Robbie McBeath

Examining Problems, and Solutions, for Journalism in the Age of Online Platforms

On Feb 25, 2019, Free Press released Beyond Fixing Facebook. The authors, Timothy Karr and Craig Aaron, look beyond Facebook to address a deeper problem infecting the entire "attention economy": the abuse of targeted advertising.

Lawsuits, Libel, and Lampooning: An Update on the War on the Press

President Donald Trump’s war on the press hasn’t stopped. This week, he praised a $250 million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post, got some support from a Supreme Court Justice to review the nation’s libel laws, and issued his sharpest words yet against the New York Times, calling the newspaper “a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Political journalists often ask the question: Is Trump winning his war on the media? Winning or losing, the point is that the war is ongoing. As we stated a year ago, the question should be: Are the American people the losers in this fight?

Trump Administration Update on the American Broadband Initiative

On February 13, 2019, the White House released the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, an update on the Trump Administration’s signature inter-agency strategy to stimulate increased private investment in broadband infrastructure and services to fill broadband connectivity gaps in America.

We All Agree on Net Neutrality, Except When We Don’t…Again

On Feb 7, the House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing, “Preserving an Open Internet for Consumers, Small Businesses, and Free Speech,” another conversation on net neutrality and an opportunity for lawmakers to spend three hours claiming they support an open internet, while rehashing old, partisan debates and making little progress towards a legislative solution.

The Partisan Divide: Looking Back at Broadband Policy in 2018

Upon reflection, it is easy to see that 2018 was a year of widening divides. Communications policy was no exception. In the midst of a partial government shutdown, we take a look at how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission is shutting down progress towards closing the digital divide. While we expect partisan division to persist, the change in House leadership means we are likely to see more scrutiny of Chairman Pai's deregulatory agenda.

New Data, Old Divides

On Dec 6, the US Census Bureau released the 2013-2017 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimate including data on internet subscription rates. The new data provide powerful insight into the inequity of US broadband adoption, especially among neighboring counties. But the research also re-emphasizes the necessity for more accurate broadband maps.  At Benton, our goal is to bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all people in the U.S. to ensure a thriving democracy. Accurate broadband maps are one necessary step towards realizing this vision. 

Listening to Consumer Privacy Advocates

On Oct 10, privacy advocates got their turn to speak before the Senate Commerce Committee, laying out the necessity of a national privacy law that goes beyond the protections already offered by some states. The hearing highlighted that consumer advocates and industry representatives don’t always see eye-to-eye on how protective a national law should be. But who will get to influence the legislation while it is drafted? “I want to be clear that the next federal privacy law will not be written by industry,” Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said.

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Consumer Data Privacy

On Oct 10, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing titled "Consumer Data Privacy: Examining Lessons From the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.” The hearing provided the opportunity for Sens to hear from privacy advocates about the types of consumer protections to consider in future legislation. Witnesses included: Dr.

Net Neutrality: I'll See You In Court

On Sept 30, 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed SB 822, California’s net neutrality law -- the strictest in the nation and widely seen as a challenge to the federal government. The Department of Justice quickly sued the state to block enactment of the rules. Two days later, lobbyists for broadband service providers filed their own suit. Everybody seems to be suing everybody in the latest chapter of the net neutrality saga. But, some clarity could come from it. And, ya know, Congress could act and settle the matter.

Senate Privacy Hearing: Apologies, Explanations, And Weak Support

On September 26, 2018, executives from six major U.S. tech and communications companies testified before the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing titled Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy. Representatives from Amazon, AT&T, Google, Twitter, Apple, and Charter were there to help lawmakers as they all discussed “possible approaches to safeguarding privacy more effectively.” Tech companies, on the whole, followed the trend that has emerged out of Silicon Valley when they testify before Congress: Apologize, explain, and offer to work with lawmakers on a regulatory solution.