John Oliver Explains “Preventing Cable Company Fuckery” (aka Net Neutrality)

In a hilarious rant on Network Neutrality, HBO’s John Oliver delivers about as good an explanation of the concept as I’ve ever heard (video below). Even better, he calls out the corporations and special interests who are trying to co-opt the Internet for their nefarious purposes.

Oliver hits on every bullet point in the debate including how businesses are already deliberately obstructing access; how the FCC is headed by a former cable lobbyist; how our current system is delivering worse service than third world nations; and how the cable cabal is a working monopoly.

Oliver also notes that the public discussion on the issue is impeded by the inherently dull and technical subject matter, and how opponents of Net Neutrality are exploiting that by having figured out that “the way to do something evil is to put it inside something boring.” So Oliver has a suggestion about how to frame the debate, at least in terms of the yawn-inducing identifier “Net Neutrality.”

John Oliver Net Neutrality

That’s right. “Preventing Cable Company Fuckery.” Now that’s something that can get people riled up to actually do something productive like send comments to the FCC to demand that they protect Net Neutr…er…I mean Preventing Cable Company Fuckery.

Something else you can do is to stop blindly supporting the corporations that are trying to kill the Internet (or usurp it to service their greed). Those of you who use AT&T or Verizon for your cell phone service (and that’s most of you) have another option. CREDO Mobile is a progressive company that supports an open Internet that doesn’t favor wealthy conglomerates who can afford to pay for special treatment and to suppress competition. They also fight for the environment, social justice, and a political landscape free of Tea Party idiocy.

It’s so easy to make the switch you’ll wonder why you never did it before. You’ll get great service and a selection of the best phones. You can keep your current phone number. And they will pay up to $350.00 for any early termination fees your current provider charges. You can even try it for thirty days with no obligation. You really need to check this out because there is no reason for your hard-earned dollars to be working against you by literally funding the Tea Party and the KeystoneXL pipeline and, of course Cable Company Fuckery. And if you use this link, you’ll even be helping News Corpse, who will receive a modest commission for the referral.

So please take this simple step to change the world and free yourself from the shackles of corporations who are working against you and your principles. You’ll feel great for having done so. And send this video (and this link) along to your friends and family as well. We can have a huge effect if we join together for something positive, rather than submitting to the corporate masters.

Fight The FCC’s Phony Net Neutrality Plan

One of the most promising signs of the early Obama administration was the appointment of Julius Genachowski to chair the FCC. There was significant hope that the days of coddling Big Media and permitting more consolidation and concentration of corporate influence was about to end. However, it is now turning into one of the most disappointing appointments as Genachowski appears to be caving on Network Neutrality, one of the most important free speech issues of this decade.

The New York Times is reporting that “Genachowski has decided not to use the commission’s telephone regulatory powers to govern broadband Internet service.” He also seems to be prepared to allow Internet service providers to engage in “paid prioritization,” which could lead to favoritism on the part of the ISPs and discrimination against smaller, independent web enterprises.

This is not exactly the sort of plan that was promised by candidate Obama in 2008. It charts a course that smothers efforts to increase broadband access while giving more control of the Internet to monopoly-minded corporations. Josh Silver of FreePress.net summarizes the ill-effects of this proposal as “a shiny jewel for companies like AT&T and Comcast.”

Net Neutrality has been a target of right-wing disinformation for several years. They wrongly portray it as anything from a new Fairness Doctrine to something out of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. That is how obsessed they are with defeating a proposal whose actual purpose is to protect a free and open Internet. That’s how obsessed they are with advancing the interests of their wealthy benefactors at the expense of the American people.

This administration has been notably weak-kneed when it comes to anything remotely controversial. They demonstrated this tendency to bail with Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, the Public Option in the health care debate, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and presently the matter of extending tax cuts to the wealthy. It seems that any opposition to common sense progressive proposals is met with complete surrender. We can’t let liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh drive the debate. And we can’t let the White House cave in to pressure from factions that represent greed and corporate power.

You can fight back by signing this petition from Bold Progressives to urge the FCC to protect free speech online by supporting Net Neutrality. And here’s another from Credo Action. Or you can use this form to contact the FCC directly and submit your comments. But you only have a couple of weeks, so act soon. You will surely regret it if you don’t and you later find that you can’t access some of your favorite web sites because they were blocked by ISPs because they couldn’t pay the toll.

Christian Broadcasting Network v. News Corpse

The Christian Broadcasting Network, home of The 700 Club, has notified News Corpse of a defamatory posting on this web site. I received an email from their legal team that included an attached letter (pdf) from Louis Isakoff, Vice President and General Counsel of Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Isakoff is representing Pat Robertson’s son (and CBN’s CEO), Gordon. The letter said in part:

“It has recently been brought to our attention that your internet site, newscorpse.com, has posted comments from Cheryl Spencer which are false, misleading, and defamatory. A copy of that post is included with this letter. The posting accused Mr. Robertson of adultery. Obviously this accusation is inaccurate.”

The letter goes on to demand that I “remove the posting immediately” to “avoid legal action” against me. The posting in question is over two years old and it did not address Robertson in any way. It was about the hiring of the late Tony Snow, former Fox News host and Bush press secretary, by CNN. The offending material was contained in a comment made by a reader. Cheryl Spencer, whom I do not know, made a comment, that I did not endorse, concerning Robertson’s marital fidelity. News Corpse, as an advocate for higher standards in the media, respects free speech and provides an open forum for opinion from all ideological perspectives.

CBN and Robertson are demonstrating a rare measure of sensitivity by bringing down the hammer on a small Internet publisher of opinion over an old article that didn’t even mention their client. Isakoff may be a Yale lawyer and the head of the legal division of a big university and media enterprise, but he is woefully uninformed on matters of new media publishing and free expression. Had he taken the time to research the matter, he would have quickly discovered that US Code Title 47, Chapter 5, Sub-Chapter II, Part I, ยง 230(c) provides immunity from any cause of action related to comments posted on blogs:

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

There is an abundance of case law affirming the protection for bloggers from lawsuits stemming from comments made by readers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Citizen Media Law Project have extensive documentation of this. And that protection even applies when a blogger is notified of an allegedly defamatory comment and declines to remove it.

I can’t say whether this misunderstanding of the law is typical of Regent University lawyers, but there are certainly curious circumstances associated with that crowd. The Bush administration hired some 150 of them, including White House counsel Monica Goodling, who took the fifth before a congressional committee investigating the potentially illegal firing of U.S. Attorneys by the Bushies for partisan political reasons. And the presence of 150 lawyers in the Bush Department of Justice from a single Christian law school that was less than thirty years old is startling and unprecedented.

I have no intention of removing the comment posted on my site. I believe that the demand by CBN is without merit and is deliberately intended to harass me and to stifle free expression. This sort of bullying tactic has a chilling effect on individuals and organizations who seek only to exercise their Constitutional rights and provide forums for others to do so as well. It’s disappointing to see a religious institution, who’s rights are protected by the very same Constitutional amendment, exploit their power by threatening innocent authors and publishers.

Dick Cheney: Human Events’ Conservative Of The Year.

Award season is in full swing, and the latest recipient of a year-end tribute is former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Human Events magazine has named Cheney “Conservative of the Year.”

Dick Cheney - The End Is Near

To be sure, this commendation lacks stature. After all, last year’s winner was Sarah Palin. Chosen to pen Palin’s accolades was the professional conservative controversialist, Ann Coulter. In her attempt to praise Palin, Coulter wrote such back-handed compliments as…

[1] Who cares if Palin was qualified to be President? [2] Palin was a kick in the pants, she energized conservatives, and she made liberal heads explode. [3] Perhaps Palin’s year is 2012, but I would recommend that she take a little more time to become older and wiser.

Pretty much the only positive thing Coulter could find to say about Palin was that she was a “genius at annoying all the right people.” While annoying people is a subject that Coulter has some familiarity with, it still begs the question, with friends like Coulter, who needs enemas?

Cheney fared little better with regard to the selection of his advocate. The honor of fluffing Cheney fell to former United Nations Ambassador, John Bolton. Bolton begins his plaudits by enumerating a list of things Cheney is NOT doing:

He is not running for President or any other office. He has not formed a PAC or a D.C. lobbying firm. He is not dishing on former colleagues, not spreading gossip, not settling scores.

Those, however, all sound like things that last year’s honoree, Palin, IS doing, and about which Bolton apparently disapproves. It’s rather telling that Human Events had to settle for someone they admit is so completely out of the political limelight. It speaks to the absence of credible leaders warming up in the conservative bullpen. The rest of the article makes a case very similar to the one Coulter made for Palin. It is basically an argument that Cheney was an effective thorn in the new administration’s side. To conservatives, that is what constitutes qualification for a prestigious award. Not setting policy, or advancing ideas, or accumulating support, but by being a nuisance. Bolton does end on a positive note by summing up Cheney’s attributes as a loyal public servant, saying he is…

“…a very experienced, very dedicated patriot, giving his fellow citizens his best analysis on how to keep them and their country safe.”

I’m not so sure that having Cheney’s “best analysis” is particularly comforting. I mean, this is the guy under who’s watch the nation suffered its worst act of terrorism ever. It’s the guy who led America into an unnecessary war justified by lies. And it’s the guy who has consistently been the herald of doom and worse, a virtual advance man for Al Qaeda. By repeatedly proclaiming his view that our country is less safe under President Obama, and therefore more vulnerable, Cheney and his cohorts are effectively inviting another terrorist attack. How does announcing to our enemies that he believes our nation is becoming weaker make us safer? Does he even care? Or is he just pasting a big bull’s eye on America and hoping for an “I told you so” moment?

In any case, I give you Richard Bruce Cheney – Human Events’ Conservative of the Year. I suppose it’s the best they could do.

All Of A Sudden Fox News Cares About Privacy Rights

For the past eight years, there have been so many intrusions to the civil liberties that Americans are promised by the Constitution that it’s hard to recount them all. Amongst the most significant are the Patriot Act, the removal of Habeas Corpus protections, and Wireless Wiretapping.

Now there is a bill in Congress that poses a new threat to privacy and to the independence of the Internet. The Cybersecurity Act of 2009, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, seeks to create a new federal authority to respond to threats that may emanate online. It gives the President the power to shut down critical systems in an emergency. It also gives the Commerce Secretary authority to access any and all data it chooses from public and private networks.

While there is a real need to shield our electronic networks from lurking villains, this bill is written far to broadly and it gives the government too much discretion for defining when it would be invoked.

Here’s the funny part: James Osborne of Fox News has written an article that takes the administration and the Congress to task for stepping on the privacy rights of citizens. They never seemed to be too interested in the Bush administration’s incursions into privacy as enumerated above. But now such moves are viewed as power grabs that are on assault on civil liberties. Osbourne’s article doesn’t include any historical context on the liberties Americans have already been forced to forgo, but he does warn that…

“…the proposal to give the U.S. government the authority to regulate the Internet is sounding alarms among critics who say it’s another case of big government getting bigger and more intrusive.”

One of those critics cited in Osbourne’s article is Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I have to give Osbourne credit for including a response from the EFF, a veteran of Internet rights advocacy. On the other hand, Osbourne leans far more heavily on the views of the Business Software Alliance, an industry lobbying firm that, not surprisingly, thinks that business should play the dominant role in efforts to secure the Internet and protect citizens privacy. Presumably that is because they have done such a great job of it in the past (yes, that’s sarcastic).

The last thing we need now is for an industry that is motivated solely by profit to be responsible for systems that impact our national security and personal privacy. The solution can only lie in a cooperative effort that includes business, government, and the public. There is a even a place for Fox News in so far as they are inclined to provide information on this serious matter. It would just be nice if they weren’t so weighted to a tyranny of the corporation. It would also be nice if they could demonstrate some consistency by exhibiting a little concern for privacy violations incurred by the previous administration.

John McCain’s Fear Of The Internets

Cable MonstersLast month John McCain said that Americans are tired of the Internet. It’s highly unlikely that he was actually speaking for all Americans, or even anything more than a small brood of Luddites. It is more likely that he himself is tired of the Internet, or perhaps just tired, period. He has never been particularly fond of it, even as he chaired the Senate committee responsible for regulating it.

Amanda Terkel has authored a pretty comprehensive review of McCain’s tech resume. Her article reveals a man who is both uncomfortable with technological progress and beholden to the big corporate interests who seek to dominate the industry. McCain’s pronouncements on the subject, like the one last month, are laughable. He has confessed that he is “an illiterate who has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get,” and that he “never felt the particular need to e-mail.”

Terkel points out that the United States has fallen behind most of the world with regard to broadband policy. Our failure to be competitive in this arena will cost us the loss of millions of potential new jobs. It will hamstring our children. And it will insure that we run with the back of the pack in opportunities for business growth.

McCain has led the way to the rear by opposing legislation that would keep the Internet open (Network Neutrality). Plus he has promoted the sort of deregulation that has permitted media companies to consolidate so extensively that there are now only a handful of giant players left. McCain advanced this anti-competitive agenda while claiming to be free of conflicts or personal motive. Unfortunately, Terkel proves that that isn’t the truth:

“In 1998 and 1999, McCain wrote at least 15 letters to the FCC, urging members to take action on issues that had potentially major consequences for his campaign donors. For example, McCain wrote two letters in April and May 1999, asking the commission to make a decision on a $62 billion pending merger between telephone companies Ameritech and SBC Communications. The merger went through later that year. A few weeks before the April letter, Richard Notebaert, the head of Ameritech, co-hosted a fundraiser for McCain. He took in approximately $50,000. Just before the May letter, SBC and Ameritech officials contributed or solicited about $120,000 in donations for McCain’s campaign.”

“The current campaign cycle is also shaping up to be lucrative. U.S. Telecom Association president and CEO Walter B. McCormick Jr., Sprint CEO Daniel R. Hesse, and Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg have each raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for McCain’s campaign. AT&T executive vice president for federal relations Timothy McKone has raised at least $500,000.”

Maverick McCainMcCain’s association with lobbyists is well documented, if not well reported by the media. He was embroiled in his own scandal some years ago surrounding the corrupt banker Charles Keating. Next week he is attending a fundraiser hosted by Ralph Reed, a prolific lobbyist and an associate of convicted scammer Jack Abramoff. And in this week of tabloid revelations about John Edwards and his mistress, it should be noted that McCain also had speculation swirling about his relationship with telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Unlike the bulldogging National Enquirer, the New York Times dropped the Iseman story after getting yapped at by angry Republicans. But the more salacious elements of the Iseman affair are not really that important. What is most relevant is that she is another lobbyist for closing off the Internet to everyone but her wealthy multinational clients, and that she was indisputably chummy with McCain. Curiously, she has since vanished from the face of earth. She has been so well hidden that even milk cartons don’t have a picture of her. Has the McCain camp shuttled her off to Dick Cheney’s fabled “Undisclosed Location?”

Terkel’s article, along with the other evidence cited here, should cause anyone who values the Internet to be suspicious of McCain’s plans. He is not merely ignorant, he is aggressively antagonistic toward an open, accessible, World Wide Web. He must not be given an authority over it.

Big Media: We Are The Sioux Nation – Google Is Custer

As the giant multi-national media conglomerates continue to grow, they are becoming even more brazen in their ambition and arrogance. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., in the midst of a proposed acquisition of Dow Jones, doesn’t intend to slow down. The president of Fox Entertainment, Peter Chernin, spoke at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference yesterday and declared that

This is a market that Murdoch and his ilk do not intend abandon to the unwashed hordes of a free blogiverse.

“You’ll see more acquisitions. This is a world where the big get bigger. You’ll see increased consolidation.”

That statement should not be construed as an executive assessment of future corporate activity. It is a threat. It is a loaded missile launcher aimed at free thinking, independence minded citizens of America and the world. These words must be taken as seriously as the man who uttered them.

Even as Chernin spoke, his boss News Corp. was in the process of gobbling up Photobucket, an image storage and sharing web site. While this may not be as consequential as the Dow Jones deal, it does give Fox’s Interactive Media group another 41 million users and advances the imperial interests of its MySpace division. The impact of this should not be underestimated. In this morning’s, release of its quarterly earnings, Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers predicted that

“…consumer Internet traffic will surpass corporate traffic for the first time this year ‘because of next-generation services such as blogs and wikis.’

This is a market that Murdoch and his ilk do not intend abandon to the unwashed hordes of a free blogiverse. Time Warner CEO, Dick Parsons spoke at the same NCTA conference where he boastfully vowed that he and his corporatist troops will not surrender ground to upstarts and insurgents:

“The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation. They will lose this war if they go to war. The notion that the new kids on the block have taken over is a false notion.”

It is somewhat beyond ironic that Parsons would align himself analogously with the oppressed and overwhelmed nation of Native Americans when he has so much more in common with a clueless general fighting for an aggressive and imperialistic state. His words reek with hostility toward a new media world he seems incapable of comprehending. This is not the first eruption of Parsons’ cluelessness. He was quoted in Siva Vaidhyanathan’s book, The Anarchist in the Library, defending corporate dominion over creative and intellectual property and making the absurd and repulsive assertion that such authority is a requirement for the advancement of culture:

“This isn’t just about a bunch of kids stealing music. It’s an assault on everything that constitutes cultural expression of our society. If we fail to protect and preserve our intellectual property system, the culture will atrophy. And the corporations won’t be the only ones hurt. Artists will have no incentive to create. Worst-case scenario: the country will end up in a sort of Cultural Dark Age.”

If Parsons thinks that the reasons artists create is for material compensation, he has no business running a company that represents artists. His astonishingly ignorant point of view deserves an extended essay all its own. For now I’ll just link to this well articulated response from The Future of the Book.

Unfortunately, the Cultural Dark Age to which Parsons alludes is a very real possibility, though not for the reasons he suggests. It is corporations like the one he heads that will lead us over that cliff. Big Media still has more in common with Custer’s army than with the Sioux. The difference is that in today’s theater of war Custer’s reinforcements would be a phone call away and the Sioux nation would be reduced to rubble. That’s kind of the way it turned out anyway, it would just happen faster today.

The commoditization of culture is much more harmful to open societies than is its free distribution. The American Idolization of America presents a truly nightmarish scenario that trivializes creativity and expression. And as the media behemoths expand beyond all proportion, there is a risk of the bubble bursting like a car bomb in the marketplace of ideas.

Murdoch’s Senior Moment In Davos

Since Saturday, when I first posted this article, Murdoch Confesses To Propaganda On Iraq, the news has been defying Mark Twain’s axiom that “A lie can make it half way around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on.”

The truth’s boots are on and it is logging miles like crazy. Rupert Murdoch’s admission that he tried to use his media empire to shape the agenda on Iraq is spreading like wildfire. Newshounds, Crooks and Liars, Huffington Post, Carpetbagger, Juan Cole, Raw Story, and scads of lesser known but just as dedicated bloggers are trumpeting this surprising shard of honesty that escaped from Rupert’s lips.

I’m still trying to figure out how such an unguarded comment could have occurred. Is he just so brazenly arrogant now that he thinks he can come clean without repercussions? Is it a coded appeal to his neo-con audience for help to reverse the downward ratings spiral he’s engulfed in? Was it a run of the mill slip of the tongue by a 77 year old with weakening cognition skills?

While I can’t explain what was going through his diabolical mind, I can point to the reason that this story is getting so much play. And, ironically, it’s also something that Murdoch said in Davos. Referring to the Internet, he said that:

…traditional media are also “put right immediately” these days when making mistakes. [...] Similarly, Murdoch said “government now has to be much more open” because of the Web

Indeed, the Internet has proven to be the conventional media’s fact-checker. And it isn’t just government whose openness has to be reaffirmed. It’s getting more difficult to use the propagandistic arts because there now exists a public forum over which the message controllers have not yet imposed their domination. I emphasize “not yet.”

The Internet is a powerful medium and the most significant contribution to a democratized media since Gutenburg. But it is not impervious to attack or capture. There is a reason that the Big Media megaliths want to kill network neutrality. There is a reason they want to remove ownership caps for television and newspapers. There is a reason the right wing elements at the FCC, the FEC, and other government agencies relentlessly push for deregulation. These are all ways of transferring the brute force of the Internet into the hands of corporatist elites who will lower its volume and polish its edges. When they are done it will no longer be fit for discourse or dissent. But it will serve nicely for comfort and commerce.

The manner by which this story has been propelled by bloggers and citizen journalists should serve as a reminder that the people still have a voice. But we, the people, must not get complacent either. Events like this will surely stir the media bears, and they are still the most dangerous beast in the forest. Be vigilant and be active because, if you are not, this medium will be lost to us – like all other media before it. Think about that.

Blame The Internet – The Predators Feeding Ground

In the wake of the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (FL-Perv), the Internet’s culture of free speech and access could be swept under along with a few deviant and corrupt Republicans.

The fact that the offending behavior of Foley was acted out on the net could become impetus for his desperate colleagues to renew their pursuit of restrictive and censorious legislation such as the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). This bill would ban social networks (and much more) from any computer in a school, library, or publicly funded facility.

Foley himself was a sponsor of the Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth (Internet SAFETY) Act, a bill that the Center for Democracy and Technology says…

“would have a profoundly damaging chilling effect, deterring bloggers, artists and even health advocates from posting legitimate information that could expose them to jail time.”

Foley’s own comments in support of the measure have an eerie drone to them now:

“Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals and will continue to do it unless stopped.”

In honor of Internet Safety Day (July, 28, 2004) Foley warned that the Internet…

“provides a new medium for pedophiles to reach out to our most vulnerable citizens-America’s children.”

Hopefully one of them was stopped this weekend. But we must not allow a pack of super-righteous hypocrites to dictate the future of access to the Internet. We need to be on our guard, because they will attempt to exploit this scandal to provoke fear and confusion about the Internet. They will characterize it as dangerous and unsupervised. Indeed, Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the author of DOPA, has already declared that…

“…this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

Make no mistake about it. They will come after the Internet. They will seek to explain away their political difficulties by shifting blame to other matters. They will exploit a scandal to further the establishment of their extremist theocracy. By covering up the abhorrent behavior of their colleague, they have demonstrated that they care more about partisan advantage than about children. So what would make anyone think they care about free speech or the Internet?

Net Neutrality Foes Rig Survey

Anyone that doesn’t have a flat EEG can recognize the deceipt built into this survey.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Verizon), is gleefully hawking a poll that claims that the public is opposed to Net Neutrality. The poll was conducted jointly by GOP pollsters, Public Opinion Strategies, and Dem lobbyists, Glover Park Group. This partnership has some touting this as a bipartisan effort, but the truth is that Glover Park has long been working with Verizon to push for passage of Stevens’ anti-Net legislation. Verizon paid $60,000 to commission this poll. Unfortunately, the false assertions of bipartisanship and the hidden corporate biases are the least of the problems with this survey.

The questions, and the manner in which they were posed, were transparently manipulative. You could not have produced a more predictable outcome if you had asked: “Which would you prefer, a pony or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick? See for yourself:

In your opinion, which of the following is the MOST important reason for your Senator to vote for this legislation?

Create state of the art communications networks to enhance public safety and improve government emergency response efforts in future. 23
Provide funding to help deploy broadband in rural and underserved communities, schools and libraries. 19
Streamlined process to deliver more choice and greater competition for new TV and video services. 16
Give Americans with disabilities the opportunity to participate more fully in the modern information economy. 13
Consumer bill of rights to guarantee full access to legal content on the Internet. 10

Note that only reasons to vote FOR the legislation are offered. This is important because the very next question asks:

“Based on what you know now, would you want the Senators from your State to vote for or against this legislation?”

Not surprisingly, 80% responded affirmatively. Since only 7% said that they had even heard of Net Neutrality, the question above was the only explanation most respondents were exposed to. They were never presented with reasons to oppose it.

The final question descends into hilarity:

Which of the following two items do you think is the most important to you:

Delivering the benefits of new TV and video choice so consumers will see increased competition and lower prices for cable TV. 66
Enhancing Internet neutrality by barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services like faster speed and increased security for a fee. 19

There’s a revelation. People prefer the benefits of new TV and lower prices to banning faster service and security.

Anyone that doesn’t have a flat EEG can recognize the deceipt built into this survey. Obviously the results were not meant to persuade readers that the public is yearning to abandon Net Neutrality. Instead, the purpose was to inform legislators that 91% of their constituents had never heard of Net Neutrality and, if it was properly misrepresented, the legislators could safely vote to kill it. It’s shenanigans like these that have produced some other recent survey results: Only 25% in poll approve of U.S. Congress

The one bit of useful information in this poll is that there is still a lot of work to do to inform the public about this issue. We had better get to it before Stevens and the lobbyists poison the well.

Top 25 Censored News Stories Of 2007

Project Censored has published its 2007 list of the stories most ignored by the media. Here’s the top 10 as a teaser:

  1. Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
  2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
  3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
  4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
  5. High-Tech Genocide in Congo
  6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
  7. US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
  8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
  9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
  10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians


Mainstream Media Advances On The Internet

A new report finds that the usual suspects in big media are also the big winners on the Internet. The report also states that those same players will be growing faster than other sectors of the media industry.

Anybody thinking that the Internet was going to rescue us from the stodgy, entrenched, and compromised press that has been torturing journalism for the past 50 years had better wake up. The giant corporations that own the media today are not about to let go of their monopolies.

“…traditional media companies are aggressively pursuing online and mobile platforms, protecting their brands and developing new revenue streams,” said James Rutherfurd, VSS’ executive vice president and managing director.

Rutherford said amid the unprecedented fragmentation of the media market, “traditional media companies have responded by investing in multiple media platforms to reach this increasingly fragmented audience.”

Market fragmentation is really just the migration of consumers to new technologies. The media companies recognize this migration and are developing or acquiring properties in the new media space. Already, 9 of the top 11 news sites on the net are owned by big media. The most popular new Internet destinations have targets on their backs. Rupert Murdoch’s Internet division recently purchased MySpace and the rumors of YouTube’s acquisition are heating up.

If we want to preserve the net’s independence, we had better make sure that we don’t allow it to be devoured by the dinosaurs that have fouled the conventional media. That means putting your home page where your mouth is. We need to support independent sites and refrain from supporting those that have fallen into the big media abyss.

An interesting side note from the report: The number of hours that consumers will spend with media will increase to 3620 per person annually. That’s almost 10 hours a day. This projection paints a bleak picture of mankind’s future.

Cybercrime Treaty Threatens US Constitution

Last week, the Senate ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime Treaty. This international treaty was ostensibly designed to aid countries seeking to prosecute hackers, virus developers, and child pornographers. But because the treaty does not require the targeted crimes to be unlawful in both countries, it could require the American government to enforce foreign laws that may violate the rights of Americans, including the right to free speech.

The ACLU’s Marv Johnson said:

“The stark reality is that now the American government will be able to conduct surveillance on an individual who hasn’t broken any American law to help enforce the law of a country without the same protections and respect for the freedoms we cherish.”

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s position states that:

“the treaty seems more like a law enforcement ‘wish list’ than an international instrument truly respectful of human rights already enshrined in many international conventions [...] The US government’s support for the ratification of the Convention on Cybercrime… appears like an attempt to obtain more powers than what it could obtain with the USA PATRIOT Act.”

With the potential to undermine our Constitution, what kind of treatment did this treaty get in the American press? So far as I can tell, there was a wire report from the Associated Press that contained six short paragraphs. The only sources cited in the article were Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, both of whom were predictably supportive of the agreement. Judging from this article, it would appear that there was no opposition to this treaty, despite the foreboding statements from the ACLU and EPIC above.

Is the media just continuing to fail in its mission to inform the public, or is there an incentive for their silence? The Internet represents the most serious competitive threat that newspapers and television have ever faced. This treaty addresses only Internet-related criminal activity. It’s existence reinforces the notion that the Internet is a scary and dangerous place. And by broadening the government’s powers to surveil and investigate suspects associated with the Internet, the treaty establishes another avenue for intimidation of online journalists and activists. The conventional media must view this with glee.

Lock Up The Bloggers

Josh Wolf is in trouble. The San Francisco journalist/activist is in jail on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a federal subpoe0na. The Feds want to see a video he took of a protest where a cop was injured and some property damaged.

I’ve been struggling with the merits of this case because, on the one hand, I’m inclined to be sympathetic to an independent media advocate who is under pressure to submit to government demands. On the other hand, this is a difficult case to argue for a reporter’s privilege. The key issue is that Wolf is not protecting an external source, but is declining to provide potential evidence to an event to which he was a witness.

If the videotape in question was given to Wolf in confidence, he would have every right to withhold it and to defy the court order. But this is video he took himself, so who is he protecting? The problem I had with Judith Miller’s claim of privilege was that she was not protecting a source, but that she was a participant in the events on which she was reporting. I don’t believe she had the right to withhold testimony from the grand jury regarding a crime she was helping to facilitate. Of course, there is no allegation that Wolf was involved in anything criminal himself and the state cannot engage in witch hunts.

Despite the conflicting arguments in this matter, I have remained troubled by Wolf’s predicament, and this story from Editors and Publishers has helped me understand why:

Trying to compel journalists to testify is an increasingly popular tactic among federal investigators seeking all types of information. Even the occasional incarceration of reporters is enough to put the squeeze on the news media.

The article goes on to make the point that this case was bumped to the federal courts because California has a strong reporter’s shield law, while the feds have none at all. In addition, there appears to be an escalation of legal pressure being placed on journalists to, in effect, do the work of law enforcement. Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said:

“This is the first time it’s been pretty clear to me the federal government is interested in what bloggers do.” And that, “While jailings are infrequent, the number of subpoenas seeking to force reporters to testify has grown.”

The problem here is the trend. As the government seeks to intimidate reporters, it is also silencing the voices of its critics. For an administration that has elevated secrecy to an art form, there is no greater achievement than the dismantling of the first amendment. Josh Wolf may not be the perfect banner carrier for this battle, but he is at least collateral damage and his dilemma should be troubling to anyone who reveres a free press.

Deleting Online Predators – An Update

In May, I wrote about The Deleting Online Predators Act (PDF), a bill designed to ban access to social networking sites from schools, libraries, and other federally funded locations. Unfortunately, the language was so broad that the bill would end up banning everything from MySpace to Wikipedia, and everyone on Blogger, Live Journal and DailyKos. Well, the bill passed yesterday by a whopping 410-15 margin. Despite having been trashed in committee, the sponsors revised it and pushed it to the House floor without further discussion. And the Republican members pointedly excluded any Democrats from participating in the revisions.

In the new version, the definition of social networking is being left up to the FCC, but the criteria for consideration is almost identical to the original bill:

In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website-

  • (i) is offered by a commercial entity;
  • (ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
  • (iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
  • (iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
  • (v) enables communication among users.

If the bill becomes law, we will have FCC Chair Kevin Martin in charge of implemementing it. Martin is a long-term Bush crony who, among other things, was part of the Bush campaign’s legal team in Florida after the election in 2000. His stewardship of the bill could actually result in a worse outcome than the original draft.

There is speculation that the Senate is poised to quickly pass its version of the bill. This would be a good time for online advocates, and especially users of MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, and any other social networking site or forum, to start making as much noise as possible.

Here is your assignment:

  • 1) Contact your senators and tell them you oppose DOPA.
  • 2) Place posts on your blogs.
  • 3) Send bulletins and messages to your online friends.

Number 3 is particularly important. If we can get this message to blast across MySpace, and other social networks, the impact could be profound. These are the communities that would be most directly affected and they should be willing to help spread the word.

This bill will also disproportionally hurt low income kids who rely on public terminals to get online. But it won’t stop there. Remember, they want to ban access now from schools and libraries. Next it will be any public terminal, like cafes and WiFi sites. And they will just keep going until they achieve a universal ban. Believe it!

The MySpace World Domination Conspiracy

OK, here it is. This blows the lid off of the totalitarian overlords once and for all. The mother of all conspiracies and MySpace is at the center of it.

Go back with me to February 2002, when the existence of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) Office at DARPA was disclosed by the New York times. John Poindexter, the former Reagan National Security Advisor who was convicted of lying to Congress about his management of the Iran-contra affair, was the head of TIA, whose mission was to:

…gather as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized location for easy perusal by the United States government, including Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.

After having been revealed, the hue and cry from the public resonated through the halls of Congress. Russ Feingold introduced the Data-Mining Moratorium Act of 2003, to suspend operations at TIA until a review of its practices could be completed. Not surprisingly, the review was never initiated by the Republican majority and the program just seemed to fade away.

In fact, some of the critical technologies were surreptitiously transferred to other intelligence agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA), a branch of the NSA. The NSA, of course, was already engaging in illegal covert programs to wiretap phone conversations and collect records from the phone companies. The NSA chief through much of that time was General Michael Hayden, who was also a deputy to John Negroponte, Director of DHS. Negroponte was also Ambassador to El Salvador while Poindexter was at the White House funding contras in Nicaragua. More recently we learned that the government is also tracking private banking transactions without obtaining warrants or submitting to any judicial oversight. And Hayden went on to become the Director of the CIA.

Stay with me now – here’s where it gets interesting. ARDA, which has changed its name to the Disruptive Technology Office (I’m not kidding), has been funding research into the mass harvesting of the information available on social networks like MySpace. The New Scientist reports that:

By adding online social networking data to its phone analyses, the NSA could connect people at deeper levels, through shared activities…..data the NSA could combine with social networking details includes information on purchases, where we go (available from cellphone records, which cite the base station a call came from) and what major financial transactions we make.

Combining that data with the personal information that MySpace collects, the recorded network of friends, and the communications that are made and stored online, will produce some pretty thorough profiles.

Now, with the government creating these clandestine agencies, shuffling them around and changing their names, supporting them with ever more technology to pry deeper into our personal lives, and attacking the media any time they report on some aspect of these activities so as to insure their secrecy, what is the next piece of this puzzle to fall into place?

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp and Fox News, buys MySpace for $580 million dollars. Never mind that MySpace, while growing its membership exponentially, has lost money since its inception. What better steward for this program of privacy obliteration than the committed right-wing baron of one of the world’s largest media empires?

Am I just paranoid, or does it seem like there really is a governmental and corporate cabal that is positioning itself to become the Big Brother that Orwell warned us about?

Stop Big Media – The Battle Begins

Via Free Press:

The FCC is preparing to hold new hearings on media ownership. The last time they did this, they succeeded in passing a rule that drew widespread opposition from the public and Congress. It was ultimately thrown out by a Federal Court for not having justified its conclusions.

They’re at it again, but this time a coalition of public advocates is determined to preempt any mischief they try to engage in. The coalition, dubbed StopBigMedia, will seek to encourage greater public involvement in the debate over the future of the media.

“For far too long, media policy in this country has been made behind closed doors in the public’s name but without our informed consent,” said Robert W. McChesney, president of Free Press. “Despite overwhelming public opposition to greater media consolidation from across the entire political spectrum, the FCC and industry lobbyists are trying to sneak through the same misguided rules rejected in 2003.

Concentration of ownership and Net Neutrality are without a doubt the most critical media reform issues of the day. Your participation is needed and will surely have an impact. This is the time to make a stand. Go to StopBigMedia and register to join the effort to beat back the monopolists that seek to dominate the media and pervert its mission. We won this battle last time and we can do it again. But it will not happen without everybody taking responsibility and getting involved. You can be a part of this victory. So, please…..do it.

MySpace – The Predator’s Feeding Ground

News Corpse readers know that I am not a fan of MySpace. But they will also know that I am even more opposed to government intrusion into civil liberty and free expression. Consequently, I find myself in the awkward position of defending MySpace from the congressional thought police.

The truth is that DOPA, the “Deleting Online Predators Act” (PDF), is an assault on much more than MySpace. This bill, offered by Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), purports to protect minors from sexual deviants patrolling the Internet by banning access to social networking sites on computers in schools, libraries and other federally funded property. Here’s how the bill defines “social networking”

“…a commercially operated Internet website that allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users and offers a mechanism of communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, e-mail, or instant messenger.”

That definition is so broad that it would also prohibit access to sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, DailyKos, and virtually every public blog on services like Blogger and Live Journal. Even Instant Messaging services would be at risk.

Fitzpatrick, the bill’s author, argues that the bill is necessary because,

“…this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

Trying to blame social networking for the behavior of sexual deviants is short-sighted and distracts from efforts to implement effective legal reform. While the incidence of online child assaults has been sensationalized by the media, it’s actual occurrence is much less than that of the offline variety. Many more children have been assaulted by teachers, but I don’t hear calls for banning children from schools. The practical effect of this legislation, other than arbitrary censorship, is that children from low income families will be disproportionately excluded from access because they are less likely to have computers at home and are more dependent on public terminals.

But protecting children isn’t really what these folks are after. DOPA is the product of the House Suburban Caucus. Its founder, Mark Kirk (R-IL), recently commissioned a poll to identify issues that would appeal to suburban families and take attention away from the bigger issues facing the nation like Iraq, NSA wiretapping, gas prices, etc. The caucus now includes 18 Republican members. They are gaining some measure of influence and have recently met with Karl Rove and Denny Hastert.

In the end, this is just another cynical political scheme by Republican fear mongers to forestall the electoral beating they anticipate in November. The refrain is all too familiar now. If it isn’t terrorists on our doorstep, it’s perverts in our kids’ bedrooms. And their response always seems to be more chipping away at freedom.

The Fox Befouling Of MySpace Has Begun

It was inevitable. Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace was going to destroy it. Everyone knew that. Now the evidence is at hand and on display in the New York Times.

The decline begins with monetizing everything that moves. With Fox as the parent company, MySpace becomes just another mainstream vehicle to inject advertising into the tattered veins of a public that is viewed as nothing but consumption junkies. The lust for revenue will overpower whatever social benefit the service presently offers. And for those who hoped that MySpace’s founders, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, would insulate their brainchild from the suits, they will only be bitterly disappointed by reality. The Times reports this repulsive initiative…

“…to expand one of Mr. DeWolfe’s advertising ideas – turning advertisers into members of the MySpace community, with their own profiles, like the teenagers’ – so that the young people who often spend hours each day on MySpace can become “friends” with movies, cellphone companies and even deodorants. Young people can link to the profiles set up for these goods and services, as they would to real friends, and these commercial “friends” can even send them messages – ads, really, but of a whole new kind.”

Deodorants as a whole new kind of real friend for the young people. Now that’s innovation! But that’s not all. The new bosses think it would be a good idea to start charging the many bands that have created profiles and use the site to develop and connect with their fans. This idea is so bad that even DeWolfe opposes it. Unfortunately, the Fox Interactive Media boss, Ross Levinsohn, has ideas of his own and dismisses DeWolfe’s objections…

“…saying it was appropriate for the people running MySpace to be more concerned at this point about serving users than making money.”

That’s essentially an admission that, at some point in the near future, it will be appropriate to be more concerned about making money than serving users. These examples of commercialization foreshadow precisely how the culture of MySpace will become tarnished and unappealing. Its members will come to feel disinterested and exploited. But I’ve always considered the real threat to be the invasion of privacy by intrusive marketing strategies. This avenue is not being ignored by Fox:

“Mr. Levinsohn says he also hopes to raise ad rates by collecting more user data so advertisers can find the most promising prospects. To use the site, people need to provide their age, location and sex, and often volunteer their sexual orientation and personal interests. Some of that information is already being used to select ads to display. Soon, the site will track when users visit profile pages and other sections devoted to topics of interest to advertisers.”

I’m sure that will provide them with a truckload of demographic data they can use to throw ads at their membership. But they will also know a lot more about their members than any of them would be likely approve. When you combine the personal data that members volunteer with the data that can be collected from the relationships in their network of friends and add the data acquired by monitoring their surfing habits, you end up with a profile that can be awfully revealing.

Knowing that the folks behind MySpace have previously been affiliated with business practices wherein they unlawfully spied on their customers, should give MySpace users sufficient cause for alarm to reconsider remaining in the network.

Astroturfing Network Neutrality

I was going to write a story about how the big telephone companies have launched a web site to deceive people about the impact of network neutrality. But Blue Meme has already done the work so well, I’m gonna link to it and go watch TV. Thanks, Blue Meme.

Oh yeah, go to Free Press and Save The Internet to learn more and take action.