The Buck Stops at the FCC

By Michael Copps

Since the DC Court threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules last week, “network neutrality” is a glaring problem that demands prompt action. The good news is that the solution is pretty simple. It doesn’t require a new telecommunications statute replete with time-consuming years of legislative horse-trading and special interest lobbying. All it requires is an FCC big enough to own up to its previous mistakes and courageous enough to put our communications future back on track. The solution: reclassify broadband as “telecommunications” under Title II of the Communications Act.

Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

A terrible formula has taken hold:
warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

Digital Grab: Corporate Power Has Seized the Internet

By Norman Solomon

If your daily routine took you from one homegrown organic garden to another, bypassing vast fields choked with pesticides, you might feel pretty good about the current state of agriculture.

If your daily routine takes you from one noncommercial progressive website to another, you might feel pretty good about the current state of the Internet.

But while mass media have supplied endless raptures about a digital revolution, corporate power has seized the Internet - and the anti-democratic grip is tightening every day.

A “Separate but Equal” Internet?

By Stephanie Chen and Chris Brown
Greenlining Institute

Californians know better than anyone that in today’s world technology is the essential portal to information, and the old line that knowledge is power is truer than ever.  Information technology has the potential to be a great social and economic equalizer – but only if we preserve today’s open Internet.

That is not by any means a sure thing, and a U.S. Senate bill that would go a long way toward solving the problem hasn’t made progress. California’s representatives in Washington have a mixed record at best.

SOPA and PIPA Die: Anti-Piracy Push Languishes for Now

By David Dayen

After the death of PIPA this morning comes the news that Lamar Smith, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee who planned on resuming the markup of SOPA, the House version of anti-piracy legislation, in February, has put the bill into cold storage. The work of the grassroots coalition did the trick: SOPA and PIPA are dead for now.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, “will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Smith added that he has taken critics’ concerns “seriously.”

“It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” Smith said in today’s statement [...]

Internet Blackout Today: The Fight For A Free And Open Web

By Isaiah J. Poole

Because our fight for a people-powered democracy and an economy that works for all Americans depends on a free and open Internet, today is standing in solidarity with the many websites that are protesting two bills pending in Congress that are direct and profound threats to that freedom.

Many of these websites, including the reference site Wikipedia and, have decided to "go dark" today to symbolize what could happen if the draconian measures in these bills are put into effect. The organization "Fight for the Future," which bills itself as a nonprofit defending "online freedom," calls today's action "the largest online protest in history."

The bills are the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. The bills are ostensibly intended to crack down on copyright infringement, but both bills contain clauses that allow copyright holders to launch legal actions that would shut down an entire website, and the Department of Justice could demand that Internet service providers, search engines and social networking sites block access to the site. The Senate bill would allow a website to be blocked before the owners of the targeted site could defend themselves in court.

Advocates Launch Campaign to Get Anti-Trafficking Bill on State Ballot

By Elena Shore 
New America Media

Leah Albright-Byrd, a native San Franciscan who ran away from home at age 14 to escape a violent father, said she didn’t know she “was running into the arms of a trafficker.” 

“The trafficker told me, ‘You’re having sex anyway, you might as well get paid for it,’” said Albright-Byrd, who was trafficked in the Mission District, Las Vegas and online from the age of 14 to 18. “I was told, ‘Once a ho, always a ho,’ that that was my destiny.”

Now a college graduate and doctoral candidate who next month will celebrate her tenth year of freedom, Albright-Byrd says she is proud to call herself a survivor. 

Facial Recognition: A Top Privacy Issue of Our Time

By Amber Yoo
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Facial recognition technology – especially as the technology becomes more sophisticated – may be one of the gravest privacy threats of our time. It has the potential to remove the anonymity Americans expect in crowds and most public places. There are the obvious “chilling effects” it could have on political demonstrations and speech, concerns being monitored by civil liberties advocates like the ACLU, EPIC, and EFF. However, this technology will also very likely be used in greater capacity in the commercial sector to further target consumers for advertising and discriminatory pricing purposes.

BART and the New Era of Censorship

By Tim Karr
Free Press

I have spent most of the week poring over news stories, blogs and commentary on last week’s decision by Bay Area Rapid Transit officials to shut off cellphone service to quash planned protests on its trains and platforms.

Opinions are many and range from BART spokesman Linton Johnson, who says constitutional rights end the moment people go through transit-authority turnstiles, to “X” of the hacker collective Anonymous, who protested BART’s action and said our freedom to connect should be absolute and universal.

I tend to agree with “X,” but adding my criticism to what has already been heaped on BART seems of little consequence at this point.

More Californians Using Cell Phones to Go Online

Public Policy Institute of California

SAN FRANCISCO, June 22, 2011—Californians are twice as likely to use their cell phones to access the Internet than they were just three years ago, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The PPIC survey—the third in a series focusing on information technology issues—was conducted with funding from the California Emerging Technology Fund and ZeroDivide.

While state residents are more likely to go online from their desktop (56%) or laptop computer (55%), 40 percent connect to the Internet from their cell phones—up from 19 percent in 2008 and 26 percent in 2009. Internet users who go online via cell phone are also doing so more often, with 59 percent saying they do several times a day (30% in 2009). Just 9 percent say they access the Internet by cell phone every few weeks, less often, or never; 35 percent gave this response in 2009.