Tag Archives: news

How neutral is your net? It may not stay that way for long…

Last year Verizon filed an appeal against the FCC after it adopted net neutrality rules. The rules would prohibit phone and  cable companies from discriminating against certain content. On principle, net neutrality is the concept of equal access to all content and services on the internet. Many of those phone and cable companies against net neutrality feel threatened because content providers like Netflix or software like Skype take away from their own similar services. Comcast was caught the year before that (2010) by the FCC for discriminating against large file-serving sites and prioritizing others.

While the current FCC rules protect phone lines- DSL and cable – there are still fewer protections for wireless broadband internet content. As member Chris Calabrese of the ACLU Legislative Council said last year when the measures were passes, “Network neutrality principles are essential to protecting the First Amendment rights of Americans who rely on the Internet as a forum for free speech.”

If equal protections aren’t provided for broadband internet access, that’s an abridgment of free speech. It’s a slipper slope from there until the few most popular sites run the fastest and the lesser known but still important websites will be extremely slow and difficult to access.

Just recently, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings suggested Netflix receive a cut of revenue for how much business they bring to broadband internet. Netflix is the largest providers for internet video, providing nearly 30% of internet traffic during peak periods in the United States.

In another example of net neutrality in the news causing a stir and raising moral dilemmas concerning internet access is about a week ago when Comcast said they would not count their Xfinity content under Open Internet rules. They said net neutrality would not apply there because they owned complete control of the content distribution.(Because being an integrated monopoly is much better.) Comcast changed its mind a few days later saying Xfinity was simply another cable TV alternative. There’s also the issue of a content cap for Xfinity users, who think the bandwidth cap may be a way to keep away cable competitors.

    In the age where internet access is starting to get traction as another vital human right, content users and creators, as well as the FCC need to keep a sharp eye on companies elbowing their way to faster, better access on the internet. Because if some companies are getting preference that means the majority are getting screwed. Those minority sites in turn hurt users, and in cases of independent news sources this effect could be devastating. Without the principles of net neutrality enforced, the internet will no longer be the ultimate equalizer; the open space for discourse and free speech that it has become.
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We’ve read about censorship before- in books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984– and it was based partially on experiences. Now we see the same issue cropping up in the internet. It would be very convenient for many people, for governments, for dictators, and for corporations to only show us what they want us to see on the internet. This happened recently in 2010 when Google agreed to censor certain sites in China that the Chinese Industry and Information Technology’s Telecoms Development Department  didn’t approve of. Essentially, China’s “Information Department” is acting here as a ministry of propaganda. There’s no way to sugarcoat good old fashion censorship of information from the masses. Omission of information is just as bad as falsified information. There are hackers and people who are able to find ways around such internet restrictions, but not every Chinese citizen can be expected to do this. And while this agreement with Google may have started to prevent the dissemination of  pornographic or “subversive” material, who is to say where the line is drawn? Who decides at that point what is considered “subversive” or threatening to national security? The scary part is that citizens might not even know what is being kept from them. Who is to say that opinionated articles on the censorship of free speech won’t be censored next?

This isn’t just happening on search engines in communist countries, either. It’s happening here in the US and even on our cell phones. In 2008 Common Dreams reported on instances of Verizon blocking subscription text messages from the pro-choice group NARAL. Verizon cited reasons of censorship of texts that, in their opinion, “promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” Not only did this block the free exchange of information between an organization to people, but prevented those supporters from being able to organize amongst each other and efficiently rally support. Verizon was basically suppressing information that they didn’t like that could POSSIBLY stir up change.

The Common Dreams piece also cited the example from 2007 of Comcast blocking peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Are some of these sites pushing copyright laws? Yes. But that’s not all they’re used for. And the act of slowing down certain sites like this is data discrimination. While these sites may take up more bandwidth, it’s crucial to maintain equal treatment of internet traffic- net neutrality– if we want to keep the internet an open and egalitarian place for intelligent discussion and growth. Net neutrality is essential for independent media sources to be heard in a sea of mainstream media (who can afford the more expensive bandwidth for heavy traffic). If we lose this, we’re truly spiral into a nation of state-approved media, with the power of the media in the hands of the few and the rich.

R.I.P. Megavideo, you were dearly loved.


In this video, internet veterans Hank and John Green (of Vlogbrothers fame) explain the importance of free speech and expression on the internet through preserving net neutrality. They also get some help from other famous Youtubers. Hank and John Green have been spreading stimulating and educational content for years now on Youtube, as of lately through their educational project ‘Crash Course’. John Green will use his channel to explain to his subscribers everything from the economic futility of pennies to the current Syrian crisis. They are successful because they are funny and dedicated to their fans, but also because they are capable of explaining things as complex as net neutrality to their young viewers.

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All Major News Outlets Cover Trayvon Martin Tragedy, Except Fox News | ThinkProgress

All Major News Outlets Cover Trayvon Martin Tragedy, Except Fox News | ThinkProgress.

I first heard about the case on tumblr and learned more later after watching various Young Turks videos. I love the way they report with the truth and with their emotions. They get angry about the whole situation and are helping to spread the knowledge of this injustice. We SHOULD get mad and we should demand justice. Some people participated in the Hoodie march to show solidarity with Martin and make a statement about how innocent he was.

Giraldo Rivera blames Trayvon Martin’s hoodie for his murder and calls his murderer a “nutty neighborhood watch guy”. Nutty. Yeah. Just like the Professor!

This is a textbook example of victim blaming (something female rape victims are far too familiar with), not to mention blatantly ignoring racism and the hate crime involved in this tragedy. Fox news is not only late to this game, which is frankly embarrassing- but they are now missing the point of the story completely. It’s moments like this that have the power to define our nation and give the media a chance to play an important role in bringing someone to justice. If we’re not careful though, this moment could just as easily send us back in time when hate crimes were explained away and the media were complicit in letting another murderer go free.

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Open Journalism in The Guardian

The new ad for The Guardian is clear it cares about how news is shared among its readers. It’s a call for open journalism, news with an interactive element. The ad cleverly touches on current events through the Three Little Pigs parable. Instead of showing a busy news room responding to the story, the ad depicts motivated and ambitious readers upset with the news and doing all they can to change it. A quote from the editor on their new open journalism campaign reads, “The newspaper is moving beyond a newspaper. Journalists are finding they can give the whole picture better. Over a year the readership grows – a little in print, vastly in digital. Advertisers like it, too.This is what we mean by open. The newspaper is the Guardian.”

via The Guardian: a world of news at your fingertips | Help | The Guardian.

It’s a step in the right direction to acknowledge the intelligence of your readership. Now more than ever readers of online and print news want to be a part of the reporting- whether it’s sports, fashion, Occupy, Arab springs…  I wonder if any other big publications will see this and follow suit.

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The New Press Pass

Perhaps it’s the newest tool for journalists and a sign of times to come. I heard about Press Pass on a great tumblr I recently discovered called The Future Journalism Project.  I’m finding out every day more and more that tumblr is actually a great tool for news, photojournalism, and sharing information. Besides the personal, art, photography, cute animals, music, and fashion blogs I follow- I’m now starting to follow more news sources.[[ It might surprise people to hear that I first read about President Mubarak resigning and other major world events through tumblr.]] No site will ever compete with the passion and timeliness that tumblr uses have when it comes to world news, media, and pop culture. Twitter has these same users but doesn’t provide the proper space to elaborate on stories as much. The FJP tumblr recently posted:

From The Next Web:

Press Pass, a ’live directory’ of journalists from major publications, is a brand new Dubai-based site that comes to us courtesy of co-founders David Haddad, a product manager and software engineer, and Valencio Cardoso, an interactive designer.

The site lists journalists by region, beat or by publication, making it incredibly easy to find the journalist who can cover your story. Not only can you find out which journalists work at major publications and sites, you can connect with them through Twitter. You can also find out what they’re personally interested in, as Press Pass highlights the stories that they’re sharing through their Twitter feed.

The site analyzes each journalist’s tweets, creating a profile based on that content – including what they’re reading, topics they’re interested in and who they’re talking to. Each journalist is ranked based on the number of followers they have and their number of tweets.

I can’t wait to see what this leads to for independent internet journalism. Maybe we’ll even be using it soon!
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Democracy & Love, Now!

Maybe when you think of Democracy Now, you don’t necessarily think of love or romance. But this Valentine’s Day, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman spoke with Dave Isay about “All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps”, the new book out from StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an oral history project that started recording and collecting regular people’s stories through interviews with someone they love. StoryCorps has had booths and trailers all over the country since 2003 that record these interviews, share them on public radio and save them in the Library of Congress for posterity. As of most recently, some of these stories were also turned into animations for t.v. and online viewing.

Some interviews cover love from the first date until the funeral- like the tragically beautiful and well-known story of Danny and Annie (which brought me to tears). Other stories are shared between parents and their children like the “Q&A” between a young autistic boy and his loving mother. Every story is real and moving. But no matter what story you listen to or happy to watch, you will learn something about yourself and the human condition. There are stories of love, devotion, sacrifice, death, and everything in between. This profile on StoryCorps shows that Democracy Now has its eyes and ears not only on the macro story, but all the little micro stories that often go unnoticed. Here’s to Valentine’s Day and letting someone you love know that they are, in fact, not unnoticed. Take the time to share your story, even with one person, about how much you care for them.

A StoryCorps airstream trailer

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