Lauren Frayer

America’s dangerous Internet delusion

[Commentary] The unmistakable lesson of recent years is that the Internet is a double-edged sword. Despite enormous benefits — instant access to huge quantities of information, the proliferation of new forms of businesses, communications and entertainment — it also encourages crime, global conflict and economic disruption.

The drift seems ominous. We are dangerously dependent on Internet-based systems. This makes the Internet a weapon that can be used against us — or by us. The trouble is that we are aiding and abetting our adversaries. We are addicted to the Internet and refuse to recognize how our addiction subtracts from our security. The more we connect our devices and instruments to the Internet, the more we create paths for others to use against us, either by shutting down websites or by controlling what they do. Put differently, we are — incredibly — inviting trouble. Our commercial interests and our national security diverge.

Bringing the Internet to Rural India

While India produces some of the world’s best coders and computer engineers, vast multitudes of its people are entering the virtual world with little sense of what lies within it, or how it could be of use to them. Those who work in development tend to speak of this moment as a civilizational breakthrough, of particular significance in a country aching to educate its children. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has made expanding internet use a central goal, shifting government services onto digital platforms. When Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, toured India in 2014, he told audiences that for every 10 people who get online, “one person gets lifted out of poverty and one new job gets created.” Young men use the internet in Taradand. Bollywood films. Older people view it as a conduit for pornography and other wastes of time. Women are not allowed access even to simple mobile phones, for fear they will engage in illicit relationships; the internet is out of the question. Illiterate people — almost everyone over 40 — dismiss the internet as not intended for them.

RNC Stands by President Trump, 'Witch-Hunt' Branding of Media

The Republican National Committee joined with President Donald Trump to brand the recent spate of news about the President as a media witch hunt.

Under the subject line "More Sabotage," the Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and the RNC sent an e-mail solicitation seeking money to fight that witch hunt. "Democrat hacks posing as journalists and unelected bureaucrats have incited a witch hunt to try and obstruct the American voters’ agenda," said the e-mail. "This is a sad moment for our republic." The e-mail suggested that the witch hunt was the product of the enemies of the president's attempts to shake up Washington and swamp-dwellers who don't want to be drained.

Here’s who loses big time if Sprint and T-Mobile are allowed to merge

[Commentary] The press reports that Sprint's owner SoftBank may once again seek to eliminate its rival T-Mobile, perhaps believing that it will find more sympathetic ears in the new administration. But the merger made no sense before, and it makes no sense today.

Ensuring that competition works to consumers' benefit makes policing mergers among competitors a priority that transcends party and politics. Without it, you pay the price. Let's hope the president's professed belief in competition continues and that our successors at the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission act responsibly to block any renewed attempts to stymie the robust wireless competition that consumers are now enjoying.

[Baer was Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and Wheeler was Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.]

Sens Udall and Hassan warn Trump Administration Shows 'Pattern of Hostility' to Press

Sens Tom Udall (D-NM) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are warning of a "pattern of hostility" by the Trump Administration toward journalists. In a letter sent to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, the Sens seek answers on why security guards at the FCC reportedly "manhandled" and ejected a reporter from the agency's headquarters on May 18. "Yesterday’s incident at the FCC is not an isolated one and seems to be a part of a larger pattern of hostility towards the press characteristic of this administration, which underscores our serious concern," the letter reads. Sens Udall and Hassan assail the security guard's treatment of CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly in the letter. "Given the FCC’s role as the primary authority for communications law and its regulatory role with respect to the media, the FCC should set a sterling example when it comes to supporting the First Amendment and freedom of the press for other government entities here in the United States and around the world," the letter reads.

Chairman Pai Announces Plans for Nationwide Blue Alerts

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposal to add an alert option to the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to help protect our nation’s law enforcement officers. Called a “Blue Alert,” the option would be used by authorities in states across the country to notify the public through television and radio of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.

The Chairman unveiled the proposal at an event hosted by the Department of Justice announcing the nationwide rollout of the National Blue Alert Network. “As we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement,” Chairman Pai said. “By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.” Blue Alerts can be used to warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer. As a result, a Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect could be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe.

Digital gap between rural and nonrural America persists

Rural Americans have made large gains in adopting digital technology in recent years, but they remain less likely than nonrural adults to have home broadband, smartphones and other devices. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of rural Americans say they have a broadband internet connection at home, up from about a third (35%) in 2007, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in fall 2016. Rural Americans are now 10 percentage points less likely than Americans overall to have home broadband; in 2007, there was a 16-point gap between rural Americans (35%) and all U.S. adults (51%) on this question.

Rural residents also go online less frequently than their urban and suburban counterparts. Roughly six-in-ten adults (58%) who live in rural communities say they use the internet on at least a daily basis, compared with more than three-quarters of those in urban (80%) or suburban (76%) areas. Meanwhile, roughly one-in-five rural adults (19%) say they never go online, compared with 11% of those who live in urban communities and 10% of those who live in the suburbs.

Net Neutrality Activists Rally Against Trump FCC's Plan to Destroy the Internet

People from across the country have already generated more than 1 million comments and signatures opposing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s destructive plan to kill network neutrality. And outside the agency’s headquarters May 18, a range of advocacy groups, members of Congress and nearly 100 activists rallied to preserve the open internet.

Among the speakers were Sens Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO). “The debate we’re here to begin is over democracy itself. It’s over whether we have a free and open internet for all voices, all competitors,” said Sen Markey. “The Trump administration is intending to shut down Net Neutrality at the behest of a few corporate behemoths. … This is the beginning of a historic fight to save Net Neutrality.” Advocates from groups including the ACLU, the Center for Media Justice, CREDO Action, Color Of Change, Common Cause, Demand Progress, EFF, Faithful Internet, Free Press Action Fund, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Popular Resistance and Public Knowledge all gave forceful speeches testifying to the need to preserve the internet’s level playing field. Daily Kos, Fight for the Future, The Nation and Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press were also represented at the rally.

News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

A new report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzes news coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD). Findings include:

  • President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.
  • Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.
  • European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.
  • Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.
  • Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

Fox News fires Bob Beckel over alleged 'insensitive' remark to African-American staffer

Fox News fired former Democratic strategist Bob Beckel May 19 for allegedly making an inappropriate remark to an African-American employee. "HR was informed of the incident on Tuesday evening and did a thorough investigation within 48 hours," a source familar with the matter said. "The network came to a decision that Bob needed to be terminated early this morning." Beckel was co-host of “The Five," a roundtable opinion program that recently moved from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. amid the scheduling shake-up following host Bill O'Reilly's firing over sexual harassment allegations. It's not clear what the alleged remark was, but Fox said that Beckel's words were "insensitive."