2018: A Turning Point for "Big Tech"

Earlier this month we examined how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission impedes progress towards closing the digital divide. Now, we review another big telecom policy story from 2018: the democratic harms of “Big Tech”. In 2018, we got a better, but more disturbing, understanding of the size and influence of large technology companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft), and particularly how social media platforms affect our democratic discourse and elections.

How Facebook Avoids Accountability

On Nov 14, the New York Times detailed Facebook’s multi-pronged campaign to “delay, deny and deflect” efforts to hold the company accountable. This is far from the first time we’ve read disturbing accounts of Facebook’s unethical behavior, but this week the Times peeled back the curtain on the company’s crisis management techniques, public relations tactics, efforts to influence lawmakers, and aggressive lobbying. The peak at these practices helps explain why the social media giant has been so successful at avoiding meaningful regulation.

Allegations of improprieties related to the Commission's review of the merger between Sinclair and Tribune

In response to requests from Congress made on November 13 and November 15. 20! 7, the Federal Communications Commission Oflice of Inspector General (OlG) conducted an investigation into whether FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Chairman Pai "has taken actions to improperly benefit Sinclair Broadcast Group and "is executing his leadership of the FCC free from influences that compromise his objectivity and impartiality," especially with regard to the proposed merger of Sinclair and Tribune Media." 

AT&T Chief Says Hiring Michael Cohen as Consultant a ‘Big Mistake’

Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said in a staffwide memo  that the company had made a “big mistake” by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The Silence of the Bought

[Commentary] The big Internet service provider gate-keepers may have bought the silence of Congress, but they cannot buy the silence of the people. We know there is overwhelming popular support for an open internet with strong net neutrality rules.  But we have to demonstrate this support and the power behind it.  We must make our voices heard.  Contacting Congress now on the CRA is vital—your Senators, of course, but your House members, too.  Tell them your vote in the next election depends on their vote now to restore net neutrality. 

FCC's Inspector General Looks Into Changes That Benefited Sinclair

In April 2017, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, led the charge for his agency to approve rules allowing television broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own.

Who From the Tech World Will End Up in the White House

Both presidential campaigns are facing calls to commit to keeping industry faces and corporate conflicts of interest out of the White House — as speculation swirls about who from the tech world could wind up in the winning administration. Nearly 50 groups -- including Revolving Door Project, Fight for the Future and the Open Markets Institute -- wrote to the candidates pressuring them “to commit not to appoint any individual to a senior policy role in an agency or department w

Charter’s donations to charities and lawmakers may help it impose data caps

Nonprofits and local politicians are lining up to support a Charter Communications petition that would let the ISP impose data caps on broadband users and seek interconnection payments from large online-video providers. Charter filed the petition with the Federal Communications Commission in June, asking the FCC to eliminate merger conditions applied to its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable two years early.

Public Knowledge Stands with Civil Rights Groups by Refusing Facebook Funding

Public Knowledge announces that it will not accept funding from Facebook for any of the organization’s programs or initiatives. The decision follows a June 1 meeting between Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and civil rights leaders to discuss the company’s choice to leave up without moderation comments made by President Donald Trump, including one in which he posted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to protests over George Floyd’s death. Twitter, meanwhile, labeled the content with a disclaimer that it “glorified violence.”

Open Technology Institute is declining further funding from Facebook

As the country confronts its long, deeply rooted history of racism, we must all acknowledge our own role in racist systems and make changes to ensure we are part of the solution, rather than the problem. With over 2.6 billion users, Facebook has a clear responsibility to reckon with its role in these systems or risk continuing to facilitate oppression that imperils Black lives. Despite repeated calls to action from inside and outside the company, Facebook has long struggled with this responsibility.