Digital Content

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

Democratic Sens Seek Answers About Trump Officials and Encrypted Apps

Top Democratic Sens on the Homeland Security Committee are asking inspectors general at 24 federal agencies to investigate whether Trump Administration officials are skirting federal records laws by using encrypted and vanishing messaging apps. The committee’s current and former ranking members, Sens Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Tom Carper (D-DE) also want the IGs to investigate whether top agency officials are barring staffers from responding to information requests from congressional Democrats.

That request follows a report that Trump Administration lawyers advised agencies to ignore Democratic requests. The senators collected the requests into a single, alphabetically arranged document that runs to 120 pages, beginning with the Agriculture Department IG and ending with Veterans Affairs.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer resigns, cites achievements by fallen firm as Verizon deal closes

Verizon officially closed its $4.5 billion agreement to purchase Yahoo. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced her resignation in a message to employees. “It’s an emotional time for all of us,” Mayer wrote in a blog post. “Given the inherent changes to my role, I’ll be leaving the company. However, I want all of you to know that I’m brimming with nostalgia, gratitude, and optimism.”

“Yahoo’s imprint and impact on the valley will long outlive its own history,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. “For so many years, (its) creative culture and the individual leaders left an indelible mark on the valley.”

Yahoo’s drawn-out, painful demise seemed as much about the laws of nature as the laws of business, as it struggled in vain to keep its strength while a wily predator gobbled up its sustenance. Once that upstart Google came onto the internet scene with a better algorithm for searching, Yahoo’s kicking and flailing at a digital advertising market that had left it behind provided drama that time after time captivated Silicon Valley. It made for an epic tale that showcased the power of rapidly changing technology to both create and destroy.

Facebook Building Feature to Let Users Subscribe to News Publications

Facebook may soon help its users do something unfamiliar on the platform: pay for news. The social-media giant is building a feature that would allow users to subscribe to publishers directly from the mobile app, apparently. The feature, long-requested by publishers, is expected to roll out by the end of 2017. Many details remain up in the air, but discussions have centered around making the feature available only on stories published natively to Facebook through its Instant Articles product. Talks have also focused on how to structure the arrangement, with Facebook leaning toward a metered-payment model, which would allow users to read some articles for free each month before prompting them to pay.

COVFEFE Act would make social media a presidential record

Rep Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced legislation to classify presidential social media posts — including President Donald Trump's much-discussed tweets — as presidential records. The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act, which has the same acronym as an infamous Trump Twitter typo in May, would amend the Presidential Records Act to include "social media." Presidential records must be preserved, according to the Presidential Records Act, which would make it potentially illegal for the president to delete tweets.

Growth in mobile news use driven by older adults

Mobile devices have rapidly become one of the most common ways for Americans to get news, and the sharpest growth in the past year has been among Americans ages 50 and older, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March. More than eight-in-ten US adults now get news on a mobile device (85%), compared with 72% just a year ago and slightly more than half in 2013 (54%). And the recent surge has come from older people: Roughly two-thirds of Americans ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device (67%), a 24-percentage-point increase over the past year and about three times the share of four years ago, when less than a quarter of those 65 and older got news on mobile (22%).

The strong growth carries through to those in the next-highest age bracket. Among 50- to 64-year-olds, 79% now get news on mobile, nearly double the share in 2013. The growth rate was much less steep – or nonexistent – for those younger than 50.

When 'bots' outnumber humans, the public comment process is meaningless

[Commentary] Over the last month, the Federal Communications Commission received 2.6 million public comments critical of Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back President Obama’s "network neutrality" rules. This outpouring of public sentiment must be evidence of participatory democracy at it best, right? Not quite. A sizable percentage of these comments appear to be fake. What the net neutrality comment debacle underscores is that the Internet age may mean the collapse of the public comment process, at least for significant public policy issues.

Sophisticated bots and automated comment platforms can create thousands and thousands of comments from senders who may or may not be real. Most rulemaking pertains to subject matter that is less widely-watched than net neutrality, and usually concerns only a small sliver of the public. The public comment process has some virtues and should continue. It is time to recognize, however, that for rulemaking over issues on the scale of net neutrality, with entrenched and vocal participants on both sides of the aisle, the public comment process has become a farce.

[Peter Flaherty is president of the National Legal and Policy Center.]

Algorithm’s decisions draw increased scrutiny

The world’s 3.6 billion internet users depend on computer algorithms to sort through the vast ocean of information available online. Algorithms follow a set of programmed instructions to transform data into a form that humans can understand, deciding everything from the content of social media feeds to the creditworthiness of borrowers. Though algorithms handle digital data, their decisions also have consequences in the analog world.

In May, a homeowner in Illinois filed a lawsuit against the real estate data website Zillow, alleging that their home value estimator tool significantly undervalued her home and impeded its sale. To protect European citizens when their data is used in “automated decisionmaking”, the European Union enacted new data protection rules last year. This kind of scrutiny may increase with a greater reliance on algorithms to make sense of online data.

Survey: Consumers Uncomfortable With Smart TV Data Collection

Consumers aren’t comfortable with their data being collected by smart TVs, according to a survey conducted by Videa, Cox Media’s automated ad platform. The survey found that 48 percent of consumers said they were somewhat, mostly or completely uncomfortable with advertisers collecting Smart TV data. Only 39 percent said they are somewhat, mostly or completely comfortable with their data being collected by advertisers. The answer most given, at 21 percent of respondents, was that they were completely uncomfortable with the data collection.

Making Google the Censor

[Commentary] Prime Minister Theresa May’s political fortunes may be waning in Britain, but her push to make internet companies police their users’ speech is alive and well. In the aftermath of the recent London attacks, PM May called platforms like Google and Facebook breeding grounds for terrorism. She has demanded that they build tools to identify and remove extremist content. Leaders of the Group of 7 countries recently suggested the same thing. Germany wants to fine platforms up to 50 million euros if they don’t quickly take down illegal content. And a European Union draft law would make YouTube and other video hosts responsible for ensuring that users never share violent speech. The fears and frustrations behind these proposals are understandable. But making private companies curtail user expression in important public forums — which is what platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become — is dangerous. Outraged demands for “platform responsibility” are a muscular-sounding response to terrorism that shifts public attention from the governments’ duties. But we don’t want an internet where private platforms police every word at the behest of the state. Such power over public discourse would be Orwellian in the hands of any government, be it May’s, Donald Trump’s or Vladimir Putin’s.

[Keller is the director of Intermediary Liability at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, and previously was associate general counsel to Google]

White House social-media director Dan Scavino violated Hatch Act with tweet targeting GOP congressman

White House social-media director Dan Scavino Jr. violated a federal law that bars public officials from using their positions for political activity when he urged President Donald Trump's supporters to defeat a GOP congressman, the Office of Special Counsel has concluded. As a result, Scavino was issued a warning letter and advised that additional violations of the law could result in further action, according to a June 5 letter that the office sent to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which filed a complaint about Scavino's tweet.

Scavino's April 1 message called on the “#TrumpTrain” to take out Rep Justin Amash (R-MI) in an upcoming primary, referring to him as “a big liability.” Rep Amash is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that President Trump had blamed at the time for derailing legislation that would have repealed parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Even though Scavino was tweeting from his personal account, his page at the time listed his official White House position and featured a photo of him inside the Oval Office.