Digital Content

Information that is published or distributed in a digital form, including text, data, sound recordings, photographs and images, motion pictures, and software.

Online Harassment 2017

A new, nationally representative Pew Research Center survey of 4,248 US adults finds that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger share (66%) has witnessed these behaviors directed at others. In some cases, these experiences are limited to behaviors that can be ignored or shrugged off as a nuisance of online life, such as offensive name-calling or efforts to embarrass someone. But nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, harassment over a sustained period, sexual harassment or stalking.

Social media platforms are an especially fertile ground for online harassment, but these behaviors occur in a wide range of online venues. Frequently these behaviors target a personal or physical characteristic: 14% of Americans say they have been harassed online specifically because of their politics, while roughly one-in-ten have been targeted due to their physical appearance (9%), race or ethnicity (8%) or gender (8%). And although most people believe harassment is often facilitated by the anonymity that the internet provides, these experiences can involve acquaintances, friends or even family members.

Over many objections, W3C approves DRM for HTML5

A system for providing Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection to Web-based content is now an official recommendation from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

In 2013, the W3C, the industry body that oversees the development of Web standards, took the controversial decision to develop a system for integrating DRM into browsers. The Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) would offer a way for content producers to encrypt and protect audio and video content from within their plugin-free HTML-and-JavaScript applications. EME is not itself a DRM system. Rather, it is a specification that allows JavaScript applications to interact with DRM modules to handle things like encryption keys and decrypting the protected data. Microsoft, Google, and Adobe all have DRM modules that comply with the spec. The decision to bless the EME specification as a W3C standard was made last week in spite of substantial opposition from organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Many opponents of this regard any attempt to impose such technical restrictions as an affront to the open Web. But HTML's inventor and W3C's director, Tim Berners-Lee, decided that the objections to EME were not sufficient to justify blocking the spec, giving it his, and hence the organization's, approval.

News Outlets to Seek Bargaining Rights Against Google and Facebook

A group of news organizations will begin an effort to win the right to negotiate collectively with the big online platforms – Facebook and Google -- and will ask for a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in order to do so.

It’s an extreme measure with long odds. But the industry considers it worth a shot, given its view that Google and Facebook, regardless of their intentions, are posing a bigger threat economically than President Trump is (so far) with his rhetoric. That’s how David Chavern, the chief executive of the News Media Alliance, put it. The Alliance, the main newspaper industry trade group, is leading the effort to bargain as a group. But it has buy-in across the spectrum of its membership, bringing together competitors like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as scores of regional papers like The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, which face the gravest threats.

AT&T’s Blockbuster Deal for Time Warner Hangs in Limbo

The small army of career antitrust officials is marching toward a great unknown. For one thing, the Justice Department officials still don’t have a boss who will have the final say on whether to approve or block AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner.

President Trump’s pick for assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust matters, Makan Delrahim, has been held up in a logjam of nominees in the Senate. And President Donald Trump himself, who said during the 2016 campaign that he opposed the deal, is another wild card. A senior administration official said that members of the White House were discussing how they might use their perch over the merger review as leverage over Time Warner’s news network, CNN. All of that has effectively put into limbo the most significant business deal before the Trump administration, a benchmark for business transactions going forward. In turn, that has cast a cloud over the business world, which is watching the lengthy regulatory process with intense interest.

The ethics issue: Should we abandon privacy online?

In an age where fear of terrorism is high in the public consciousness, governments are likely to err on the side of safety. Over the past decade, the authorities have been pushing for – and getting – greater powers of surveillance than they have ever had, all in the name of national security. The downsides are not immediately obvious. After all, you might think you have nothing to hide. But most of us have perfectly legal secrets we’d rather someone else didn’t see. And although the chances of the authorities turning up to take you away in a black SUV on the basis of your WhatsApp messages are small in free societies, the chances of insurance companies raising your premiums are not.

A Hidden Threat to Free Expression: DRM

Thanks in part to organizations like Free Press Action Fund, the movement to protect free expression online is strong — for proof look at the millions of people fighting to save Network Neutrality. But there’s an important problem that many free-expression advocates aren’t aware of because it usually lurks just beneath the sleek interfaces of our devices and software: DRM, or digital restrictions management.

DRM is a broad class of technologies that give the manufacturer of a digital good special control over the ways people use it. DRM has been around since the 1990s and has colonized personal computers, smartphones, game consoles, cars, tractors and more. DRM harms free expression most when it interferes with our use of media like videos, books and music. This DRM is the underlying technology that prevents you from copying Amazon Kindle e-books on to a Barnes and Noble Nook, from downloading a clip of a movie on Netflix for use in a documentary or from sampling a song from Spotify in a new piece of music. DRM exists primarily so that Hollywood studios, big music labels and streaming services like Netflix and Spotify can use it to artificially corral us into spending more money than we would if we were able to make full use of media.

[Zak Rogoff is the campaigns manager at the Free Software Foundation.]

You should be outraged at Google’s anti-competitive behavior

[Commentary] After an extensive investigation, the European Union found that Google has, for many years, violated European antitrust law by rigging its general search results to favor its own comparison shopping service over rivals. But a recent Post editorial faults the EU for imposing a $2.7 billion fine on the company. The editorial board questioned whether Google’s conduct hurt either competitors (who were just “unlucky,” according to The Post) or consumers. It claimed that users “may well prefer to see” Google’s results first and that the fine “seems to be a case of punishment without crime.” This view ignores the facts.

Google painstakingly executed a strategy to increase its search-ad revenue by making it both possible and necessary for merchants to raise prices to consumers, as a review of studies from the EU, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and others show. And as a result, Google’s ad revenue has soared at the expense of its users.

[Gary Reback is a Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer at Carr & Ferrell LLP]

QVC to Merge With Home Shopping Network in $2.1 Billion Deal

John Malone is solidifying his hold on home-shopping channels — in his own particular way. His Liberty Interactive, which owns QVC, will combine with its longtime rival, the Home Shopping Network, in a $2.1 billion deal.

The deal will put together the two home-shopping television networks at a time of upheaval in the retail world. Amazon’s dominance in selling online has grown seemingly nonstop, while Walmart has made e-commerce a big priority with the purchases of start-ups like Jet and the clothing brand Bonobos. Combining QVC and HSN, which also have substantial e-commerce operations, is meant to help them gain scale, combine resources and cut costs. QVC and HSN would remain stand-alone brands under a new QVC Group structure after the merger.

Judge denies DOJ effort to halt Twitter lawsuit over national security orders

A federal judge in California has decided to allow Twitter’s lawsuit against the attorney general’s office to go forward. She rejected arguments that the social media giant should not be allowed to be precise in its transparency reports when describing how it responds to the government’s requests for user data.

Twitter has argued that, just as it has been precise in other areas of its transparency report, so too should it be allowed to say precisely how many national security orders it has received from American authorities. For now, under federal law, it is only allowed to describe those numbers in vague ranges, such as “0 to 499,” and “500 to 999,” and so forth. Lawyers for Twitter say that this law constitutes a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights and is “prior restraint,” a concept of blocking legitimate speech before it is uttered. Attorneys from the Department of Justice claimed in a hearing in federal court in Oakland, California, earlier this year that if Twitter is allowed to specifically say how many national security orders it has received, potential adversaries could somehow use that number to inflict harm. But the judge didn’t buy it.

State Department concocting “fake” intellectual property “Twitter feud”

The US State Department wants to team up with other government agencies and Hollywood in a bid to create a "fake Twitter feud" about the importance of intellectual property rights. As part of this charade, the State Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs says it has been seeking the participation of the US Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and "others."

To make the propaganda plot seem more legitimate, the State Department is trying to enlist Stanford Law School and "similar academic institutions" to play along on the @StateDept feed on Twitter. "We're not going to participate," said Mark Lemley, the director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology at Stanford Law School. He recently received an e-mail and a telephone call from the State Department seeking his assistance. "Apparently there is not enough fake news for the US government," Lemley told his Facebook followers. On the Facebook post, he redacted the name of the official who sent him the letter out of privacy interests. The RIAA declined comment, as did the trademark office. The MPAA said it is not participating.