Government & Communications

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

A world divided into “cans” and “cannots”

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech … and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine, and manufacturing.

It’s Not Too Late to Save the Internet

The Trump administration is pursuing its own version of internet sovereignty. If Trump obtains a second term, his policies will empower and legitimize efforts by governments around the world to fence off different parts of the internet in service of their own geopolitical and domestic objectives.

CEO Pack revives USAGM’s Office of Internet Freedom; agency funds internet firewall circumvention technologies

CEO Michael Pack announced that he has revived the US Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Office of Internet Freedom (OIF). OIF was created in 2016, but its operations were shelved by previous agency leadership. Because a number of regimes restrict the exchange of information, while others ban it entirely, there is a critical need to support technologies that allow individuals to securely access and share information online. 

Trump’s Attacks on TikTok and WeChat Could Further Fracture the Internet

Trump-administration moves herald a new, more invasive American philosophy of tech regulation, one that hews closer to China’s protectionist one, though without the aims of censoring content and controlling the populace. The shift could hurt American internet giants like Facebook and Google, which have greatly benefited from the borderless digital terroir outside China, as well as Chinese internet giants like Tencent and Alibaba, which have tried to expand into the West.

FCC Announces Membership, Chair, and Vice-Chair for Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the new members of the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and named Paul J. TenHaken, Mayor of Sioux Falls (SD) Chair of the IAC and Peter J. Larkin, Chairman of the Board of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, as Vice-Chair.

The not-so-World Wide Web

Governments around the world, prompted by nationalism, authoritarianism and other forces, are threatening the notion of a single, universal computer network — long the defining characteristic of the internet. Most countries want the internet and the economic and cultural benefits that come with it. Increasingly, though, they want to add their own rules — the internet with an asterisk, if you will.

Executive Orders on Addressing the Threats Posed by TikTok and WeChat

President Donald Trump issued a pair of executive orders that will impose new limits on Chinese social-media apps TikTok and WeChat, effectively setting a 45-day deadline for an American company to purchase TikTok’s US operations. The orders bar people in the US or subject to US jurisdiction from transactions with the China-based owners of the apps, effective 45 days from Aug 6. That raises the possibility that US citizens would be prevented from downloading the apps in the Apple or Google app stores.

FTC Lacks Authority To Police Platforms' Content Moderation Policies, Chairman Simons Says

The Federal Trade Commission lacks the authority to oversee how social media companies curate political speech, Chairman Joe Simons told the Senate Commerce Committee Aug 5. “Our authority focuses on commercial speech, not political content curation,” Chairman Simons told Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) at an oversight hearing.

Trump’s flagrant assault on the First Amendment is disguised as a defense of it

President Donald Trump has sent a message to the Federal Communications Commission: Cross me for misusing my powers in this way, and you’ll be punished, too. The president wants Mike O’Rielly, his fellow FCC commissioners, and appointees across agencies to know what happens when they dare to put the rule of law first, just as the president wants Twitter, and Facebook, and all influential companies on the Internet or off to know how carefully they must tread with him in charge.

The US is now playing by China's internet rules

President Trump's crackdown on TikTok suggests that the US government is starting to see the internet more like China does — as a network that countries can and should control within their borders. Today's global internet has split into