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First POST: Battle for the Open Net

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, May 8 2014

Battle for the Open Net

  • 150 tech companies ranging from tiny start-ups to major industry giants have signed a joint letter to the FCC opposing Chairman Thomas Wheeler's proposal to allow fast and slow lanes on the Internet. According to Marvin Ammori, the letter "was entirely driven by the small and the mid-sized companies" more than 100 of which had signed on before Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo Level 3 and other heavyweights joined on.

  • The letter's key sentence: "Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent."

  • On GigaOm, Stacey Higginbotham comments that this letter represents "a rare public stand" for Amazon.

  • A small group of protesters affiliated with the groups Fight for the Future and Popular Resistance have camped out in front of the FCC's headquarters saying they won't leave until the agency affirms its defense of net neutrality, Wilson Dizard reports for Al Jazeera America.

  • In an email to its members, Fight for the Future's co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng adds that the group is planning to "organize similar encampments in front of FCC offices in 27 other cities, and recruit people to join in so that the crowds keep growing as the days pass."

  • FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is asking for a delay in the new rules.

  • And FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn is also signaling her opposition to paid prioritization, with a blog post on the FCC website.

  • The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve an amended version of the USA Freedom Act, which would require that the NSA get individual case approval before it collects the electronic records of Americans.

  • TechDirt's Mike Masnick says the bill "is clearly a step forward" but notes that in its current amended version it retains a loophole that allows the NSA to conduct backdoor searches on Americans without a warrant.

  • A study of Google search trends has found that "searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped 'significantly' in the months since Edward Snowden's revelations," reports Alex Pasternack for Vice's Motherboard.

  • Capital's Joe Pompeo has a must-read on "The Huffington Post, nine years on," which contains this nugget from recently departed editor Peter Goodman, who oversaw the site's business, tech and international reporters and wrote a transition memo to Arianna Huffington arguing:

    "There is a widespread sense on the team that the HuffPost is no longer fully committed to original reporting; that in a system governed largely by metrics, deep reporting and quality writing weigh in as a lack of productivity….I have protected the best writers from the manifestations of this, allowing them to focus on work that has garnered us awards and had genuine impact. There is now palpable concern that this culture is no longer operative. ... They are looking for a clear signal that their work is valued and that the infrastructure will be maintained to engage in serious reporting. Absent that, you will lose people."

    Huffington told Pompeo that Goodman's view "is a complete fabrication."

  • Gail Collins notices that online videos aimed at propelling obscure political candidates into the limelight have certain common features, including sex puns and talking animals.

  • FP1 Strategies is launching its own "full-service digital media practice" led by Joe Mansour, who previously was the digital director of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a close ally of the Koch brothers political empire.

  • A Saudi blogger who set up a web forum for discussion of liberal politics has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam," the BBC reports.

  • Jad Abumrad of RadioLab tweets that he would "copulate" with a robot, joining the 17% of Brits who admit to that interest.

  • The main hall schedule for PDF 2014 is up, with Electronic Frontier Founder John Perry Barlow (and a "special guest") joining a stellar array of Internet freedom champions, digital security experts, tech industry leaders, digital politics strategists, civic hackers, and open government advocates who will be speaking. We're finalizing the breakout session schedule and will be announcing that early next week. And for those who are keeping track, as of now we have 99 speakers confirmed--52 women, 47 men. #changetheratio, anyone? Tickets are still available.

News Briefs

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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