Stories from Abroad

Since 2010, the Benton Foundation and the New America Foundation have partnered to highlight telecommunications debates from countries outside the U.S.

How to increase trust in the media: Just forget the First Amendment

How can news outlets improve their standing in the eyes of the public? If a study published by Northwestern University in Qatar is any indication, then the key to a higher level of trust might be a lower level of free speech.

Northwestern surveyed seven Middle Eastern countries and found that citizens in six of them ascribe more credibility to their press than Americans do to theirs — by wide margins, in some cases. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, 85 percent of citizens say the media is credible; the rates are 62 percent in Qatar and 59 percent in Saudi Arabia. Only 32 percent of Americans trust the media to report the news fully, fairly and accurately, according to Gallup. While these Middle Eastern credibility ratings sound great, they are attended by brutal restrictions on journalists. Reporters Without Borders rates countries' press freedoms, using such criteria as access to public records, censorship and safety. Out of 180 countries, the United Arab Emirates ranks 119, Qatar ranks 123 and Saudi Arabia ranks 168.

Does bridging the Internet Access Divide contribute to enhancing countries' integration into the global trade in services markets?

This paper examines the impact of countries' distance between their Internet usage and the world' average of the Internet usage intensity on their integration into the world market of trade in commercial services.

Using an unbalanced panel dataset of 175 countries over the annual period 2000–2013, the empirical analysis indicates that the narrowing of the Internet-related distance would improve countries' integration into the world trade in commercial services market. Furthermore, it helps those countries that are geographically far from the world market to compensate for the adverse effect of this geographical distance on their integration into the world market of trade in commercial services.

The UN Says the Global Digital Divide Could Become a Yawning Chasm

More than 52 percent of people on the planet still don't have Internet access. Men outnumber women as Web users in every region of the world. And there remain massive disparities in connection speeds in different countries. These are just some of the major findings outlined in a new United Nations report about the state of the world's Internet connections.

While average global Internet speeds are now 7.7 megabits per second, there is a gulf between the fastest and slowest. South Korea's average broadband speed is 28.6 Mbps, for instance, while Nigeria's is a paltry 1.5 Mbps. In fact, the report warns that "the 'digital divide' risks becoming a 'digital chasm' [due to] deepening inequality in global connectivity.”

Democratic Reps Want FCC To Investigate Sputnik Radio Service

House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA), and former Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) want Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election via U.S. broadcasting.

At issue is Sputnik, a digital news/radio service reportedly funded by the Russian government. “Recent reports suggest that Sputnik was used as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 election,” the House members wrote to Pai in a letter dated Sept. 18. “In Washington, D.C., listeners need only tune their radios to 105.5 FM to hear the Russian government’s effort to influence U.S. policy. Disturbingly, this means the Kremlin’s propaganda messages are being broadcast over a license granted by the FCC.”

Can We Build a Global Internet from Swarms of Satellites and Tech-Company-Backed Balloons?

Ten years ago, the world population was 6.6 billion; 3 billion of those people lacked access to broadband internet connectivity. Fast forward a decade to 2017, and the global population has risen by 1 billion, but so has the number of disconnected people. The Broadband Commission was set up by the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union in 2010 in an effort to expand internet access to meet the Millennium Development Goals; the Sustainable Development Goals replaced the MDGs in 2015 and set out a target of reaching universal broadband access by 2020.

Each year, the Broadband Commission releases a report detailing the state of broadband; 2017's report, which came out on September 15, finds that the growth of connectivity around the word has stalled. But another report, released several days after by the Broadband Commission, lays out a way to re-energize the effort toward global connectivity: supporting advancements in high-altitude and satellite communications technologies.

Google Offers to Auction Off Shopping Ad Spaces to Rivals in Response to EU

Apparently, Alphabet’s Google has proposed overhauling its shopping search results so that rivals can bid for space to display products for sale, as part of the company's efforts to comply with the European Union’s antitrust order. Under the proposal, Google would bid against rivals to display products for sale in the space above its general search results, apparently. Google would set itself a price cap that it wouldn’t be able to bid above, but competitors could do so if they wished. Rival shopping sites have hit back, saying an auction-based remedy wouldn’t assuage the EU regulator’s demands that the company treat its competitors’ offerings and its own shopping service equally.

Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls

The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.

The internet has long had a reputation of being an anything-goes place that only a few nations have tried to tame — China in particular. But in recent years, events as varied as the Arab Spring, elections in France and confusion in Indonesia over the religion of the country’s president have awakened governments to how they have lost some control over online speech, commerce and politics on their home turf. Even in the United States, tech giants are facing heightened scrutiny from the government. Facebook recently cooperated with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election. In recent weeks, politicians on the left and the right have also spoken out about the excess power of America’s largest tech companies. As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies.

Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet. And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media, Officials Say

Apparently, Russia’s effort to influence US voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to President Donald Trump’s associates. Mueller’s team of prosecutors and FBI agents is zeroing in on how Russia spread fake and damaging information through social media and is seeking additional evidence from companies like Facebook and Twitter about what happened on their networks, said one of the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the ongoing investigation. The ability of foreign nations to use social media to manipulate and influence elections and policy is increasingly seen as the soft underbelly of international espionage, another official said, because it doesn’t involve the theft of state secrets and the US doesn’t have a ready defense to prevent such attacks.

US bans use of Kaspersky software in federal agencies amid concerns of Russian espionage

The US government on banned the use of a Russian brand of security software by federal agencies amid concerns the company has ties to state-sponsored cyberespionage activities, according to US officials. Acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke ordered that Kaspersky Lab software be barred from federal civilian government networks, giving agencies a timeline to get rid of it, apparently. Duke ordered the scrub on the grounds that the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk.

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” the department said. “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”