Next week, Congress plans to move a bill forward that is opposed by dozens of organizations, digital rights protectors, LGBTQ+ activists, and human rights defenders: the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). As we’ve written before, KOSA would lead to censorship and privacy invasions for all social media users. But the most impacted groups will be young people, who the bill purports to help by banishing to a second-class internet. What’s often been left out of the debate over KOSA is how young people feel about this. In fact, many teenagers already oppose the bill. Young TikTok users have been rallying one another to call and email legislators to push back on the bill, and videos describing what’s wrong with KOSA have received hundreds of thousands of views.
Jan. 11, 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz had a prolific career as a computer programmer: At the age of 12 he created The Info Network, a user-generated encyclopedia widely credited as a precursor to Wikipedia. Swartz’s later work would transform the internet as we know it. He helped co-found Reddit, developed the RSS web feed format, and helped lay the technical foundations of Creative Commons, “a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools.” In 2011, Swartz was arrested and indicted on federal charges after downloading a large number of academic articles from the website JSTOR through the MIT network. A year later, prosecutors added an additional nine felony counts against Swartz, ultimately threatening him with a million dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison.
Last week, one of the most important digital rights cases took place in Quito, Ecuador. Ola Bini, a software designer who makes tools for activists to protect their privacy, was arrested at the Quito airport in April, 2019 just hours after Julian Assange was taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Bini has been detained in Quito for almost three years. His prosecution has been fraught with irregularities. Clearing the FOG speaks with Veridiana Alimonti, a human rights lawyer and the Associate Director for Latin American Policy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about the case, its connections to the Julian Assange case and the broader assault on our digital freedom.
Broadband allows people to participate in the digital world, which encompasses our daily lives. It connects people with their families and friends, news on what is happening in the country and abroad, and gives access to an unlimited amount of important information and resources. During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband has been critical in supporting online school and work, access to healthcare and medical information, and even vaccine distribution. Eighty-seven percent of people reported that the internet has been important to them during the outbreak, and fifty-three percent of people reported that broadband is essential for critical purposes and everyday tasks. If broadband is so essential, then why doesn’t current federal policy enable the Federal Communications Commission to regulate broadband as we regulate other public utilities — similar to the way we treat electricity, water, and phones?
In the wake of this latest act of white supremacist violence directed at the U.S. Capitol, it’s more urgent than ever that lawmakers take steps to address systemic racism and injustice, and to hold Big Tech companies accountable for their role in undermining democracy and amplifying harmful content. However, repeal of or injudicious changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would only make the situation worse. Gutting Section 230 would make it more difficult for web platforms to combat the type of dangerous rhetoric that led to the attack on the Capitol. And certain carve outs to the law could threaten human rights and silence movements for social and racial justice that are needed now more than ever.
November 8, 2020 would have been Aaron’s 34th birthday, but instead we mourn our friend and wonder what could have been, had he not taken his own life seven years ago after being terrorized by a career-driven prosecutor and U.S. Attorney who decided to just make shit up, make an example out of Aaron, impress their bosses and further their own careers. As it turns out though, Aaron’s downloading wasn’t even illegal, as he was a Harvard Ethics Fellow at the time and Harvard and MIT had contractual agreements allowing Aaron to access those materials en masse. But all this didn’t come to light until it was too late. Aaron was careful not to tell his friends too much about his case for fear he would involve them in the quagmire.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a reliable broadband connection is a health and safety necessity. Families need the internet to connect to remote work, virtual classrooms, election information and telehealth care while maintaining social distance. But roughly 60 percent of low-income parents say their students will experience digital obstacles when attending online school this fall — including 40 percent who say they will have to seek out public WiFi because they don’t have a reliable internet connection at home. And students aren’t the only ones who need internet access to learn, work and thrive at home — at all times, but especially now.
Washington, DC (October 29, 2020) - During Tuesday’s FCC open meeting, I was tweeting about the failures and falsehoods in the agency’s latest open-internet vote — a decision that involves so much more than just Net Neutrality rules, and that’s all about the Trump FCC’s unlawful abdication of its responsibility for broadband policy. The agency just released the final order, so this explainer recaps that Twitter thread and the Free Press research it came from. During tumultuous times it can be hard to focus on internet and media policy issues like these.
Five years ago, the movement for internet freedom won an important victory when the Federal Communications Commission reclassified the internet as a common carrier, making it like a utility that everyone should have equal access to without discrimination. That was quickly reversed in 2017 under the new chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, who deregulated the internet giving the government no authority to oversee the internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T. I speak with Josh Stager of the Open Technology Institute about the ongoing fight to protect the internet and what we need to do next.
June 11th marks one year since the FCC's repeal of all net neutrality protections went into effect. In the year since the repeal, there have been extremely troubling incidents of telecom giants slowing popular services like YouTube and Netflix as well as Skype, and Verizon throttling firefighters’ data in the midst of a massive wildfire. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has declared net neutrality “dead on arrival” in the Senate this year, despite the fact 86% of the public—including overwhelming majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats—oppose the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. On the morning of Tuesday, June 11th, public interest advocates hand delivered 3.5 million pro-net neutrality public comments and petition signatures to Senator Mitch McConnell.
We the undersigned 90 organizations urge House members to pass the Save the Internet Act restoring the strong protections for net neutrality and broadband access guaranteed by the 2015 Open Internet Order. Since the repeal of the Open Internet Order by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December 2017, millions of Americans have been fighting to protect an open and accessible internet and calling on Congress to restore vital protections for universal communications rights, small business innovation, and free speech online. Additionally, net neutrality continues to receive overwhelming bipartisan support across the country, with the latest polling showing that 4 in 5 Americans support net neutrality, including 77% of Republicans.
European Union - Tens of thousands of people across Europe staged protests on Saturday against the European Union's planned copyright reform bill. In Germany alone, 40 rallies took place, alongside demonstrations in Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal. Munich police said 40,000 protesters turned out under the motto "Save our internet." Organizers said Berlin's protest (pictured above) drew 30,000, with participants walking past the center of Germany's collaborative Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Police put the number of protesters at 10,000.
Nearly every single Democrat in Congress has signed on to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. But with the deadline just days away, there are 18 members of the party who still haven’t signed. And big surprise: they’ve all taken fistfuls of money from big telecom companies.
In exactly one week, the European Parliament will hold a crucial debate and vote on a proposal so terrible, it can only be called an extinction-level event for the Internet as we know it. At issue is the text of the new EU Copyright Directive, which updates the 17-year-old copyright regulations for the 28 member-states of the EU. It makes a vast array of technical changes to EU copyright law, each of which has stakeholders rooting for it, guaranteeing that whatever the final text says will become the law of the land across the EU.
California’s net neutrality bill, S.B. 822 has received a majority of votes in the Senate and is heading to the governor’s desk. In this fight, ISPs with millions of dollars to spend lost to the voice of the majority of Americans who support net neutrality. This is a victory that can be replicated. ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast hated this bill. S.B. 822 bans blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, classic ways that companies have violated net neutrality principles. It also incorporates much of what the FCC learned and incorporated into the 2015 Open Internet Order, preventing new assaults on the free and open Internet.