21st-century digital evangelists had a lot in common with early Christians and Russian revolutionaries.
A long time ago, in the bad old days of the 2000s, debates about the internet were dominated by two great tribes: the Optimists and the Pessimists.
“The internet is inherently democratizing,” argued the Optimists. “It empowers individuals and self-organizing communities against a moribund establishment.”
“Wrong!” shouted the Pessimists. “The internet facilitates surveillance and control. It serves to empower only governments, giant corporations, and on occasion an unruly, destructive mob.”
These battles went on at length and were invariably inconclusive.
Nevertheless, the events of 2016 seem to have finally shattered the Optimist consensus. Long-standing concerns about the internet, from its ineffectual protections against harassment to the anonymity in which teenage trolls and Russian spies alike can cloak themselves, came into stark relief against the backdrop of the US presidential election. Even boosters now seem to implicitly accept the assumption (accurate or not) that the internet is the root of multiple woes, from increasing political polarization to the mass diffusion of misinformation.
All this has given rise to a new breed: the Depressed Former Internet Optimist (DFIO). Everything from public apologies by figures in the technology industry to informal chatter in conference hallways suggests it’s become very hard to find an internet Optimist in the old, classic vein. There are now only Optimists-in-retreat, Optimists-in-doubt, or Optimists-hedging-their-bets.
As Yuri Slezkine argues wonderfully in The House of Government, there is a process that happens among believers everywhere, from Christian sects to the elites of the Russian Revolution, when a vision is unexpectedly deferred. Ideologues are forced to advance a theory to explain why the events they prophesied have failed to come to pass, and to justify a continued belief in the possibility of something better.
Among the DFIOs, this process is giving rise to a boomlet of distinct cliques with distinct views about how the internet went wrong and what to do about it. As an anxiety-ridden DFIO myself, I’ve been morbidly cataloguing these strains of thinking and have identified four main groups: the Purists, the Disillusioned, the Hopeful, and the Revisionists.
These are not mutually exclusive positions, and most DFIOs I know combine elements from them all. I, for instance, would call myself a Hopeful-Revisionist. Read the rest of this entry »
As the Federal Communications Commission nears a fateful decision on network neutrality, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Y2K all over again.
You may remember Dec. 31, 1999. That’s the last time the Internet was expected to die, because millions of computers were going to crash when their internal clocks failed to turn over to the year 2000. I sat in the Globe’s newsroom, waiting for the end. Nothing happened. It was quite a letdown.
Now here comes another “apocalypse.” On Dec 14, the FCC is expected to abandon the Obama administration’s policy on so-called Net neutrality, in which the government forces Internet providers to treat all data equally. Activists say it’s the end of the Internet as we know it, with giant Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T free to block or slow down access to key online services unless they’re paid extra to let the data flow.
But I’m betting hardly anything will change. Not the day after Dec. 14, the month after, or the year after.
I’m as subject to panic as the next guy, but I can’t see much reason to freak out over the supposed death of Net neutrality.
I’m on board with the principle that Internet carriers should not be allowed to block certain Internet services or deliberately slow them down to make them less accessible. Many activists go further and reject “paid prioritization,” or giving superior “fast lane” service to consumers willing to pay extra.
Serious breaches of Net neutrality are pretty hard to find. An activist group called Free Press published a “greatest hits” list of alleged violations. They found 12. Oops . . . make that 10. In two decades of widespread Internet use in America, they couldn’t find even a dozen significant violations, so Free Press padded the list with two cases from outside the United States. Even the remaining 10 are questionable cases that may have been driven by network security or traffic management disputes, rather than by efforts to stamp out rivals.
Still, the Net neutrality lobby, which includes massive users of Internet services such as Google and Netflix, wanted tougher regulatory protection. They got it in 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Some called it a life preserver for Internet freedom; I call it regulatory overkill on a massive scale. Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch supporter of the Title II approach, warned in 2015 that a portion of the plan “sounds like a recipe for overreach and confusion.” Read the rest of this entry »
We should undo the Obama administration’s rules that regulate the web like a 1930s utility.
Ajit Pai writes: As millions flocked to the web for the first time in the 1990s, President Clinton and a Republican Congress decided “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet.” In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the government called for an internet “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” The result of that fateful decision was the greatest free-market success story in history.
Here’s my plan to repeal the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulation of the Internet. This time–unlike in 2015–you can read it before the @FCC votes. https://t.co/xcPDkxPgW7 https://t.co/wnshqlJoMa pic.twitter.com/wACDCspuEP
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) November 22, 2017
Encouraged by light-touch regulation, private companies invested over $1.5 trillion in nearly two decades to build out American communications networks. Without having to ask anyone’s pemission, innovators everywhere used the internet’s open platform to start companies that have transformed how billions of people live and work.
But that changed in 2014. Just days after a poor midterm election result, President Obama publicly pressured the Federal Communications Commission to reject the longstanding consensus on a market-based approach to the internet. He instead urged the agency to impose upon internet service providers a creaky regulatory framework called “Title II,” which was designed in the 1930s to tame the Ma Bell telephone monopoly. A few months later, the FCC followed President Obama’s instructions on a party-line vote. I voted “no,” but the agency’s majority chose micromanagement over markets.
This burdensome regulation has failed consumers and businesses alike. In the two years after the FCC’s decision, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6%—the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession. If the current rules are left in place, millions of Americans who are on the wrong side of the digital divide would have to wait years to get more broadband.
The effect has been particularly serious for smaller internet service providers. They don’t have the time, money or lawyers to cut through a thicket of complex rules. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, which represents small fixed wireless companies that generally operate in rural America, found that more than 80% of its members “incurred additional expense in complying with the Title II rules, had delayed or reduced network expansion, had delayed or reduced services and had allocated budget to comply with the rules.” They aren’t alone. Other small companies have told the FCC that these regulations have forced them to cancel, delay or curtail upgrades to their fiber networks.
The uncertainty surrounding the FCC’s onerous rules has also slowed the introduction of new services. One major company reported that … (read more)
FCC Head Ajit Pai: Killing Net Neutrality Will Set the Internet Free
Promises that “we’re going to see an explosion in the kinds of connectivity and the depth of that connectivity” like never before.
Nick Gillespie & Ian Keyser report: Todd Krainin, ReasonIn an exclusive interview today just hours after announcing his plan to repeal “Net Neutrality” rules governing the actions of Internet-service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has an in-your-face prediction for his critics: “Over the coming years, we’re going to see an explosion in the kinds of connectivity and the depth of that connectivity,” he said this afternoon. “Ultimately that means that the human capital in the United States that’s currently on the shelf—the people who don’t have digital opportunity—will become participants in the digital economy.”
Pai stressed that regulating the Internet under a Title II framework originally created in the 1930s had led to less investment in infrastructure and a slower rate of innovation. “Since the dawn of the commercial internet, ISPs have been investing as much as they can in networks in order to upgrade their facilities and to compete with each other,” he says. “Outside of a recession we’ve never seen that sort of investment go down year over year. But we did in 2015, after these regulations were adopted.” In a Wall Street Journal column published today, Pai says Title II was responsible for a nearly 6 percent decline in broadband network investment as ISPs saw compliance costs rise and the regulatory atmosphere become uncertain. In his interview with Reason, Pai stressed that the real losers under Net Neutrality were people living in rural areas and low-income Americans who were stuck on the bad end of “the digital divide.”
Proponents of Net Neutrality maintain that rules that went into effect in 2015 are the only thing standing between rapacious businesses such as Comcast, Verizon (where Pai once worked), and Spectrum and an Internet choking on throttled traffic, expensive “fast lanes,” and completely blocked sites that displease whatever corporate entity controls the last mile of fiber into your home or business. Pai says that is bunk and noted that today’s proposed changes, which are expected to pass full FCC review in mid-December, return the Internet to the light-touch regulatory regime that governed it from the mid-1990s until 2015.
“It’s telling that the first investigations that the prior FCC initiated under these so-called Net Neutrality rules were involving free data offerings,” says Pai, pointing toward actions initiated by his predecessor against “zero-rating” services such as T-Mobile’s Binge program, which didn’t count data used to stream Netflix, Spotify, and a host of other services against a customer’s monthly data allowance. “To me it’s just absurd to say that the government should stand in the way of consumers who want to get, and companies that want to provide, free data.”
The FCC is not completely evacuating its oversight role. ISPs, he says, will need to be completely transparent with customers about all practices related to prioritizing traffic, data caps, and more. Pai believes that market competition for customers will prove far more effective in developing better and cheaper services than regulators deciding what is best for the sector. “In wireless,” he says, “there’s very intense competition—you have four national carriers and any number of regional carriers competing to provide 4G LTE, and a number of different services. In those marketplaces where there’s not as much competition as we’d like to see, to me at least, the solution isn’t to preemptively regulate as if it were a monopoly, as if we’re dealing with ‘Ma Bell,’ but to promote more competition.” Read the rest of this entry »
The state of the Fourth Estate—and who can save it.
Brittany Karford Rogers writes: If hashtags had been a thing, these would have been some #FakeNews whoppers.
The 32 BC Mark Antony takedown: it began with a fake-news campaign masterminded by Octavian, complete with Tweet-like proclamations on ancient coins.
The Simon of Trent humdinger: in 1475 a prince-bishop in Italy set off a story that local Jews murdered missing 2-year-old Simon—and used his blood for rituals. Fifteen Jews burned at the stake.
The Benjamin Franklin special edition: he concocted an entire 1782 newspaper, peddling a fake story about Native Americans scalping 700 men, women, children, and infants.
In short, fake news is old news.
For all the handwringing over fake news today, BYU journalism professor Joel J. Campbell’s (BA ’87) response is more “meh.” It’s another punch for a profession that’s been in the ring for the better part of a decade. Trust in news media is at an all-time low. Revenue models are upended. Reporters are exhausted. Readers are fragmented. And that’s just a short list of jabs.
Looming larger in Campbell’s eyes are analytics-driven newsrooms and disenfranchised readers, who, flooded with content, are living in information silos or, worse, opting out altogether.
So how does one make sense of the crowded, increasingly polarized news landscape? And what’s left of journalism as we knew it?
BYU faculty and alumni practitioners—their collective résumés spanning Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, the Atlantic, and more—have some ideas.
Before you throw your hands up, consider the forces at play, take heart in journalists’ earnest self-searching, and look in the mirror—because the finger pointing goes all the way around.
It’s worth asking, “Is journalism still doing its job?” But as our panel of experts chimes, there’s an equally important question: “Do the citizens of this country have the will to save it?”
A Happy Accident
Journalism has a lofty goal—one epitomized by the career of R. John Hughes.
The emeritus BYU professor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his coverage of an attempted communist coup and its bloody aftermath in Indonesia. Over his career as a writer for and then editor of the Christian Science Monitor, he covered revolutions and interviewed world leaders.
“Journalism was almost like a religion to me, to get the story, and get it right, to help evince change,” Hughes says. “It’s a kind of love affair for most journalists, shining light in dark corners.”
Journalists call themselves the watchdogs, the truth seekers. The press is dubbed the Fourth Estate after all, the final check on all three branches of government. Democracy requires informed citizens; the press make up the informants. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” goes the new Washington Post tagline.
That’s the why of modern journalism.
The how—being objective, non-partisan—“is rather a new phenomenon in the history of news,” says Campbell.
It has always depended on who’s paying.
Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.
Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.
Then the internet smashed the model.
“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted.
Department stores and auto malls, the go-to advertisers, cut back on ads, facing their own disruptions: e-commerce competition and recession. Craigslist happened to the classifieds. And reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them.
As they say in the industry, the digital transition traded print dollars for digital dimes and, in turn, digital dimes for mobile pennies.
One thing is certain: it’s a fascinating time to study the news. Alum Seth C. Lewis (BA ’02) holds the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media at the University of Oregon and is a leading scholar on the digital transformation of journalism.
“We’ve gone from media monopoly to media disruption and ubiquity,” says Lewis. And in ubiquity, no one gets a sizable piece of the economic pie.
Lewis suggests that maybe the last century of advertising-based news subsidy—which fostered these objective, non-partisan notions—“was just a happy accident. Maybe instead we’re returning to other forms of funding and thinking about the news.”
Advocates for ‘free and open Internet’ picket outside FCC.
Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Elizabeth Harrington reports: Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Members of the alt-left who have been tied to violent protests in the past picketed outside the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday in protest of Chairman Ajit Pai‘s proposal to reverse net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote to undue the Obama era Title II rule that classified Internet service providers as utilities, subjecting them to more federal regulation.
Protesters covering their faces held signs that read “Ban Drudge,” with a no symbol over the Drudge Report, the highly trafficked news website run by Matt Drudge. Other protesters held signs to ban other news websites, including Breitbart and InfoWars. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans today to roll back net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.
The FCC currently regulates Internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II regulations that essentially treat the internet as a public utility similar to the old phone monopoly. Proponents of net neutrality and the invocation of Title II regulations say that such oversight is necessary to ensure that the Internet remains “open” and ISPs don’t block sites or degrade offerings by rivals. Long a critic of Title II regulations, which were invoked after the FCC lost two court battles to regulate the Internet, Pai describes them as “a panoply of heavy-handed economic regulations that were developed in the Great Depression to handle Ma Bell.”
Scrapping these rules, Pai told Reason’s Nick Gillespie, won’t harm consumers or the public interest because there was no reason for them in the first place. The rationales were mere “phantoms that were conjured up by people who wanted the FCC for political reasons to overregulate the internet,” Pai told Gillespie. “We were not living in a digital dystopia in the years leading up to 2015.”
If left in place, however, the Title II rules could harm the commercial internet, which Pai described as “one of the most incredible free market innovations in history.”
“Companies like Google and Facebook and Netflix became household names precisely because we didn’t have the government micromanaging how the internet would operate,” said Pai, who noted that the Clinton-era decision not to regulate the Internet like a phone utility or a broadcast network was one of the most important factors in the rise of our new economy. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Brady investigates a theft… and other things that didn’t happen
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a notice on its website on Sunday that it is launching a nationwide clean-up campaign aimed at internet service provider (ISP), internet data centrer (IDC), and content delivery network (CDN) companies.
It ordered checks for companies operating without government licenses or beyond the scope of licenses.
The ministry said it was forbidden to create or rent communication channels, including VPNs, without governmental approval, to run cross-border operations.
VPNs can be used to gain access to blocked websites.
China has the world’s largest population of internet users – now at 731 million people – and is home to some of the biggest internet firms such as Tencent Holdings, Baidu Inc and Alibaba Group Holding. Read the rest of this entry »
— Gary Grumbach (@GaryGrumbach) January 6, 2017
There was an apparent shooting Friday at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, according to various media reports and tweets from Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary.
I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 6, 2017
“I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running,” Fleischer tweeted Friday afternoon. He later followed up, tweeting, “The police said there is one shooter and five victims.”
A public information officer confirmed to WPEC that there was “some type of shooting incident” at the airport.
Other people claiming they were at the airport tweeted about a shooting as well….(read more)
A gunman opened fire Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, shooting at least nine people and killing one of them, Broward County officials said.
A gunman was in custody, local law enforcement sources told NBC News.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the shooting occurred inside an airport terminal. Passengers and workers were evacuated onto a tarmac. Read the rest of this entry »
Web freedom declined across the globe for the sixth consecutive year, according to a new report.
Amar Toor reports: Two-thirds of the world’s internet users live under regimes of government censorship, according to a report released today. The report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy think tank, finds that internet freedom across the globe declined for a sixth consecutive year in 2016, as governments cracked down on social media services and messaging apps.
“Although the blocking of these tools affects everyone, it has an especially harmful impact on human rights defenders, journalists, and marginalized communities who often depend on these apps to bypass government surveillance.”
— Sanja Kelly, director and co-author of the Freedom on the Net 2016 report
The findings are based on an analysis of web freedom in 65 countries, covering 88 percent of the world’s online population. Freedom House ranked China as the worst abuser of internet freedom for the second consecutive year, followed by Syria and Iran. (The report does not include North Korea.) Online freedom in the US increased slightly over the year due to the USA Freedom Act, which limits the bulk collection of metadata carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies.
“Telegram faced restrictions in four countries including China, where the government blocked the encrypted messaging service due to its rising popularity among human rights lawyers.”
This year saw a notable crackdown on secure messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. WhatsApp was blocked or restricted in 12 countries over the course of the year — more than any other messaging app — including in Bahrain, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, where authorities blocked it in response to civilian protests. Telegram faced restrictions in four countries including China, where the government blocked the encrypted messaging service due to its rising popularity among human rights lawyers.
Read the rest of this entry »
The massive siege on Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, shows those ominous predictions are now a reality.
“The complexity of this attack is because it’s so distributed. It’s coming from tens of millions of source IP addresses that are globally distributed around the world. What they’re doing is moving around the world with each attack.”
An unknown attacker intermittently knocked many popular websites offline for hours Friday, from Amazon to Twitter and Netflix to Etsy. How the breach occurred is a cautionary tale of the how the rush to make humdrum devices “smart” while sometimes leaving out crucial security can have major consequences.
Dyn, a provider of Internet management for multiple companies, was hit with a large-scale distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which its servers were flooded with millions of fake requests for information, so many that they could no longer respond to real ones and crashed under the weight.
Who orchestrated the attack is still unknown. But how they did it — by enslaving ordinary household electronic devices such as DVRs, routers and digital closed-circuit cameras —is established.
The attackers created a digital army of co-opted robot networks, a “botnet,” that spewed millions of nonsense messages at Dyn’s servers. Like a firehose, they could direct it at will, knocking out the servers, turning down the flow and then hitting it full blast once again.
The specific weapon? An easy-to-use botnet-creating software called Mirai that requires little technical expertise. An unknown person released it to the hacker underground earlier this month, and security experts immediately warned it might come into more general use.
Mirai insinuates itself into household devices without the owner’s knowledge, using them as platforms to send the sever-clogging messages even as the device continues to do its day job for its true owner. Read the rest of this entry »
Hackers took control of home security cameras and video recorders to launch one of the biggest Internet attacks in history this month. The unprecedented attack raised questions about how the Internet will cope with a flood of connected and vulnerable devices expected to come online in the next few years.
Strings of code were released to the Internet by a group calling themselves ‘the Shadow Brokers’. They claim the code is a tool that can be used to hack into any computer.
The cache mysteriously surfaced over the weekend and appears to be legitimate.
Ellen Nakashima reports: Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency’s elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency’s operations and the security of government and corporate computers.
“Faking this information would be monumentally difficult, there is just such a sheer volume of meaningful stuff. Much of this code should never leave the NSA.”
— Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley
A cache of hacking tools with code names such as Epicbanana, Buzzdirection and Egregiousblunder appeared mysteriously online over the weekend, setting the security world abuzz with speculation over whether the material was legitimate.
The file appeared to be real, according to former NSA personnel who worked in the agency’s hacking division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO).
“Without a doubt, they’re the keys to the kingdom,” said one former TAO employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal operations. “The stuff you’re talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major government and corporate networks both here and abroad.”
Said a second former TAO hacker who saw the file: “From what I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that it was legitimate.”
“Without a doubt, they’re the keys to the kingdom. The stuff you’re talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major government and corporate networks both here and abroad.”
Strings of code were released to the Internet by a group calling themselves “the Shadow Brokers”. They claim the code is a tool that can be used to hack into any computer.
The file contained 300 megabytes of information, including several “exploits,” or tools for taking control of firewalls in order to control a network, and a number of implants that might, for instance, exfiltrate or modify information.
The exploits are not run-of-the-mill tools to target everyday individuals. They are expensive software used to take over firewalls, such as Cisco and Fortinet, that are used “in the largest and most critical commercial, educational and government agencies around the world,” said Blake Darche, another former TAO operator and now head of security research at Area 1 Security.
The software apparently dates back to 2013 and appears to have been taken then, experts said, citing file creation dates, among other things.
“The tools were posted by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers using file-sharing sites such as BitTorrent and DropBox.”
“What’s clear is that these are highly sophisticated and authentic hacking tools,” said Oren Falkowitz, chief executive of Area 1 Security and another former TAO employee.
Several of the exploits were pieces of computer code that took advantage of “zero-day” or previously unknown flaws or vulnerabilities in firewalls, which appear to be unfixed to this day, said one of the former hackers.
The disclosure of the file means that at least one other party — possibly another country’s spy agency — has had access to the same hacking tools used by the NSA and could deploy them against organizations that are using vulnerable routers and firewalls. It might also see what the NSA is targeting and spying on. And now that the tools are public, as long as the flaws remain unpatched, other hackers can take advantage of them, too.
“The disclosure of the file means that at least one other party — possibly another country’s spy agency — has had access to the same hacking tools used by the NSA and could deploy them against organizations that are using vulnerable routers and firewalls. It might also see what the NSA is targeting and spying on. And now that the tools are public, as long as the flaws remain unpatched, other hackers can take advantage of them, too.”
The NSA did not respond to requests for comment.
“Faking this information would be monumentally difficult, there is just such a sheer volume of meaningful stuff,” Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, said in an interview. “Much of this code should never leave the NSA.”
The tools were posted by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers using file-sharing sites such as BitTorrent and DropBox. Read the rest of this entry »
“The vocal minority of students who actually want censorship—who want to be protected from ideas they don’t like—they’ve always existed,” says Reason associate editor Robby Soave. “But in the last five years they have gained institutional power on these campuses.”
From microaggressions and trigger warnings, to the shouting down and assault of controversial speakers, the climate on American college campuses have shifted sharply away from the classical understanding of free speech and inquiry that were once the bedrock of higher education.
Soave, who reports on political correctness and on college campuses for Reason, sat down with Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch at Reason Weekend, the annual event hosted by the Reason Foundation, to talk about the state of free speech on American colleges and universities.
Edited by Alex Manning. Camera by Paul Detrick and Todd Kranin
In 2015 we witness a rare geopolitcal power shift – and in the face of every kind of new external challenge the leaders of the EU and the USA have never looked weaker or more bemused.
Christopher Booker writes: As we enter this new year, what is the most significant feature of how the world is changing that went almost unnoticed in the year just ended? Two events last autumn might have given us a clue.
One was the very peculiar nature of that state visit in October, when the president of China was taken in a golden coach to stay at Buckingham Palace, down a Mall lined with hundreds of placard-waving pro‑China stooges, while the only people manhandled away by Chinese security guards were a few protesters against China’s treatment of Tibet and abuses of human rights.
Led by David Cameron, our politicians could not have fawned more humiliatingly on the leader of a country whose economy, before its recent wobbles, was predicted by the IMF to overtake that of the US as the largest in the world in 2016. While Britain once led the world in steel‑making and the civil use of nuclear power, the visit coincided with the crumbling of the remains of our steel industry before a flood of cheap Chinese steel, as our politicians pleaded for China’s help in building, to an obsolete design, the most costly nuclear power station in the world.
Three weeks later came the rather less prominent visit of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, whose even faster-growing economy is predicted by financial analysts to become bigger than Britain’s within three years, and to overtake China’s as the world’s largest in the second half of the century. Read the rest of this entry »
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called ‘The Power of Deepening Reforms‘.
Alyssa Abkowitz, Yang Jie and Chang Chen report: As 2015 comes to an end, China Central Television is rolling out a novel rap song that presents a year in review, Communist Party style – with only good news.
On Monday, the state broadcaster released a 2:44-minute rap to celebrate the achievements of everyone’s favorite party organ, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which will mark its two-year anniversary on Dec. 30.
The song — which struck China Real Time as more Skee-Lo than Kendrick Lamar – reminds the Chinese public to “trust the government” and look at China’s progress on advancing education, combating smog and reforming the health care system during 2015.
It also features voice clips from President Xi Jinping (although the soundbites appear to have been sampled from Mr. Xi’s speeches rather than performed by the Chinese leader live in-studio).
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called “The Power of Deepening Reforms.” It comes on the heels of the second year of Mr. Xi’s far-reaching anticorruption campaign, which has snagged, as the song says, hundreds of “flies, tigers and large foxes.”
It also touts China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s move to accept the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and the progress made by the “One Belt, One Road” network of infrastructure projects.
Xi makes his debut at around 49 seconds with the phrase: “To turn the people’s expectations into our actions.” Ten seconds later, he comes back, saying, “An arrow will never return once it’s shot.” Read the rest of this entry »
These U.S. regulations stall innovation.
Christopher S. Yoo writes:The decade-long debate over network neutrality reached a moment of truth earlier this month when a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in the judicial challenge to the open Internet rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February. Admittedly, the questions that judges ask often provide little guidance as to what they will eventually decide. But both proponents and opponents of network neutrality agree that the FCC had a tough day.
The court focused attention on three aspects of the FCC’s order. First, the judges questioned the agency’s authority to regulate the handling of traffic within fixed-line networks, such as cable modem or DSL systems. Second, they challenged the propriety of the rules mandating network neutrality within wireless networks. Third, they scrutinized the rules governing interconnection, which is how networks exchange traffic with each other.
The judges seemed to challenge the agency hard on the second and third issues, the ones regarding mobile networks and interconnection. Their primary concern focused on certain last-minute changes to the order. Specifically, the judges questioned whether the public was given proper notice of those changes and whether the changes were properly integrated into the overall regulatory scheme. The FCC fared the best on the first issue, but even then it faced tough questions about why the scheme differed so much from the way the rules were initially proposed. Read the rest of this entry »
Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots.
“To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.”
Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
“In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.”
But the recent execution of the itinerant Beijing resident by Islamic State, along with a Norwegian hostage, triggered a particularly bitter outpouring of online commentary in China. While France responded to the massacre in Paris by declaring it was at war with Islamic State, and U.S. and Russian jets pounded the group’s strongholds, critics noted that the Chinese government offered only angry rhetoric in response to the killing of Mr. Fan.
“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.
“But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.”
Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.
President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”
To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.
That has eaten away at China’s long-standing policy of “noninterference” in the affairs of other countries. Read the rest of this entry »
In The Wall Street Journal, Information Age columnist Gordon Crovitz writes about how China censors your Internet—Beijing thinks Taylor Swift’s “1989” is code for Tiananmen Square and must be blocked….(read more)
An exec who worked with the GOP candidate at AT&T and Lucent defends Fiorina’s leadership and business record.
Bill Rohrbach writes: I first met Carly Fiorina when we were both working at AT&T. I began reporting directly to her in 1991, when she was heading up of worldwide strategy and I held a similar role for the company’s European division. That arrangement lasted until 1993—though we continued to work together on and off until she left Lucent in 1999.
“I’m here to tell you that Fiorina’s detractors, including Donald Trump, couldn’t be more wrong in their assessment of her leadership. Fiorina was bright, insightful, and dedicated to growing our company and developing relationships with employees and customers.”
I’m here to tell you that Fiorina’s detractors, including Donald Trump, couldn’t be more wrong in their assessment of her leadership. Fiorina was bright, insightful, and dedicated to growing our company and developing relationships with employees and customers. There is a reason she rose from a secretary to a CEO – Fiorina is the real deal.
“There is a reason she rose from a secretary to a CEO – Fiorina is the real deal.”
In 1984, the giant conglomerate that was the Bell System restructured into multiple divisions, including the newly formed Network Systems, which served the equipment needs of telephone operating companies. Most of these carriers were former Bell System companies—but they were free to purchase their products from any supplier. In other words, Network Systems needed to be competitive in order to remain viable.
Unfortunately, Network Systems was struggling and losing U.S. market share. One reason for this slide: The company’s products were simply not competitive with other suppliers.
Under the old Bell System, products had been designed by Bell Laboratories, manufactured by Western Electric and purchased by the Bell Operating Telcos. And while this vertical integration model produced the most advanced network in the world—as well as significant profits—for AT&T prior to the restructuring, Network Systems needed a new approach if it was going to continue to compete. Read the rest of this entry »
America for One Day
Dear President Xi,
Welcome back! The last time you were stateside—at the Sunnylands estate in California a couple of years ago—you seemed to be at the top of your game. China’s GDP was about to overtake America’s. You were cracking down on corruption, liberalizing markets, setting the pace for what you called “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Upper East Siders competed to place their toddlers in Mandarin immersion programs. Newspaper columnists fantasized about the U.S. becoming “China for one day.”
Now your stock market has fizzled, your economy is sinking under the weight of unsustainable debts and zombie companies, your neighbors despise you, and every affluent Chinese is getting a second passport and snapping up a foreign home. Even in Beijing, word is out that behind that enigmatic smile you’re a man overmatched by your job. And out of your depth.
Maybe you’re even thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice to be America for one day?
Yes, America, perhaps the only country on earth that can be serially led by second- or third-rate presidents—and somehow always manage to come up trumps (so to speak). America, where half of the college-age population can’t find New York state on a map—even as those same young Americans lead the world in innovation. America, where Cornel West is celebrated as an intellectual, Miley Cyrus as an artist, Jonathan Franzen as a novelist and Kim Kardashian as a beauty—and yet remains the cultural dynamo of the world.
America, in short, which defies every ethic of excellence—all the discipline and cunning and delicacy and Confucian wisdom that are the ways by which status and power are gained in China—yet manages to produce excellence the way a salmon spawns eggs. Naturally. By way of a deeper form of knowing. Read the rest of this entry »
“I think bitcoin is more robust because we cannot depend on Satoshi [Nakamoto, creator of bitcoin] to say, ‘Hey, Satoshi, what do we do with the block size?'” says Wences Casares, founder of the bitcoin wallet Xapo. “I think that would be a weaker bitcoin.”
Casares is an entrepreneur who brought the first internet service provider to his home country of Argentina and then launched the mega successful online brokerage firm Patagon. So people listen when he says that bitcoin “may change the world more than the Internet did.”
Reason TV‘s Zach Weissmueller sat down with Casares in Xapo’s San Francisco headquarters and discussed the state of bitcoin, why he believes that bitcoin’s core technology needs modification to increase block size, and why such a modification doesn’t threaten the future of the crypotcurrency as some critics fear. Read the rest of this entry »
Industry reports are out that show the number of DDoS attacks is trending upward, even hitting new highs.
Andy Meek reports: No wonder the Pentagon has announced it’s working on a plan to fund tools and researchers to help organizations defend themselves against the pervasive threat of cyber assaults known as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
“The threat posed by distributed denial of service (DDoS) and web application attacks continues to grow each quarter. Malicious actors are continually changing the game by switching tactics, seeking out new vulnerabilities and even bringing back old techniques that were considered outdated.”
— John Summers, vice president of Akamai’s cloud security business unit
In recent days, the agency said it’s looking to fund researchers who can come up with tools as part of a program starting next April that would, among other things, help organizations recover from DDoS attacks in a maximum of 10 seconds. And the acknowledgement of that hunt for researchers for the program, called Extreme DDoS Defense, arguably comes not a moment too soon.
A few new industry reports are out that show the number of DDoS attacks is trending upward, even hitting new highs. Their provenance and targets take many forms – from organized, malicious hackers targeting sophisticated organizations to more isolated incidents where, experts say, the intent is to just find a weakness somewhere, anywhere. But the result is a kind of cyber blitz that’s growing in number and aggressiveness.
New York Magazine was among those organizations recently hit by a DDoS attack, and at a critical moment. After publishing the blockbuster results of an interview with 35 women who’ve accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, the magazine’s website was knocked offline by what appeared to be a DDoS attack.
His company is a cloud-based application delivery service. According to another cloud services provider, Akamai Technologies, DDoS attacks were up 132% in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Apple recently has venturing out from the norm when it comes to where it hosts its product unveil events.
Chance Miller reports: The Planning Department documents simply list that a company has reserved the location for a “trade show” running from September 4th to September 10th, although no company has publicly confirmed that it has reserved the location. Given the length of the reservation and the amount of secrecy surrounding the details, it definitely seems more than likely that Apple is behind it. Hoodline claims that its source shared documents from event logistics that confirm Apple is renting the building.
Security personnel and police forces have been patrolling the building this week at all hours, while heavy equipment has been loaded into a stationed around the building. Furthermore, several planned street closures also corroborate the idea of Apple holding its event at the Bill Graham Civic Center:
Furthermore, planned street closures in the area reveal that Grove Street in front of the auditorium will be shut down to traffic from 6pm on Tuesday Sept. 8th to 11:59pm on Thursday Sept. 10th, while Fulton between Hyde and Larkin will be shut down on Wednesday Sept. 9th between 4am and 11:59pm. That block of Fulton is frequently used as a staging area for film crews and equipment in the Civic Center area, as it was during February’s filming of the upcoming Steve Jobs movie.
Apple recently has venturing out from the norm when it comes to where it hosts its product unveil events. For instance, last year’s fall iPhone and Apple Watch event was held at De Anza College. This move on Apple’s part reportedly cost it over $1 million due to fees for campus disruption, security, and the use of the Flint Center itself. Read the rest of this entry »
In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.
“What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?”
For better or for worse, we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness. The Internet is less open and more centralized. It’s more regulated. And increasingly it’s less global, and more divided. These trends: centralization, regulation, and globalization are accelerating. And they will define the future of our communications network, unless something dramatic changes.
Twenty years from now,
• You won’t necessarily know anything about the decisions that affect your rights, like whether you get a loan, a job, or if a car runs over you. Things will get decided by data-crunching computer algorithms and no human will really be able to understand why.
• The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago.
• Rather than being overturned, existing power structures will be reinforced and replicated, and this will be particularly true for security.
•Internet technology design increasingly facilitates rather than defeats censorship and control.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change course, we need to ask some hard questions and make some difficult decisions.
What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?
How can we stop being afraid and start being sensible about risk? Technology has evolved into a Golden Age for Surveillance. Can technology now establish a balance of power between governments and the governed that would guard against social and political oppression? Given that decisions by private companies define individual rights and security, how can we act on that understanding in a way that protects the public interest and doesn’t squelch innovation? Whose responsibility is digital security? What is the future of the Dream of Internet Freedom?
For me, the Dream of Internet Freedom started in 1984 with Steven Levy’s book “Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Levy told the story of old school coders and engineers who believed that all information should be freely accessible. They imagined that computers would empower people to make our own decisions about what was right and wrong. Empowering people depended on the design principle of decentralization. Decentralization was built into the very DNA of the early Internet, smart endpoints, but dumb pipes, that would carry whatever brilliant glories the human mind and heart could create to whomever wanted to listen. Read the rest of this entry »
Digital News Sites Continue To Flourish
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Online outlets are the number one source of news in the United States, surpassing both television and print, according to a new study.
The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015 found that 43 percent of Americans identified online sources as their “main source” of news, as reported by Tap Into. Television trails slightly behind with 40 percent of Americans citing it as their main source of news.
“We see the smart phone more clearly as the defining device for digital news with a disruptive impact on consumption, formats, and business models.”
— Nic Newman, Research Associate, Reuters Institute
Research indicates that seven out of ten magazines have lost subscribers in recent years. About half of news magazines analyzed received more visits via mobiledevices than desktops, according to Pew Research Center. The Pew study also found that print newspapers continue to struggle with circulation dropping 3 percent from 2013 to 2014.
“The U.S., United Kingdom, and Japan showed the most growth in news accessed via smartphones. Average weekly usage has grown from 37 to 46 percent across all countries, with two-thirds of smartphone users now accessing news through their devices every week.”
The new Reuters study suggests that mobile news and video news consumption online are experiencing substantial growth…(read more)
Adam Rogers writes: Imagine an election—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.
In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”
Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.
One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.
But of course that was all artificial—in the lab. So the researchers packed up and went to India in advance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a national campaign with 800 million eligible voters. (Eventually 430 million people voted over the weeks of the actual election.) “I thought this time we’d be lucky if we got 2 or 3 percent, and my gut said we’re gonna get nothing,” Epstein says, “because this is an intense, intense election environment.” Voters get exposed, heavily, to lots of other information besides a mock search engine result. Read the rest of this entry »
Ministry of Public Security: China’s crackdown on online forums to prevent fraud and limit ‘spreading of rumors’.
China’s Ministry of Public Security will set up the units at key websites and Internet companies to help them prevent crimes such as fraud and “spreading of rumors,” China’s official Xinhua news service said late Tuesday.
China’s Ministry of Public Security didn’t say which companies will have the new police units. China’s Internet sector is dominated by three companies: e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., gaming and messaging company Tencent Holdings Ltd. and search-engine provider Baidu Inc.
Neither the companies nor the ministry responded immediately to requests for comment Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the cyberpolice units would apply to international, as well as domestic, tech firms operating in China.
Japanese poster for ONIBABA (Kaneto Shindo, Japan, 1964)
Poster source: Posteritati
Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has resigned after a week of uproar over the company’s firing of long-time staffer Victoria Taylor. Pao, who was serving as Reddit’s interim CEO, is leaving the company and also resigning her seat on Reddit’s board…(read more)
Pao Out as Reddit CEO; Co-Founder Huffman Takes Over
Ellen Pao is stepping down as Reddit’s CEO, a move that comes amid mounting pressure after a series of management mishaps that has angered its very vocal online community. Steve Huffman, Reddit co-founder and its original CEO, is taking over immediately.
In an interview this afternoon, Pao said the departure was a “mutual decision” with the board, due in part to different views on growth potential. “They had a more aggressive view than I did,” she said.
When I asked her directly if she was fired, Pao laughed and said, “Thanks for getting right to the point,” but again underscored that she resigned. Reddit board member and Y Combinator head Sam Altman answered more definitively about whether she was ousted: “No.”
Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, as it seemed that Pao — who has been interim CEO at the company — was inevitably headed for the exit after the ire over the firing of a support staffer for the site’s many moderators morphed and mutated into loud and sometimes vile calls for her ouster….(read more)
Chart: The backlash against Reddit CEO Ellen Pao
For Quartz, Alice Truong reports: Ever since a popular moderator was fired July 2, users have been taking aim at Ellen Pao, the social message board’s interim CEO. They’ve shut down hundreds of forums in protest, abandoned the site for new competitors, and called for Pao’s resignation with a Change.org petition (211,000 signatures and counting)…
…The chart above created by Imgur user fantasia123, which was shared on Reddit, charts Pao’s comment karma. (A bit of background: On Reddit, accumulating karma is akin to collecting points in a video game. Users get karma when their posts or comments are upvoted by other community members, and they lose it when they are downvoted. Though karma can’t be redeemed for anything, it’s like a badge of honor and publicly displayed next to people’s usernames.) Read the rest of this entry »