Tag Archives: Philando Castile

Net Neutrality: The Social Justice Issue of Our Time

Originally Posted by PublicKnowledge.org


By Willmary Escoto

Democracy has become a daily visceral online experience. When Philando Castile was shot by a Minnesota police officer his girlfriend’s first instinct was to start broadcasting. Diamond Reynolds chose to live-stream the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live, sharing the graphic cries of her four-year-old daughter with over 3.2 million viewers. Live streaming is transforming the growth of citizen journalism, providing a distressing view of shootings like these, and empowering citizens to share their story without the fear of censorship.

The apparent perpetuation of racial injustice in America is not new to minorities. One of the most important democratizing effects of an open internet is its emancipatory impact on underrepresented groups. It enables impoverished communities to bring to light the social injustices that were once in the shadows. The expansion of this movement and its capability to respond rapidly and effectively to the brutal and biased policing of Black, Latino, LGBT, and other minority groups depends, in part, on access to a non-discriminatory internet. The internet plays a critical role in the dissemination of information and services specifically tailored for people of color and other marginalized groups, including LGBT people, because it provides the opportunity for us to tell our own stories and to organize for racial and social justice. That empowerment relies on an open internet and net neutrality.

Net neutrality prevents Internet Service Providers from interfering with, blocking, or discriminating against Web content. Unfortunately, in April 2017, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to undo those rules and strip consumers of those critical online protections. Chairman Pai specifically proposed to remove the internet’s classification as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

Digital advocacy groups who oppose Chairman Pai’s proposal fear his approach will empower giant ISP gatekeepers and jeopardize net neutrality and free speech for disadvantaged populations, including people of color living in low-income communities who depend on equitable high-speed internet to tell their stories. Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Hispanic Media Coalition‘s affirmed that:

“Dismantling net neutrality opens the door for corporations to limit free expression, organizing efforts, educational opportunities and entrepreneurship by imposing a new tool to access information online. […]For Latinos and other people of color, who have long been misrepresented or underrepresented by traditional media outlets, an open Internet is the primary destination for our communities to share our stories in our own words—without being blocked by powerful gatekeepers motivated by profit.”

According to David Uberti of the Columbia Journalism Review:

“In most cases […] law enforcement’s point of view tends to dominate stories, as eyewitnesses might not be available or willing to talk, and victims – in the most violent cases – might be severely injured or dead. But smartphone video footage is changing the dynamic in a growing number of instances.”

The egalitarian quality of an open and accessible internet furthers the fundamental goals of civic engagement and free speech. The Black Lives Matter movement started with a simple hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, and it has transformed the dialogue surrounding police brutality and inequality. In an article in the Hill, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors said:

“Black Twitter broke the story of the murder of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson, while consolidated broadcast and cable industries lagged behind. From unarmed Black father John Crawford, murdered by police in an Ohio Walmart, to Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a Black 7-year-old murdered by police while she slept in her home—the open Internet allowed Black communities to tell these stories with our own voices.”

The audiovisual truth of Alton Sterling and Eric Garner’s public executions were undeniable and accessible because of the current net neutrality rules in place. ISPs are unable to control Twitter dissent, or block profiles reporting police brutality and access to video footage, thanks to the net neutrality. Activists can turn to the internet to circumvent cable, broadcast, mainstream, and print outlets improper characterizations  of disenfranchised and marginalized communities, because of an open and accessible internet. The current rules safeguard disadvantaged communities of color and America’s poor by ensuring that internet providers – upon whom we all rely to have our voices heard – treats all data on the internet the same.

In 2017, it is not just one movement, but every purpose that benefits from the ability to vibrantly and rapidly spread their message over a free and open internet. We watched the Women’s March explode from an idea on Facebook to a nationwide and global movement. Groups mobilizing in support of a Supreme Court nominee find an avenue to speak online just as well as leaders mobilizing mass protests against the Muslim ban and the immigration crackdowns. Conservative groups in rural America have found a voice online as well. In all cases, the American people have used the internet to mobilize and organize resistance against an increasingly heightened democratic dialogue. Millions have been able to mobilize so quickly because they have the ability to use the open internet to communicate to the masses and organize a resistance.

When Americans have protections for the proliferation of democratic discourse and civic engagement, we all benefit. It is our duty to ensure those protections aren’t dismantled and to protect our communities from the discriminatory practices of telecommunications companies.   We can’t allow the Trump administration and Chairman Pai to eliminate net neutrality and consumer protections that affect us all. Internet users cannot allow ISPs and other broadband providers to deliver substandard internet service to our communities.

Net neutrality is the beginning of a larger conversation on the future of the internet. The internet fosters mobilization for progressive and social change, and as advocates for social justice we must protect the internet from transitioning into a utility of privilege. The clock is ticking and the time is now. Gigi Sohn, one of the major net neutrality advocates who helped in crafting the FCC’s current Open Internet Order, published helpful advice for those who want to get involved.  As the United States transitions towards this internet-based communications network revolution, we must remain focused on the right goals: ensuring that the internet is affordable and accessible for all, not just the privileged.

Digital social justice demands no less.

Author, Willmary Escoto

Stanford Study Reveals Cops Target Black Drivers

Driving while black is still a major health risk to African-Americans. Of course you may get into an accident but you could also get killed by police during a routine traffic stop. Traffic stops kiled Sandra Bland and Philando Castile .

Could these deadly encounters be linked to cops targeting black drivers? A group of researchers from Stanford University may have answered this question. This group of researchers spent two years analyzing traffic stop data from all 50 states.

Once their study was completed the group launched the Open Policing website to host the results of their study but also all the data collected.  Their research includes over 100 million stops from 31 states. The website offers an  interactive map  displaying the results from each state allowing users to easily access and compare that information in areas across the U.S.

But what is the data telling black people? Or all people for that matter. The data tells black people and people of color what we already knew. Black and Hispanic drivers are pulled over more often and are searched based on less evidence than white drivers. According to Stanford researchers the data shows not only a racial disparity in police practices but is also evidence of racial biases in traffic enforcement.

To get to the meat of the issue the researchers had to use statistical analysis to filter out racial discrimination from effective policing. And the result?  Black people get pulled over more than white people. It is a common reality of African-American life.

The research showed that black drivers are stopped at a higher rate than white drivers regardless of the driver’s age or gender. Analysis also showed that police ticket, search, and arrest black drivers 20 percent more often than white drivers. Being of brown skin is even worse. Hispanic drivers are 30 percent more likely to be ticketed than white drivers. Black and Hispanic drivers are also twice as likely to be searched compared to white drivers.

Breaking It Down

Why do I keep doing this? Again and again we see the data that is telling black people what we already know. Driving while black is semi-illegal. This particular study deserves praise because of the work that went into it. The data and analysis is clearly presented and shows powerful academic effort. Thank you Stanford University. The data does not lie. Traffic enforcement is being used as a tool of intimidation of black people. As a black man why am I nervous when I see a cop in the rear view mirror? I’m not talking about the “Am I speeding?” nervous. No, I’m talking about “Am I about to have an unpleasant or even deadly encounter with a police officer?” nervous. Police are abusing their authority to intimidate black drivers. It leaves black parents praying that their child survives being out with the family car. White people need not worry about this. There is but one way to look at these numbers; intimidation. It was revealed that the police of Ferguson, MO used traffic stops, illegal search and seizure and excessive force on the black population. What we are seeing from the Stanford study is the evidence that Ferguson police are the norm and not the exception.

See also: Cellphones and Streaming Media Capture Capture Police Killing Black Men,  “The Counted” Website Tracks Cop Killings.


Cellphones and Streaming Media Capture Police Shooting of Black Men


Philando Castile

Philando Castile was shot and killed by police. It took only minutes for the images of the aftermath of the shooting to be come real world news thanks to Facebook’s live streaming function.  Welcome to the age of new, instant, media.

Diamond Reynolds captured the horrifying aftermath of the shooting using her cellphone as her boyfriend lie dying next to her. According to Reynolds Castile warned the officer he was in possession of a licensed firearm. “He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” cried Reynolds in the video.



Phlando death

Philando Castile lay dying after being shot by police.

In the video Castile can clearly be seen struggling to breath and bleeding profusely while the police officer continued to hold the gun on him.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana Alton Sterling another black man was shot and killed by police during a struggle. This too was recorded by smartphone camera.



According to witnesses Sterling was known as the “CD Man” and regularly sold CD’s and DVD’s outside the convenience store where he was shot. The store owner had given Sterling permission to do so.



Alton Sterling

Alton Sterling

In this incident there are actually two cellphone videos (Video 1, Video 2) that recorded the shooting while Sterling was on the ground wrestling with two police officers. In the video police officers are wrestling with Sterling when one yells “gun!” The second officer then removes his gun from its holster and eventually shoots Sterling several times. After the shooting the police can be seen removing the gun from Sterling’s pocket.

Never before in the history of broadcasting has such an events been seen so instantly.





Breaking It Down

Once during an interview I heard the rapper Tupac predict, rather matter-of -factly, that we will watch him live and die live on your television. Andy Warhol said “In the future we will all be famous for fifteen minutes.” In the age of technology and instant communications it seems to have all come true. And this changes everything.

We are witnessing the reality of being able to tell our story to the world from a tiny handheld device that no one could have dreamed of just twenty years ago. Technology has ripped away any possibility that a person could be misunderstood or doubted when they tell their story be it good or bad. We as a society are left now to only interpret what we have seen or heard. And this changes everything.

We no longer have the luxury of exchanging stories. “Your word against mine,” is a thing of the past. Black people have long complained of police brutality. What we are witnessing is not new just recorded and the story is being told .You are left to interpret the facts not the” he said she said” aftermath. And this changes everything.

We can thank technology for this moment. These shootings have ignited searing anger in society. We are seeing our lives and the lives of others recorded and streamed to anyone and all who want to see, hear and know. And this changes everything.

The killing of black men by the police is no longer a question of how of or if it happened a certain way. You can see for yourself what happened sometimes while it s happening. And this changes everything.

We are in a new era where the investigation into police actions, violence, use of force, and death are no longer focused on what happened. We saw what happened. No we must investigate why it happened. Why was another black man killed by the police? That is the question we must ask and answer. And that changes everything.

See also: App of the Week-Driving While Black