Friday, March 07, 2014

A Free Press Crusader on the Crimean Front Lines

Mijatovic meets with journalists Wednesday in Simferopol
Within three days of the takeover of the Crimean parliament, Dmitry Polonsky, a leader of the pro-Kremlin Russia Unity Party that seized power, urged a rally of supporters to watch only pro-Russian state TV.

All other outlets, he said, are spreading “mendacious” lies about Russian interference in Crimean affairs.

But forces aligned with Polonsky and the Kremlin did more than just switch the channel. Over the past 72 hours, armed men stormed Ukraine’s 5 Kanal TV, Black Sea TV and One Plus One TV and took the stations off the air. Those outlets are now transmitting pro-Moscow news from Russia’s Rossiya 24 TV.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

President Obama Confident FCC Will Use Authority to Save Net Neutrality



President Barack Obama on Friday affirmed his strong support for Net Neutrality and expressed confidence that the Federal Communications Commission will use its authority to protect the open Internet.

“I have been a strong supporter of Net Neutrality. The new commissioner of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, whom I appointed, I know is a strong supporter of Net Neutrality,” the president said in response to a question posed by Art Hernandez of Tempe, Arizona during a live video chat.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Obama's January 31, 2014 Net Neutrality Comments

Question from Art Hernandez in Tempe: 

… I have two daughters who currently live on the east coast and as you might expect I can't afford to visit them as frequently as I'd like to. So the only opportunity that we get to spend time together is through the Internet on video chats such as this one.

My question today has to do with Net Neutrality and the recent US court of appeals ruling almost disregarding the rule of a fair and neutral Internet.

I'm curious to know if you support Net Neutrality and how you feel about the court's decision and how that decision will impact the U.S. Economy and the Internet as we currently know it?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coming Clean on Net Neutrality

I’m relieved that Net Neutrality’s opponents have finally come clean.

Sort of.

For years a lineup of phone and cable industry mouthpieces had called Net Neutrality “a solution in search of a problem.” The principle that prevents online censorship and blocking by service providers is irrelevant, they claimed, as these companies would never lift a finger to harm the open Internet.

But then they changed their tune.

In September’s oral arguments in Verizon vs. FCC, Verizon admitted that it did indeed plan to charge new Internet tolls and favor certain content at the expense of other sites and services.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Information Counter-Revolution

Photo: Sasha Maksymenko

Many people in Kiev awoke Tuesday morning to a frightening text message on their phones. “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance,” it read.

Using cellphone technology, Ukraine’s dominant carriers have reportedly helped the government pinpoint the locations of their customers. Anyone with a cellphone in the vicinity of recent protests was added to a government watch list and sent the intimidating text.

The incident is just one in a growing number of attacks on Internet users. It’s a troubling sign that the information age has entered a new era — one where our rights to connect and communicate are under constant siege by governments and corporations.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Net Neutrality Solution

In the wake of this week's devastating court decision on Net Neutrality, a consensus is emerging as to how the FCC can clean up its mess.

Tuesday's federal appeals court decision stripped the agency f its ability to stop companies like AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable from blocking websites and degrading Internet access.

More and more people are calling for a specific fix: To protect the open Internet, the FCC must reclassify broadband access as a telecommunications service.

The New York Times editorial board wrote on Wednesday that the court decision against the Open Internet Order could turn the Internet into a domain controlled only by powerful corporations:
"If this ruling stands, broadband providers would be free to strike deals with companies like Netflix and Apple to pay to have their movies, software and other data streamed to customers faster than or ahead of other content. Such deals would hurt smaller businesses or start-ups that cannot afford to pay for preferential treatment."
During oral arguments, Verizon's top legal counsel told the courts that this is exactly what the company plans to do. Their intentions are no secret, despite contradictory statements made this week by ISP executives and their lobbyists, who say we should trust carriers not to tamper with the Internet.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Will Murdoch Succeed in Burying his Past?

It’s a new year for News Corp. But the recently rebranded media colossus can’t seem to shake off a 2013 hangover.

Rupert Murdoch is plotting his empire’s expansion — growth that could include purchases of Tribune Company newspapers and, reportedly, Time Inc. But will 2014 be the year that the media mogul, who’s skilled at reinventing himself and burying old mistakes, is finally held to account?

Hacking

The News Corp phone-hacking scandal became front-page fodder in the summer of 2011, but its principal defendants went before British courts just last fall. In the months since the trial began, we‘ve learned more about the alleged “culture of corruption” that pervaded News Corp’s London operation, infecting many top executives. The outlook for former Murdoch colleagues Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson looks bleak.

Murdoch has distanced himself and his companies from these and other lead actors in the scandal — with the possible exception of his son James. And he just plunked down a multi-million-dollar sum for a 30-year lease on new headquarters at London Bridge, indicating his intent to stick around.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Nature of Nature Photography

The Winning Shot by Paul Sounders
Three jurors for National Geographic Magazine's annual photography contest discuss their criteria for selecting this year's winners.

The photograph that they gave top honors -- Paul Sounders shot of a submerged polar bear with the Arctic sun hovering above a distant horizon -- was a clear favorite of all three.

A photograph of distinction. And yet it looks to me like an image of a type that is all too commonplace at National Geographic and other nature photography publications. While proficient in technique, composition and execution, it's all too familiar to the genre -- an animal in its natural setting -- to be staid.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why 60 Minutes Needs a Public Editor

The New 'Black Rock'?
"The most important thing about that show is the quality," CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves told the Hollywood Reporter last year. "They take time to do those stories."

The object of Moonves' appreciation, of course, is 60 Minutes. Given the venerable news program's recent missteps, one has to wonder whether this commitment to quality -- or even basic fact-checking -- remains strong.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired an embarrassing "exclusive" from inside the National Security Agency, which featured a lengthy interview with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander. But the 27-minute report failed to challenge any of the questionable claims Alexander has made about the NSA's mass surveillance programs.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Payola Internet

Taking the Internet back to the future.
2013 could mark the end of the era of Internet openness.

If, as many expect, a federal appeals court rules to allow an Internet payola system, phone and cable companies will start to prioritize access to the few online sites and services that can afford to pay them extra.

The court deciding Verizon vs. FCC could issue its ruling as early as Christmas. The judges hearing the case in September seemed inclined to strike down the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to prevent Internet service providers from the practice of “paid prioritization,” where companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon pick winners and losers online.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Defying Washington to Save the Internet

Co-authored by S. Derek Turner

It’s a rarity in Washington to see a communications bill that actually serves the public.

But a bill Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced last week is a direct challenge to the communications cabal that controls much of our media in the United States.

For that the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act faces very long odds. But Rockefeller’s bill does so much for Internet users and video watchers that it deserves everyone’s support.

Sen. Rockefeller, who is serving out his final term in Congress, has clearly been emboldened by the open Internet movement. Over the past decade, millions of people have spoken out to preserve Net Neutrality, stop online censorship and protect our rights to connect and communicate. We recognize the power of free speech and access to information that the Internet enables, and we’re using the Internet in growing numbers to protect these rights against corporate and governmental abuse.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Self-Censorship from Beijing to the Bay Area


Online news organization ProPublica on Friday launched a special feature documenting censorship on social media in China.

China's Memory Hole focuses on censorship of users of Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, which filters out "undesirable" content from the more than 100 million items that are posted there daily.

A team of ProPublica writers, technicians and translators combed through deleted items after gaining access to and monitoring Sina Weibo's network over a five-month period.

ProPublica is vague -- perhaps intentionally -- about the actual mechanics of their monitoring.

We do know that China has assigned the task of blocking social media content to the privately held companies that run the services. It’s a comprehensive self-censorship approach that keeps the companies guessing on the limits of appropriate public discourse.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What Ted Cruz Doesn't Want You to Know

Originally published at Bill Moyers & Company

By now it seems pretty clear that Sen. Ted Cruz has a plan to occupy the White House. But he doesn't want people to know too much about it.

And he definitely doesn't want you to know about the special interests that have already begun to bankroll his political ambitions.

That's why the Texas senator's latest crusade targets the Federal Communications Commission -- and its efforts to better identify the funders of political ads.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hacking Partisanship

Washington likes to talk bipartisanship.

 During the 16-day government shutdown, elected officials from both parties clogged the airwaves with rhetoric about crossing over, finding common cause with political foes and ending the standoff.

But sincerity was in short supply as few took real action, cheesy photo-ops notwithstanding. The agreement struck last Thursday night was more a delaying tactic than a genuine effort to resolve longstanding disputes.

This isn’t the first time reckless politics have ground Washington to a halt. Congress’ inability to agree on a budget mimics its recent failures to address climate change, income inequality and gun violence.

But there’s a new issue that seems to defy this pattern of dysfunction. It’s the subject of a hopeful new book, which documents the bipartisan (some would say “post-partisan”) organizing that in 2012 led to the defeat of two copyright bills that threatened the open Internet.