous legislative efforts including the passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in 2011 and the fight to defeat SOPA and PIPA in Congress. Additionally, Laurent also serves on the board of directors for Public Knowledge and as a member of the American Library Association’s Public Policy Advisory Council.

Laurent obtained his undergraduate degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 2002 and his Juris Doctor degree from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2010.


Yelp's Public Policy Blog

SPEAK FREE Act (Congressional Anti-SLAPP Suits legislation)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

News Roundup

Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.  Experts see the move as a direct hit on big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, whose shares tumbled sharply on news of the announcement. Analysts see it as a significant step by Amazon to substantially expand its warehouse and local supply chain operations. Laura Stevens has more at the Wall Street Journal. One interesting thing to note is that on May 30th, Amazon filed a patent for technology that allows it to block customers from using their phones to "window shop", or check the prices of other stores, while they're on site at an Amazon property. Brian Fung reports on that in the Washington Post.

President Trump has officially nominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to return to the agency.  Rosenworcel has strong Democratic support. Her previous four-year term ended last year when the Senate failed to reconfirm her term before it expired. Still open at the FCC is the third Republican seat. Brendan Carr--a current advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- is considered the front-runner for that seat although, as of Monday evening, the White House has not yet made the official nomination.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint announcement saying North Korea has been executing cyberattacks against institutions  worldwide since 2009. North Korean government actors calling themselves "Hidden Cobra" are the culprits, according to the statement, and they have been attacking aerospace, financial and other institutions in the U.S. and around the world. Deb Reichmann reports for the Associated Press.

Verizon has completed its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer resigned with a $23 million package. Alina Selyukh has the story at NPR.

The Federal Trade Commission will be opposing the proposed merger of DraftKing and FanDuel--the two largest fantasy sports  sites. In a statement released Monday, the FTC wrote that the combined company would control more than 90% of the market.

The families of prison inmates could see their phone charges for calling incarcerated loved ones shoot back up to as much as $14 per minute. The Obama-era FCC had placed caps on those calls that ranged to between 14 and 49 cents per minute. But the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate those rates. The Court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate those rates because they pertained to intrastate calls, and not interstate calls, and thus they fall outside the FCC's federal jurisdiction. Zoe Tillman covers this for BuzzFeed.

The Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company in the U.S. for violating her privacy and for defamation of character. The plaintiff, a Texas resident, has filed as a Jane Doe. Apparently, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had said publicly that the company would do everything it could to ensure the rapist would be brought to justice. However, behind the scenes, the victim alleges that Uber obtained her medical records in India and then worked to use the information to claim the rape was all a ruse that was orchestrated by Uber's main competitor in India.  Julia Carrie Wong summarized this story in the Guardian. Uber has been embroiled in numerous controversies of late. These culminated last week  in Kalanick being placed on an indefinite leave of absence and top ranking executives being let go. These latest developments were in response to a report spearheaded by former Attorney General Eric Holder that recommended these and other changes at Uber.

Facebook has outlined a strategy for weeding out terrorist content on its platform. The company released a blog post last week saying that it has about 150 people on staff nationwide whose job it is to remove all content posted by or in support of terrorists. The company also uses artificial intelligence and other technology to take down content that promotes terrorism on Facebook and its other properties, according to the post.

Finally, remember President Trump's Twitter typo a few weeks ago, when he tweeted the word "covfefe" instead of "coverage"? Well, The Hill's Harper Neidig noticed last week that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had more than 30 trademark requests containing the word "covefefe" since the flub. 

Jun 13, 2017

Privacy, Searches, Seizures and the Law

The digital age is challenging the way our judicial system balances privacy against the needs of law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Our devices, as well as cloud-based services like Dropbox, have revolutionized our concept of what information should be considered private. For example, in U.S. v. Graham, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland applied the so-called "third party doctrine". In that case, the court held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect historical cell site location data. Therefore, law enforcement officers do not require warrants to obtain access to that data. The court reasoned that the defendant communicated the data to a "third party", namely the cell phone provider.

These technologies also pose significant Constitutional challenges. For example, who should set the standard of what constitutes a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the first place? Should judges or the public determine such reasonableness?

My guest today is Professor Bernard Chao --a professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, where he co-Directs the law school's Empirical Justice Program. Chao has written that, up until now, judges have had to guess about what constitutes reasonableness. Historically, judges have had to place themselves in the shoes of a hypothetical reasonable person. However, according to Chao, judges are now in a position to gather empirical data via public surveys.  This data has the potential to inform judges about what members of the public actually think constitutes reasonableness in a given context.

Further, the demographic characteristics of most judges in no way reflects the far more diverse demographics of the population as a whole. Judges are often white, male and wealthier than the average citizen. Thus, their notions of reasonableness exclude other diverse perspectives. Indeed, some of Chao's research has shown that members of certain minority groups had higher standards of privacy than did the control group.

Professor Chao is the lead author  of a forthcoming California Law Review article he is co-authoring along with Catherine Durso, Ian Farrell and Christopher Robertson entitled "Why Courts Fail to Protect Privacy: Race, Age, Bias, and Technology".


Denver Empirical Justice Institute

HUGO Consulting

Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age by Neil Richards

News Roundup

Uber, as you know, has a laundry list of controversies ... Susan Fowler a former Uber engineer, accused the company of fostering a hostile, sexual harassment  culture. Google is suing Uber for stealing trade secrets from its self-driving car unit, Waymo. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been caught on video berating an Uber driver.  The company has been hemorrhaging money, showing billions in losses, in quarter after quarter, despite revenue growth …

Now, Covington and Burling Partners Eric Holder-- who is former President Barack Obama’s former Attorney General-- and Tammy Albarrán are wrapping up an independent investigation they’ve been conducting on behalf of the company. It looks like Uber may be on the brink of requiring Kalanick to take at least a 3 month leave of absence. We’ll know more when Uber releases Holder’s report to employees on Tuesday. But the Board has already indicated that it would be accepting all of Holder’s recommendations. One of the recommendations is to fire Emil Michael--Kalanick’s chief deputy.  In the meantime, you can check out Ali Breland’s complete summary in the Hill.


Tony Romm at Recode reported that current FCC General Counsel Brendan Carr and former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel are the two front-runners President Trump is considering to fill the two remaining Commissioner slots at the FCC.


The federal government is accusing yet another NSA contractor with leaking classified information to the public. Last week, federal agents arrested twenty-five year old Reality Leigh Winner, who had a top secret security clearance. The feds have accused Winner of sending information about Russian hacking activities to the Intercept--the online newspaper. She had served in the Air Force for 6 years prior to becoming a contractor at Pluribus International Group in Augusta, Georgia. The leaked documents revealed that Russia may have hacked a U.S. voting system manufacturer just prior to last year's presidential election. Madison Park has a full summary at


Finally, Jon Brodkin reported in Ars Technica on comments made by FCC Chair Ajit Pai and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson on WTMJ Radio last week in which both Pai and Johnson called net neutrality a “slogan”. Johnson seemed to advocate for fast lanes (paid prioritization). But paid prioritization is a practice the Wheeler-era net neutrality rules specifically prohibits. The DC Circuit has upheld those rules, and the current FCC is now in the midst of a proceeding to overturn them. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post that several tech companies including Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Reddit, Y Combinator, and Amazon will change their websites on July 12th to protest the FCC’s apparent plan to reverse the net neutrality rules.

Jun 6, 2017

The London Bridge terror attacks that occurred this past weekend are causing policymakers to once again re-evaluate the efficacy of their counterterrorism efforts against ISIS.

ISIS counterterrorism expert Audrey Alexander (@aud_alexander) is a Research Fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism. Before joining the Program on Extremism, she worked at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). At ICSR, Audrey used open source intelligence to identify instances of Western women relocating to enemy-held territories. Previously, Audrey worked at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), where she studied online radicalization and “lone-actor” terrorism. She contributed to the widely acclaimed “Till Martyrdom Do Us Part: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon” report published by ISD and ICSR. Alexander holds a Masters in Terrorism, Security & Society from the War Studies Department at King's College.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how American institutions have tried and failed to contain the ISIS threat online.
  • alternatives to current technological approaches to containing the enemy's online recruitment efforts.
  • how policymakers can identify warning signs pertaining to potential activity by non-ISIS groups.


The George Washington University Program on Extremism

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

Deep Work by Cal Newport


Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends report last week. Key findings include a slow down in smartphone growth, to just a 3% growth in shipments last year, down from 10% the year before. There's also an uptick in voice searches, which have reached about a 95% accuracy rate. The report found voice searches to be well on their way toward replacing text-based search inquiries. Meeker's report also reveals that some 60% of the most highly valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by first- or second-generation Americans. These findings only scratch the surface. Here's a link to the slides.

Elon Musk announced in a tweet last week that he has decided to leave president Trump's advisory councils following the president's announcement last week that he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is a multinational accord that brings together 195 countries in a commitment to fight climate change. The U.S. joined Nicaragua and Syria among the nations that will not participate if Trump has his way. However, the earliest possible date the U.S. would be able to make an effective withdrawal from the agreement is November 4, 2020, or one day after the 2020 presidential election.

Tech giants Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and hundreds of other businesses have also formed an initiative dubbed "We're Still In", which was organized by Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sierra Club, and the Center for American Progress, to express their commitment to the Paris Agreement and local and state authorities whom they see as being more influential than the federal government on climate change.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a key case regarding law enforcement's ability to obtain cell phone data without a search warrant. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Carpenter v. U.S. upheld the district court which sentenced defendant Timothy Carpenter to some 116 years in prison for committing a string of armed robberies of TMobile and Radio Shack stores in Michigan and Ohio back in 2010 and 2011. The evidence admitted at trial against Carpenter included cell phone records showing he was in close proximity to the stores when the robberies occurred. Lydia Wheeler has the story in The Hill.

Once again, Booz Allen, the same firm that employed Edward Snowden as an NSA contractor, is the subject of a data breach. Some sixty thousand sensitive documents related to a US military project were found unsecured on on a public Amazon server.  Gizmodo reports the compromised files also contained the encrypted passwords of officials with top security clearance. Dell Cameron reports at Gizmodo.

Democratic leaders in Congress have asked Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to probe the cyberattack that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims caused the agency's commenting site to go down. The site went down shortly after John Oliver directed his viewers to go to site domain, which redirected to the FCC's actual commenting page. But Chairman Pai said the site went down due to an external cyber attack. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey(Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) want answers from the FBI by June 23rd. Morgan Chalfant has the story in The Hill.

Finally, Uber fired the former Google engineer accused of stealing secrets from Alphabet self-driving car unit Waymo and bringing them with him when he started his own self-driving car company, Otto, which Uber then acquired. Anthony Levandowski apparently became too much of a liability for Uber, which is currently embroiled in litigation Google brought against it because of Levandowski's alleged actions. Daisuke Wakabayashi and  Mike Isaac report in the New York Times. Greg Bensinger at the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber also posted a $708 million loss in the first quarter. This was on top of the $991 million the company lost in the 4th quarter of 2016. Uber Head of Finance Guatam Gupta will be leaving the company in July to work for an unnamed startup.

May 30, 2017

How can policymakers balance consumers' need for targeted, relevant content against such consumers' desire for privacy? Anindya Ghose (@aghose) is a Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences and a Professor of Marketing at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He is the Director of the Center for Business Analytics at NYU Stern, and the co-Chair of the NYU-AIG Partnership on Innovation for Global Resilience. He is the NEC Faculty Fellow and a Daniel P. Paduano Fellow of Business Ethics at NYU Stern. He has been a Visiting Associate Professor at the Wharton School of Business. He also serves as the main Scientific Advisor to 3TI China . He was recently named by Business Week as one of the "Top 40 Professors Under 40 Worldwide" and by Analytics Week as one the "Top 200 Thought Leaders in Big Data and Business Analytics". His rise from assistant to full professor in 8.5 years at NYU Stern is widely regarded as one of the fastest in the history of the entire Information Systems and Marketing academic disciplines in business schools globally.

He has consulted in various capacities for Berkeley Corporation, CBS, Dataxu, Facebook, NBC Universal, OneVest, Samsung, and 3TI China, and collaborated with Alibaba, China Mobile, Google, IBM, Indiegogo, Microsoft, Recobell, Travelocity and many other leading Fortune 500 firms on realizing business value from IT investments, internet marketing, business analytics, mobile marketing, digital analytics, social media, and other areas. He has published more than 75 papers in premier scientific journals and peer reviewed conferences, and has given more than 200 talks internationally. He is a frequent keynote speaker in executive gatherings and thought leading events globally. His research has received 12 best paper awards and nominations. He is a winner of the NSF CAREER award and has been awarded 14 grants from Google, Microsoft and several other corporations.

His research analyzes the economic consequences of the Internet on industries and markets transformed by its shared technology infrastructure. He has worked on product reviews, reputation and rating systems, digital marketing, sponsored search advertising, wearable technologies, mobile commerce, mobile advertising, crowdfunding, and online markets. He also plays a senior advisory role to several start-ups in the Internet space. He has been interviewed and his research has been profiled numerous times in the BBC, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, China Daily, The Economist, Financial Times, Fox News, Forbes, Knowledge@Wharton, Korean Broadcasting News Company, Los Angeles Times, Marketplace Radio, MSNBC, National Public Radio, NBC, Newsweek, New York Times, New York Daily, NHK Japan Broadcasting, Reuters, Time Magazine, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Xinhua,and elsewhere. He teaches courses on social media, digital marketing, business analytics and IT strategy at the undergraduate, MBA, EMBA, MSBA, and Executive Education level in various parts of the world including the US, India, China, and South Korea.

He is on the Research Council of the Wharton Customer Analytics Institute, a faculty affiliate with the Marketing Science Institute and the Sloan Center for Internet Retailing at the University of California, Riverside. He serves as an Associate Editor of Management Science and a Senior Editor of Information Systems Research. Before joining NYU Stern, Dr. Ghose worked in GlaxoSmithKline, as a Product Manager in HCL-Hewlett Packard, and as a Senior E-Business Consultant with IBM. He has a B. Tech in Engineering from the Regional Engineering College (NIT) in Jalandhar, and an M.B.A in Finance, Marketing and Systems from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the 9 key forces shaping the mobile economy that entrepreneurs and policymakers alike need to know.
  • the future of mobile technology as a key driver of marketing.
  • how policymakers should balance privacy policy against consumers' desire for targeted and relevant content.


Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy by Anindya Ghose (MIT Press: 2017)

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance (Ecco: 2017)



The Federal Communications Commission released the text of its proposal to undo the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The rules classify internet service providers as "common carriers", thus bringing ISPs within the FCC's jurisdiction. The rules also outlaw blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of site traffic.

Comments are due to the Commission by August 17th--they even seek comment on whether such rules are necessary--which, of course, the Commission settled on two years ago when it pulled together countless comments from members of the public who said, "yes--they are necessary"--So it's like we're just going around and around--net neutrality is the gift that keeps on giving--for lobbyists, that is.

President Trump released his fiscal year 2018 budget request last week, which calls for numerous cuts to entitlement programs, as well as education. However, the budget calls for $228 million to modernize the federal government's IT--or phase out clunkier technologies in favor of technologies that are more secure and efficient. That $228 million amount is significantly less than the $3.1 billion called for by the Obama administration. Billy Mitchell covers this story in FedScoop.

Apple reported last week that the federal government's requests for user data skyrocketed in the second half of 2016 to almost double what it was in the first half of the year. Apple reports on the number of requests using ranges instead of revealing the exact number of data requests.  In the first half of 2016, the federal government made between 2,750 and 2,999 data requests. However, during the second half of 2016 the number of requests jumped to between 5,750 and 5,999. Joe Uchill reports in the Hill.

Private drone users will no longer need to register their drones with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is following a DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn the rules. The court held that the rules violated another statute that precluded the FAA from promulgating rules pertaining to model aircraft. Tim Wright covers this in Air & Space.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the American Civil Liberties Union and Wikimedia Foundation can indeed pursue a lawsuit the two parties brought against the National Security Agency. They argue that the NSA violated Wikimedia's First and Fourth Amendment rights when the agency tapped into Wikimedia's backbone network because Wikimedia has such a large footprint, tapping into just a part of it can have constitutional implications. Adi Robertson has the story in The Verge.

Finally, big box retailer Target has settled with 47 states in connection with a widespread data breach in 2015 in which hackers obtained the credit card information of millions of customers. The settlement amount was $18.5 million and is being distributed based on each state's size.Wyoming, Wisconsin and Alabama don't appear to be part of the settlement.  The terms of the settlement also require Target to separate cardholder data from the rest of its computer network, as well as undergo an independent assessment of its data security practices.  Rachel Abrams has the story in The New York Times.

May 23, 2017

Yosef Getachew (@getachew2) is a Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge where he works on a variety of technology and communications issues. Prior to joining Public Knowledge, Yosef worked as a law clerk for several technology and communications organizations including the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast, Facebook, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Yosef has also served as a Project Coordinator and Research Assistant for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Yosef received his J.D. from the George Washington University Law School. In law school, he was an Articles Editor for the Federal Communications Law Journal. Yosef was born and raised in Washington D.C. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching basketball, and spending time with friends.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • what 5G is and what it will mean for consumers.
  • the potential of 5G for job creation, particularly for communities with disproportionately high unemployment rates.
  • how to ensure underserved communities have access to 5G technology when it is deployed.


Public Knowledge

Federal Trade Commission Privacy Law & Policy by Chris Jay Hoofnagle


The Republican-controlled FCC -- which is, by the way, still sitting with only 3 of its 5 Commission seats filled -- moved to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules last week. The new NPRM released Thursday is ostensibly designed to solicit comments it will actually be considering. But policy experts see this as just an administrative formality FCC Chair Ajit Pai needs to adhere to before doing what he has already made clear he is going to do anyway: eviscerate the net neutrality rules. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, called the NPRM a "political rush job". Mariam Baksh has additional coverage in Morning Consult. 

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that plaintiffs can no longer "forum shop" -- a practice by which plaintiffs look to pursue their case in a venue that will be most favorable to them -- which, for patent trolls, is a jurisdiction like the Eastern District of Texas which often rules in favor of patent trolls. In TC Heartland v. Kraft, the decision the Supreme Court reversed on Monday, the lower court had ruled that plaintiffs could bring a lawsuit anywhere the companies conduct business. Now, as a result of the Supreme Court's reversal of the lower court's decision, the standard will now limit plaintiffs to bringing suit where the company is incorporated. The outcome of this case has significant implications for so-called patent trolls that bring often frivolous lawsuits against companies for violating patents they hold but don't use to produce anything--they just profit from suing companies that violate them. Ali Breland covers this for the Hill.

Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn introduced a bill Friday that would require both broadband providers as well as internet companies to obtain consent from consumers before selling their internet data. In a set of FCC privacy rules President Trump nullified last month, only broadband providers were required to obtain such consent. Ali Breland has this story as well in the Hill.

Last week, Democratic members of the House Science committee wrote a letter to president Trump urging him to appoint a Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The lawmakers weighted in after Politico published an article revealing the fact that Trump's staffers occasionally pass fake science news to the president to sway him on certain issues -- it's all part of these little games they like to play jockeying for position within the White House. "We are concerned about the process by which you receive information," the letter begins. "Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration ... Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news." has the full story.

Congress has responded to the recent ransomware attack that affected computers around the world with a new bill that would require the federal government to report security flaws much sooner so that companies like Microsoft will have a chance to fix them before they are exploited.  Jeremy Kirk outlines the the bipartisan PATCH Act at

Finally, The European Union has slapped Facebook with a $122 million fine over the social media company's purchase of WhatsApp. Back in 2014, Facebook indicated  in its filing that it wouldn't be able to reliably link WhatsApp and Facebook accounts--and then last year it did just that. So the European Commission cried foul. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.

May 16, 2017

Matt Cagle is a Policy Attorney for Technology and Civil Liberties at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Matt attended law school at Stanford and has a BA in Latin American Studies and Political Science from the University of Arizona. Before joining the ACLU as a Policy Attorney, Matt worked as an associate with BlurryEdge Strategies, a San Francisco-based law practice advising startups on privacy issues.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how the police use social media to track American citizens. 


ACLU of Northern California

The Philipp K. Dick Collection by Phillip K. Dick



A massive hack infected hundreds of thousands Microsoft Windows-based computers, disabling several large hospitals in the UK, requiring them to turn away some patients, as well as Fedex, Telefonica, and several other institutions. The ransomware, which is a program called "WannaCry", encrypts files so users can't access them and then demands payment, in the form of the digital currency known as Bitcoin, from victims to decrypt their files. WannaCry spread around the world beginning on Friday, although it did so to a lesser degree in other countries than it was felt in the UK. An engineer that goes by the screen name "Malware Tech" found a kill switch in the ransomware. The ransomware relies on infected computers not being able to access a particular domain name. Since the domain name wasn't registered, no computers could access it. Therefore Malware simply registered the domain, stopping it from spreading to additional computers.

The U.S. was barely affected by the cyberattack, but researchers are on the lookout for copycats. Microsoft issued a statement saying the cyberattack should be a wake up call for governments as the hack was executed using stolen government data. U.S. Cyber Command head Admiral Mike Rodgers told the Senate Armed Services Committee just last Tuesday that Congress needed to provide clearer guidance as to how his agency should fight cyberattacks. Rogers also told the Senate panel that his agency witnessed Russian intrusions into French systems in the midst of the French election last week.  On Thursday, President Trump had signed an executive order authorizing a sweeping review of all federal agencies to identify the holes that hackers have been exploiting. The ransomware hack happened on Friday.  

The Hill reports the ransomware attack has made the perpetrators over $57,000 worth of bitcoins thus far.

A federal judge on Monday of this week ordered Uber to turn over some 14,000 documents to Waymo--the self-driving company owned by Google--which Waymo says were stolen by a former Google engineer by the name of Anthony Levandowski. The Waymo lawsuit alleges that Levandowski left Google to start a self-driving truck company called Otto, taking the documents with him. Then Uber subsequently acquired Otto, taking the documents with it.  Waymo also announced a new collaboration with Lyft on Monday of this week. Ali Breland has the story in The Hill.

Finally, A number of policymakers are concerned about the ways in which Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) might begin to surveil immigrants or develop a database to track immigrants for deportation. But in an exclusive report for NPR, George Joseph outlined specific ways in which ICE is already using databases maintained by local law enforcement to accomplish the same ends

Remember last week's John Oliver bit criticizing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scale back the net neutrality rules? The one where Oliver urged viewers to go to a site the show created called, which redirected to the FCC's comments section, and then the comments section crashed? Well the incident left FCC Chairman Pai scrambling to contain his agency's embarrassment, and there was some confusion as to whether the site crashed because of the influx of comments provoked by the show, or by some kind of contemporaneous hack designed to prevent comments from being submitted. Well, the FCC maintains that it was indeed a hack and that the crash wasn't caused by John Oliver's segment. Democrats are saying, "yeah right"-- Senators Ron Wyden and Brian Schatz wrote Chairman Pai saying cyberattacks are a very serious matter and urging the agency to turn over any evidence of a cyberattack happening a few minutes after Oliver's segment. No word yet. But Oliver again this past Sunday rallied his viewers to submit comments.  Harper Neidig has more in The Hill.

May 9, 2017

Shayna Cook (cook_shayna) is a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the Learning Technologies project.

Shayna researches and reports on innovation, new technologies, and digital equity issues concerning children from birth through third grade. She is a former teacher who graduated from American University with a master’s degree in education, focusing on policy and leadership. She holds a bachelor’s degree in classics from Howard University.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how states can use federal funding to promote family engagement.
  • how schools can more effectively incorporate technology to promote family engagement.
  • how to evaluate engagement programs to determine how they improve learning outcomes.


New America's Education Policy Program

New Guidance on Using the Every Student Succeeds Act to Support Early Learning by Shayna Cook (New America, 2016)

Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom


Sinclair is acquiring Tribune broadcasting, the companies announced on Monday, for a cool $3.9 billion. Tribune owns 42 tv stations in 33 markets, WGN, digital multicast network Antenna TV, minority stakes in the TV Food Network and CareerBuilder, and a variety of real estate assets, according to the companies' press release. Even after the Republican controlled FCC threw it a bone at its last open meeting by reinstating the UHF discount, which lets broadcasters half the size of the audience their UHF stations reach, thereby enabling broadcast companies to own more stations, Sinclair may still need to divest some its stations to fall under the 39 percent cap on the national audience. Sinclair is Chaired by David Smith--a key supporter of Donald Trump.


President Trump signed an executive order establishing a new American Technology Council which will be tasked with coming up with ways to transform and modernize the federal government. It's not clear yet which companies will participate, but Tony Romm at Recode notes that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft have huddled with the administration in the past.  Mike Allen at Axios reported the creation of the Council was spearheaded by Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and that the council will hold a summit in June to map out a plan for the duration of the Trump administration.

Two lawmakers also created a bi-partisan Digital Trade Caucus last week which is aimed at protecting cross-border digital trade from protectionism. Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen and Washington Democrat Suzan DelBene made the announcement last week.

The Department of Justice has announced a criminal investigation into Uber.  The New York Times reported in March that the company was using a software called Greyball to circumvent local authorities in areas where Uber hasn't been approved yet. Now a grand jury in Northern California has subpoenaed documents from Uber related to the matter. Dan Levine has the story in Reuters.

The State Department wants to intensify its scrutiny of visa applicants. The agency published a document last week, in line with the Trump administration's efforts to subject visa applicants to "extreme vetting", which outlines plans to require visa applicants to provide five years worth of their social media handles, phone numbers and email addresses. The public will have a chance to comment on the new proposed rules until May 18th. Yaganeh Torbati and Mica Rosenberg report in Reuters.

The reined-in National Security Agency still collected 151 million phone records in 2016. Charlie Savage reports in the New York Times that the NSA previously collected billions of phone records per day, according to a transparency report released last week.

The Department of Homeland Security warned of an emerging espionage campaign led by Chinese hackers. The hacker group APT10 or MenuPass group has targeted construction, aerospace, engineering and telecom companies in the past, but security analysts are now saying they found evidence that the group could now be working in tandem with the Chinese government to collect military secrets from the United States.  Chris Bing has the story in CyberScoop.

Elon Musk's SpaceX boosted a classified U.S. Spy Satellite into orbit on Monday May 1st at 7:14AM. The payload is a National Reconnaissance Office satellite. SpaceX is trying to ramp up its commercial space flight program following an explosion last September that halted it. However, last week's launch was SpaceX's 4th successful launch since January, and it was flawless. Andy Pasztor reports in the Wall Street Journal.

Finally, a report by an engineer at Facebook found the company rejects code submitted by female engineers at a rate that is 35% higher than their male counterparts. Facebook's most recent diversity report shows women comprise just 17% of Facebook's technical workforce. Deepa Seetharaman reports in the Wall Street Journal.

May 2, 2017

Jeff Binder (@JeffBinder) is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Layer3 TV, a next generation cable company, founded in 2013.

Most recently Jeff was a general partner at Genovation Capital, a stage-agnostic private equity and venture group focused on Technology, Media and Telecom. In addition, Jeff served as an advisor to TPG and Silver Lake, two of the most respected names in private equity.  Prior to Genovation, Jeff led Broadbus Technologies as its founding CEO, pioneering the concept of television on-demand to become the leading supplier of cable industry on-demand video streams. In 2006, within four years of its first institutional round of financing, Motorola purchased Broadbus for $200 million and Jeff joined the company as a senior executive of M&A/Strategy and GM On-Demand Solutions. In addition to day-to-day operations, Jeff spearheaded several key initiatives within the office of the CEO including the first smart phone eco-system, code named Photon.

As Chairman and CEO, Jeff led the Leading Golf Companies from 1996-2000, then the largest marketing and technology network of high-end golf courses in North America including Pebble Beach, the TPC Courses, Blackwolf Run and Pinehurst. LGC operated the largest US golf affinity travel program in partnership with American Airlines, US Airways, Northwest and a joint venture with Jack Nicklaus. Prior to LGC, Jeff was founding CEO of Nanosoft, a leading digital design and development firm with offices in Chicago, Seattle and Beijing. Jeff’s first entrepreneurial venture was Magic Music, which pioneered memory based technology and supplied digital duplication systems accounting for more than 30% of the world’s digital audio cassette production with systems in 15 countries on five continents.  
Jeff has been named a Next Generation Leader by MultiChannel News, a Top 100 Heavy Hitters by CableFax and 40 under 40 by the Boston Business Journal.  A graduate of Harvard University, Jeff studied Government and Environmental Science.

Jeff Binder is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Layer3 TV, a next generation cable company, founded in 2013.

Most recently Jeff was a general partner at Genovation Capital, a stage-agnostic private equity and venture group focused on Technology, Media and Telecom. In addition, Jeff served as an advisor to TPG and Silver Lake, two of the most respected names in private equity.  Prior to Genovation, Jeff led Broadbus Technologies as its founding CEO, pioneering the concept of television on-demand to become the leading supplier of cable industry on-demand video streams. In 2006, within four years of its first institutional round of financing, Motorola purchased Broadbus for $200 million and Jeff joined the company as a senior executive of M&A/Strategy and GM On-Demand Solutions. In addition to day-to-day operations, Jeff spearheaded several key initiatives within the office of the CEO including the first smart phone eco-system, code named Photon.

As Chairman and CEO, Jeff led the Leading Golf Companies from 1996-2000, then the largest marketing and technology network of high-end golf courses in North America including Pebble Beach, the TPC Courses, Blackwolf Run and Pinehurst. LGC operated the largest US golf affinity travel program in partnership with American Airlines, US Airways, Northwest and a joint venture with Jack Nicklaus. Prior to LGC, Jeff was founding CEO of Nanosoft, a leading digital design and development firm with offices in Chicago, Seattle and Beijing. Jeff’s first entrepreneurial venture was Magic Music, which pioneered memory based technology and supplied digital duplication systems accounting for more than 30% of the world’s digital audio cassette production with systems in 15 countries on five continents.
Jeff has been named a Next Generation Leader by MultiChannel News, a Top 100 Heavy Hitters by CableFax and 40 under 40 by the Boston Business Journal.  A graduate of Harvard University, Jeff studied Government and Environmental Science.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the businesses case for a new cable TV provider.
  • how Layer3 TV distinguishes itself from traditional cable providers.
  • the current regulatory environment from the perspective of new entrants to the cable marketplace.


Layer3 TV--The New Cable

Wisdom from the Robbert Barrons: Enduring Business Lessons from Rockefeller, Morgan, and the First Industrialists by George David Smith and Frederick Dalzell


The FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules are now in the hands of the Republican majority at the FCC. The DC Circuit upheld the rules on Monday by declining to review the 3-judge panel that found that the FCC's net neutrality rules are legally sound. This opens the door for a possible Supreme Court appeal. However, as policy expert Gigi Sohn noted in a tweet, the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the case since the FCC has its own plans. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week  that the FCC would vote on a proposal at the May Open Meeting to reverse the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The announcement has been met with resistance from Democrats as well as public interest advocates who say undoing the net neutrality rules would favor a handful of large internet service providers at the expense of everyone else. Conservatives see the net neutrality rules--which classified broadband internet service providers as so-called common carriers, thus bringing them under the FCC's jurisdiction--as a power grab over the internet orchestrated by Democrats who were more aligned with internet-based content producers such as Netflix.  Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.

In a victory for Hollywood and other holders of large copyrights, the House passed a bill that would make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointment, rather than someone who is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The bill comes after current Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who was appointed by Obama, demoted the Register of Copyrights--Maria Pallante--who was seen as someone who sided with large content companies. The bill passed the House on a vote of 378-48.

In an attempt to bury fake news, Google has rewritten its search algorithm. The 10,000+ Google staffers who rate content will now begin to flag, inappropriate, misleading, false and low quality content.

A new Verizon report has found an uptick in cyber breaches that appear to be related to espionage. Of the 2,000 breaches Verizon found, 300 were tied to espionage. Morgan Chalfant has more in the Hill.

Facebook reported a 9 percent increase in government data requests in the second half of 2016 compared to the first half of that year. About half of the data requests by U.S. government officials included a non-disclosure agreement requiring Facebook to refrain from telling its users that the government requested information about them. Sarah Perez has the story in TechCrunch.

Finally, a federal judge in New York has cleared the way for the NYPD to use police body cameras. Public interest lawyers had attempted to prevent the roll-out of the body cams. Ashley Southall at The New York Times reports that one group -- the Center for Constitutional Rights -- had argued that the draft policy was too unclear as to how the NYPD planned to use, retrieve and store the footage obtained from the body cams.

Apr 25, 2017

Dr. Maya Rockeymoore (@MayaRockeymoore) leads Global Policy Solutions, a Washington, DC-based policy firm that makes policy work for people and their environments.

A former adjunct professor in the Women in Politics Institute at American University, Maya has also served as the vice president of research and programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), senior resident scholar at the National Urban League, chief of staff to Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), professional staff on the House Ways and Means Committee, and as a CBCF legislative fellow in the office of Congressman Melvin Watt (D-NC) among other positions.

Maya’s areas of expertise include health, social insurance, income security, education, women’s issues and youth civic participation. She is the author of The Political Action Handbook: A How to Guide for the Hip-Hop Generation and co-editor of Strengthening Community: Social Insurance in a Diverse America among many other articles and chapters. Rockeymoore serves on the board of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and the National Association of Counties and is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. The recipient of many honors, she was named an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow in 2004 and is the recipient of Running Start’s 2007 Young Women to Watch Award.

A regular guest on radio and television shows, Maya has appeared on NPR, CNN, Black Entertainment Television, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, Al Jazeera and C-SPAN. Her opinions have also been quoted by the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, LA Times, Boston Globe, Black America Web, and Houston Chronicle among other prominent national news sources.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the potential impact of autonomous vehicles on driver jobs.
  • how the impact of autonomous vehicles will affect people of color, particularly men, in the driver job market.
  • policy recommendations for ensuring the downside economics of autonomous vehicles will not disproportionately impact drivers along racial and gender lines.


Center for Global Policy Solutions

PAPER: Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work by Dr. Algernon Austin, Cherrie Bucknor, Kevin Cashman, and Dr. Maya Rockeymoore (Center for Global Policy Solutions, 2017)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance



The Department of Justice is now officially considering charges against individual members of WikiLeaks. The Obama administration did not press charges against WikiLeaks on First Amendment grounds, saying that WikiLeaks should be considered a news organization. The Trump DOJ is looking to reverse that course. Matt Zapotsky and Ellen Nakashima report in the Washington Post.

The FCC deregulated broadcasters and companies offering business data services in orders released during the Commission's open meeting last week. The FCC voted to allow market forces to solely govern the prices for business data services that small businesses, schools, police departments, schools and other organizations pay for data. Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn issued a strong dissent saying it is "one of the worst she has seen in her years at the Commission". The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy opposed the changes, as did the EU ambassador to the U.S., who said the changes would favor U.S. companies in violation of World Trade Organization norms. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and supporters of the rule changes argued the FCC had accumulated plenty of data over the last 12 years to make an informed decision about the BDS rules.

And as far as the broadcast rules -- the Commission reinstated the UHF discount allows broadcasters to count only half of viewers who receive tv broadcasts via UHF towards the 39 percent market ownership cap. Amir Nasr has this story in Morning Consult.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai has publicly stated that he wants his agency to stay out of the federal government's review of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. The way to do that is to ensure that no broadcast licenses are at stake, since broadcast licenses are firmly within the FCC's jurisdiction. Well, the FCC last week approved Time Warner's sale of WPCH-TV in Atlanta to Meredith broadcasting, thus removing a broadcast license, but as Jon Brodkin notes in Ars, Time Warner still holds several additional licenses that enable Time Warner to transmit its cable network programming on HBO, CNN and its other properties. At over $2 million, AT&T contributed more than any other company to Trump's transition team.


The FCC is still working on overturning net neutrality, but Ajit Pai reportedly held meetings with several tech companies to get their insights on what revised rules might look like. Last week, Pai spoke with representatives from Facebook, Oracle, Cisco and Intel--Cecilia Kang has more in The New York Times.

Apr 18, 2017

Roberta Rincon is the Society of Women Engineers' (SWE) Manager of Research. Before joining SWE, Roberta Rincon was a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at The University of Texas System. She has over 15 years of experience in higher education policy research, coordinating various award and faculty recruitment programs, analyzing the impact of state legislative actions, and preparing white papers on topics ranging from classroom utilization to student success. Roberta received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, an MBA and an M.S. in Information Management from Arizona State University, and recently completed her Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Planning from UT Austin.

In this episode we discussed how to:

  • reduce gender bias in STEM.
  • prevent the attrition of women away from STEM fields.
  • improve the representation of women in tenured, full-time STEM professorships.
  • improve school compliance with Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding).


Title IX at 45 Chapter on Women and STEM (National Coalition for Women and Girls in STEM, 2017)

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey


The FCC announced the winners of its wireless spectrum auction last week. The auction involved creating incentives for broadcasters to sell their spectrum back to the FCC, with the FCC, in turn, auctioning that spectrum to wireless carriers hungry for spectrum to expand their networks. T-Mobile won the most licenses after spending $8 billion for the spectrum, followed Dish at $6.2 billion, Comcast at $1.7 billion, and 59 other bidders. Maggie Reardon has the story in CNET.

Remember the Wheeler FCC's plan to allow travelers to make mobile phone calls in-flight? Well, it looks like you're going to have to keep that phone in airplane mode when you fly. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put an order on circulation that would kill the plan, and since the FCC still only has 3 commissioners instead of the usual five, and 2 are Republican, the order is likely to pass. Laura Hautala reports in CNET.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo pledged to crack down on sites like Wikileaks and activists like Edward Snowden. Pompeo said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event last week that these so-called transparency activists "champion nothing but their own celebrity." Pompeo did not state specifically what specific measures the CIA would take, but said the agency's approaches will be constantly evolving. Catch the story in

The man who continued to robocall consumers on the Do-Not-Call registry will have to pay at least $65,000 to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC announced the settlement on Thursday. Justin Ramsey will have to pay up to $2.2 million if the agency finds that he and his company lied about their finances. Brian Fung has the story in the Washington Post.

Microsoft reported that the number of foreign intelligence surveillance requests it received from the federal government for the first 6 months of 2016 was nearly double what it was the previous year. The number of requests last year stood between 1,000 to 1,499. Dustin Volz reports in Reuters.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an order banning commercial and hobby drones from flying over 133 U.S. military bases. The drones can come within 400 feet but no more. Penalties will include fines and prosecutions. David Krevets reports in Ars.

In Google's lawsuit against Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets pertaining to Google's autonomous vehicle technology, Uber attempted to claim Fifth Amendment protection for the due diligence report it put together when it was developing its self-driving car initiative. But the Court isn't buying it and the due diligence report will be admitted. Google claims the report will prove Uber stole 14,000 files from Google. Johana Bhuiyan and Tess Townsend have the story in Recode.

Apr 11, 2017

My guest today is Dr. Melissa A. Rasberry (@MelRasberry).  Melissa is senior technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), where she serves as the principal investigator for the CS10K Community, an online community of practice for computer science teachers sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She has created and facilitated over 35 virtual communities throughout her career, providing effective online professional learning experiences for educators. Dr. Rasberry began as a third grade teacher and a principal intern at two diverse elementary schools in Durham NC. Her professional interests span the teaching continuum—from recruitment and preparation to professional development and retention.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how to train computer science teachers with non-CS degrees.
  • how to inspire students who do not initially see the relevance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
  • how parents can prevent the “summer melt” and encourage their children to build on their STEM skills throughout the summer.


CS10K Community



You’re a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2013)

Apr 4, 2017

Jane Taylor is the Founder and President of Bot Shop LLC. Bot Shop is an innovative one-stop shop specializing in integrating Robotics and Energy Education into K-12 public schools, informal education, non-profits and outreach programs. As a full-service consulting firm, Bot Shop provides turnkey solutions for effectively engaging youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through making. BotShop supports robots in education from the classroom to competition.

Jane Taylor began teaching middle school science in HISD in 2000 after graduating from Lamar University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and joining Teach for America-Houston. She used robotics as an instructional tool in her science class in 2001 after securing a community grant which purchased LEGO Mindstorms RCX robots and registration fees for First LEGO League. In response to the amazing reaction from students to this new technology, Jane created a course called Project Based: STEM in 2004 and established one of the first robotics elective courses in the Houston Independent School Districts. She went on to successfully design, develop, and implement grassroots robotics competitions, after school programs, and course curricula throughout Greater Houston.

Jane currently chairs the SHEbot Initiative for Girls in STEM, is an advisor to the 4H SET AgriBotics Robotics Challenge, and has been recognized by Teach for America for her “Energy in Education” and numerous "National Teacher of the Year" awards. She earned her Bachelor’s in Biology from Lamar University and studied educational robotics at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy.

In this episodes we discussed:

  • how to talk to kids about STEM subjects to help them see their relevance.
  • which toys and activities teach STEM skills and which are a waste of money.
  • how parents can help foster a home environment that is conducive to STEM achievement.



Leg WeDo 2.0

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy

Boss Women Pray by Kachelle Kelly



Republicans are bracing for a backlash from Democrats over Congress' repeal of the FCC Privacy Rules, which the President signed on Monday night. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already been running attack ads against members who are up for re-electiom next year and who supported the repeal of the privacy rules. These members include Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada. Daniel Strauss, Zack Kopplin, John Farrell, Jeff Greenfield, David Sliders, Alex Byers, Austin Wright, and Martin Matishak cover this in Politico.


At least one state, however, is developing its own set of privacy rules. The state of Minnesota passed its own privacy bill last week.

The FCC's net neutrality rules are expected to be on the chopping block next.


Wikileaks has struck again, this time releasing details about the CIA's Marble Framework, which shows how the CIA obfuscates itself when it is surveilling targets. This leak is considered to be especially damaging because it demonstrates how the CIA is able to mask its identity and cover its tracks when it conducts online surveillance. Ellen Nakishima reports in The Washington Post.


Federal Law enforcement officials now say terrorists have figured out how to hide bombs in laptops and other devices in a way that evades airport screeners. So authorities are now considering expanding the device ban the White House began implementing a couple of weeks ago. Evan Perez reports for CNN.


The once-thriving White House Office of Science and Technology Policy--OSTP--which was active under the Obama administration and staffed with elite Silicon Valley insiders and technologists, is now a ghost town. Michael Shear and Cecilia Kang report for The New York Times that the office is down from 24 to just 1 staffer.


In another blow to the affordable internet access program known as Lifeline, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last week that he would allow states to decide which companies can participate to dole out discounts to help low-income people afford broadband. The decision came a few months after Pai announced he'd cut 9 companies from the program. Now, in a shift, he doesn't think the federal government should be involved in providing broadband to the poor at all via the Lifeline program. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.


Finally, Rebecca Ballhaus at the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House has stopped keeping visitor logs. Under the Obama administration, the log was freely shared with the public online.

Mar 28, 2017

Faiza Patel (@FaizaPatelBCJ) serves as co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. She has testified before Congress opposing the dragnet surveillance of Muslims, organized advocacy efforts against state laws designed to incite fear of Islam, and developed legislation creating an independent Inspector General for the NYPD.

Ms. Patel is the author of five reports: Rethinking Radicalization (2011); A Proposal for an NYPD Inspector General (2012); Foreign Law Bans (2013); What Went Wrong with the FISA Court (2015); and Overseas Surveillance in an Interconnected World (2016). She is a frequent commentator on national security and counterterrorism issues for media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR, the New York Daily News, and the National Law Journal and has published widely in academic outlets as well.

Before joining the Brennan Center, Ms. Patel worked as a senior policy officer at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, and clerked for Judge Sidhwa at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Born and raised in Pakistan, Ms. Patel is a graduate of Harvard College and the NYU School of Law.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • a comparison of candidate Donald Trump's proposals to surveil Muslims to President Trump's policies.
  • a description of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program and its prospects under the Trump administration.
  • the Fourth Amendment implications of police surveillance issues on the local level that potentially impact innocent civilians within the United States.


Brennan Center for Justice

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama


The U.S. Senate passed a resolution last week by a vote of 50-48 to overturn the FCC's ISP privacy rules. The rules were designed to prevent ISPs from using sensitive data about their subscribers for the companies' own commercial purposes. Ali Breland and Harper Neidig have the story in The Hill.


Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law who is also a senior advisor to the president, will lead a new White House Office of American Innovation which, the President says, is indented as a sort of SWAT team that will seek to apply solutions from the world of business to the world of government. The new office will focus in things like Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes a broadband buildout component, as well as modernizing the federal government's technology and improving government operations. Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report in the Washington Post.


The Trump administration issued a ban of electronic devices on flights coming from 8 countries including Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The UK followed up with a similar ban. Authorities suspect a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in an iPad, according sources cited by Ewen Macaskill in The Guardian.


Google has been battling over the past week to prevent ads from showing up adjacent to hateful and offensive content. The glitch led major advertisers to withdraw spots from YouTube. AT&T and Verizon were among the companies that pulled their advetising from the platform. Google responded by giving advertisers greater control over where their ads appear. Google's Chief Business Officer Phillipp Schindler also apologized. But reports of ads placed next to offensive content were still coming in as of Monday. Mark Scott reports in The New York Times.


Apple has succeeded in persuading a Chinese Court that its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus don't infringe the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, a now-defunct Chinese smartphone manufacturer. If the patent infringement decision against Apple had been upheld, it was seen as threatening to Apple which is under intense competition in China. But Baili is expected to appeal. Eva Dou and Yang Jie report in the Wall Street Journal.


Mark Bergen and Eric Newcomer reported in Bloomberg that an accident in Tempe has prompted Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle tests in Arizona. According to police, Uber was not at fault and no injuries resulted from the accident.


A New York attorney named David Thompson has discovered via a Freedom of Information Act request that on over 400 occasions between 2011 and 2013, the New York City Police Department deployed officers to videotape or surveil activities of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter protesters. Importantly, the NYPD was unable to produce documentation showing the surveillance was authorized by a judge or higher ups within the NYPD. George Joseph has the story in the Verge.


Aida Chavez of the Hill covered a House Oversight hearing last week in which lawmakers grilled witnesses from the FBI about how they use facial recognition technology. Lawmakers were highly concerned about the impact the FBI's facial recognition database would have on communities of color as well as the public in general


The FCC voted unanimously Thursday to clamp down on robocalls. The National Do Not Call list has failed to prevent robocalls. Phone companies will now themselves be permitted to identify numbers associated with robocalls and block the calls from ever reaching their customers.

Mar 21, 2017

The man who viciously attacked long-time New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald back in December has finally been arrested, according to Cecilia Kang at The New York Times. The FBI picked up twenty-nine year old John Rivello of Salisbury, Md. on Friday for sending Eichenwald, who suffers from seizures, an electronic file containing strobe lights and bearing the words "you deserve a seizure for your posts". Eichenwald did in fact suffer a seizure. Rivello now faces a possible 10 year sentence if he is convicted of criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm.


President Trump is sticking to his guns, but no one in Congress has been able to find any evidence that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. The Republican Senator Richard Burr who Chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and Democratic Vice Chair Mark Warner issued the following statement last week: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016."  House Intelligence Chair David Nunes issued a similar statement, saying that President Trump's tweet shouldn't be taken literally.On Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified before a House panel that the FBI has found no evidence that former President Obama wiretapped Trump tower.


A county judge in Minnesota has issued a warrant requiring Google to reveal who searched the name of a victim of financial fraud. The victim's image was used to obtain a fake passport to trick a credit union to transfer $28,500 out of an account. Minneapolis police say the victim's image was clicked on in the search. David Kravets has the story in Ars.


Greg Besinger at the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber is trying to prevent their drivers from unionizing in Seattle. The effort to unionize is supported by the Teamsters and the Seattle City Council. Uber has allegedly been trying to get drivers not to unionize via company podcasts, text messages and phone surveys. It's a complex case that the Communications Workers of America is also involved in. Uber has threatened to leave Seattle if the unionization effort succeeds. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also trying to prevent the drivers from organizing, and the chamber has sued the Seattle City Council for an ordinance it passed in 2015 that gave drivers the right to vote on whether to form a union.


FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is urging Congress and the White House to include broadband buildout within the infrastructure bill. He says infrastructure spending should prioritize rural areas and be paid for via the Universal Service Fund. Maggie Reardon has the story in CNET.


The City of New York is suing Verizon because it says the company failed to deliver on a 2008 agreement to provide broadband to every single home in the city. But the company, though its GC Craig Silliman, said the company has already spent $3.7 billion to place fiber throughout the city and that the fiber passes every home in the city. Patrick McGeehan has the story int he New York Times.


CA Technologies, the technology firm and government contractor, will pay a $45 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by a former whistleblower employee alleging that the company failed to inform the the General Services Administration that certain discounts were available. The former employee, who filed the lawsuit under the False Claims Act, will receive $10.92 million of the settlement. Evan Fallor has the story in FedScoop.


Ride-hailing company Lyft, Inc.  is now on the hook to pay $27 million to drivers who filed a class-action lawsuit on federal court to change their classification from independent contractors to employees. The settlement will be paid to the  drivers, however they will remain classified as independent contractors.


The European Commission--which is the executive arm of the European Union--has given the greenlight to the $85 billion AT&T/Time Warner merger. The merger is still working its way through the regulatory approval process in the U.S.


Finally, President Trump has released  draft budget which includes $61 million to fight cybercrime and encryption plus $1.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. Joseph Marks has the story in Nextgov. Stay with us.

Mar 14, 2017

Dr. Christopher Hooton (@Hooton_Chris) is the Chief Economist at the Internet Association, which represents the interests of the world's leading Internet companies in the advancement of public policy solutions to strengthen and protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth, and empower users.  He is an economist and policy expert specializing in economic development, urban economics, spatial analysis, and evaluation. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank as well as other leading international organizations and was formerly a Lecturer at the Social Science Research Methods Centre University of Cambridge. His work has been featured in several international news organizations including the Financial Times, Reuters, the Financial Post, the Huffington Post, and more. 

Chris is a graduate of University of Miami, earned a Masters degree from the London School of Economics, and received a PhD in economic development from the University of Cambridge.


In this episode, we discussed:

  • the size of the internet economy in the U.S. and abroad. 
  • how various sub-sectors, industries and activities might be more accurately classified under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) to more accurately reflect the influence of the internet.


Refreshing Our Understanding of the Internet Economy by Christopher Hooton (Internet Association, 2017)

Observance by Christopher Hooton (2017)

News Roundup

Wikileaks last weak released a trove of CIA documents in what the New York Times said appears to be the largest C.I.A. document leak in the agency's history. The hack revealed information regarding the C.I.A.'s ability to hack into things like Smart TVs, and even Apple iPhones, which are widely considered the gold standard of device encryption. The leak also revealed that the agency has the ability to read messages sent via encrypted messaging apps, such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp, simply by intercepting them before they are encrypted.

The leaks did not reveal information on what the C.I.A. is doing to conduct surveillance of other nations. Check out full coverage in The New York Times.


Facebook has announced that it will no longer allow anyone to access its data, including the police, for the purpose of surveillance. However, the company will continue to allow the police to use the platform and assisting law enforcement on a case-by-case basis. But some advocates say the changes don't go far enough.  Elizabeth Dwoskin has the story in the Washington Post.


Trump revised his ban on immigrants from majority-Muslim countries last week. The revised version exempts permanent U.S. residents, dual nationals and those already living in the U.S. as refugees or who have been granted asylum. The revised measure was met with condemnation from the tech sector, by Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Nick Statt has the story in The Verge.


The Securities and Exchange Commission has denied an application for what would have been an exchange for the digital currency Bitcoin. The Commission found that the coin is not sufficiently regulated around the world to justify setting up the exchange, which was to be called Bitcoin Trust. Dave Michaels and Paul Vigna have the story in the Wall Street Journal.


The FCC is also investigating a 911 outage that prevented AT&T customers from dialing 911. AT&T did not indicate how widespread the outage was. Harper Neidig has the story in the Hill.


A new report written by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community accuses AT&T of deliberately failing to build out broadband to low-income communities in Cleveland. The report analyzes data AT&T submitted to the FCC which shows robust high speed internet service in suburban areas and sparse build out in low-income areas.


A Morning Consult/Politico poll found a growing number of Americans now believe Russia did in fact interfere with the 2016 election. Forty-one percent now believe Russia influenced the results, up 9 percentage points from December.


President Trump has nominated FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for another term. It's a five-year term that requires Senate approval. If confirmed, Pai's Chairmanship would be retroactive to July 1st, 2016, which was when Pai's term as Commissioner expired. Pai has remained on board though because FCC rules allow Commissioners to keep their jobs for 18 months past the expiration of their term. Trump appointed Pai Chairman after Pai officially endorsed Trump's nomination of Jeff Session for Attorney General. Prior to announcing the nomination, Trump and Pai had a closed door meeting. The Electronic Privacy and Information Center swiftly responded with a FOIA request to obtain details about that meeting.


Neither Ajit Pai nor the Republican-controlled Congress are fans of the FCC's internet sevice provider privacy rules passed under previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Ajit Pai stated last week at a Senate hearing, in a departure from the Republican line, that the FCC would still be obligated to protect consumers' privacy even if Congress eliminates the privacy rules. A measure to eliminate the privacy rules using the Congressional Review Act has the support of 23 Republican co-sponsors.



The National Science Foundation has pledged $100 million for tech hubs focused on 5G wireless. The initiative is called the Platform for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) and will be led by NSF and Northeastern University.


Mar 7, 2017

Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor (University Lecturer) in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, where he is also a Fellow in Psychological and Behavioral Sciences at Churchill College. Other academic affiliations include the Yale Center for Environmental Communication at Yale University. At Cambridge, Dr. van der Linden lectures mainly in statistics and social psychology.

 Dr. van der Linden's research has received awards from institutions such as the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) and the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). He was nominated by Pacific Standard Magazine as one of the "top thinkers under 30" and his work has been widely publicized in the media, including outlets such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post, NPR, the BBC, and the New York Times.

Prior to Cambridge, van der Linden directed the Social and Environmental Decision-Making (SED) Lab in the Department of Psychology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University and was a visiting scholar (2012-2014) at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In this episode, we discussed:

  • How users can be scientifically inoculated to reject fake fews.


The Cambridge Social Decision Making Lab

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis


You've heard by now that Trump claimed, with no evidence, on Twitter over the weekend that Obama wiretapped his office in Trump Tower. Not only did Obama deny it through a spokesperson, former Director of National Security Director James Clapper said he too can deny the wiretaps. Current FBI Director James Comey was also said to have rejected the assertions in Trump's tweets, which President Trump was said to have not accepted, putting the two men at odds. The White House has asked Congress to investigate whether his office was indeed wiretapped. So what gave Trump the idea that his office had been wiretapped? No one knows.


The Senate confirmed Rick Perry as Energy Secretary. The former Texas governor once vowed to abolish the department he will now lead.


Google has announced that it will be launching a $35/month broadcast tv streaming service that will carry ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as several cable networks including ESPN, FX, Fox News and MSNBC.


Several tech companies filed a joint amicus brief before the Supreme Court in support of a transgender student in Virginia who is challenging the Glouchester County School board for for not letting him use the boy's restroom. IBM, Slack, Lyft, Yahoo, Tumblr and Salesforce all signed the brief. Google, Facebook and Uber, though, sat this one out.  But the Supreme Court ended up sending the case back down to the lower court because the Trump White House rescinded an Obama-era progressive interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of sex.


Snapchat surged 44% after its IPO last week. The stock was introduced at $17 a share on Thursday and closed that day at $24.48.


The Senate confirmed Wilber Ross as Commerce Secretary with a vote of  72-27. The 79-year old billionaire earned his wealth rehabilitating steel companies. Democrat Bill Nelson supported Ross' nomination, but other Democratic Senators including New Jersey's Corey Booker and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren question Ross' ties with Russia.


The FCC put a halt on data security regulations that would have required ISPs to protect their customers from hackers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said privacy is more properly handled by the Federal Trade Commission.


Vice President Mike Pence caught some heat last week for using a private, consumer email account to conduct official state business when he served as Governor of Indiana. Pence had criticized Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign for using a private email server. Pence's email was via AOL. But Indiana law still requires state business communications to be preserved. In fact, Pence's emails were indeed hacked last summer, according sources cited in IndyStar.


The Trump administration has decided it is going to slow processing of H1B visas for specialized workers. Many companies in the technology sector rely on H1B visas to recruit highly-skilled labor from abroad. Currently, companies can opt for premium processing of H1B visa applications which cuts the processing time down from several months, to as few as 15 days. But beginning on April 3rd, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization services will suspend premium processing for up to 6 months.


Sprint has won $139.8 million in damages in its patent lawsuit against Time Warner Cable. The jury in the U.S. District Court of the District of Kansas found Time Warner Cable to have violated Sprint's Voice over IP patents. The jury also found Time Warner Cable's infringement of Sprint's patents was willful, which means the judge could triple the damage award.


The European Union Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has warned the United States that if it doesn't comply with the terms of the Privacy Shield, the European Union may pull out of it, which would be catastrophic for the tech sector. The long-fought over Privacy Shield is designed to ensure data flows seemlessly between the U.S. and Europe, while at the same time protecting European Citizens' privacy. Jourova is expected to come to the U.S. to meet with the Trump administration at the end of March. She indicated that she would not hesitate to suspend the Privacy Shield if Eurpeans' privacy is put too much at risk by the unpredictable Trump administration.


The FCC issued an emergency order last week to help law enforcement identify individuals calling in bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country.  The emergency order waives rules that ordinarily prevent carriers from disclosing the identity of callers who have requested anonymity. The waiver only applies to calls to Jewish Community Centers.


Finally, Trump has withdrawn the re-nomination of former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The previous Senate had let her confirmation lapse, prompting Obama to re-nominate her. Now it looks like Rosenworcel has no chance of returning to the FCC, which is missing 2 commissioners. Rosenworcel had bipartisan support, including  a lukewarm endorsement from Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune who said he supported Rosenworcel, but said the decision should be left to the president.

Feb 28, 2017
Taylor Moore (TayMoore_CDT) is the Center for Democracy & Technology's (CDT) Free Expression Fellow. Her work focuses on preserving the Internet as a global platform for speech and association, democratic accountability, the free exchange of information and ideas, and the freedom of thought.She previously served as the Google Policy Fellow for Public Knowledge, where she was involved in advocacy work related to net neutrality, intellectual property, and internet governance. Taylor also served as the fellow for the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, where she supported new paradigms for the creation, management, and exploitation of knowledge resources, and worked within a wide spectrum of IP stakeholders. Before graduating from Howard University School of Law, she worked as a law clerk for Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at the FCC and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • the social justice and civil rights implications of fake news.
  • how algorithms affect the way social media companies moderate content.
  • how citizens can stop the spread of fake news.


Center for Democracy & Technology

How Algorithms Can Impact Civil Rights Movements blog post by Taylor Moore (CDT, 2017)

Many Americans Believe Fake News is Sowing Confusion by Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell, and Jesse Holcomb (Pew, 2016)

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (Ecco, 2016)

A Gentleman of Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking, 2016)


Google announced number of public interest research and initiatives last week.

The Google subsidiary Jigsaw has developed, along with the help of The New York Times, a new app that allows site operators to weed out hate speech and other harmful speech in comment sections. The app is called Perspective and is available for free for a limited time. also announced last week that the company is investing $11.5 million in 10 organizations focused on racial justice. Five million will go to the Center for Policing Equity in New York, a think tank focused on research around how to improve interactions between the police and their communities.

Also, a Google team in collaboration with a Dutch research team, cracked the cryptographic technology known as SHA-1, which has long been central to internet security.

For full reports on these stories, check out Daisuke Wakabayashi's story in the New York Times, Sara O'Brien at CNNTech, and Robert McMillan at the Wall Street Journal.


In November of 2015, in Bentonville, Arkansas, Victor Collins was found dead, lying face-up in a hot tub belonging to a man named James Andrew Bates. Bates has an Amazon Echo,  speaker that hooks up to a Alexa, a digital personal assistant that accepts voice commands. Now, Bates is the suspect, and the police want Amazon to release records of Bates' Echo comnunications. Amazon is challenging the warrant, saying that being forced to turn over those communications would violate Bates' First Amendment rights. Ashley Carman has the story in The Verge.


Kara Swisher reported for Recode that Salesforce has joined Apple and Google in opposing Donald Trump's repeal of federal guidelines regarding transgender bathroom use in public schools.


On Valentines Day, Free Press delivered 200,000 petitions from its members asking the FCC to defend net neutrality. But last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai demonstrated that their love is unrequited, begnning what he promised: taking what he termed a "weed whacker" to the net neutrality rules. In a 2-1 vote along party lines, the FCC ruled that it would go ahead and exempt net neutrality reporting requirements regarding fees and data caps for broadband providers with fewer than 250,00 subscribers. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that smaller ISPs owned by larger carriers with billions of dollars in capital would also be exempted. Ali Breland has the story in the Hill, as well as Jon Brodkin in Ars Technica.


Despite the Trump administration's crack down immigration from majority-Muslim countries as well as Mexico, the FCC's Media Bureau gave two Australian citizens 100% ownership in radio stations licensed in America. Just last month, foreign owners were only allowed to own 49% of Univision, up to 40% of which would be by Mexico-based Televisa. Jon Eggerton has the story in Broadcasting & Cable.


Cox Communications and the American Library Association announced last week that they will be teaming up to provide enhanced digital literacy training for K-12 students in Cox's 18-state footprint.


Remember back in December when the FBI figured out how to hack into the iPhone of one of the San Bernadino shooters, thus bypassing Apple's refusal to do it? Well, the Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett have now submitted a court filing asking the judge to require the FBI and Justice Department to disclose which third party they worked with or how much it cost, which the agencies have thus far refused to do. Eric Tucker has the story in the Associated Press.

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