2/3 of Global Women Journalists Report Harassment
Posted by Press Trust of India on December 6th, 2013
A study by the Intl Women's Media Foundation reports 2/3 of female journalists across the globe report threats and intimidation.
FrommIBN Live (CNN India)
Bangkok: About two-third of women journalists have experienced abuse, harassment or threats at work, according to first global survey on violence against women working in the news media. The survey by the Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation and the London-based International News Safety Institute included 822 women media workers interviewed between July and late November this year.
It found that the majority of threats, intimidation and abuse directed towards women media workers occurred in the work place and were committed by male bosses, supervisors and co-workers, according to a press release.
"It is shocking to see that more than half (64.48 per cent) of the 822 women journalists who responded to our survey have experienced some sort of 'intimidation, threats or abuse' in relation to their work," said Elisa Lees Munoz, Executive Director of the IWMF.
The survey was conducted by Washington's International Women's Media Foundation and the London's International News Safety Institute.
The survey found that the majority of women who are harassed do not report what has happened to them, despite the fact that more than half of them confirmed that the experience had a psychological impact, the release said.
Of the respondents, 82 per cent were reporters with 49 per cent working in newspapers, 24 per cent in magazines, 21 per cent in TV and 16 per cent in radio. Almost 29 per cent of the respondents worked in Asia and the Pacific, over 21 per cent in North America, 19 per cent in Europe, about 13 per cent in Africa, 11 per cent in Latin and South America, and 5 per cent in Arab states.
The survey was carried out with funding from the Government of Austria and supported by UNESCO.
Net Neutrality: What's At Stake
Posted by Marvin Ammori on November 18th, 2013
An excellent article by Marvin Ammori in Wired Magazine about Verizon vs FCC and the Internet toll bridges that will come to pass if the DC Circuit does not protect network neutrality.
Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn’t set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn’t some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.
Once upon a time, companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.
But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. Some will claim the new solution “splits the baby” in a way that somehow doesn’t kill net neutrality and so we should be grateful. But make no mistake: Despite eight years of public and political activism by multitudes fighting for freedom on the internet, a court decision may soon take it away.
Game of Loopholes and Rules
How did we get here?
The CEO of AT&T told an interviewer back in 2005 that he wanted to introduce a new business model to the internet: charging companies like Google and Yahoo! to reliably reach internet users on the AT&T network. Keep in mind that users already pay to access the internet and that Google and Yahoo! already pay other telecom companies — often called backbone providers — to connect to these internet users. [Disclosure: I have done legal work for several companies supporting network neutrality, including Google.]
But AT&T wanted to add an additional toll, beyond what it already made from the internet. Shortly after that, a Verizon executive voiced agreement, hoping to end what he called tech companies’ “free lunch”. It turns out that around the same time, Comcast had begun secretly trialing services to block some of the web’s most popular applications that could pose a competitive threat to Comcast, such as BitTorrent.
Yet the phone and cable companies tried to dress up their plans as a false compromise. Counterintuitively, they supported telecommunications legislation in 2006 that would authorize the FCC to stop phone and cable companies from blocking websites.
There was a catch, however. The bills included an exception that swallowed the rule: the FCC would be unable to stop cable and phone companies from taxing innovators or providing worse service to some sites and better service to others. Since we know internet users tend to quit using a website or application if it loads even just a few seconds slower than a competitor’s version, this no-blocking rule would essentially have enabled the phone and cable companies to discriminate by picking website/app/platform winners and losers. (Congress would merely enact the loophole. Think of it as a safe harbor for discriminating online.)
Luckily, consumer groups, technology companies, political leaders, and American citizens saw through the nonsense and rallied around a principle to preserve the internet’s openness. They advocated for one simple, necessary rule — a nondiscrimination principle that became known as “network neutrality”. This principle would forbid phone and cable companies not only from blocking — but also from discriminating between or entering in special business deals to the benefit of — some sites over others.
Unfortunately, the FCC decision that included the nondiscrimination rule still had major loopholes — especially when it came to mobile networks.
Both sides battled out the issues before Congress, federal agencies, and in several senate and presidential campaigns over the next five years. These fights culminated in the 2010 FCC decision that included the nondiscrimination rule.
Unfortunately, the rule still had major loopholes — especially when it came to mobile networks. It also was built, to some extent, on a shaky political foundation because the then-FCC chairman repeatedly folded when facing pressure. Still, the adopted rule was better than nothing, and it was a major advance over AT&T’s opening bid in 2005 of a no-blocking rule.
As a result, Verizon took the FCC to court to void the 2010 FCC rule. Verizon went to court to attack the part of the rule forbidding them from discriminating among websites and applications; from setting up — on what we once called the information superhighway — the equivalents of tollbooths, fast lanes, and dirt roads.
There and Back Again
So that’s where we are today — waiting for the second most powerful court in the nation, the DC Circuit, to rule in Verizon’s case. During the case’s oral argument, back in early September, corporate lobbyists, lawyers, financial analysts, and consumer advocates packed into the courtroom: some sitting, some standing, some relegated to an overflow room.
Since then, everyone interested in internet freedom has been waiting for an opinion — including everyday folks who search the web or share their thoughts in 140 characters; and including me, who argued the first (losing) network neutrality case before the DC Circuit in 2010.
Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others.
But, in their questions and statements during oral argument, the judges have made clear how they planned to rule — for the phone and cable companies, not for those who use the internet. While the FCC has the power to impose the toothless “no-blocking” rule (originally proposed by AT&T above), it does not (the court will say) have the power to impose the essential “nondiscrimination” rule.
It looks like we’ll end up where AT&T initially began: a false compromise.
The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector, requiring payment for reliable service. In fact, during the oral argument in the current case, Verizon’s lawyer said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”
Wait, it gets even worse. Pricing isn’t even a necessary forcing factor. Once the court voids the nondiscrimination rule, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.
So what if you’ve got a great new company, an amazing group of founders, a seat in a reputable accelerator program, great investors and mentors. With the permission-based innovation over “our pipes” desired from the likes of Comcast, Verizon and AT&T… there’s no meritocracy here.
Of course, despite everything the judges suggested during the two-hour argument, it’s possible that they offer net neutrality a reprieve. Given how sticky this morass is, there’s one simple way for you to judge the opinion: If the court throws out the non-discrimination rule, permission-less innovation on the internet as we know it is done. If the nondiscrimination rule miraculously survives, then, for now at least, so too will freedom on the internet.
Raul Ramirez, KQED News Chief, MA member, dies at 67
Posted by on November 15th, 2013
Raul Ramirez, a gigantic figure in Bay Area journalism and in Media Alliance history, died at age 67.
Ramirez was reknowned for skilled reporting, a dedication to teaching and newsroom diversity and maintaining the highest professional standards. One of Media Alliance's earliest campaigns was spearheading the legal defense of Ramirez and Lowell Bergman from a libel suit brought against them by the San Francisco police department for reports filed in the San Francisco Examiner.
A tremendous loss to the Bay Area and to journalism. Rest in peace.
Genderist: A Word Whose Time Has Come?
Posted by on November 15th, 2013
The power of words. Maybe the obsession with words. Do the social conditions make the words or do the words make the social conditions?
Women and words is a long, long, long story. As with all marginalized groups, the words that describe things matter.
So consider genderist, c/o of Joss Whedon
Police Violence Against The Transgender Community
Posted by Jordan Flaherty on November 15th, 2013
Al Jazeera America
Because it has been much in the local Bay Area news, and sometimes it takes a foreign news outlet to do what the homegrown media won't, here's a clip from AJA on police brutality and transgender people.
Posted by Leticia Miranda on November 2nd, 2013
Nation article highlighting immigrant support technology collectives like Undocutech and MigraHack by Magnet's Leticia Miranda
Two days of people huddled over a glowing computer screen and chugging cup after cup of coffee to stay awake. Programmers pouring out lines of code and analysts moving their cursors swiftly through spreadsheets with hundreds of lines of data. In many ways, MigraHack is your typical hackathon, an event in which programmers come together to develop open access digital tools. But MigraHack’s goal for this intense weekend is more ambitious—to redefine the country’s immigration debate through data and visual storytelling.
As much of the country waits on Washington for some movement on immigration reform, a burgeoning group of web programmers, data analysts, journalists and immigrant rights advocates is banding together at hackathons to expand reporting around immigration through technology. MigraHack is a partnership between RDataVox, a non-profit network of people who collaborate with US ethnic media, and the Institute for Justice and Journalism, an organization that strengthens reporting on social justice issues. Another similarly-minded network that hosts hackathons is UndocuTech, which is a product of the immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream and the Center for Civic Media at MIT. These two organizations are opening the door for hackathon events and culture to directly serve the country’s immigrant community.
“I think immigrants are now more confident and want to be a part of this country,” says Claudia Núñez, who launched MigraHack in 2012, during her time as a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford. ‘That same feeling applies to MigraHack. The message is that you’re a part of this country and we want to hear from you.”
Núñez did not hear that message when she immigrated to the US from Mexico fourteen years ago at the age of 23. She knew no English and little about the country she would soon call home. Previously a reporter in Mexico, she started working as an investigative reporter with La Opinión, a Los Angeles-based Spanish language newspaper. In 2010, as mainstream outlets began to experiment with data visualization and other web-based storytelling tools, Núñez saw a serious gap in data analysis on immigration issues that she thought could be filled by ethnic media reporters who understand immigrant communities and are often immigrants themselves. Núñez began training herself on web development and design through YouTube videos and online tutorials, and as a part of her self-training, she started attending hackathons, which she found were typically dominated by white men.
“I was like ‘Where are the people like me?’” Núñez says. “I still had difficulty speaking English. I was still working out my immigration status.” Steadfast in her commitment to help ethnic media utilize these new storytelling tools, Núñez decided to host her own hackathon in Los Angeles that would bring together programmers, immigration journalists and activists to develop projects on immigration.
La Opinión donated office space. A local bakery donated pastries. A good friend who is a chef offered to cook. Núñez knew a group of journalists who were interested in participating, so she attended a meet-up in Pasadena hoping to meet programmers who might join. In a crowded room of people, she marched up to the microphone and said, “I’m Claudia Núñez. I’m a reporter serving the Hispanic community and I need your help.” The response was overwhelming. In the end, dozens of programmers, who worked everywhere from Google to NASA, signed up to participate in MigraHack’s first hackathon.
Los Angeles MigraHack, which took place in December of 2012, was intended for thirty participants. One hundred people ended up participating, with at least another twenty-five on the waiting list. The hackathon produced a number of projects including a map illustrating how long immigrants from certain countries waited to receive US green card sponsorship and a tongue-in-cheek Dummies guide to crossing the border illegally that includes data on apprehension. The success of the first hackathon inspired Núñez to host a second one in Chicago in May, which included 120 participants with another twenty-three on the waiting list. The participants ranged from programmers to non-profit advocates to tech geeks.
Participants at the Chicago MigraHack were trained on Google Fusion Tables, a data visualization tool, and data mining, a data analysis process that looks for patterns using spreadsheets and a free data visualization software called Tableau Public. After the workshops, participants worked in teams using different data sets that the organization got from the Census, universities and research organizations. Each team included programmers, journalists and advocates, which Núñez says creates a stronger team and project. At the end of the hackathon, a panel of judges, which included investigative journalists, data experts and programmers, evaluated the projects. Five teams were selected as winners, splitting $7,000.
“We don’t get enough opportunities as tech people to interact with people from other disciplines and with other skills, much less work really intensely on a project together,” says David Eads, a news applications developer for the Chicago Tribune and co-founder of FreeGeek Chicago who worked as a mentor at the Chicago MigraHack in May. “There is a spirit of really trying to say something meaningful with the data rather than make something neat or nifty.”
Eads worked with two journalists from the Chicago Reporter, along with a web developer and a freelance photojournalist on one of Chicago MigraHack’s winning projects: Finding Care. Finding Care is a website that covers issues facing undocumented immigrants who are left out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The project puts a human face on these issues by focusing on the story of Jorge Mariscal, an undocumented 24-year-old man in Chicago who needed a kidney transplant but was ineligible for the organ transplant list because of his immigration status and lack of insurance. In Mariscal’s case, members of his church went on a hunger strike, eventually pressuring Loyola University Medical Center to admit him. His mother donated a kidney. But, as Finding Care points out: "Many undocumented immigrants are not as lucky. Most don’t have health insurance. They often have to pay out of pocket for care or go untreated."
“We’re not just working alone on our couch,” says Antonio García, a front-end web developer and contract consultant under his own business Coshimel. “The environment at a hackathon is entirely different. There are a lot of ideas bouncing around. It’s a great place to come up with a solution.”
García worked with a data analyst, an immigrant rights advocate and a journalist on an interactive map of Secure Communities, a Department of Homeland Security program designed to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement of undocumented immigrants who are booked into jail. The program is intended to target people who commit a crime, but has ensnared countless undocumented immigrants with no criminal charges. Rather than sifting through pages of numbers, the interactive map easily shows where the program is more aggressive. On the map, dark blue counties denote high numbers of immigrants swept up by Secure Communities and lighter hues show counties with lower numbers.
For García, the project was personal. An undocumented immigrant himself, he is now able to work and live without fear of deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started in 2012 that protects certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from being deported. But until last year, García lived with the constant threat of being suddenly removed from his home country.
“I grew up in a suburb and often times felt afraid even to go get milk,” he says. “From a social justice standpoint [Secure Communities] drives me crazy, but from a programmer standpoint, it really bothers me to see a system in use that does not work. It’s an issue that attacks me from all sides.”
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As MigraHack utilizes hackathons to bridge technology and journalism, UndocuTech sees hackathons as an opportunity to bridge technology and activism. The network was formed through a partnership between United We Dream, a national organization of undocumented immigrant youth, and MIT’s Center for Civic Media in order to expand the immigrant rights movement’s technological capabilities.
“We saw how other movements were embracing media and technology into their organizing strategy,” says Rogelio Alejandro Lopez, a research assistant with the Center for Civic Media at MIT who has been an immigrant rights activist since his days at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The conversation began with ‘What would that kind of organizing around technology look in immigrants rights?’”
UndocuTech held its first “UndocuHack” on June 1, as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, a hackathon event aimed at addressing community issues around the country. UndocuHack had twenty participants across four different locations—Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington D.C—who were helping to develop a prototype app called Education Not Deportation.
“One of our goals is to raise awareness and bring the human element of this debate to light,” says Lopez. “We acknowledge that the immigrant voice is still largely lacking in mainstream media. There is an empowering element to being a part of the creation process of making your own media and telling your own story.”
On October 5, UndocuTech and MigraHack are teamed up to host a storython under the Twitter hashtag #11milliondreams. The storython was a two-day event at UCLA’s Downtown Labor Center and MIT's Media Lab in which participants created digital stories about their immigration to the United States. Remote participants also produced their own stories online and tweeted them using the hashtag. The groups are trying to build support for United We Dream’s 11 Million Dreams campaign, which demands that Congress create a pathway to citizenship and end senseless deportation for all of the country’s undocumented immigrants.
To learn more about UndocuTech or MigraHack visit their websites at undocutech.org and chicagomigrahack.com.
Big Deal, Big Money : A Net Neutrality Comic Strip
Posted by on November 2nd, 2013
Net neutrality is about nothing less than corporate control of the Internet. This comic breaks down Verizon vs FCC and what's really at stake. From Common Cause.
NSA Clip Archive
Posted by on
The Internet Archive
A terrific compilation by the Internet Archive of 700+ clips on surveillance, spying and the Snowden revelations. A huge help for anyone writing about the NSA.
Experimental Library of TV News Clips Pertaining to Recent Revelations about the NSA and its Oversight
*Chrome/Safari browsers only*
The experimental, Chrome and Safari only, library launches today with more than 700 chronologically ordered television citations drawn from the Archive’s television news research service. The TV quotes can be browsed by rolling over clip thumbnails, queried via transcripts and sorted for specific speakers. Citation links, context, connections to source broadcasters and options to borrow can be explored by following the More/Borrow links on each thumbnail.
Pervasive Surveillance, Individual Freedoms and Collective Justice
Posted by Seeta Pena Ganghadjaran on October 18th, 2013
New America Foundation
This blog by former MA board member Seeta Pena Ganghadjaran discusses the intersection of the privacy conversation with racial profiling in breaking out the impact of surveillance on communities of color. The article comes from a panel at the New America Foundation in DC.
The problem of pervasive surveillance technologies drums up passionate defenses of individual freedom and civil liberties, but what about collective rights?
Organizers on the frontlines of social justice battles–from immigrant rights to criminal justice, from economic justice to communication rights–met on September 27, 2013, at the New America Foundation (NAF) in Washington, DC, to dig into this question during a private roundtable gathering cohosted by NAF’s Open Technology Institute and the Center for Media Justice.
Throughout the day, roundtable participants drilled down on definitions of surveillance and its effects on low-income communities, communities of color, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, political dissidents and political organizers in these communities. Seen through the lens of discrimination, surveillance is about control and power, and it affects entire groups, tearing families apart, displacing social networks, while creating a culture of fear and isolation, and an inextricable shadow of suspicion.
Surveillance has tangible, immediate consequences. Its occurrence is not abstract. People lose their jobs, are deported, and are incarcerated. Surveillance happens on a routine basis in a physical way, impairing the physical movements of people, including on the streets of their own neighborhoods.
Related, roundtable participants stressed the importance of identifying the human experience of surveillance, rather than starting with what technologies of surveillance do. Details on data collection, storage, sharing, and analysis can be excessively technical and conceal the real harms that different communities face.
Take for example an immigration rights activist who might take interest in the privacy problems of E-Verify, an electronic database designed to verify individuals’ legal status, but find it de-prioritized as a cross-sector coalition pushes for broader immigration reform.
Or another example: privacy advocates might back off from supporting a women’s rights organization that advocates for curbs of hate speech online, because such curbs call for the identification of otherwise anonymous speakers.
Policy advocates and organizers also agreed that though members of historically marginalized communities feel the consequences of a surveillance state to a greater degree than other populations, there is a lack of consensus on when and how stories of harm are collected and shared. Affected communities often need to speak for themselves and connect their experiences to a longer history of struggle. They also need to propose solutions that make sense to their particular contexts versus being told what’s right for them.
This event marked one of the first conversations to connect the privacy and surveillance concerns raised in the wake of revelations of the PRISM program, a massive government surveillance program of electronic communications, to impacts on historically marginalized communities. The event built upon earlier dialogues that have taken place within particular issue areas and attempted to reach across social justice movements and coalesce common concerns. Groups like those represented in the room will take these conversations forward. As the unfair consequences of a surveillance state become more apparent, privacy’s social justice stakes will not be ignored.
District Makes Deal With Hedge Fund Group To Sell KCSM-TV's Public Airwaves To Wireless Companies
Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on October 4th, 2013
The Advocate - AFT Local 1493
District makes deal with hedge fund group to sell KCSM-TV's public airwaves to wireless companies
Blackstone Group to pay District $900K per year for 3-4 years and will then receive 38% of proceeds from sale of station's "spectrum holdings"
by Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance
Time is running out for KCSM-TV. The 5th largest public television station in California, whose license has been owned by the College of San Mateo since 1964, has been placed in the safe-keeping of Locuspoint Networks, a commercial entity founded by former wireless executives. Locuspoint's activities in "spectrum speculation" are described by Ben Mook in an article in the February 26, 2013 issue of Current. Locuspoint, which is a 99%-owned subsidiary of one the nation's largest hedge firms, the Blackstone Group, is described as one of three for-profit firms gambling on the upcoming TV auction to hit the jackpot buying and disposing of television stations around the country, including noncommercial ones like that belonging to the College of San Mateo.
So what does that mean for us here in the Bay Area? Local media watchdog group Media Alliance has observed the transactions surrounding KCSM-TV's demise for more than two years and has filed several public records act requests to get more details on the actions of the SMCCD board. The requests have not always been responded to promptly (one filed in April of 2012 took more than six months to get any response at all), but the most recent one has provided supporting documentation for the Locuspoint deal. If you'd like to look at the documents, they have been posted on the Media Alliance website and can be downloaded.
Given the massive amount of lawyers involved, one can assume the legal dots have been connected at a significant cost, but the gist of the agreement has some disturbing implications. Here's a quick version of what we're looking at:
Locuspoint will subsidize the operations of KCSM-TV at the cost of $900,000 per year for the next 3-4 years. The District will operate the station at substantially reduced costs for this period, which indicates a program schedule consisting of a feed from one national program supplier, aired without closed captioning for the hearing-impaired or elderly, to cut station costs. Should the TV auction go forward during this period, on the receipt of a bid at or above the unknown number described as the "minimum acceptable bid" (which is blacked out), the station's spectrum holdings will be surrendered to for-profit wireless companies and broadcasting will cease. The Blackstone Group via their "tactical opportunities division" will receive 38% of the proceeds in a massive shift of millions of dollars in public assets to the private capital firm.
Should the national spectrum auction not proceed within the designated time, then the speculator may exercise an option to sell off KCSM-TV's license to any FCC-qualified bidder of their choice, with no right of refusal from the District. In practical terms, an FCC-qualified bidder can be any California not-for-profit corporation, including national chain Christian broadcasters like Daystar (a bidder in the earlier RFP). The District, in order to meet financial obligations to a hedge firm, has signed away the ability to exercise any discretion over the invasion into Bay Area broadcasting of entities who may not be desired or appreciated by the viewing community. The members of KCSM-TV, past and present, the college community, and the viewers will have no say. It's up to the Blackstone Group.
Loss of airwaves = loss of public expression
This loss of control over college property poses some questions about the District's interpretation of the preamble to their mission statement: "The District actively participates in the economic, social, and cultural development of San Mateo County. In a richly diverse environment and with increasing awareness of its role in the global community, the District is dedicated to maintaining a climate of academic freedom in which a wide variety of viewpoints is cultivated and shared".
The financial pressures on higher education, and the California community college system in particular, are intense and should not be minimized. But by turning down an offer for $6 million dollars received last year, in search of greater short-term riches, the District's Board of Trustee's have brought to the campus community the kind of irresponsible speculation that has defunded public education and a host of services and damaged our economy – all to hand over a piece of the campus for profiteering.
It's a real question whether the campus community, the viewing community and the residents of the Bay Area would have agreed to this if the District had ever asked them.
Appeals Court Upholds Washington Faculty Free Speech Case
Posted by David Demers on September 22nd, 2013
The Lonely Activist
A Washington State appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and ruled in favor of Washington State University communications professor David Demers in his faculty free speech case against WSU.
Demers is a professor at the Murrow School of Communications and sued for First Amendment protection after submitting plans to improve the school's programs.
He writes about his experiences in an e-book. The Lonely Activist, available here for complimentary download.
Communications Safety Net: Lifeline
Posted by on September 13th, 2013
New America Foundation
Often disparaged as "Obamaphones", the Lifeline program (which was actually started during the Reagan administration) provides subsidized communication services to low-income people, enabling critical safety, health and job search services.
This DC panel (heavily populated by Californians, including Sacramento congresswoman Doris Matsui and CA Public Utility Commissioner Catherine Sandoval), deconstructs the myths about Lifeline and defines why we all need to care about affordable communications for all.
Here in California, the Public Utilies Commission is overseeing Lifeline modernization and recently fought off an attempt from legislators in Sacramento to gut the Lifeline update.
British Government Raided UK Guardian office And Smashed Hard Drives
Posted by Alan Rushbridger on August 19th, 2013
Rushbridger's blog can be found in its entirety here.
He writes "The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".
We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack"
Ecuador: Social Communication As A Public Service
Posted by Sally Burch on August 19th, 2013
Ecuador's new media laws pose some creative thoughts about what democratic communications looks like.
Despite the virulent attacks launched by some US-based media companies, a closer inspection of the laws reveals serious thought and attention about how a people-based media system might work and attempts to address many flaws in the markets-based model.
Sally Burch provides this analysis in Truthout.org:
On June 25, 2013, Ecuador's new Organic Communications Law came into force, after more than four years of debates and delays. Attacked by the mainstream press, both nationally and across the hemisphere, as a "gag" on freedom of expression, this new law in fact reflects in essence the proposals developed over more than two decades by movements supporting the democratization of communications, guarantees for diversity and plurality, and the need to regulate the media in the public interest.
As this small Latin American country has come onto the global radar due to whistle-blower Edward Snowden's application for political asylum, and is now under attack from the media cartels because of a supposed "double standard" regarding freedom of expression, it is worthwhile to clarify the scope and origins of this new law.
Following in the footsteps traced by Argentina's Audiovisual Media Law, the Ecuadorian law, mandated by the 2008 Constitution that recognizes communication as a human right, goes further in that it covers communication in its multiple dimensions.
As expressed on the day of the parliamentary vote (June 14) by Mauro Andino, main proponent of the new law and National Assembly Member from the (governing) PAIS Movement, the spirit of this law both recognizes "the enormous value and the importance of freedom of expression formulated in international instruments of human rights," while it also adds to this "a series of opportunities and services in order for that freedom to really exist for everyone, so that it ceases to be a privilege enjoyed only by those better situated in our society."
Communications, a Public Service
One of the central elements of the new law is the definition of social communication as a public service (i.e., similar to health or education) that must be provided with responsibility and quality of content, irrespective of whether the media outlet is public or private. Although this might appear obvious, given that information is a crucial aspect of democracy, right-wing opposition parliamentarians have nonetheless declared this clause as one of the first they hope to challenge in the Constitutional Court.
The law prohibits prior censorship in the press while at the same time emphasizing ultimate media liability for the content they publish (in compliance with international norms). In the interest of the universal principles of plurality and diversity, it establishes the redistribution of radio frequencies, with 33% for private media, 33% for public media and 34% for community media (to be applied gradually; at present 85% of such media are in private hands), and the elimination of monopolies in audiovisual media (with no more than one main radio station frequency concession in AM, one in FM and one in television to any one natural person or legal entity).
Other articles of the law encourage national cultural production, such as the obligation for 60% of daily broadcasting (in time slots apt for the broader public) to consist of nationally produced content, 10% of which must be from independent producers, while musical programs must include a minimum quota of 50% music produced, composed or performed in Ecuador. In countries that apply similar measures, such as Colombia, they have provided an enormous stimulus for cultural industries and artists.
Most of these proposals were initially put forward not by the government of Rafael Correa or the PAIS movement but by communications organizations and networks and social movements that for years have been fighting for the democratization of communications and recognition of the right to communicate as a universal human right. (1) The fact that the governing bodies finally came to recognize the legitimacy of these demands represents a major achievement for these movements.
Protecting Privacy and Media Workers' Rights
The Washington Post in its criticism of "double standards" in Ecuador points out that "Mr. Snowden should be particularly interested in Section 30 of the law, which bans the 'free circulation, especially by means of the communications media' of information 'protected under a reserve clause established by law'" - establishing fines as sanctions. While such clauses are standard legislation, the Post fails to mention that the clause 31 guarantees the protection of personal communications and their inviolability and secrecy, and the prohibition to record or register them, without the correspondents' consent or a court order. This is precisely the human right that the US has systematically violated.
The law defends the rights of press workers and their employment security; moreover, it stipulates that the hiring of workers in media of national scope should conform to "criteria of equity and equality between men and women, intercultural representativeness, equality of opportunity for disabled persons and intergenerational participation."
One innovation of the law is the obligation for private advertisers to allocate at least 10% of their annual advertising budget to local or regional media outlets, as a guarantee for media with a smaller broadcast range or lower print run, and those in rural areas, to share in advertising income.
Another is the prohibition of "media lynching," understood as "the dissemination of information that is expressly and recurrently designed to destroy the reputation of a natural person or legal entity or to impinge on their public credibility."
An aspect that is only marginally mentioned in the new legislation is that of digital frequencies - which have a great democratizing potential - although it does contemplate the need for an "equitable distribution of frequencies and signals made available through the digitalization of radio and television systems." However, the notion that this is largely a "technical" issue prevails, and therefore it has been left for the Telecommunications Law - in preparation - to deal with in detail.
Among the most polemical issues is the institutional framework. The new legal body creates a Council of Regulation and Development of Information and Communication, as a regulatory body; a Superintendence of Information and Communication, with powers of sanction; and a citizen Consultative Council, whose role is not yet clear and whose decisions are not binding.
Opposition groups predict the executive branch will wield "excessive power" within this structure, although, in fact, it is no more concentrated and has, in some aspects, fewer powers than under the previous law, adopted under the 1970s dictatorship (which, for example, empowered the government to close down a media outlet).
The fact is that under previous governments the mainstream media were used to creating their own rules and were rarely brought to answer for their practices or abuses. With a government that has resolved to bring order into this sector, new conflicts are likely to arise with the application of the law; and, predictably, these will be decried throughout the hemisphere as attacks on freedom of expression. When these outcries are heard, it would be worthwhile to seek out both sides of the story, which is not precisely what is usually to be found in the mainstream media when their interests are at stake.
August 26th Meeting with Nancy Pelosi's Office to Discuss Surveillance - UPDATED
Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on August 19th, 2013
Update 9/9/2013 - Here is a brief blog entry on the Stop Watching Us coalition meeting with Nancy Pelosi's SF District office on August 26th.
Stop Watching Us also met with Representative Mike Thompson in the North Bay. Read an account of that visit by Anna Givens in the North Bay Bohemian newspaper.
Talking About Spying with Nancy Pelosi's Office
When Edward Snowden's revelations about the scope and extent of NSA surveillance activities started breaking on the pages of the U.K. Guardian, it was a wake-up call for Internet freedom activists that many of our worst suspicions had come true.
As the flow of stories continued, both in the pages of Guardian and now in many other media outlets including the Washington Post, Der Speigel, the NY Times and Pro Publica, the American public grew more and more convinced of government over-reach and an overly loose interpretation of the Bill of Rights. These perceptions crossed partisan dividing lines and reached 75% of the population. Half a million people signed a petition at http://www.stopwatching.us demanding an end to the programs.
When Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican Congressman teamed up with Democrat John Conyers to amend an appropriations bill to remove funding for telephone metadata collection, it seemed like a moment when the will of the people was manifesting in DC across party lines. But when the votes were counted, Amash-Conyers came up a dozen votes short in the House. What shocked many was prominent Democrats, from the party usually identified with concerns about civil liberties, were essentially responsible for the defeat of the amendment. The nay-sayers included Democratic stalwarts like DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former whip Steny Hoyer, Texas Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee and, from one of the most left congressional districts in the country, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
What happened? Putting cynicism aside, Bay-Area-based media watchdog group Media Alliance, (a member of the national Stop Watching Us coalition), decided to find out. The best way to answer a question is to ask. So we asked for a meeting with Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco District Office on NSA surveillance. After a few rounds of messages, I received a call on August 15th. I was told the meeting was not going to happen in August. Short-staffed. I asked if the meeting could be scheduled in September. Short-staffed. I asked if any date was available for a meeting at any point in the future. I was told no date could be set, but I would be emailed Representative Pelosi's position paper on blanket surveillance.
Short-staffing can be a legitimate issue, (although as a tiny nonprofit organization, I would venture to say we deal with levels of short-staffing unknown to congressional offices). But on an issue of such popular interest and backed by a petition signed by over half a million people, the refusal was startling. It's an awkward analogy, but for a moment there I felt the quandary of the White House press corps: do I kick up a fuss and risk being blackballed forever? Media Alliance sent an email blast to 10,000 people the next day saying we had been refused the meeting. The meeting then got scheduled within a week.
By meeting day, a group was assembled that represented the breadth of the Stop Watching Us coalition: ACLU, EFF, Bill of Rights Defense Center, Hackers and Founders, and Restore the Fourth. We were meeting with Dan Bernal, Nancy Pelosi's chief of staff.
Did we get an answer to the question? Not really. And It wasn't because we didn't ask. Representative Pelosi was on the record voting not to reauthorize the Patriot Act in 2011, but seemed to see no direct contradiction between that vote and the Amash-Conyers vote.
The quickest way to describe the 45 minute meeting is as a tug of war between two ideas:
a) blanket surveillance is fundamentally unconstitutional and needs to stop
b) NSA surveillance programs need to be tweaked to rein in some level of over-reach.
The second position present in the room revolved around the discussion of vehicles (as in legislative vehicles). The vehicle focus was strangely lacking in urgency, considering that the issue has been in the headlines non-stop for months. It was as if we were casually sitting at a road dstop ebating the proper choice of vehicle to continue a leisurely journey to our destination.
I think most of us were saying “stop, we want to get off”.
A few things should be added. I appreciate the opportunity for dialogue and am glad to live in a country where I can struggle to make an appointment with legislative leaders – and succeed.
And I'd rather have a conversation where there is disagreement than no conversation at all.
But I am left with the feeling of a massive perceptual gap between the constitutional liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights and a country where that is just a piece of quaint history no one takes seriously any more.
Update 8/21 - Nancy Pelosi's District Office has agreed to the requested meeting on Monday August 26th. MA thanks her and her staff for making this time available to discuss this important issue.
On Thursday August 15th, Nancy Pelosi's office informed the Media Alliance executive director that it wasn't possible to schedule a meeting to discuss blanket surveillance and the threats posed to individual privacy rights.
It is worth noting how bizarre this is. In my six years as MA's executive director, I have scheduled and attended lobbying meetings with virtually all of the Bay Area's congressional delegation, including Ms. Pelosi's office numerous times. Such requests are routine, and while sometimes they take a while to arrange, pro forma.
This is the first time I have ever been, simply, refused a meeting.
The meeting was requested on behalf of the stopwatching.us coalition, a grouping of major civil liberties organizations and tech companies, and includes thousands of people living in, and employed in, Ms. Pelosi's district. Stopwatching.us petition drive resulted in (at last count) 567,000 signatures. https://optin.stopwatching.us/
In my mind, this brings up serious issues of accountability and representation if it is no longer possible to express, in person, concerns regarding Ms. Pelosi's votes and activities in Washington DC as a Bay Area congressional representative.
If you live in Ms. Pelosi's district, please let her know this conduct is unacceptable and a shutdown is no way to address the concerns of Bay Area residents over her pro-NSA advocacy.
Your Privacy On-Line: Why Should You Care?
Posted by Active Voice/NAMAC on August 12th, 2013
What's the cost of the so-called "free" services we use online every day? What do you gain and what do you give up when you accept the Terms and Conditions of your favorite app? And why should you care?
In this online discussion: documentary filmmakers, media activists and tech workers talk about what we give up and why it matters.
Brought to you by Active Voice and NAMAC.
Channel Guides: How Alternative Options Get Hidden From TV Viewers
Posted by Democracy Now on August 12th, 2013
A discussion on Democracy Now of channel guides in TV cable systems and how they can make alternative TV programs really, really hard to find. And what media activists are trying to do about it.
Community Broadband All Over The Place
Posted by on August 5th, 2013
Open Technology Institute
This short video from the Open Technology Institute features community broadband projects: Brooklyn, Detroit, and Dharmasala.
Helen Thomas Speaking at Media Alliance's 30th Anniversary
Posted by on July 27th, 2013
The recently-deceased maverick reporter was a questioner of presidents for generations.
Here she is in 2006, in conversation with Belva Davis, at Media Alliance's 30th anniversary birthday party at the Herbst Theater Green Room in San Francisco.
Emil Guillermo: Racism, the old fashioned kind vs the new kind
Posted by Emil Gullermo on July 19th, 2013
Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, the two 16-year-old Chinese school girls who died in the Asiana Airlines crash this weekend, aren't around to experience the kind of knee-jerky modern racism toward Asians the tragedy inspired in both mainstream and social media.
They've been spared.
But 14-year-old Milena Clarke in Kentucky certainly has had an earful of the good old-fashioned kind face to face the last two years.
"Gook." "Nigger lover." "Chubby chink."
Straight from the Paula Deen lexicon, those were just some of the point-blank epithets Milena says her own basketball teammates at Russell Middle School in Russell, Kentucky spewed at her incessantly since the 6th grade.
The toxic mix of bullying and racism isn't kid stuff. Milena, adopted as an infant from Kazakhstan, is nothing like the fictional Kazakh movie character, the jokey "Borat." Milena's features are more Asian, typical of the people from the country tucked between China and Russia in Central Asia. Indeed, Kazakhstan was the last of the Russian republics to declare independence in 1991. When Kentucky lawyer Terry Clarke and his family adopted Milena, he promised to help her never forget her ethnic roots.
He never figured her Asian-ness would bring out the intimidating racist taunts from her white teammates at Russell Middle School. Apparently ignorant of Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming, they'd harangue her about how "Asians can't play basketball."
"I'd say [to teammates] why are you saying that, and they'd just laugh and start talking about me more, and I couldn't do much about it," Milena said.
It's a real example of racism that may seem out of place in a diverse world when Asian Americans are common in urban enclaves like San Francisco or New York City.
But in Kentucky, Asians are just over one percent of the population of more than 4 million. As Asian Americans increasingly find themselves scattered throughout the U.S., they can often find themselves, like Milena, isolated and subjected to a fresh version of racism from a new generation.
When I talked to Milena this weekend, she said after two years, the impact of the racist taunting began to affect how she felt about herself.
"I just felt awful for being Asian because of them, because they were telling me how bad [Asians] were. It just really got to me," said Milena. "Everything they said made me think if I wasn't Asian, if I were white, it would be a lot less likely for this to happen."
What would be less likely, I asked?
"The harassment," she said.
Milena said along with the verbal abuse came actual physical abuse. Teammates would shove, push, and trip her. And not like the Miami Heat did in Game 7 of the NBA finals. This wasn't a game. It was an everyday occurrence.
Wasn't there ever a moment when there would be a time out? A break?
"No, not really," said Milena, who said she'd often pray that the taunting would stop.
It got to a point in 7th grade where after a practice, Milena finally had to tell her father.
"I went to the car and just broke down," she said.
Her father, an environmental lawyer, was angered. But first he reached out to the coach. And then to the school district. When nothing changed, he went to both the state and federal education departments. Finally, he sought legal help from AALDEF.
AALDEF, which has had success fighting racial bullying at South Philadelphia High School, is taking on the case. It has filed official complaints with both the Justice Department and the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education.
I put in a call to the Russell Independent School District, but Superintendent Sean Horne was unavailable for comment.
What's surprising to me is how long it took before Milena's family decided it was time to fight back. Indeed, for a while, the Clarkes took solace by having Milena, who at 5'-8" is a prized 8th grade center or power forward, play for one of the best travelling AAU teams in the area.
That team had mostly black players, which made the mostly white players on her school team call her "nigger lover."
That hurt Milena. But throughout it all, she said the most hurtful thing was when her school teammates went to the core of her being--her ethnic identity as a Central Asian from Russia.
"They said you speak Russian but you look Asian, you don't even know where you're from," Milena said. "That really hurt. Like the worst thing they could even say."
It hurts me as a parent to see someone like Milena go through this. It hurts even more to know that she's such an innocent, she didn't even know what the term "gook" meant.
That is until she went on the internet and got her definition.
This weekend she would have found much more.
Asiana Airlines Crash and the Internet's 21st Century Racism
If you thought the internet was colorblind and free of racism (it's all 1's and 0's, this digital world, right?), all it took was an Asian airline crash to prove that it doesn't take much to trigger a lot of suppressed racism.
After the Asiana Airlines crash, I was astonished to see so many examples of anti-Asian racism in both mainstream and social media (primarily on Twitter).
It remains one of the most underreported things about the crash of Asiana Flight 214.
And what was truly astonishing was how it became suddenly debatable whether an Asian slur was a slur at all. Even amongst Asian Americans.
Is racism really debatable?
Shouldn't we know it when we see it, like Milena Clarke?
Online, this headline was one of the most egregious examples:
Sun-Times Headline.jpgGet it? Fright 214. Asians often confuse "L"s and "R"s. I first thought it was a hoax. Who would be this blatant? Or maybe someone was playing around on the internet. Didn't matter really, it was still a racist thought.
Then Monday morning, Jim Kirk, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, apologized.
"There was nothing intentional on our part to play off any stereotypes," Kirk said. "If anybody was offended by that, we are sorry."
Thanks for the cop-out apology..."if anybody was offended"?
And if you weren't, party on?
The Flight/Fright pun is no different from the "chink in the armor" racist double entendre we saw during the media's Linsanity frenzy last year.
One can plead innocence, as a pun does let you have it both ways, but there's no doubt that racism is present.
The bigger question: where's the sensitivity to diversity? To Asian Americans? A diverse staff of editors would have known better. A staff sensitive to Asians and Asian Americans would have caught that.
That's the digital mainstream. Chicago Sun-Times.com.
The Twitterverse is like the Wild West. But I still didn't expect to see the flat-out racist tweets on the same day as the crash.
Here are some examples posted by the folks at ChangeLab:
devin.pngDismiss the communications on Twitter at your own peril. It's a real reflection of the way racism exists today.
In fact, the digital world can at times provide just enough anonymity to embolden racists who would otherwise suppress their racism and keep it to themselves.
In that way, the internet is how some people can use the digital cloak as if slipping on an all new "white hood," where it's still "no eyeholes necessary."
As I said, I find it equally disturbing that some Asian Americans are debating whether these slights--by the Sun-Times or on Twitter--are a big deal at all.
Considering that most Twitter users are between the ages of 18-29, they may not be aware of how this all fits into the history of racism toward Asians and Asian Americans.
In that sense, a pun created by using an "L" over an "R" vs. a racist tweet may seem like nothing, especially in a world where nothing lasts and everyone's on to the next thing.
But it does all add up.
I noticed people on Twitter who were sensitive to what was happening were mostly not Asian Americans; they were African Americans like "This Week in Blackness" host Elon James White (@elonjames), who called out the racist tweeters and their lame Asian driver jokes.
That made it important for non-Asian Americans to be "first responders." And when the two deaths of the Chinese school girls became known, the jokey racism they alerted us to was exposed for what it was--obscene.
At that point, there should be no debate. You take a stand. You speak up.
Or as b-baller Milena Clarke might say, you post-up and go for it.
It's called justice.