Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

Remarks of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Voices for Internet Freedom Forum

Just as we need the First Amendment to protect basic speech, we need those very same ideals, to ensure free speech and free flow of content on the internet. That First Amendment for the internet, is network neutrality, because people who control the wires and the airwaves over which we communicate, have a unique ability to shape what we see, say, and hear.

So why I am here tonight? I can sum it up in two ways. First, I want to hear your stories, take them back to the Federal Communications Commission, and make sure they are part of the conversation. For there are those who are attempting to minimize the value of the over four million comments we have received on line and by post, so give me your permission to mention your names and let them see your faces tonight. And I am here tonight, to tell you that these rules do not have a snowball’s chance in that perpetual furnace, if you fail to make your voices heard. So my ask is that you not only submit comments to the FCC, but call your Member of Congress, reach out to your US Senators, and let them know why an open internet is so important to you. Then you’ve got to talk about it with others, share why this thing we call net neutrality is important and valuable to them as well as every person in America. The only chance of keeping vital protections in place and not being trampled is to speak up and speak out. Silence and inaction, when it comes past movements and in this proceeding, are not your allies.

Words Still Matter

[Commentary] On June 12, the 9th Circuit became the latest court to block President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, his second attempt to limit travel from six majority Muslim nations. The decision was not a surprise, as the Trump administration has not had much luck in the courtroom. But its timing – just after former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress and just before Attorney General Jeff Sessions does – reveals that even in the Trump era, there are places where words still matter.

Since Trump launched his presidential bid two years ago, the power of words and facts has been in doubt. As candidate and now president, Trump has lavished Americans with promises that he immediately broke. He has spread lies and conspiracies that are breathtaking in their obvious falseness. He has hurled accusations, threats and slurs that would have been unimaginable for any presidential candidate in the last several decades. And despite – or maybe because – of it all, he won the presidency. So Americans could be forgiven for thinking we now live in a world where facts, promises and words no longer matter, where the president can say whatever he likes without consequences. Only it turns out, there are still some situations where words matter a great deal.

[She is an assistant professor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and a research associate at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.]

Anxiety of the Capitol Hill Press Mob

[Commentary] On June 12 I was speaking to a veteran Senate reporter about the increasing number of journalists flooding the halls of the Capitol. This reporter felt that the crowd size would “inevitably” lead to the end of the open press access the media has long enjoyed. This reporter was not the first that I’d heard that from. It was not the first time that I’d thought about it, either.

There’s a vague sense among many members of the Capitol Hill press corps that some sort of crackdown is coming and that the incredible access to national lawmakers that reporters enjoy could be curtailed. If senators truly are concerned about the size of reporter mobs and their safety, they could be more forthcoming with information about, say, their health care bill, perhaps with regular press conferences. Reporters wouldn’t have to be quite so creative in their methods, then.

Jeff Sessions testifies: Refuses to say whether he spoke to President Trump about Comey’s handling of Russia investigation

Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer repeated questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee June 13 about his private conversations with President Donald Trump, including whether he spoke to Trump about former FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.

In a number of testy exchanges with members of the panel, AG Sessions said he would not discuss his conversations with President Trump because of long-standing Justice Department policy that protected private conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. “I am not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of private conversations that I may have had with the president on this subject or others,” Sessions said. Sessions opened his testimony to the panel with a fiery assertion that he never had any conversations with Russians about “any type of interference” in the 2016 presidential election. “The suggestion that I participated in any collusion … is an appalling and detestable lie,” he said.

President Trump's Innovation office in Close Touch with US Digital Service

President Donald Trump’s key advisers appear to be deeply involved in government technology teams founded under Barack Obama. When Trump dedicated a new White House team to modernizing government IT in March, it wasn’t immediately clear how the Office of American Innovation's mission differed from the US Digital Service, a troubleshooting task force for high-profile technology projects. But senior Trump advisers are regularly attending USDS meetings, signaling their interest in large-scale government technology projects, USDS Acting Administrator Matt Cutts said. Cutts joined the federal government in 2016 from Google, where he ran the Webspam team and created a safety filter for the search engine.

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.

Senate Republicans crack down on press access

Senate Republicans shocked the Capitol with an apparent crackdown on media access that immediately drew criticism from reporters and lawmakers.

Reporters were told they would no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission. And would need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter. The new restrictions would break years of precedent, which previously set that “videotaping and audio recording are permitted in the public areas of the House and Senate office buildings,” according to the Radio and TV Gallery website.

A Senate Democratic aide said the decision to substantially curtail the access of television reporters was made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Chairman Shelby said "no additional restrictions have been put in place by the Rules Committee," adding that the committee "has been working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules."

US congressional hearings have been turned from a vital part of democracy into a partisan weapon

Once upon a time, public congressional hearings were a means of helping Americans better understand the workings of their government. But the Trump administration and its alt-right allies, aided by the power of the internet, is distorting their role, turning them into fodder for misinformation instead.

The Trump administration and some of the right-wing media are creating a “Putinesque alternate reality,” said John Schindler, a former National Security Agency intelligence analyst, said after former FBI Director James Comey testified. Their commentary didn’t “look like they saw the same Comey testimony that I did,” he said. Instead, their point of view so far has seemed to be: “Nothing happened to cause the president’s arrest today so we’re winning, we’re vindicated, and it’s a Democratic plot.”

This polarization goes much deeper than just the issue of Russian interference.

Sending a strong signal on global internet freedom

[Commentary] Among the range of complex foreign policy issues yet to be addressed by the Trump administration is a serious concern for global internet freedom.

The growing restrictions on internet freedom around the world are easy to document; less so any visible American strategy that would reverse the ominous trends at hand. Let’s review the dimensions of the problem in brief. The latest data from the respected nonprofit organization, Freedom House, provides a contextual understanding, based on tracking global internet freedom in 65 countries, comprising 88 percent of internet users worldwide. According to its most recent annual report in this area, Freedom on the Net 2016, two-thirds of the world’s internet users live under government censorship. Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.

There has been radio silence to date about this issue from the White House and the Department of State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should provide both symbolism and substance for a new U.S. global internet freedom agenda in a high-profile address that echoes the words of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, in a January 2010 speech at the Newseum–“This is a very important speech on a very important subject.” This phrase alone would send a strong diplomatic signal to the international community that the United States still considers internet freedom to be a critical area of foreign policy engagement. Equally important, it would mark the start of an updated internet freedom agenda based on success metrics and aimed at reversing the all-too-apparent downward spiral of repression.

5G, Smart Cities and Communities of Color

This report examines the implications for communities of color of fifth-generation wireless technology (also known as 5G) and Smart City technology. Currently, major mobile network operators, such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, offer the fourth generation of wireless broadband technology (4G). Over the next four years, these companies will start to offer 5G in select cities. 5G will facilitate the growth of Smart City technologies, which are tools that allow cities and counties to manage public services such as transportation and power grids more efficiently.