posted about 2 hours ago on techdirt
Last last week, a report out of the UK topped the trending news items at Hacker News. The report found that U.S. broadband speeds -- historically the poster child for mediocrity -- jumped roughly 90% during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The improvements weren't consistent geographically, and the report was quick to note that by and large, the U.S. remains relatively mediocre when it comes to broadband speeds (in large part due to limited competition): "The US stills lags behind many European and developed nations worldwide, and its major cities also often lag behind their European equivalents. That said, there is cause for celebration in Dallas, Seattle and Austin, after our analysis has shown that these cities are performing extremely well relative to most European capital cities." I spoke briefly to study author Thomas Buck after he reached out to note that folks were misinterpreting his study. Yes, the study shows U.S. broadband speeds jumped 90% in 2020. But Buck also notes this likely isn't because of policy decisions at the FCC, or because ISPs did much of anything differently. It's most likely because when consumers were forced to stay home to work and attend school during COVID lockdown, they were simply willing to pay more money for already available, faster speeds because they realized faster broadband was essential. Buck put it this way: "... the findings are more likely to suggest increased consumer spending on high-speed plans for working from home than anything else...speed test data is fascinating and helpful, but using it as proof that net neutrality was bad is a giant stretch by any means. When looking at broadband data, I think it’s more important to discuss the dark spots (subscriber data, full capacity testing at scale, same-year fiber build data) than what we have (hundreds of thousands of speed tests, most of them showing results a fraction of what ISPs advertise)." Yet a number of folks (including commenters at Hacker News) set to work trying to claim that this sudden boost in speed was courtesy of the FCC's decision to kill net neutrality and effectively self-immolate at telecom lobbyist behest. It's part of a fairly relentless attempt to proclaim that because killing net neutrality didn't immediately result in a rainbow-colored explosion, the repeal itself must have somehow been a good thing. For example, this entire thread from a Federalist contributor takes the study and creates an elaborate alternate reality where critics of the net neutrality repeal must have been wrong, because (you guessed it) the internet didn't immediately come to a stop: 🧵Thread🧵 Three years ago, America was locked in a battle for #NetNeutrality, and, by extension, life as we knew it. For the lucky few who survived, I invite you to join me on a quick stroll down memory lane to revisit the doom and gloom we were promised. https://t.co/wdQC8GRktj — Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) November 25, 2020 Yes, many activists and supporters of net neutrality were hyperbolic in trying to explain the very real, very negative impact the net neutrality repeal would have over the longer term. That doesn't mean it wasn't a terrible idea done in exclusive service to telecom monopolies. Once again, killing net neutrality didn't just kill fairly modest net neutrality rules. It left the FCC incapable of holding giant ISPs accountable for fraud, anti-competitive behavior, predatory billing, bogus fees, privacy violations, and all the other symptoms of a broken, uncompetitive, and highly geographically monopolized U.S. telecom market. If you think that's a good thing (especially during a massive economic and public health crisis that has shown broadband to be an essential lifeline), you either don't understand how any of this works, or are being intentionally misleading. Speaking of misleading, the study also appears to have popped up in FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr's goodbye letter to Ajit Pai (pdf), in which he attributes the speed jump to Pai's incredible leadership: "With Internet speeds more than doubling under his leadership, America is now home to the strongest 5G platform in the world." That is, if you're playing along at home, not true. 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly. Tens of millions more live under a broadband duopoly. Americans pay some of the highest prices in the world for what's routinely patchy service, mediocre speeds, and terrible customer service. And U.S. 5G speeds also provably and dramatically lag behind most other developed nations as well. There's a reason for this: it's called regulatory capture and mindless pandering to powerful telecom monopolies. Resulting in the FCC effectively dismantling itself because Comcast and AT&T told it to. Again, if you genuinely think having chickenshit regulators commit seppuku because some widely despised telecom monopolists told them to is a good thing, you're either very confused as to how absolutely any of this works, or you're being intentionally misleading. Possibly both.

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posted about 5 hours ago on techdirt
When the EU Copyright Directive was being drawn up, one of the main battlegrounds concerned memes. The fear was that the upload filters brought in by the new law would not be able to distinguish between legal use of copyright material for things like memes, quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche, and illegal infringements. Supporters of the Directive insisted that memes and such-like would be allowed, and that it was simply scaremongering to suggest otherwise. When the Directive was passed, BBC News even ran a story with the headline "Memes exempt as EU backs controversial copyright law". The MEP Mary Honeyball is quoted as saying: "There's no problem with memes at all. This directive was never intended to stop memes and mashups." But just as supporters insisted that upload filters would not be obligatory -- and then afterwards changed their story, admitting they were the only way to implement the new law -- so people who insisted that memes and parodies would still be allowed are now demanding that they should be banned. Copyright companies were the first to make that shift, and now a group of 576 German artists have sent a letter to the German government and politicians complaining about the proposed implementation of the Copyright Directive in their country (original in German). In particular, they are appalled by: the introduction of all kinds of exceptions, some of which are so outrageously contrary to European law, that we can only shake our heads: up to 20 seconds of music, remixes, mash-ups, samples etc. -- everything should be freely usable, without a license. In other words, precisely the things that supporters of the EU Copyright Directive promised absolutely would be freely usable, without a license, when experts warned that the new legislation could threaten these legal activities. Now these artists are demanding that the German government ignore all those assurances that user rights would indeed be preserved. However, as Heise Online reports, not all German artists are so selfish in their desire to take away what few rights ordinary members of the public have in the use of copyright material for memes, remixes and the like. A group of 48 top German artists using social media to great effect, and who together have around 88 million followers on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and TikTok, take a very different view of the German government's proposed implementation (original in German): Article 3 paragraph 6 describes the public reproduction of a tiny excerpt of works protected by copyright and parts of works by the user of a service provider, for non-commercial purposes or where insignificant income is involved. In these circumstances, thanks to Article 3 Paragraph 6 it would be legal to use up to 20 seconds of a film, up to 20 seconds of a sound track, up to 1,000 characters of text and a picture of up to 250 kilobytes without having to purchase a license, since the rightsholders are compensated for the usage via the service provider. We content creators expressly support this rule. This so-called "legalization of memes" shows that the politics of [the German government] is close to how reality operates. What defines our culture is always evolving, also through digitization. Memes have been part of our culture for many years and are finally recognized by this ministerial draft. The statement from the 48 social media artists also includes a neat encapsulation of why their position is so different from the 576 artists whining about memes and mashups: we would like to point out that content creators are simultaneously users and owners of copyrights, i.e. [they are both] creatives and companies in the cultural industry. The 576 artists who wish to deny an Internet user the right to draw on copyright material for memes, parodies, mashups etc. forget that they too draw constantly on the works of others as they create -- sometimes explicitly, sometimes more subtly. To cast themselves as some kind of creative priesthood that should be granted special privileges not available to everyone else is not just unfair, but insulting and short-sighted. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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posted about 15 hours ago on techdirt
This always seemed like the the most likely outcome, but Trump had complicated things with his temper tantrum demands and his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it didn't include a clause wiping out Section 230. However, Congress has come to its senses and leaders of both parties have said they'll ignore his impotent veto threat and move forward with the bill as is. The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that will soon be considered by the House and Senate won’t include Trump’s long-sought repeal of the legal immunity for online companies, known as Section 230, according to lawmakers and aides. Key to this was Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe pointing out the obvious: "First of all 230 has nothing to do with the military." That's both first of all and last of all. The whole attempt to use the NDAA to attack CDA 230 was just bizarre. Inhofe did say he still thinks that 230 should go, but not as a part of the NDAA. A few other Republicans are finally speaking up as well. Still, Republicans on Wednesday showed some signs of exasperation with the president’s latest effort. As one GOP lawmaker put it: “Republicans are sick of this shit.” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, put it more delicately. While he said he understood the president’s frustrations with Section 230, it was not worth imperiling the broader defense bill. “The NDAA is so important to the men and women that wear the uniform that this should not be an item to veto the act over,” he said. “So I would hope he would reconsider his position on it.” And Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said his “preference” would be to pass the NDAA and then address Section 230 separately. Democratic critics of Section 230 were equally as annoyed. Remember, Senator Richard Blumenthal has been one of the most vocal critics of Section 230 going back to the time before he was a Senator and when he was stymied in trying to sue Craigslist by Section 230 (he was upset that sex workers use Craigslist, and wanted to blame Craigslist for the fact that sex workers exist). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a co-sponsor of the only bipartisan bill targeting Section 230 to advance out of committee this Congress, called the veto threat "deeply dangerous and just plain stupid.” He added, “Reforming Section 230 deserves its own debate — one that I’ve helped lead in Congress, and which I look forward to continuing with a more serious, thoughtful administration in January.” In another article, Rep. Frank Pallone stated the obvious: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone said in a statement that Trump is "holding a critical defense bill hostage in a petulant attempt to punish Twitter for fact-checking him. Our military and national security should not suffer just because Trump's ego was bruised." There is still plenty of appetite to attack Section 230. And there will be lots of dumb fights about it, but it's not going down this way.

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posted about 17 hours ago on techdirt
Summary: The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violent interactions, often in support of Donald Trump, received prominent attention during the first Presidential debate of 2020 between Trump and Joe Biden. Upon being asked about whether or not he would condemn white supremacist groups that support him, Trump asked for an example. When given The Proud Boys, Trump told them to “stand back and stand by,” which many in the group took to be an endorsement of their activities. While the group has long denied that its views are racist, the group has long said that it is based around “Western chauvinism” and has been repeatedly associated with violence and white supremacist groups and individuals. Both Twitter and Facebook banned the group in 2018. However, after they received renewed attention at the 2020 debate, actor George Takei suggested “reclaiming” the #ProudBoys hashtag, and using it to promote the LGBTQ community instead, saying that they could respond to hate with love. This made the hashtag go viral on a variety of platforms, including Twitter and Instagram (owned by Facebook). In response Facebook was accused (incorrectly) of only just blocking the hashtag after this attempt at reclaiming. However, Facebook exec Andy Stone noted that the opposite was true, and that Facebook was currently in the process of unbanning the hashtag after seeing how it had been reclaimed, and the meaning and usage changed. Decisions to be made by Facebook: Is banning an entire hashtag appropriate?When do you ban a hashtag associated with violence and bigotry?How do you decide when to reverse such a ban, if the hashtag has been “reclaimed” by groups seeking to promote counter-messaging?How do you avoid having that unbanned hashtag abused again at a later date? Questions and policy implications to consider: How do you create policies for situations that may change over time?How do you handle situations in which the meanings of words and terms may change as other people make use of them?Will banning hashtags or phrases act to prevent this kind of bottom up behavior? Resolution: By moving quickly, Facebook and Instagram were able to relatively quickly allow for this viral response to reclaim the hashtag from the group. However, it remains an open question whether or not this usage will stay, or if the group will move to reclaim it as well, creating a constant cat & mouse scenario for a content moderation team. Originally published on the Trust & Safety Foundation website

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posted about 19 hours ago on techdirt
It's not just American law enforcement agencies turning kids into criminals. They're doing it in Australia too. In Florida, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office uses software to mark kids as budding criminals, using questionable markers like D-grades, witnessing domestic violence, or being the victim of a crime. The spreadsheet adds it all up and gives deputies a thumbs up to start treating students like criminals, even if they've never committed a criminal act. Over in Australia, the process seems to be a bit more rigorous, but the outcome is the same: non-criminals marked (possibly for life) as potential criminals who should be targeted with more law enforcement intervention. Victorian police say a secretive data tool that tracked youths and predicted the risk they would commit crime is not being widely used, amid fears it leads to young people from culturally diverse backgrounds being disproportionately targeted. The tool, which had been used in Dandenong and surrounding suburbs, was only revealed in interviews with police officers published earlier this year. Between 2016 and 2018, police categorised young people as “youth network offenders” or “core youth network offenders”. It takes a bit more to be added to this secret list -- one police have managed to keep hidden from the general public. Even the program's name remains a secret. This means parents are never informed when cops decide their kids are criminals-in-development. It also possibly means schools aren't aware the data they're feeding the police is being used this way. According to the research paper detailing the program, Victoria police have classified 40-60 students as "core youth network offenders." Another 240 students were classified as "youth network offenders." To get placed on these exclusive lists, students must be charged dozens of times with "offenses," running from 20 for the 10-14-year-old group to over 60 for 18-year-olds. It's unclear from the context of the report whether this means criminal offenses or in-school discipline "offenses," but the latter seems more likely. Someone criminally charged over 60 times before they reached the age of 18 wouldn't need to be on a secret youth offender list to be on law enforcement's radar. The Victoria police appear to believe the tech is actually magic. “We can run that tool now and it will tell us – like the kid might be 15 – it tells how many crimes he is going to commit before he is 21 based on that, and it is a 95% accuracy,” one senior officer told [researchers]. “It has been tested.” Actual pre-crime, stripped of all the obfuscating language that normally surrounds statements on profiling/predictive policing programs. This program can actually predict criminal acts… at least according to its proponents and users. Presumably the police aren't locking up listed students ahead of any wrongdoing, but they're certainly increasing their interactions and surveillance of students the tool said will commit [x] crimes over the next few years. And, like every goddamn predictive policing program that exists anywhere, it focuses on minorities and other disadvantaged residents. In Dandenong, 67% of households spoke a language other than English at home, more than three times the national average, according to the 2016 census. Almost 80% of all residents had parents who were both born overseas, more than double the national average. The weekly household income was $412 less than the Australian median, and the unemployment rate of 13% was almost double the national figure. Cheer up. The cops are here to take everything that sucks about life and make it worse. Rather than address the underlying problems, law enforcement appears content to throw a spreadsheet over it and divert resources towards subjecting certain people to a lifetime of harassment. Then, when things inevitably get worse, they can ask for more money to buy more "smart" policing tech garbage that ensures this hideous, regressive loop remains unbroken.

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posted about 20 hours ago on techdirt
U.S legislators have drawn a bizarre line in the sand when exploring the invasive nature of technology companies and personal rights to privacy. In Washington, D.C. there are regular hearings about the potential harms that “big tech” companies can cause because they have so much access to so much information. Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon testified before Congressional Subcommittees about their business practices, their data sharing between their own businesses, and the way that information gets used in relation to competition. What’s interesting about that, though, is the fact no consumer can share their personal information directly with any of them. In order to reach any of the Big Tech companies that are generating immense amounts of policy discussion these days, a person must first have access to an internet service provider (ISP). This could be your home wireline connection from companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Frontier, Charter/Spectrum or a litany of other providers. It could also be your mobile service provider if you use a smartphone to browse the internet. Who Sees What Data? The big tech companies have historically obtained the majority of the data they have because people elected to use the services. Amazon knows your buying habits because they track what you order. Google knows what ads to show because it tracked what searches you were making. The ISPs, though, have a unique position in that they facilitate the connection between you and those edge services. They not only know that you elected to go to Google to perform a search, they also know that from that Google search, you then clicked a link and navigated to another website. While Google’s reach can be pretty extensive with the ability to track behavior from a search or any click on an ad that they provide, an ISP doesn’t need that secondary interaction. They know where you go online because they facilitate the connection between you and that end point. There are ways to protect yourself against ISPs monitoring how munch they can see. First, HTTPS encrypts a lot of the actual data being transferred. This means that unless the website is encrypting DNS itself, the only thing the ISP might know is what websites you’re choosing to visit. You can also use a virtual private network (VPN). If you choose to do that, then the ISP will see only that you are connecting from your location to the secondary location. This allows you to mask your location to websites because all of the bidirectional browser traffic is between the websites and the secondary location you’ve tunneled into where the VPN is located. The Internet is More than Browser Traffic The problem with many of the policy considerations regarding how to protect consumers when so much of their data is accessible is that it repeatedly falls short. Think about all the devices in your life that connect to the internet. These include your phone, tablet, and laptop along with all of the ancillary devices – lights, outlets, home assistants, robot vacuums, and even the infamous toaster - that make up the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). These IoT devices require similar connectivity as your computer or phone, but without many of the security and safety measures in place. IoT functions relatively simply. There is a sensor that connects to the network in order to communicate its status to a processor. When the sensor’s status changes, it sends that single to a processor. From there, the processor determines what that sensor’s status change means and sends out a command over the network to an actuator that performs a task. Consider the following example: You pull into your driveway, your house recognizes that you’re there and it opens your garage door, adjusts the temperature, turns on lights, starts your favorite evening playlist. Maybe it even brews you a fresh cup of decaf so you can kick off your shoes and settle in for whatever comes next. That’s one sensor using merely the presence of your device to trigger a communication with the processor. That processor then reaches out over the network and provides commands for services provided by potentially five different manufacturers – the garage door controller, the thermostat, the lights, your preferred streaming music service, and your coffee pot. How much information has an ISP just potentially learned about you with you typing a single character? They know that someone arrived home at that specific time because the sensor communicated over the network to the control processor. They know that you have each of those devices in your home provided by each of those manufacturers. They know what streaming music service you prefer. Some of that information might seem innocuous. Who cares if the ISP knows what coffee maker you have? Why does it matter if the ISP knows what time you got home? Everyone is going to have to get home at some point in time, aren’t they? The value of an ISP being able to monitor that kind of information is not in the snapshot of one instance. Yes, they can use that information to help third-parties better target where they sell ads for your browsing behavior. The real value, though, is that these ISPs know what devices are connecting to your home, and that they can trace your habits and behavioral patterns from that information. If you habitually arrive at home around that specific time each day, the ISP can track that information. If that data shows that every Thursday there’s no command, but there’s increased traffic from your home, the ISP can reasonably conclude that those are the days that you work from home. They might be able to glean that information from just the increased traffic, but the missing command when you arrive home gives them more verifiable data about your habits and practices. Your next thought, after reconsidering the position that the data isn’t that important might be to conclude that you have some protections to under United States privacy laws from an ISP monitoring your behavior online. Except, you'd be wrong. ISPs Broadening Their Reach This may not concern you, personally, because you figure there isn’t enough data there to be harmful. However, not everyone is a sophisticated tech user. Some people, would rather have one company provide them all of their smart tech and have that company manage it. This is the landscape we’re starting to find ourselves in today. Comcast not only offers cable and internet to homes, they also offer security systems including cameras, window and door sensors, and more. They even tout the capabilities of being compatible with numerous smart home devices like door locks, thermostats, and lighting. AT&T is no different, offering to sell streaming media players, smart outlets, security cameras, and both Google or Amazon devices as the control. The ISPs do not care what devices you connect to your network. In theory, any device should work just as well as any other. Though, given the repeal of federal net neutrality regulations. The ISPs have positioned themselves in the perfect spot to pick preferred vendors. Essentially, while they won’t state it openly, if you buy the products that they sell, now they know exactly what’s in your home, and you have an extra bit of confidence that it will work reliably, without any blocking or throttling, because you bought it from the service provider. This creates an advantage for any company willing to open up your information to the ISP because there’s a self-serving benefit. Provide more data to the ISP-reseller about the user and how the device is used and you’ll be included in the preferred vendor list. Ties to Title II It seems almost everything that has to do with telecom these days has to do with the net neutrality and reclassification battle, and the ability of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make privacy rules is no different. The ability of the FCC to promulgate privacy regulation turns on the same point in the 1996 Telecommunications Act as net neutrality. If telecommunications are classified as a Title I service, then they are subject to 47 U.S.C. §160 which states, "...the Commission shall forbear from applying any regulation…if the Commission determines that (1) enforcement of such regulation or provision is not necessary to ensure that the charges, practices, classifications, or regulation by, for, or in connection with that telecommunications carrier or…service are just and reasonable and are not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory; (2) enforcement of such regulation or provision is not necessary for the protection of consumers; and (3) forbearance from applying such provision or regulation is consistent with the public interest." All this to say that the FCC, while having authority to make rules that govern privacy regulations under the Telecommunications Act has to deem that it’s required to do so. If the services are classified as Title I, then they lack the authority to regulate. Even if the FCC was to consider acting, the ISPs could file petitions seeking that the FCC forebear from taking action. Once that petition is filed, then the FCC has one year to respond, with the ability to extend by 90 days under certain circumstances. Under a Title II classification, the FCC has broad authority to act and regulate. “It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.” There is no forbearance consideration required to be made, though one can still be petitioned. In 2015, when the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II service, it set up circumstances for greater broadband rules. It even passed privacy rules for broadband interactive service providers. However, when the current FCC passed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO), it undid the Title II classification, returning broadband services to a Title I classification. As such, broadband is again outside the regulatory authority of the FCC. While the logical conclusion, then, might be to restore the 2015 Open Internet Order, that would be incorrect. The 2015 order carved out specific exceptions for non-BIAS (Broadband Internet Access Services) that included devices like heart monitors, e-readers, energy consumption sensors, or other limited-purpose devices such as automobile telematics and scholastic applications providing content in schools. This was not an exhaustive list and, based on the type of communication involved, most if not all IoT devices would likely fall into this same gap. This means that even with a Title II reclassification, IoT would remain outside the protections. The California net neutrality law does a little better in potentially offering some protection in that it focuses its efforts on the behavior of the ISPs when it comes to blocking, throttling, or forcing paid prioritization for the devices on a network. However, the emphasis of the devices needing to be non-harmful may defeat any IoT protections because nowhere in the bill did it define what a non-harmful device was. Considering the lack of security measures and the common use of IoT in botnet or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, it may be difficult to confidently state that the devices are non-harmful. Federal Privacy laws In October 2016, the FCC passed new privacy rules that required the ISPs to get their customers to opt-in to before the data that the ISPs acquired was shared with third parties. The scope of information, as defined by the FCC was the, “statutory definition of customer proprietary network information (CPNI),” meaning, “individually identifiable CPNI, personally identifiable information (PII), and content of communications.” Even examining those terms, it’s still difficult to see how IoT would have seen any coverage. Perhaps an argument could have been made for devices that were tracking personal health information, but it’s hard to say what identifiable information could be gained from an individual IoT device that raises and lowers a garage door. In aggregate it’s a different story, but that would have required the ISPs to be collating the data to sell in a package about a consumer household, which may have been deemed a violation of the rules, or to be doing it themselves. It’s a moot point, though, because a few short months after the rules were passed, when Congress went into session at the beginning of 2017, they utilized the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rules. This had two effects. First, it treated the rules as though they had never taken effect. (See 5 U.S.C. §801(f)). The second, and arguably more important part, this disapproval resolution made it so that the FCC could not reissue privacy rules in “substantially the same form” nor could they issue a “new rule that is substantially the same…unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.” (See 5 U.S.C. §801(b)(2). What this means is that the federal agency tasked with overseeing communications by wire and the companies that operate in that space have now been specifically restricted from enacting any kind of rulemaking in regards to how those companies gather, store, and share data from their customers. State Privacy Laws To date, there are only three states that have passed consumer privacy laws – California, Maine, and Nevada. There are several other states that either have bills in process or have assembled task forces in lieu of a comprehensive privacy bill. Since there is only a small offering of laws, it’s worth taking a look at the contents to each bill to see if they cover ISP activity. California: The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) applies to any business that has annual gross revenues in excess of $25 million, or that annually deals with personal information from 50,000 or more households in California, or that gets 50% or more of its annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information. The larger ISPs will certainly fall under the first category and would likely be subject to the second as well. Where this hits the IoT space would be Section 1798.135(o)(1)(F) which covers “Internet or other electronic network activity information, including, but not limited to, browsing history, search history, and information regarding a consumer’s interaction with an internet website, application, or advertisement.” Alternatively, Section 1798.135(o)(1)(K) includes “Interferences drawn from any of the information in this subdivision to create a profile about a consumer reflecting the consumer’s preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes. Of course, there’s a strange loophole. The CCPA does not protect “consumer information that is deidentified or aggregate consumer information.” (See Section 1798.135(o)(3)). This seems to means that if the ISP is able to piece little bits of deidentified data together to offer a more comprehensive view, then it’s not in violation of the CCPA. Maine: The Maine legislature went a different direction with their privacy law when it passed the Broadband Internet Access Service Customer Privacy. Instead of focusing on the edge service providers collecting data, Maine’s law specifically targets the ISPs. The key points in relation to IoT are §9301(1)(C)(g), protecting “The customer’s device identifier, such as a media access control address, international mobile equipment identity or Internet protocol (IP) address;” and §9301(1)(C)(i) covering “The origin and destination Internet protocol addresses.” In order for the IoT devices to communicate with other devices on the network or “phone home” and provide data to the manufacturer they have to have an IP address. For the device to provide useful information to the ISP, it would need to know the destination where the device was communication – the destination IP address. Both are protected under the law. Much of the Maine law is what the FCC rules tried to implement before being subject to the disapproval resolution from Congress. Nevada: The Nevada law has the most limited protections of the three enacted laws. It only protects personal information if it includes first initial or name and the last name along with either a social security number; or driver’s license or identification card number; or a bank or credit card number with the required security code or password to provide financial account access; or medial identification or health insurance identification number; or “a user name, unique identifier, or email address in combination with a password, access code or security question and answer permitting access to an online account.” This law is useful from the perspective of keeping personal account information secured, but the sensor and actuator data that IoT is dealing with is well outside of the protections. Conclusion Other than the Maine privacy law and the CCPA, it seems as though there are no privacy laws in the United States that act to protect the information that an ISP can gather, sell, or share with third parties. They can capture your browser data, but in addition to that, the majority of the privacy laws that have been written only examine browsing behavior and ignore the device-to-device communication involved with IoT. The lack of net neutrality regulations means that the ISPs can also treat all data types differently. This means that they can examine the source of the data transmissions and determine if they want to block, throttle or force the device maker or owner to pay more to transmit that data without interruption. It also means that that the ISPs are in a position to pick preferential business partners in the IoT marketplace. If the manufacturer is willing to share data with the ISP, then their transmissions will go uninterrupted. This can disadvantage any real competition between device manufacturers, all under the name of “proper network management practices.” Finally, it means that even though you are not actively providing information to edge service providers by using the internet, your devices are still providing a lot of data about the ways in which you live. Anyone with access to that information can collate it, determine your common behavioral patterns (even if you are offline), discover your preferred service providers, and then package and share that information. Considering the degree to which an ISP can monitor your behavior, it’s pretty incredible that somehow the large ISPs have managed to avoid any public scrutiny while Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are subject to complaints from Congress, and now pending antitrust litigation. Josh Srago is a third-year law student at Santa Clara University. Prior to law school he spent over a decade designing communications and smart building solutions. His studies focus on the ethical development of technology, exploring how current regulations and policies affect smart home and smart city development.

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posted about 21 hours ago on techdirt
Last week, we noted how Comcast had expanded its bullshit broadband usage caps during a pandemic, insisting that the confusing, technically-unnecessary restrictions were being deployed in an alleged act of fairness. Of course as we noted, there's nothing "fair" about costly, punitive surcharges that serve absolutely no technical purpose, and exist exclusively so a monopoly can extract additional revenue from monopolized markets and captive subscribers with no alternative ISPs to choose from. But Comcast's not just using usage caps to extract its pound of flesh. The company is raising prices across most of its services just before the new year, including significant price hikes for its TV services, broadband services, and hardware rental costs. Comcast will also be increasing a bevy of misleading fees, including another $4.50 per month for the company's "Broadcast TV Fee," which is simply some of the cost of programming broken out and hidden below the line, so that the company can falsely advertise a lower rate than you'll see on your final bill: "Other changes for 2021 include a Broadcast TV Fee increase of up to $4.50 depending on the market; $3 increase for Internet-only service; and up to a $2.50 increase for TV boxes on the primary outlet, with a decrease of up to $2.45 for TV boxes on additional outlets," the Comcast spokesperson added. The fee for a customer's primary TV box is rising from $5 to $7.50, while the fee for additional boxes is being lowered from $9.95 to $7.50." Comcast isn't engaged in any meaningful network upgrade projects to necessitate such notable price hikes, so this is simply a monopoly raising prices on its services, including an essential utility, during an historic health and economic crisis. And of course Comcast can get away with this for two reasons. One, roughly 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly (usually Comcast), so there's no place for these customers to flee to. And despite a lot of chippy, feel good talk about the "digital divide" being his top priority, Trump FCC boss Ajit Pai is a feckless bureaucrat who has never had the backbone to stand up to this industry on any issue of real substance. Pai hasn't made so much as a peep as a major US broadband provider imposes major new additional costs in the middle of a pandemic crisis in which broadband in an essential lifeline. You'd think the obvious one-two punch of limited competition and regulatory capture would drive US policy makers to action. Instead, most US policymakers spend their days either pretending there is no telecom monopolization problem, or engaging in performative histrionics over "censorship" by "big tech monopolies." Having just effectively convinced the Trump FCC to neuter itself at lobbyist behest, the US government is in a weaker position than ever when it comes to standing up to telecom monopolies or protecting already struggling Americans from a telecom monopolization problem we often refuse to even acknowledge, much less fix.

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posted about 22 hours ago on techdirt
The Ultimate Cartoon Animator 4 Pro Windows Bundle has 2 courses to help you learn how to bring your own images and characters to life. Cartoon Animator 4, formerly known as CrazyTalk Animator, is a 2D animation software optimized for both abilities of entry and productivity. You can turn images into animated characters, generate lip-sync animation from audio, accomplish 3D parallax scenes, produce 2D visual effects, and access content resources. Cartoon Animator gives users unparalleled control when animating 2D talking characters for videos, web, games, apps, and presentations. It's the easiest way to make incredible animations from scratch. The bundle is on sale for $50. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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posted about 23 hours ago on techdirt
President Trump has continued to throw his little temper tantrum in response to #DiaperDon trending on Twitter. When that happened, he suddenly demanded a full repeal of Section 230 -- which would not stop Twitter from showing #DiaperDon trending when the President throws a temper tantrum like a 2 year old. Then, yesterday, we heard that the White House was really pushing for the Senate to include a 230 repeal in the must pass NDAA bill that funds the military. Late last evening I heard from people in touch with various Congressional offices saying that this entire effort by the White House was dead in the water, because almost no one had an appetite to even try to attempt it, and despite the whackadoodle conspiracy theories from the President and Senators Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, and Josh Hawley, it turns out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't care about 230 reform. Of course, even later last night, things took an even stupider turn, as Trump declared on Twitter that unless the NDAA included a full repeal of Section 230, he would veto it. This is all sorts of stupid and we'll break it all down in a moment, so bear with me. That says: Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to “Big Tech” (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand..... Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you! We'll get into why nearly everything in that statement is wrong, dangerous, and stupid, but I want to be crystal clear about what is happening here. President Donald J. Trump is threatening to defund the US military, because he's upset that enough people mocked him on Twitter that it started trending. That's it. That's the reality. This is the world we live in. And it's so insane, it needs to be repeated. President Donald J. Trump is threatening to defund the US military, because he's upset that enough people mocked him on Twitter that it started trending. Oh, and it's even stupider. On so many levels. First off, taking away Section 230 wouldn't stop #DiaperDon from trending on Twitter, because that's protected by the 1st Amendment and has nothing to do with Section 230. If anything, it would give much more incentive for Twitter to remove Donald Trump and his followers accounts entirely to avoid the suddenly increased legal liability. But, now, let's take a deep breath, take a step back, and look at how incredibly stupid Trump's statement is. Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to “Big Tech” (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. None of this is even close to reality. This is pure nonsense. Section 230 applies to all websites for any 3rd party content they host. The claim that "big tech" are the only companies that have it is belied by this simple point: Donald Trump himself has invoked Section 230 in court. Multiple times. Incredibly, in 2017, he argued that he shouldn't be liable for the content of a retweet he did, because of Section 230. In fact, in court, Trump argued that Section 230 "should be given an 'expansive' reading" in order to protect himself from defamation claims. He's right. Section 230 should protect him in those cases, but it also highlights how it's absolutely bullshit to claim that it only protects "Big Tech" and that big tech companies are "the only companies in America that have it." It's just not true. As for the claim that Section 230 is a "threat to our National Security," let's play a little thought exercise: which is a bigger threat to our national security: a law that says internet websites are not liable for the actions of their users or defunding the entire military? I'll give you a minute to think about it. Because here's the point where I remind you that President Donald J. Trump is threatening to defund the US military, because he's upset that enough people mocked him on Twitter that it started trending. Oh, and then there's the claim about "election integrity" and... what? What the fuck does election integrity have to do with Section 230? The answer is absolutely nothing. He's just spewing words. I could go on, but it's all just incredibly stupid. It's one thing to say that Trump is an blundering fool, but here is a legitimate threat to national security, entirely because people are making fun of him. It's frightening beyond all belief. And this is the point that in a functioning Congress, everyone would stand up to the President and say "no, this is not how this works." Congressional Republicans need to stop enabling this utterly dangerous nonsense. Because President Donald J. Trump is threatening to defund the US military, because he's upset that enough people mocked him on Twitter that it started trending. That should not be allowed to happen.

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posted 1 day ago on techdirt
Section 230 has become a mainstream discussion topic, but unfortunately many discussants don’t actually understand it well (or at all). To address this knowledge gap, co-editors Profs. Eric Goldman (Santa Clara Law) and Jeff Kosseff (U.S. Naval Academy) have released an ebook, called “Zeran v. America Online,” addressing many aspects of Section 230. You can download the ebook for free at: SSRN SCU Digital Commons Google Play Zeran v. AOL is the most important Section 230 case of all time. The Zeran case was the first federal appellate decision interpreting Section 230, and its breathtakingly broad sweep turbocharged the rise of Web 2.0–with all of its strengths and weaknesses. In recognition of Zeran’s importance, in 2017, Profs. Goldman and Kosseff helped assemble an essay package to honor the case’s 20th anniversary. They gathered two dozen essays from some of the most knowledgeable Section 230 experts. The essays address the case’s history and policy implications. Initially, Law.com published the essay package but then unexpectedly paywalled the essays after 6 months. The new Zeran v. America Online ebook restores the 2017 essay package into a new and easy-to-read format. Together, they are a great entry point into the debates about Section 230, including how we got here and what’s at stake. To supplement the essay package, the ebook compiles an archive of the key documents in the Zeran v. AOL litigation (with bonus coverage of Zeran’s case against radio station KRXO). Many of these materials have not previously been publicly available in electronic format. The case archives should be of interest both to historians and students of precedent-setting litigation tactics. Section 230 will likely remain hotly debated, but the debates won’t be productive until we develop a shared understanding of what the law says and why. Ideally, this ebook will advance those goals.

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posted 1 day ago on techdirt
For reasons only known to legislators who apparently had their ears bent to the point of detachment by law enforcement, the French government -- at least briefly -- believed the nation would be better secured if citizens weren't allowed to film police officers and publish those recordings online. A bill passed through the general assembly that would have made this act a crime. One of its most controversial elements was Article 24, which sought to criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”. Under the article, offenders faced sentences of up to a year in jail and fines of 45,000 euros ($53,760) for sharing images of police officers. This sounds like an effort to prevent doxxing but, given the breadth of the language in the proposed law, it could be read to forbid recording any officer who felt they might be harmed by their actions being documented. And it could be argued (with varying degrees of success) that any publication of images/recording depicting officers in any way they didn't explicitly approve of is "harmful." And the proposal couldn't have come at a worse time. French law enforcement is facing additional scrutiny after a recording of officers beating a black man surfaced online. Paris's top prosecutor has called for four police officers under investigation over the beating of a black music producer to face charges and for three of them to remain in detention as the probe continues. [...] The three officers suspected of carrying out the beating should remain in custody, he said, while a fourth, who arrived on the scene later and set off a tear gas canister, should be freed under conditions. With this flame still burning, French legislators tossed this accelerant on the fire. No more documenting police activity because natsec. The citizens responded to this attempted shielding of bad cops as the French often do: with massive protests and a bit of violence. Tens of thousands of critics of a proposed security law that would restrict the filming of police officers protested across France on Saturday, and officers in Paris who were advised to behave responsibly during the demonstrations repeatedly fired tear gas to disperse rowdy protesters who set fire to France’s central bank and threw paving stones. Faced with consecutive protests (the one over the beating that rolled into the one over the proposed law), French legislators are backtracking. France’s national assembly on Monday dropped a key provision of a controversial bill that would have curtailed the right to film police officers during their work. Christophe Castaner, the head of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM party, told journalists that the bill will be scrapped and rewritten, with a new version going before parliament. For the time being, filming the police in France is still legal, even if an officer argues they've been harmed by being observed. Unfortunately, the proposal isn't completely dead. Article 24 will be revamped but it won't be until early next year. Right now, the bill is too hot to touch. A couple of months in the cooler -- and the onset of cooler weather -- might temper both protesters and belatedly irate lawmakers. If so, it could reappear mostly unchanged, especially if legislators feel the security of the nation is more important than law enforcement accountability.

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posted 1 day ago on techdirt
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals continues to do what other circuits far too often won't: protect citizens from their government. The Ninth Circuit is the best place to bring allegations of rights violations. It only grants immunity in 42% of cases it handles, compared to the Fifth Circuit, where cops and their qualified immunity triumph 64% of the time. This seems to irritate the Supreme Court, which often finds itself overturning decisions bubbling up from the Ninth. But every win for Americans is another chance to establish precedent making it easier for future victims to obtain redress from courts anywhere in the nation. This recent decision [PDF] by the Ninth will probably once again raise the hackles of the Supreme Court. This one allows a plaintiff to sue federal officers for rights violations -- something the Supreme Court has repeatedly made more difficult to accomplish. In 2017, the Supreme Court said non-US persons couldn't sue federal officers for violating their rights. It reinforced this decision in 2019, rejecting a lawsuit brought by the family of a Mexican teen who was shot ten times by a Border Patrol agent in response to some alleged rock throwing. The Border Patrol agent was on the US side of the border. His bullets traveled across the border and into the Mexican teen, killing him in Mexico. The Supreme Court shrugged and said it was unfortunate the teen died where he did. If he had only managed to die on the US side of the border, he might have had a case. This case doesn't end in death. But it does involve federal border security and violated rights. Here's the summary of the events leading to the lawsuit: [Robert] Boule is a United States citizen. He owns, operates, and lives in a small bed and breakfast inn in Blaine, Washington. The back property line of the land on which the inn is located touches the United States-Canada border. On March 20, 2014, Customs and Border Patrol Agent Erik Egbert stopped Boule while he was running errands “in town” and asked him about guests staying at the inn. Boule told Egbert that he had a guest arriving that day from New York who had flown in from Turkey the day before. Boule told him that two of his employees were en route to pick up the guest at SeattleTacoma (“Sea-Tac”) International Airport, about 125 miles south of Blaine. Later that day, Egbert waited in his border patrol vehicle near the inn. The entrance to the inn is on a road at the front of the property. When the guest arrived, Egbert followed the car carrying the arriving guest into Boule’s driveway. Egbert got out of his vehicle and approached the car. From the front porch of the inn, Boule asked Egbert to leave. When Egbert refused, Boule stepped between Egbert and the car and again asked him to leave. Boule recounts that Egbert then shoved him against the car. When Boule still did not move away from the car, Egbert grabbed him and pushed him aside and onto the ground. Egbert then opened the car door and asked the guest about his immigration status. Boule made a 911 call to request a supervisor, which Egbert also relayed over dispatch. A supervisor and another agent arrived in response to the call. After concluding that the guest was lawfully in the country, the three officers departed. Boule later sought medical treatment for injuries to his back. That's the Fourth Amendment violation. There's also a First Amendment violation. After Boule complained to Egbert’s superiors about the incident, Egbert retaliated against Boule. Among other things, Egbert contacted the Internal Revenue Service, asking the agency to look into Boule’s tax status. Bringing a Bivens case against a federal officer is tricky. Federal officers are given an extra level of protection from lawsuits. Qualified immunity is pretty tough to dodge, given the reliance on (ever-decreasing) precedential rulings declaring specific actions to be rights violations. In the federal context, the small crack in the immunity door disappears almost completely. More matching specifics are needed to move a case past the immunity roadblock and only certain rights violations are recognized in the Bivens context. Here's how the Supreme Court sees it: allegations that fall into this broad set of variances may be considered "new" and an impermissible extension of Bivens. Without endeavoring to create an exhaustive list of differences that are meaningful enough to make a given context a new one . . . [:] A case might differ in a meaningful way because of the rank of the officers involved; the constitutional right at issue; the generality or specificity of the official action; the extent of judicial guidance as to how an officer should respond to the problem or emergency to be confronted; the statutory or other legal mandate under which the officer was operating; the risk of disruptive intrusion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches; or the presence of potential special factors that previous Bivens cases did not consider. Good luck with that, plaintiffs. But this plaintiff's case will move on, greatly aided by the fact that he's a US citizen. Unlike the cases cited by the government, Boule is a legal resident of the United States. There's only one factor that separates this from other successful Bivens lawsuits, the court points out. The claim against Egbert is a conventional Fourth Amendment claim, indistinguishable from countless such claims brought against federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, except for the fact that Egbert is a border patrol agent. The court says the fact that Egbert is a border patrol agent does not excuse him from this lawsuit, even if a comparable case involved an FBI agent. The plaintiff can continue suing Egbert over his Fourth Amendment violations. But the court goes further, extending Bivens to cover both the Fourth Amendment violation and an alleged First Amendment violation. Boule also alleges that Egbert retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to complain to Egbert’s superiors about his conduct at the inn. We have previously recognized a Bivens claim in the First Amendment context, see Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1342 (9th Cir. 1986), but the Supreme Court has not yet done so. [...] However, we find no special factors that counsel hesitation in extending a Bivens remedy to this new context. There is even less reason to hesitate in extending Bivens here than in the context of Boule’s Fourth Amendment claim. Retaliation is a well-established First Amendment claim, available against governmental officers in general. And, while Egbert may find a way to prevail on the Fourth Amendment allegations by discussing the latitude granted to him as a nominal securer of the nation, he's going to have to get really creative to explain why he decided to retaliate against a citizen's protected speech. With respect to [the Fourth Amendment] claim, Egbert can legitimately argue that his actions at the inn were performed in connection with his official duties. He cannot say the same thing here, for his retaliation had no relation to, or justification based on, his duties as a border patrol agent. This ruling increases the chances of success in lawsuits brought against federal agents and officers, and expands the minimal coverage to include rights violations that haven't previously been addressed in this circuit. But, because it does this, there's no chance this won't be appealed. The Supreme Court doesn't like lower courts expanding the narrow Bivens confines, so this has a good chance of getting overturned if the top court picks it up. Until then, it's still a win for Boule and other US citizens. And maybe this win will remain on the books if the Supreme Court feels it's been cutting the government way too much slack in cases like these.

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posted 1 day ago on techdirt
If you have to sneak your transformational copyright bill into a "must pass" government spending bill, it seems fairly evident that you know the bill is bad. Earlier we talked about how the White House is trying to slip a Section 230 repeal into the NDAA (military appropriations) bill, and now we've heard multiple people confirm that there's an effort underway to slip the CASE Act into the "must pass" government appropriations bill (the bill that keeps the government running). What does keeping the government running have to with completely overhauling the copyright system to enable massive copyright trolling? Absolutely nothing, but it's Christmas season, and thus it's the time for some Christmas tree bills in which Senators try to slip in little favors to their funders by adding them to must-pass bills. We've detailed the many problems with the CASE Act, including how it would ratchet up copyright trolling in a time when we should actually be looking for ways to prevent copyright trolling. But the much larger issue is the fact that the bill is almost certainly unconstitutional. It involves the executive branch trying to route around the courts to set up a judicial body to handle disputes about private rights. That's not allowed. At the very least, however, there are legitimate concerns about the overreach of the CASE Act, and, as such, those supporting it should at least be willing to discuss those issues honestly and debate them fairly. Slipping them into a must-pass government spending bill certainly suggests that they know that they cannot defend the bill legitimately, and need to cheat to make it law.

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
This week, we're having another conversation about how more decentralized, interoperable, and competitive systems could help restore the original promise of the open web — and this time around we've got a pair of guests with perspectives that are related to, but distinct from, the protocols, not platforms idea that we talk about so much. Author Cory Doctorow has been discussing adversarial interoperability or competitive compatibility, while Stanford's Daphne Keller has been proposing magic APIs, and both join this week's episode to discuss what all these things are, how they differ and relate, and how they could save the web. Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
I had meant to write an update on the never ending clusterfuck that is copyright troll Richard Liebowitz last month, as things appeared to be going badly in the two cases where the judges had clearly grown completely tired of the games he was playing with the court: Usherson v. Bandshell and Chevrestt v. Barstool. In both cases, judges had gotten very, very angry at Liebowitz for continuing to lie, play games, mislead and so on. In the Chevrestt case, the judge actually let him off kind of easy last month, saying that for the next two years, any time that he is ordered to show cause for why he shouldn't be sanctioned again (basically, any time he gets in trouble with a judge), he has to share the details of what happened in the Chevrestt case (in which he does not come out of it looking good). But the bigger story is in the Usherson case, where this week, Judge Jesse Furman mentions in passing that the Southern District of New York's Grievance Committee had issued an order suspending Liebowitz "from the practice of law before this Court." This is temporary, pending "final adjudication of the charges against [him]" so it's likely to get worse. Also, it only applies to SDNY, but that's where he's filed so many of his cases, and the stink over his practically non-stop sketchy behavior in court will follow him everywhere else. It's not clear exactly which of the many problems that Liebowitz has brought upon himself resulted in the Grievance Committee acting, but the list is very long. In fact, it's rather convenient that it's Judge Furman who is revealing the suspended license, given that he was the one who catalogued the dozens upon dozens of times that Liebowitz had been caught lying to courts or has been sanctioned for lying to courts. As you may recall, Judge Furman laid out those details in an order telling Liebowitz to file a copy of that order with every case that he was involved with. Liebowitz, in true Liebowitz fashion, waited until the last minute to whine that this was unfair and a violation of his rights. The judge was not impressed and neither was the appeals court. Liebowitz then had one day to send a copy of Judge Furman's order to every one of his clients and to every court in which his cases were being heard. At the time, we pointed to at least one case where the order had not been filed, but we had heard from a few lawyers in other cases that no such filing had been made either. And those lawyers weren't just telling me: they told Judge Furman as well. At the beginning of October, Judge Furman asked Liebowitz to file a declaration addressing why he hadn't filed the order in some cases (and why he had filed it late in others). Liebowitz then filed quite an amazing declaration on October 15th, explaining how and why he had failed to file the order in 113 different cases. In typical Liebowitz fashion, he had excuses for all of them. He blamed PACER (which we agree is a terrible service), but he also admits that he never thought to use his case management system -- the one he'd been forced to install a year earlier as part of sanctions in another case (the one where he blamed the death of his grandfather for failing to appear in court, and then lied about the actual date of his grandfather's death). That case also involved the judge referring Liebowitz to the Grievance Committee. Other excuses Liebowitz gave for not filing the order in cases was that he thought some cases were completely over and just missed that they had motions pending. Some cases he closed out between the time the original order was made and his attempted compliance with them. And then there were some cases which he argued he was more peripherally than directly involved in them. Either way, Judge Furman, finds this literally unbelievable. Had Mr. Liebowitz failed to file the Opinion and Order in a handful of cases, the failure to comply might have been understandable and excusable. But the failure to file it in 113 cases is astonishing and suggests contumaciousness, an egregiously disorganized case management system, or both. It is all the more astonishing in light of Mr. Liebowitz’s record, set forth in painstaking detail in the Court’s Opinion and Order, and his repeated representations to Judges — in this District and beyond — that he had taken steps to improve his case management practices. Contumaciousness is a good word. Look it up. Basically, Judge Furman notes that Liebowitz has not shown any real evidence that he's changed. At all. And thus, it's clear that the judge believes that Liebowitz deserves further sanctions. However, as he notes, the sanctions should be designed to lead to correction of the bad behavior -- and thanks to the Grievance Committee's suspension of Liebowitz's license, there's not a current threat of this behavior continuing. That said, the ultimate purpose of sanctions is deterrence... and, as Mr. Liebowitz’s extraordinary record of both sanctions and noncompliance with court orders demonstrates, it is far from clear that there is any additional sanction that would serve to deter him. Moreover, on November 30, 2020, this Court’s Grievance Committee — noting Mr. Liebowitz’s “repeated disregard for orders from this Court and his unwillingness to change despite 19 formal sanctions and scores of other admonishments and warnings from judges across the country” — entered an Amended Order immediately suspending Mr. Liebowitz “from the practice of law before this Court pending final adjudication of the charges against [him].” In re Liebowitz, No. M-2-238, at 1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2020). Thus, for the time being, there will be nothing to deter when it comes to Mr. Liebowitz. Accordingly, and in light of the Grievance Committee’s Order of November 25, 2020, the Court, exercising its discretion, determines that additional sanctions are not appropriate at this time. However, just in case, Judge Furman clarifies that when he said that Liebowitz had to file the order in all of his cases, he did mean all of them, and amends the original order to make that abundantly clear and to make sure that Liebowitz cannot wriggle free from complying. All in all, there seems to be a decent chance that Richard Liebowitz will no longer be practicing law.

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
Every day that I think I can't be shocked and horrified by anything being done in the name of politics today, I end up being more shocked and more horrified. The latest is that one of the President's campaign lawyers, Joe diGenova, who has been involved in a wide range of politically motivated conspiracy theory mongering, went on the Howie Carr show to say that fired CISA director Chris Krebs should be "taken out and shot." There's a lot to unpack here. First off, we wrote about Krebs being fired by Trump for daring to contradict the narrative that the election was rigged. Krebs is one of a very few Trump appointees who was widely respected across the political spectrum. In his years running the newly created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), he'd been praised by many for the job he had done in actually dealing with cybersecurity threats, and coordinating information sharing about such threats to the private sector. But him telling the truth and debunking the politically motivated nonsense the President and his dwindling team of supporters are trying to spew, apparently means that Krebs has been cast out as the enemy. Making matters worse (for Trump and his supporters) was that on Sunday, 60 Minutes had Krebs on, in which he made a very credible case that the President was just making shit up in claiming that there was interference or malfeasance in the election. In fact, in that interview, Krebs highlighted the death threats that are being made against election officials, rightly calling it "a travesty" that public servants are put through this nonsense. And it's, in my view, a travesty what's happening right now with all these death threats to election officials, to secretaries of state. I want everybody to look at Secretary Boockvar in Pennsylvania, Secretary Benson in Michigan, Secretary Cegavske in Nevada, Secretary Hobbs in Arizona. All strong women that are standing up, that are under attack from all sides, and they're defending democracy. They're doin' their jobs. Look at-- look at Secretary Raffensperger in Georgia, lifelong Republican. He put country before party in his holding a free and fair election in that state. There are some real heroes out there. There are some real patriots. And now Krebs is facing the same nonsense. Howie Carr, the host of the show is a long time, Boston-based, Trump-supporting talk show host and columnist. He had diGenova on his show, which was simulcast to Newsmax (one of the two Trump-loving TV networks trying to take over the insane conspiracy theory pushing crown from Fox News) and allowed diGenova to say that Krebs should be killed. Carr doesn't appear to have the video of it up on his own YouTube channel yet, but MediaMatters has the clip that you can see for yourself. diGenova: This was not a coincidence. This was all planned. And anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity for DHS. Carr:: Oh yeah, the guy who was on 60 Minutes last night. diGenova: That guy... that guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot, Carr then chuckles for a bit before changing the subject. Let's be totally clear: this is offensive and dangerous. It would be offensive and dangerous coming from anyone, but the fact that it's coming from a lawyer currently representing the President of the United States is completely and utterly terrifying. No, it almost certainly doesn't reach the "true threats" test of the Supreme Court to be speech not protected by the 1st Amendment, but that doesn't mean it's not wildly inappropriate and dangerous. I understand that Trump's circle of grifters and hanger-ons will not let truth, accuracy, or common decency stand in the way of spreading their cult of bullshit, lies, FUD, and nonsense, but the rest of the country ought to speak up and make it clear that this is totally unacceptable. And that includes Republicans in Congress who have continued to try to look the other way or pretend that what Trump and his band of legal misfits are doing is totally normal and acceptable. It is not.

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
iMazing calls itself the Swiss Army Knife of iOS device management because it lets you truly manage your mobile data the way you want to. This all-purpose tool lets you easily browse and manage your backups, extract and print your text messages, drag and drop songs to your iPhone - all without jailbreaking your device. Licenses are for sale for 2 devices at $20, 3 devices at $25, or 5 devices at $30. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
This was rumored a week and a half ago, and at the time I stated that there was no way in hell it was happening, and that it was all just performative nonsense... but yesterday Axios reported that the White House is still pushing Congress to insert a total repeal of Section 230 into the "must pass" National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). At the time, the story was that Trump would make a trade: he wouldn't veto the bill over a provision that removed Confederate army names from US military bases if there was a full repeal of Section 230 in it. This is silly for all sorts of reasons, including the idea that you're horse trading the law that helped create the open internet for racist military base names in a bill that has fuck all to do with internet/telecom policy. Of course, then Thanksgiving happened, and the President threw a total shitfit because #DiaperDon started trending on Twitter, making him declare that we had to repeal Section 230 for "national security." Seems more like it would be for dealing with the insecurity of the President of the United States. And so it appears that the White House has decided to appease the whims of the mad child emperor, and is still pushing Congress to slip the repeal into the NDAA and hoping that the confused, misplaced, and somewhat contradictory bipartisan hatred for Section 230 will cause them to go with it. Incredibly, Axios notes that it's the Republicans in the Senate trying to talk the White House out of this plan -- though they're pushing a bunch of nonsense 230 reform bills as an "alternative." The article's only comment on Democrats is that they "are sure to object." And I think that will still doom this entire effort. But, the real goal seems to be to try to sneak through some terrible bills that are short of a full repeal. But Senate Republicans are instead trying to negotiate an alternative that would combine multiple bills aimed at reforming the law, including the bipartisan Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act and Wicker's Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, a Hill source familiar with the matter told Axios. We've gone through the details of why all of those bills are garbage and/or unconstitutional, and even if there were legitimate movement on getting those bills through Congress, lighting up the NDAA with them is the exact wrong thing to do. Bills like these, that would fundamentally change the very nature of the internet, are not something you just hang on an appropriations bill at the last minute. I'm still mostly confident that none of this is actually going to happen and that it's still all just insane posturing and performative nonsense. But it's still 2020, and crazy, unprecedented shit still keeps happening, so I'll back down slightly from my "no way in hell" statement, and note that we're in hell right now, and so there's still a small chance that something horrific would happen here. It's still very, very unlikely. But it's just not going away.

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Like AT&T, Frontier, and other U.S. telcos, Verizon has a long, rich history of taking tax breaks, regulatory favors, and taxpayer subsidies in exchange for networks it only half deploys. That was the case in the 90s when Verizon took a several billion tax breaks from the state of Pennsylvania in exchange for networks it never deployed. It was also the case in New York City, where Verizon was sued by the city for promising to deploy fiber universally to all five boroughs, and then, well, not doing that. In 2017, NYC sued Verizon, stating a 2014 deal to deploy fiber to the entire city fell well short of the full goal. As some local reporters had warned at the time (and were promptly ignored), the city's deal with Verizon contained all manner of loopholes allowing Verizon to wiggle over, under and around its obligations. And wiggle Verizon did; a 2015 city report found huge gaps in deployment coverage -- particularly in many of the less affluent, outer city boroughs. Last week during the holiday bustle the city quietly announced it had settled its lawsuit with Verizon. Under the confidential settlement, the city claims Verizon will expand fiber deployment to an additional 500,000 low income homes across the city: "This settlement will make sure that Verizon builds out its fiber footprint more equitably throughout New York City — especially in low-income communities that have historically been underserved by internet service providers,” said DoITT Commissioner and Citywide CIO Jessica Tisch. “This agreement attacks that unfair imbalance, and recognizes that high-quality internet is a necessity, not a luxury." The problem, as usual, will be in the follow up. The original lawsuit (pdf) stated that Verizon had deployed fiber to 2.2 million out of the city's 3.3 million residences with FiOS, despite the original 2008 agreement with the city calling for "100%" FiOS availability. An additional 500,000 deployed homes sounds good, especially during a pandemic, but it's still a far cry from the company's original promise to the city. The city likely found the lawsuit to be too costly or unwinnable, and with so much else going on, agreed to settle and at least get something for its efforts. Granted this isn't just some one-off problem. Telecom giants are so politically powerful (on both the state and federal level) that genuine accountability for failed promises is extremely hard to come by. One simply needs to look at the long list of cities and states that have accused the company of taking subsidies and tax breaks then failing to evenly deploy fiber, whether it's Philadelphia or a huge swath of New Jersey. And again, you'll find much the same story having played out with telco giants like AT&T and Frontier Communications from Mississippi to West Virginia. As we've noted for a long time, policymakers act as if U.S. broadband mediocrity is just something that happens or is due to America just being really, really big. In reality, the reason U.S. broadband is patchy, expensive, with atrocious customer service? Plain old state and federal corruption we often refuse to even acknowledge, much less do anything about.

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Perhaps Tennessee State Representative Jay Reedy read the electoral room wrong on November 5 and thought his boy would remain president for another four years. Maybe he was just drunk on the success of securing his state rep position in the general election after a strenuous unopposed campaign. Whatever the case, Rep. Reedy is apparently hoping Congressional reps will return to Capitol Hill refreshed and ready to violate the Constitution. The first shot of Rep. Reedy's new term is this: a resolution urging Congress to make flag burning illegal. This is something Trump threatened to do a handful of times during campaign rallies. This is also something pretty much no one seriously thinks would have a chance of standing up to Constitutional scrutiny. Nevertheless, this resolution exists. And the best part of the resolution is it explains exactly how it will fail even as it calls for Congress to make it happen. (h/t Peter Bonilla) WHEREAS, a 1931 case set the first precedent for the use of a flag in an act of symbolic speech under the First Amendment, when the Court struck down a California law that banned the flying of a red flag to protest against the government; and WHEREAS, in 1968, Congress approved the Federal Flag Desecration Law after a Vietnam War protest. The law made it illegal to "knowingly" cast "contempt" upon "any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling upon it."; and WHEREAS, the Court moved toward its 1989 decision about flag burning in 1974, when it said in Spence v. Washington that a person couldn’t be convicted for using tape to put a peace sign on an American flag. A majority of the Court saw the act as protected expression under the First Amendment; and WHEREAS, during the next decade, states narrowed the focus on their flag desecration laws, but they still prohibited flag burning and other acts of mutilation. The issue was then decided, at least in the Supreme Court, in the decision of Texas v. Johnson… We'll stop there for the moment because there's already so much to work with. This breaks down the history of flag desecration laws being struck down as unconstitutional. Somehow, this is Reedy's pitch for a federal flag desecration law. And it takes someone really special to claim that an issue may still be unsettled ("decided, at least in the Supreme Court"), when it has been already been addressed by the US Supreme Court. Twice. WHEREAS, in reaction to the Johnson decision, which only applied to the state of Texas, Congress passed an anti-flag burning law called the Flag Protection Act of 1989. However in 1990, the Supreme Court struck down that law as unconstitutional. All of that notwithstanding (somehow), Reedy believes Congress can exercise its federal superpowers to craft a law that bans flag burning while still remaining aligned with the First Amendment. BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that we strongly urge the United States Congress to enact legislation to prohibit the desecration of the United States flag. Chances are this resolution will never make its way to Congress, no matter how much the Tennessee state legislature leans right. And this is just more jingoistic patriotism masquerading as public service from a state rep who has introduced a bunch of other dead-in-the-legislative-water timewasters over the past few years, including: A bid to add a section detailing the history, economic impact, and cultural uses of the Bible to the state's official government manual. An internet porn filter proposal that would have required of-age Americans to affirmatively opt in to access pornography -- one that asked the US Congress to enact internet filtering legislation and the DOJ to "vigorously enforce" federal obscenity laws. An amendment to the state Constitution declaring the listed rights came from "Almighty God." A resolution to designate the Bible as the official state book. A bill allowing law enforcement to search any vehicle parked in a jail parking lot. And… in this session, during a pandemic, an anti-vax bill. Constitutionality is not Rep. Reed's strong suit. I guess the rights given to state residents (and Americans located elsewhere) by the Almighty God should be subject to Reed's personal beliefs about where those rights begin and end.

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
A little over five years ago, I wrote about the seeming emergence of a new trend in the video game space: living and evolving game worlds instead of single-serving "games". While MMOs and other online games certainly weren't new even then, what with World of Warcraft having a decade under its belt at that point, the post did focus on several game publishers beginning to make noises about focusing on these breathing ongoing experiences rather than selling shiny discs, or even digital downloads of one-and-done games. And if that trend became the norm, it really would change the industry. Development cycles for the release of games wouldn't so much be a thing compared with the ongoing and time-spanning development that would go into consistently creating new experiences within an existing game. For those interested in the gaming industry, or those concerned with how traditional development cycles and "crunch" have impacted design labor, this really could be something of an inflection point. Five years later, this trend has only gotten more prevalent. There are many examples of living, breathing game worlds out there to choose from, but the example I will use is Grand Theft Auto 5, which has been an active hit for so long that it literally passed by a console generation. The game was originally released in 2013 as a single-player game, only to have its online component launch shortly after, putting it in the ongoing development cycle. Grand Theft Auto V, in case you forget, was first released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in September 2013. It didn’t arrive on the PS4 and Xbox One until 2014. Let that wash over you for just a second. A single video game that was released before the PS4 and Xbox One even hit the shelves has remained both culturally relevant and commercially successful throughout those console’s entire lifetimes, and will now see an even longer shelf-life once it is released on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. To give you an idea of just how long ago that was, the game was released with a trailer that spoke to America’s attempts to recover from its last financial meltdown, and there’s been time to have had another since. Other games on the best-selling list for September 2013 include Diablo III, Disney Infinity and Saints Row IV. And, again, the game is still in active development, both on the online and first-person side of things. There will be an updated version of the game that comes out on the next generation of consoles, while the online community is still actively involved and playing in all of the new updates and releases Rockstar has continued to create. The success of the game has far-reaching implications. Rockstar Games, with its own notorious reputation of putting its developers through so-called "crunch" periods, notably isn't suffering from a ton of stories of crunch when it comes to the developers of the ongoing GTA5 world. Which makes sense: the deadlines are more squishy than getting out a AAA single-player game. It also means potentially less individual games coming out, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. For reference, The PS2-era of consoles saw three GTA games get released, while the PS3 had 2 and the PS4's only GTA game was the port of GTA5. All of that is because the development efforts are going into a lasting game with a ton of gaming participation, even seven-plus years after its release. If the gaming public is happy enough with that, then so be it. But it's going to change the industry as this trend continues.

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
Another large American law enforcement organization has belatedly admitted it uses facial recognition tech after spending years denying it. Last month, it was the Los Angeles Police Department, which had denied using the tech all the way up until 2019. But records obtained by the Los Angeles Times showed the department had used it 30,000 times over the past decade. When confronted, the LAPD's assistant chief claimed the last two denials issued by him and his department were "mistakes." Welcome to the "I guess we'll come clean" club, New Orleans. The New Orleans Police Department has confirmed that it is utilizing facial recognition for its investigations, despite years of assurances that the city wasn’t employing the technology. That runs contrary to what's been stated publicly and what's been told to public records requesters. This 2016 report notes the NOPD's response to a request for records was a flat denial: "no responsive records." This 2019 Appeal report contains yet another denial from city officials. Mayor Cantrell has been adamant that the city does not use facial recognition, but last year New Orleans announced a deal with Briefcam, a program that can recognize certain attributes captured on camera and track them throughout the city. It also contains a "but…" -- one that was followed by a refusal to discuss the issue any further. Norton, the mayor’s spokesperson, told The Appeal that the Real Time Crime Center does not use facial recognition technology. However, Norton said that “relevant video can be shared with public safety agencies as requested for a legitimate public safety purpose.” When asked if the city is aware of any other law enforcement agencies running the footage through facial recognition technology, Norton declined to answer. And this report by The Tenth Amendment Center makes the NOPD's relationship with the tech more explicit. The NOPD may not have the tech, but it certainly makes use of it. The City of New Orleans adamantly insists it “does not use facial recognition software.” It even has a line in the privacy policy of its Real-Time Crime Center surveillance hub claiming, “Facial recognition is not utilized by the System.” And yet the New Orleans Police Department identified a suspect in a 2018 mugging based on facial recognition. How did this happen if the NOPD doesn’t use facial recognition? As an article published by OneZero put it, “the NOPD has back-channel access to the state’s facial recognition program.” According to the report, the police department relied on technology operated by the Louisiana State Police after local investigators sent a wanted poster with a photo of the suspect to the state fusion center. And that's how the NOPD is going to pretend its previous denials weren't misleading. Here's how it responded to The Lens when contacted about its apparent years of misdirection. In a statement to The Lens last week, a department spokesperson said that although it didn’t own facial recognition software itself, it was granted access to the technology through “state and federal partners.” That's the layer of plausible deniability the police department figure will save it from accusations of lying. As recently as earlier this month, the NOPD was still claiming it did not use facial recognition. Its response to an ACLU public records request stated "The Police Department does not employ facial recognition software." Technically correct, I guess? But only in the sense that the PD does not own the tech. Not in the sense that the PD does not use the tech. It clearly does use it. It just outsources that work to other agencies -- including federal law enforcement -- that do own the tech. And it uses the output from its second-hand searches to engage in investigations and identify suspects. That's pretty much the definition of "employ." The PD argues the word "employ" means something else when it's misleading the public. Here's NOPD spokesman Kenneth Jones: “The term employ used in the [public records request] response might’ve referred to ownership of the tool itself, which we don’t,” Jones said. “I apologize for any misunderstanding. … Again, the word ‘employ’ was used in the context of ownership." The PD also claims it only uses the tech it doesn't "employ" to investigate "violent cases." This assertion was backed by the production of zero (0) documents detailing the PD's second-hand tech use and/or the cases it has been used for. And there's an additional wrinkle. The city is considering a facial recognition ban. But this admission the PD outsources its facial recognition work means it won't be enough to simply forbid the PD from buying and utilizing its own tech. The proposal would need to be rewritten to prevent the PD from sending its photos to state or federal agencies for proxy searching. The vote on the proposed ban has been delayed as city council members process the NOPD's lies about its facial recognition use and decide what to do with this new information. Clearly the NOPD would like some of this tech for itself but has recognized it might be tough to sell that idea in this surveillance-weary economy. So it has done the next best thing: it has its friends hook it up. But now the city knows it can't trust its own police department to be honest with it. And this dishonesty should factor heavily into any future agreements the city makes with the NOPD.

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
While many GOP members continue to happily undermine democracy by fueling Trump's baseless electoral fraud claims, FCC boss Ajit Pai won't be coming along for the ride. In a statement, Pai confirmed that, as is custom, he'll be stepping down as agency head on January 20 as the Biden administration takes over. Historically, the party that controls the White House controls both a 3-2 commissioner majority, and the top spot at the agency. Pai's tenure wasn't entirely devoid of value. The agency boss did oversee massive and noncontroversial wireless spectrum auction efforts that will deliver troves of valuable spectrum to market, and spearheaded the creation of the nation's first suicide prevention hotline (988). But by and large Pai's tenure was comprised of a parade of industry-cozy policies, bad data, hubris, and in many instances, outright lies. The shining example of this was Pai's net neutrality repeal, which not only killed net neutrality rules, but the agency's ability to hold telecom giants accountable for much of anything. The repeal took the consumer protection authority of an agency crafted to police telecom, and shoveled it to the FTC -- which lacks the resources or authority to do the job (which is precisely why the industry wanted this to happen). To force this hugely unpopular proposal through, Pai lied repeatedly about net neutrality's impact, claiming the modest rules (by international standards) had demolished telecom sector investment. Once repealed, Pai lied just as often about how the repeal had resulted in a huge spike in investment (it hadn't). When reporters contacted Pai's FCC to fact check the agency's dodgy numbers, they were literally directed to telecom lobbyists who'd provided the false data. Reporters who asked tough questions were effectively blacklisted during Pai's tenure. As if that wasn't bad enough, Pai's office blocked law enforcement inquiries into the broadband industry (and Trumpland's) use of fake and dead people to provide bogus public support for unpopular policies. And when genuine, pissed off, John Oliver viewers wrote to the FCC to complain swamping the FCC website, FOIA data revealed that Pai's office repeatedly lied and claimed it had been the victim of a DDOS attack. The entire affair culminated in Pai dancing with a pizzagate conspiracy theorist in a video the internet would like to forget. As such Pai's tenure wasn't just pockmarked by bad data and bad policy, it was, as is custom for the Trump era, a shining example of trolling as a government policy, where policymakers take an active enjoyment in being insufferable and hostile. Hostile to the press. Hostile to the public. Hostile to experts and expert data, especially if those experts question entrenched industry ideology. Pai and friends spent years proclaiming that some modest net neutrality rules were an utterly vile example of "government run amok." Pai's FCC then immediately pivoted on a dime and supported Trump's utterly idiotic plan to have the FCC regulate social media, despite having no authority in that arena. From beginning to end, the entire saga was a pile of lies, nonsense, and hypocrisy. It was not only bad and unpopular policy, at every turn it was done so in a way that poured lemon juice in the wound of those genuinely interested in consumer welfare and data-based decision making. Of course there are numerous other Pai-era efforts that were equally contemptible. Again using bunk data, Pai orchestrated a massive rollback of decades-old media consolidation rules designed to protect small and mid-sized businesses from giant media (and telecom) monopolies. He also spent years targeting Lifeline, a Reagan-era effort that provides a measly $9.25 to low-income homes to be used on phone, broadband or wireless service. And that's when Pai wasn't busy rubber stamping job and competition killing mergers or trying to ban states from being able to protect consumers in the wake of federal apathy. Of course in Pai's head, he remains convinced he did wonders for the American consumer: "I’m proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people." Except with a few exceptions (mostly related to noncontroversial spectrum policy), it's hard to see Pai's tenure at the agency as little more than a giant middle finger to accountability and the American public. He effectively neutered the agency's consumer protection authority at lobbyist behest, utterly fabricated justifying data, then turned around and undermined the only chance the public had to have its voice heard. All right before the U.S. was struck by an historic public and human health crisis revealing broadband's essential role as a connective utility. This being the post-truth era, entrenched telecom monopolies and their various policy tendrils will inevitably applaud Pai's tenure as the pinnacle of innovation and regulatory "reform." But history won't be kind to a man who rubber stamped every fleeting whim of U.S. telecom monopolies with a disdain for real world data and the public welfare never before seen at the agency (though FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell occasionally got close). If respectful, data-driven policy making is the ideal, Ajit Pai's tenure was the exact opposite of that. Most of Pai's policies will, in time, be reversed. Pai himself will likely now either jump to a telecom-backed think tank (where he'll be handsomely rewarded for his slavish devotion to unpopular telecom monopolies and fabricated data), or pursue post-FCC political ambitions, where he'll need to be hopeful that angry Millennial voters have a very short memory.

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
Get 25% off your copy of CIA: Collect It Allwith the code HOLIDAY2020 » In 2018, we launched a Kickstarter to fund CIA: Collect It All, our recreation of a real declassified card game that the CIA used to train analysts. Today, we're running our second annual holiday sale, offering you 25% off boxed copies of the game with the coupon code HOLIDAY2020. CIA: Collect It All is a tactical card game with over 170 cards representing global crises, intelligence gathering techniques, and unexpected obstacles to an analyst's job. It includes a set of rules for playing the game the way it was played for CIA training, and a new set of alternate rules that turn it into an improvisational storytelling game. In addition to the boxed game, you can also get the print-and-play PDFs for free or any price you name, and make your own copy! Get 25% off your copy of CIA: Collect It Allwith the code HOLIDAY2020 »

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A few weeks ago, we ran a little experiment, with our first ever Copia Gaming Hour. We brought together (virtually) a group of people to test run a fun future scenario planning game we created called Hindsight 2030. The game involved players dividing up into teams, having to pick a "target" 2030 headline (each table had a list of 3 to choose from out of a giant list we created), and then create a narrative through five headlines to explain how we reached that 2030 headline. For example, the demo version we created used the following headline: Massive lawsuit threatens Pirate Party’s satellite broadband network And the demo example of the headlines we created leading up to that headline was: If you can't read those, the headlines read: 2021: Copyright bill compromises DNS system, adds harsh new penalties for file-sharers 2023: Can copyright infringement disqualify you from UBI? The courts are split 2025: Pirate Party wins first US victories on promises of open internet revival 2027: Invalidation of SpaceX patents ushers in age of hobbyist nano-satellites 2029: SatTorrent protocol sparks panic in Hollywood, author still a mystery 2030: Massive lawsuit threatens Pirate Party’s satellite broadband network Each team then also had to create an "epilogue" headline for some event happening after 2030 (we left it open to each team to come up with how far in the future that would be). After teams presented their five headlines leading up to their target, we had everyone in the audience take guesses on what the epilogue headline would be -- which resulted in some pretty hilarious suggestions. For our sample one we had: 2033: Satellite-killer missiles disrupt Pirate Party network, scientists fear collision cascade This whole thing was an experiment in general about whether or not we could create (1) some quick and easy group games for smart people around topics of interest to us, (2) whether or not people would like them, (3) whether or not the whole process would work, and (4) whether it could be a fun way to get together with people virtually that wasn't yet another "Zoom Happy Hour." As some of you know, over the last few years we (in partnership with Randy Lubin from Leveraged Play) been creating a variety of different games to explain the present or explore the future -- including our big online disinformation election simulation game. But most of those are very involved and complex. We wanted to create a more informal and casual environment to test out some ideas and to have some fun on a Friday afternoon. Given that this first one was a clear success, we're planning to do more of these. The first one was done entirely by invite to a small group of people we knew. Since this is still very experimental, we're not yet ready to open the doors completely to the public on this, but if you do want to be considered for the invite list to future games, we've now set up a quick form to register your interest. This is not a guarantee that you will be invited to future gaming hours -- as we may still experiment with the setup, the number of attendees, and such -- and some of it may depend on what it is we're looking to test with each game. However, if you want to be on the list of potential invitees, please fill out the form.

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