Daily Digest 3/22/2018 (Zuckerberg Speaks)

Benton Foundation

Today's busy agenda https://www.benton.org/events 

Government and Communications

Broadcasting Board of Governors Employees Fear Breitbartization of Its Media Outlets

Employees at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a US government-supported international media arm, are sounding alarm bells of a “coup attempt” behind closed doors to install new leaders allied with Steve Bannon, the right-wing firebrand and former White House strategist. André Mendes, a longtime BBG official, and Jeffrey Shapiro, a former Breitbart contributor-turned-senior advisor to the BBG, conspired to oust the current leadership, four current and former BBG officials say. The plan, they contend, is to stack the top with ideologues aligned with President Donald Trump and to dissolve the BBG board, with expectations that the White House would nominate Mendes as the new CEO. Employees fear that if the move is carried out, it could undermine the independent and fact-based reporting of the outlets under the BBG, including Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. “They’re planning a blatant power grab,” one BBG official says.


Reps Eshoo and Clarke Urge FCC Chairman to Protect Lifeline Program

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) sent a letter signed by over 60 House members to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, urging him to protect the Lifeline program which provides access to phone and broadband services to over 13 million low-income Americans, the majority of whom earn less than $10,000 a year. “The Lifeline Program is essential for millions of Americans who use their devices to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, complete their school assignments, call 9-1-1 during an emergency or to communicate with their loved ones,” the Members wrote. “Policymakers at all levels of government are united in their desire to close the digital divide, but the FCC should be strengthening Lifeline which has brought connectivity to millions of Americans.”

Chairman Blackburn: Paid Prioritization Issue Will Get Deeper Dive

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who chairs the House Communications Subcommittee, spoke at the American Cable Association Summit. She put in a plug for her network neutrality legislation, the Open Internet Preservation Act, and also suggested that proponents of network neutrality could be on the same page as she is and just not know it. Her bill prevents blocking and throttling, which she said "everybody agrees with." It does not prevent paid prioritization, which is where it runs into major pushback from Democrats. On that issue, she suggested that the internet of things, healthcare, as well as content distribution, require that deeper dive to see where paid prioritization "fits into that."  "The issue deserves a more thorough discussion and we will have that discussion," she said. 


AT&T suffers another blow in court over throttling of “unlimited” data

Judge Edward Chen of US District Court for the Northern District of California has revived a lawsuit that angry customers filed against AT&T over the company's throttling of unlimited mobile data plans. The decision comes two years after the same judge decided that customers could only have their complaints heard individually in arbitration instead of in a class-action lawsuit. The 2016 ruling in AT&T's favor was affirmed by a federal appeals court. But the customers subsequently filed a motion to reconsider the arbitration decision, saying that an April 2017 decision by the California Supreme Court "constitutes a change in law occurring after the Court‟s arbitration order," ruled Judge Chen. The state Supreme Court "held that an arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and therefore unenforceable," Judge Chen wrote.


An Update on the Cambridge Analytica Situation

[Press release] This was a breach of trust between Cambridge University Researcher Aleksandr Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that. We already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people's information in this way. But there's more we need to do and I'll outline those steps here:

  • First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused as well.
  • Second, we will restrict developers' data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers' access to your data if you haven't used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in -- to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We'll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we'll have more changes to share in the next few days.
  • Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you've allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you've used and an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.

[Mark Zuckerberg is Chairman and CEO of Facebook]

Facebook Is Why We Need a Digital Protection Agency

[Commentary] Over and over in the last 20 years we’ve watched low-cost or free internet communications platforms spring from the good intentions or social curiosity of tech folk. We’ve watched as these platforms expanded in power and significance, selling their influence to advertisers. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google—they grew so fast. One day they’re a lovable new way to see kid pix, next thing you know they’re reconfiguring democracy, governance, and business. This is an era of breaches and violations and stolen identities. Big companies can react nimbly when they fear regulation is actually on the horizon. But for the most part we’re dealing with global entities that own the means whereby politicians garner votes, have vast access to capital to fund lobbying efforts, and are constitutionally certain of their own moral cause. That their platforms are used for awful ends is just a side effect on the way to global transparency, and shame on us for not seeing that. Given that the federal government is currently one angry man with nuclear weapons and a Twitter account, and that it’s futile to expect reform or self-regulation from internet giants, I’d like to propose something that will seem impossible but I would argue isn’t: Let’s make a digital Environmental Protection Agency. Call it the Digital Protection Agency. Its job would be to clean up toxic data spills, educate the public, and calibrate and levy fines.

Go ahead and #DeleteFacebook. But here’s the change we really need.

[Commentary] A storm dubbed #DeleteFacebook is brewing in techie communities, on Twitter and — irony alert — on Facebook. The idea is this time is different from all the other times the social network has violated our trust. There have been many calls to boycott Facebook for past indiscretions. If we want the result to be any different this time, we need to address the broader problem. Aside from a dramatic change of heart from founder Mark Zuckerberg, getting Facebook to reform what data it collects and how it uses it requires destabilizing its business. And that boils down to this: Making Facebook an unreliable or expensive way for marketers to reach us. Option A: advertisers leave en masse. Option B is more of a hammer: If governments force Facebook to change the way it uses data, advertisers may become less enamored with Facebook just because it won’t be as effective. The regulation question is: What exactly should change? There will be many ideas floated in the months ahead.

[Fowler is The Washington Post’s technology columnist based in San Francisco]


Chairman Pai Remarks at the American Cable Association Annual Summit

I think it’s worth looking back to 1993 to appreciate how remarkable it is that American Cable Association has, in fact, stood the test of time. Back then, you were in the video delivery business. The technology that looked like the biggest disrupter from your perspective was the introduction of new satellite TV services. But we now know that the public introduction of the World Wide Web in 1993 would prove to be the biggest game-changer.The key for ACA was (and is) that your members have embraced this change. But that wasn’t a given. After a while, established companies can get tunnel vision and focus on their current, successful business model. They can miss out on the next wave of innovation and get left behind by new competitors. But small cable companies looked at Internet access being delivered over telephone lines and saw the future. Ever since, your members have been on the lookout for the new, new thing.

How breaking news got panelized: On cable, journalists and pundits increasingly share space.

From early in its history, cable news found the panel format — featuring people from different perspectives and disciplines — to be a lively (and cost-efficient) way to deliver opinions on current events. The discussions can be enervating, enlightening or infuriating, depending on who is on which side of the food fight. But it’s often hard to tell the reporters from the opinion slingers, especially when the panels bleed into the delivery of the news itself. News reporters bristle when critics tar them as liberal or conservative. They’re quick to insist that they have nothing to do with the opinion side of their organizations. (“We serve different masters,” Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith told Time magazine. “We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules.”) And yet panels with multiple talking heads arguably make the situation more fraught for them by lumping them with former politicians, think-tank scholars, and opinionated party hacks — a blending of news reporting and commentary that’s bound to leave some viewers confused. But the business model of 24-hour cable news may have made the coexistence and commingling of reporting and opinion a near certainty. Covering the news requires sending reporters, producers, editors and video journalists to wherever the news is happening. It’s expensive and inconvenient. Talk, on the other hand, is literally cheap. Round up a few semi-knowledgeable and telegenic types, array them around the desk, and off you go.


The new tech divide: social media vs. everyone else

The tech industry is splintering in the wake of the controversies surrounding social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube. A wide range of companies — from legacy Silicon Valley firms like IBM and Oracle to business-focused firms like Salesforce and Cisco — want to be seen as responsible players who can be trusted to make wise decisions when faced with tough calls. Companies of all stripes are trying to explain more clearly what they do, why they're different, and how they benefit society, one senior level official at a non-internet company said.

  • This segmentation has been brewing for some time, but negative headlines around social media have sharpened divisions. For example, a growing gap between firms that mainly sell to businesses and consumer-facing firms that make money on digital advertising.
  • It's also a sign of the maturation of the industry, one tech lobbyist said. Tech companies are now so diverse that it’s no longer advantageous to be seen as a monolithic bloc.
  • “Everyone is fighting their own battles,” the lobbyist said, adding that there’s not a lot of industry cooperation right now as companies focus on shoring up their own identities.
  • Others frame it as competitive tension between pre-Internet-era tech firms and Silicon Valley's newer generation. "Legacy tech companies have been under pressure for some time for not keeping up on the innovation front," said a tech industry source. "It's not surprising entrenched players are trying to slow down insurgent competition."
via Axios
Stories From Abroad

Digital Taxation: European Commission proposes new measures to ensure that all companies pay fair tax in the EU

The European Commission proposed new rules to ensure that digital business activities are taxed in a fair and growth-friendly way in the European Union. Two distinct legislative proposals will lead to a fairer taxation of digital activities in the EU:

  • The first initiative aims to reform corporate tax rules so that profits are registered and taxed where businesses have significant interaction with users through digital channels. This forms the Commission's preferred long-term solution. This proposal would enable Member States to tax profits that are generated in their territory, even if a company does not have a physicalpresence there. The new rules would ensure that online businesses contribute to public finances at the same level as traditional 'brick-and-mortar' companies.
  • The second proposal responds to calls from several Member States for an interim tax which covers the main digital activities that currently escape tax altogether in the EU. This interim tax ensures that those activities which are currently not effectively taxed would begin to generate immediate revenues for Member States. It would also help to avoid unilateral measures to tax digital activities in certain Member States which could lead to a patchwork of national responses which would be damaging for our Single Market.

The legislative proposals will be submitted to the Council for adoption and to the European Parliament for consultation. The EU will also continue to actively contribute to the global discussions on digital taxation within the G20/OECD, and push for ambitious international solutions.

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Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) -- we welcome your comments.

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