What would possess the president of the United States, after he finally called out white supremacists, to return a day later to the flimsy position that attracted so much criticism in the first place? Part of the answer is that he hates the media and just can't stand to give reporters what they want — or admit that he was wrong.
Take it from someone who knows President Trump pretty well. “I think there's — it's almost like a counterintuitive thing with him, as it relates to the media,” former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told Stephen Colbert on “Late Show.” “The media's expecting him to do something; he sometimes does the exact opposite.” Scaramucci shared his insight before President Trump doubled down on remarks he delivered over the weekend, when white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville clashed with counterprotesters. Though it was a Nazi sympathizer who drove a car into a crowd, killing one and injuring 19 others, the president reiterated his position that “both sides” were to blame for the violence while speaking at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York. This was President Trump, furious at the media, freelancing in self-destructive fashion.
The debate surrounding the repeal of network neutrality has touched on everything from free speech to online innovation and consumer rights. But how will it affect consumers' wallets? The short answer: It depends.
Here's what the experts predict.
Your internet bill. If net neutrality is repealed, and Internet service providers take advantage of the relaxed regulations, some experts predict that you'll see changes to how your monthly internet bill looks and what it includes.
Content providers. Without net neutrality rules in place, some experts foresee content providers, such as Netflix, Hulu and other websites, needing to pay more to have their content travel via a "fast lane" in order to prevent slow loading times and other challenges. Those applications and websites may opt to pass those increased costs to customers.
Online research. For those websites and online applications that don't – or can't – pay for access to the "fast lane," it may be harder to access, load and use their sites.
[Commentary] Say you're a white supremacist who happens to hate Jewish people—or black people, Muslim people, Latino people, take your pick. Today, you can communicate those views online any number of ways without setting off many tech companies' anti-hate-speech alarm bells. And that's a problem.
As the tech industry walks the narrow path between free speech and hate speech, it allows people with extremist ideologies to promote brands and beliefs on their platforms, as long as the violent rhetoric is swapped out for dog whistles and obfuscating language. All the while, social media platforms allow these groups to amass and recruit followers under the guise of peaceful protest. The deadly riots in Charlottesville (VA) last weekend reveal they're anything but. Now it's up to those same tech companies to adjust their approaches to online hate—as companies like GoDaddy and Discord did on Aug 14, by shutting down hate groups on their services—or risk enabling more offline violence in the future.
In a recent perspective, I reviewed a report authored by Dr. Christopher Hooton of the Internet Association on the impact of Net Neutrality regulation on broadband infrastructure investment. My earlier review of the IA Report focused mainly on Dr. Hooton’s difference-indifferences (“DiD”) model, which from an empirical perspective is the only analysis he offered that could plausibly quantify the effects of the regulation since it involves a counterfactual.
In this perspective, I return to Dr. Hooton’s analysis. My interest in further analysis stems from Dr. Hooton’s claim that his evidence leans in the direction of a positive investment effect in that his “regression coefficients of interest were positive in all but one case.” (That negative case being his primary DiD analysis.) Closer inspection of these “positive” cases reveals errors as severe, if not worse than, the errors plaguing his DiD analysis, including the fabrication of much of his data.
[Commentary] Joe McCarthy loved to savage reporters, singling them out by name at his rallies in the 1950s. The Republican senator from Wisconsin knew the work of each reporter who covered his years-long campaign aimed at rooting out the communists who were supposedly seeded throughout the federal government. Then, moments after leaving the stage, McCarthy would sidle up to a reporter he’d just finished flaying and toss an arm around him: “That was just good fun.” Reporters who’ve covered Donald Trump anytime in the past four decades know that sense of whiplash all too well.
President Trump and McCarthy share a populist, demagogic speaking style and a propensity to say anything to win the moment. The two men are often compared because they both aggressively hit back at their critics and tended to inflate minor slights or partisan rows into threats against the nation. But their similarities go deeper: Both won and cemented support by using, attacking and foiling the news media. Both deployed a crazy quilt of behavior to demand news coverage — and then stomped on those same organizations as disloyal liars conspiring against them. And both enjoyed extended periods of popularity even amid reporting about their erratic behavior and tendency to say things that weren’t true. In the end, McCarthy fell from grace, but journalism alone wasn’t enough to end his destructive crusade. The news reporting about McCarthy’s excesses did over time diminish his popular support, but ultimately that souring of sentiment had to filter up from the public to their elected representatives. It took years, but McCarthy was finally held to account.
Paid Prioritization and Zero Rating: Why Antitrust Cannot Reach the Part of Net Neutrality Everyone Is Concerned About
As Internet-based distributors move up and down the stack to become vertically integrated platforms with a preferred suite of affiliated content, there is a growing concern among policymakers that innovation among independent content creators and websites may be threatened. More fundamentally, the Internet is not one thing—it is many things, and our current regulatory regimes are struggling to address that complexity. These new platforms give rise to potential conflicts of interest, in which it might pay for a vertically-integrated platform owner to sacrifice some profits (if any) in its distribution division in order to support an affiliated (or favored, third-party) application.
This essay focuses on identifying and fixing this potential regulatory gap when crafting a “net neutrality” policy—a set of rules or standards designed to spur innovation at the “edge” of the Internet by preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from engaging in discriminatory conduct. But the essay could just as easily be directed at the powerful online platforms wielded by Amazon, Facebook, or Google. The applicability of this remedy to other parts of the Internet is natural, not because market power is paramount there (though it certainly exists), but because there is a large enough threat to innovation in adjacent markets to online shopping, social media, and search, respectively.
[Singer is Principal, Economists Inc., and Senior Fellow, George Washington Institute of Public Policy. The author has served as a consultant to both ISPs and independent cable networks in regulatory matters.]
[Commentary] In a perplexing dance toward consensus, left and right have united to pour vinegar on Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s effort to add Tribune Media’s 42 television stations to the 173 it already owns. You’d think that Sinclair—which hikes on the conservative side of the news by forcing its stations to air commentaries by former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn and other right-tilting segments (“Terror Alert Desk”)—would be cheered by its fellow media ideologues. But no. Newsmax, One America News Network and Glenn Beck’s the Blaze have joined with the lefties from Public Knowledge, Common Cause, Free Press and Media Matters for America to decry the $3.9 billion acquisition. The opposition doesn’t stop there. Such businesses as DISH Network and T-Mobile have decanted their protests, too, demanding that the Federal Communications Commission block the deal, as have broadcast trade associations.
The lefty opposition against Sinclair actually seems to be an argument against media diversity and for media homogeneity. Nowhere on television—not even on Fox-owned stations—is the conservative point of view pursued as aggressively as it is at Sinclair. If rejecting what other journalists are doing and following a unique viewpoint isn't the mark of media diversity, I don't know what is. If the left truly wished death upon Sinclair, it would urge the FCC to change ownership rules so that big broadcasters with different news “philosophies”—ABC (Disney), NBC (Comcast), and CBS—could buy more stations. But the left remains too stitched up in its 1950s thinking about consolidation to advocate that. Might Sinclair’s fight for Tribune’s stations turn out to be a fool’s bargain? For the media diversification reason chronicled above, the conventional television business model has passed its golden years. In 2015, the Bernstein research outfit predicted a “period of prolonged structural decline” for the television industry as viewers continue to defect from ad-supported outlets to on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu. Maybe instead of discouraging Sinclair from making the deal, the company’s foes and competitors should encourage them to close it.
The Digital Divide and Other Economic Considerations for Network Neutrality. Net Neutrality Special Issue Blog #7
While the Internet seems ubiquitous, digital divides remain, particularly across incomes. In the US, adults making less than $30,000 per year are significantly less likely to use any type of digital device and to have broadband Internet access in their home. The 2015 Open Internet Order was adopted, in part, to reduce the divide by expediting broadband deployment and removing obstacles to the market.
In their recent work “The Digital Divide and Other Economic Considerations for Network Neutrality,” authors Michelle Connolly, Clement Lee, and Renhao Tan question whether or not the 2015 OIO is likely to help bridge the digital divide. They argue that despite its rhetoric, the 2015 OIO did not properly consider its effect on the digital divide. In fact, net neutrality rules may depress investment, exacerbate the digital divide, and decrease the quality and diversity of Internet content.
Sinclair Broadcast Group may have federal regulators on its side about a possible mega TV-station-group merger. But its business partners -- and competitors -- may give it a harder time. Cue 21st Century Fox. The Fox Broadcasting Network reportedly wants to change its affiliate associations with 26 Sinclair TV stations -- and strike a deal with a smaller TV station group, ION Media Networks.
Why? Insiders say a potential $3.9 billion merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media could be competitive trouble for Fox-owned TV stations -- as well as other Fox affiliates where Sinclair has other network affiliate deals. Is Fox short-sighted? Fox -- like all TV networks -- depends on the steady local TV promotion, which Sinclair provides. Dealing with ION could just be a negotiation ploy with Sinclair, perhaps to extract a far better Fox affiliation agreement. But if that doesn’t work, Fox might do what Sinclair is doing: Buy more TV stations. Perhaps ION stations.
For Internet trolls, the week of July 24 may as well have been Christmas. On July 25, Judge James Cacheris of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia handed down a decision stating that public officials may not “block” their constituents on social media. The case, which will influence a similar case filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute against President Trump, involved a dispute between defendant Phyllis Randall, chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and plaintiff Brian Davison.
The facts allege that Randall banned Davison from her Facebook page titled “Chair Phyllis J. Randall” after Davison published comments during an online forum that, in Randall’s view, consisted of “slanderous” remarks about “people’s family members” and “kickback money” (if the facts seem confusing or incomplete, it’s not just you — neither party could recall the precise contents of the deleted comment). Although it is difficult to contest that Randall was acting in her official capacity, the court’s conclusion that a social media platform is analogous to a public forum is ill-conceived.