Tag Archives: President Obama

Congress Bans Ticket Bots

Courtesy Stuart Miles

Courtesy Stuart Miles

You have asked this question more than once; “How the hell did the concert sell out in five minutes?! Let me answer that question for you, Bots!

Bots are computer programs operated by ‘cyber-scalpers ‘ that buy thousands of tickets in a split second to re-sell them at astronomical mark ups. That is how bots cheat ordinary fans like yourself out of a fair chance to buy tickets.

Ticket bots work by using multiple IP addresses.  Such software, which is illegal in New York state, can bypass a ticket-selling websites’s security measures, such as CAPTCHA. According to the New York Times the secondary ticket market is an $8 billion a year industry.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have  passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or BOTS Act, with rare bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a state from his government website  saying, “These bots have gotten completely out of control and their dominance in the market is denying countless fans access to shows, concerts, and sporting events and driving prices through the roof. With this soon to be new law that will eliminate ‘bots’ and slap hackers with a hefty fine, we can now ensure those who want to attend shows in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices.”

The BOTS Act makes it illegal to circumvent a ticket sales website’s  security measures. The Federal Trade Commission will be charged with enforcing the law. Critics say bots feed a high-priced resale market that pushes ticket prices out of reach of ordinary consumers, particularly for hot events like the play “Hamilton” or a Beyonce concert. I mean, c’mon! How do you think the play “Hamilton” sold out for the next year? And the price for some a tickets have reached $10,000!  Really?

Here is the catch to a great move by congress. Many ticket bots operate with software and computers located outside the U.S. Because of this enforcement can be difficult. The New York Times reports that European governments are considering governments similar legislation.

Ticket scalping is legal. Companies like StubHub and Ticketmaster are well known ticket re-sellers. And yes, their ticket mark up can reach as high as 50 percent. So the law does not outlaw scalping it outlaws bypassing a website’s security measures. 

Passage of the BOTS Act is the culmination of years of frustration among the public, artists and producers infuriated by ticket hoarding bots that profit from their work while gouging the public. Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of  the Broadway play “Hamilton,”called scalping “a usurious, parasitic business that only serves to create a new profit center between the artist and the consumer.”

Consider the recent visit by the Pope  to United States. Tickets to the parade were issued for free. But bots managed to gobble up thousands of them and they suddenly appeared on sites like eBay and Craigslist for hundreds of dollars.

Now you know.

 

Obama Issues Cyber Response Directive

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President Obama consults with special assistant Lisa Monaco (White House Photo)

President Obama has sealed his legacy as not only America’s first African-American president but also America’s first cyber president. No president before has overseen the development of internet initiatives and cyber warfare capabilities as President Obama.

To add to that legacy President Obama has issued a new Presidential Policy Directive; the United States Cyber Incident Coordination Directive. Like many other of his policies this too has come under scrutiny. Experts in the field disagree on whether the policy is workable in the event of a large scale cyber attack. On the other hand others believe that the policy is right on target.

Announced on July 26th the presidential directive assigns specific roles to the FBI, DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The agencies are directed to establish three lines of action that include threat response, asset response and intelligence support activities.

The policy places the FBI in charge of coordinating the immediate response to a terror related cyber event. DHS will lead the asset response action by providing technical assistance, locating the cyber attacker, protecting assets and recovering from the attack. Intelligence and analysis responsibilities will fall to the ODNI who will perform an analysis of the threat and identify opportunities to mitigate and disrupt it.

Some cyber experts believe that the new policy is “overly complicated” and has “too many moving parts.”  These experts believe the policy requires new and different parts of the federal government to work together efficiently in a cyber crises without having been tested.

Phil Reitinger is CEO of Global Cyber Alliance and a former DHS deputy undersecretary for the  for cyber security.  Reitinger does not believe the complexity of the directive will hinder its effectiveness.   “I don’t think it’s a huge lift for implementation. I suspect this is the way the government already works,” says Reitinger. “I think it’s more a likely description of the way things now generally work and ought to work as opposed to a notional thing to work toward.”

Lisa Monaco assistant to the president for homeland security and terrorism spoke at a cyber security conference on the day the directive was issued. “Our new policy acknowledges that when businesses and federal agencies are the victim of or experience a significant cyber incident, one of the most important considerations is likely to be restoring operations and getting back online. Our policy makes clear that we will coordinate with the victim to minimize any interference between their incident response and our own.”

Even though the president’s directive is design to integrate both private and federal response to a cyber attack many in the private sector feel that it leaves them out.

Internet Security Alliance chief executive Larry Clinton is happy about federal efforts to clarify its responsibilities in the event of a major cyber event. “However, defining these roles and responsibilities on a government-only basis, as this appears to have done, is bad policy making and counter to the administration’s own oft stated views on the need for government to work with the private sector,” he says. “As far as I can tell, there has been little or no private sector involvement in the development of this new system. Clinton went on to say, “Every Cyber Storm (a combined cyber exercises with industry and government) action report has stressed the need to increase coordination between the public and private sectors. This program seems to move in the opposite direction.” 

See also:

Obama; First Cyber President

President Obama Launches Cyber Offensive, Part 2, Part 3

Obama Launches ConnectedHome Initiative

 

Race and Technology – Racism Online

reddit-logo-01-674x501The Internet is a very racist place. Racism online is rampant because many people enjoy the anonymity that the Internet provides. Thoughts, ideas and opinions can be expressed without question.

Extremist groups once had to hand out flyers on street corners or send out mailers. Some groups openly recruited in the workplace, college campuses and churches. This was common before the Internet. My how times have changed.  The Internet now permits extremists access to to a wider, and some would say more receptive, audience especially young people. Communication has become easier between racist groups allowing them to coordinate their efforts across continents and oceans.  Social media sites like Facebook and NewSaxon, a white supremacist dating site,  has been a boon to these groups. The top five racist pages on Facebook are;

  1. Pioneer Little Europe
  2. American White History Month
  3. Barrack Obama’s Dead Fly
  4. Southern Brotherhood Militia
  5. I Love Being White

White supremacists by the thousands access these sites connecting with other like minded individuals through web-based forums or discussion groups.  Because these websites allow racists to connect two white supremacists were introduced by a mutual friend. The two were later arrested for plotting to assassinate President Obama and planning a racist shooting spree. These sites also attract racist prison gangs, political radicals and even the mentally ill. But don’t get it twisted. Not all racist are mentally ill. Many are very articulate when expressing racial hatred even when it makes no sense. Check out some the top racist websites and see for yourself.

Another forum of racist thought is known as Reddit.com Reddit describes itself an “…entertainment, social news networking service, and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links…” Reddit is open to all and allows the users to police the content.

But many people have pointed out that Reddit has a problem with racist postings and content.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report declaring Reddit as the “vilest, ugliest, nastiest and most unapologetically hateful space on the Internet.”

According to the SPLC Reddit is home to some of the most violent racist videos on the Internet. These video are often extremely graphic images of black and minorities being murdered. These video are so graphic and violent that even white supremacist websites like Stormfront.org cannot post them. Stormfront is the largest white supremacist website with over 200,000 registered users.

There are some shocking revelation about Reddit.com. First of all according to Alexa Internet traffic ranking Reddit has the 9th highest traffic ranking in the U.S. with over 130 million visits monthly and ranks 36th worldwide. Reddit’s topic specific sub-categories, known as sub-Reddits,  are the most racist and most popular.

Second, although Reddit operates independently, it was purchased by Condé Nast, one of the largest mass media companies in the United States in 2006. Third, and most troubling, one of Reddit’s biggest investors is none other than rapper Snoop Dogg to the tune of $50 million dollars. But it’s not all Snoop’s money.  He and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and actor Jared Leto, joined a group of investors dropping the $50 million on the site. Reddit’s is currently estimated to be worth roughly $500 million.

Breaking It Down

Racism is alive and well in the U.S. and online. The Internet is a communications tool that allows people to speak out without name or consequence. Using this darkness ordinary people can vent, denigrate, attack, vilify, even harass and threaten those they don’t like or don’t understand. And yes, black people and other minorities do the same.  But racism is best practiced in the dark. It is most at home and fertile among the ignorant and narrow of mind.  The Internet, like every communication device before it, is being used to spread this ignorance. Things change but they stay the same.

 

 

Affordable Internet Access

digital-divide-word-cloud2The digital divide is real. Too many low income black families are falling behind in education and employment opportunities due to the prohibitive costs of computers and Internet access. This lack of access to technology and information has created an underclass of people who are digitally absent in our society. This is not news and is not necessary.

African-American children without Internet access in the home fall behind their classmates in educational achievement. As they get older and enter the job market they are behind the curve in computer skills. This limits the jobs that they can successfully apply. Its a trap for poverty.

According to Cheapinternet.com  29 million households in the U.S.  have school age children. Five million of those families lack high-speed Internet service. The lion’s share of that 5 million are low-income black and Hispanic households.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “School-aged kids without broadband access at home are not only unable to complete their homework , they enter the job market with a serious handicap,” she said. “And that loss is more than individual. It’s a loss to the collective human capital and shared economic future that we need to address.”

But there are bridges across the digital divide. There are companies focusing on providing affordable Internet access to the economically disadvantaged.

EveryoneOn.org is a nonprofit organization who’s mission is providing Internet access to all. The company has offices in Washington, D.C and Los Angeles and are working to  “leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level.”

Everyoneon.org provides economically disadvantaged families with affordable computers and access to free computer classes. The company believes that all people should be equally connected. They add: “Through partnerships with leading Internet providers and device refurbishers EveryoneOn is able to offer options of home Internet service for $10 or less a month and $150 computers for low-income individuals and families.”

Basic-Internet.com has partnered with EveryoneOn to provide the badly needed Internet connection.  Consumers have two plans to choose from for mobile access.

First is the $10 a month plan providing for 1.2 GB of data at a 4G speed, then unlimited data at 3G once the 1.2GB runs out. The second plan offers a $20 a month plan for 3.2GB at the 4G speed then unlimited again at 3G. 

However affordable the plan is the customer must still buy the Wi-Fi device and that could cost as much as $75. But that is a one time purchase.

But just having an Internet connection falls short of having the skills to use the technology. EveryoneOn offers educational information on its website that will help the consumer to learn how to use email, find health information, educational resources, financial literacy and job hunting resources.

Many poor families find the price of a computer can be beyond their reach. Thankfully there are resources than can provide refurbished computer at affordable prices.

Angie’s Angel Help Network provides a listing of computer providers for low income families and people with disabilities. Organizations are listed nationally and state by state.

Long before the days of the Civil Rights movement black people have always known that education is the key to escaping poverty. Now in the information the struggle is to gain access to information. The information super-highway need not have excessive tolls.

For more information on affordable Internet access please visit Cheapinternet.com to find a listing of companies.

Now you know.

See also; Obama Unveils ConnectHome to Get Low Income Households Online.

Economic, Racial Digital Divide Creates Larger Education Gap Nationwide

 

Two Year Cellphone Are Contracts are Dead, Maybe

canstockphoto26388971It is with great glee and little regret that we report that the two year cellphone contract has died; sort of. Are we finally rid of this painful financial burden? Maybe. In the past cellphone providers have charged you for long distance calls long after technology eliminated it, forced you to buy a new phone if you switched carriers and locked you into two year contracts to keep you hooked like an addict to a drug dealer. 

All this has changed. President Obama signed into law an end to being forced to buy a new phone if you switch carriers.  And now the two year contract is dying. Thats the good news. The bad news is you gonna have to pay full price for smartphones.

The AACR has repeatedly reported that the state of the cellphone industry is an all out bloodbath for customers. Except for school children getting their first phone there are few new customers. 

So why is this important for African-Ameicans? Black people use their cellphones more than any other group.  A report last year by the Federal Reserve Board revealed that blacks and Latinos make up a “disproportionately high rate” of mobile-banking users. A study by Pew Internet research showed that 41 percent of non-whites say they use their smartphones to check their balances, pay bills and perform other transactions, including 39 percent of blacks. Now throw in text messages, email, online shopping and of course phone calls. So the question really is, do you have a cellphone contract? Are you paying for text, talk and data? All that is changing.

T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have all announced the move to no contract phone plans.

T-Mobile started the trend of killing off the two year contract with its un-carrier movement. T-Mobile is offering customers the ability upgrade three times a year with its Jump! On Demand offering. In addition to approved credit Jump! On Demand still has a monthly fee associated with the phone. It’s stretched out over 18 months and that’s close enough to a two year contract. If you don’t switch phones with Jump! On Demand, you’ll owe a final lump sum at the end of that 18 month period. T-Mobile has also eliminated  roaming charges in Canada and Mexico. Aggressive moves like this have pushed T-Mobile pass Sprint in total connections.

AT&T is the only company still offering a two year contract.  But the company is slowly closing out this option for third-party retailers.  AT&T plans to offer its contract-free Next program.

Emily Edmonds, spokesperson for AT&T said, “Our customers increasingly choose AT&T Next, so we’re responding by featuring Next as the most prominent way to get a new smartphone at our national retailers and local dealers. Customers who would rather have a two-year contract still have that option.” Two-year contracts will still be available but only at AT&T stores online or brick and mortar. 

Verizon announced its dumping its two year contract plan earlier this month. By the end of 2015 Verizon expects 50 percent of new smartphone sales to be sold without contracts as part of its “Edge” program. Verizon is dropping the subsidy for new smartphones and encouraging customers to buy their own devices. This is the trend in the industry.

But if you wish to get a new phone Verizon is still willing to accommodate you. They simply tack the price of the phone on your bill in montly installments. Yeah, that’s a contract. Verizon’s Edge program allows custmers to upgrade to a new phone anytime they wish as long as the old phone is paid off.

Verizon’s new plans took effect Aug. 13. Prices for voice, text and data services will be reduced by an estimated $20 per month compared with plans where the company subsidized the price of a new phone. Verizon is dropping its phone subsidies along with its two year contract. 

Verizon’s introduced its new plans based around shared data packages. There’s no more single line or family plan. Instead Verizon customers will pay for a specific amount of data and a pay a per-device enrollment fee for the plan. The plans was launched on August 13th. Current Verizon subscribers can keep their existing plans, and the perks that go with it, or switch over to the new plans but some restrictions will apply.

Sprint announced the termination of its two year plan and will offer plans where customers lease their smartphones. For customers it means buying a new phone out right at full retail price or choosing the lease option. According to Sprint, in the last quarter, 51 percent of customers used the lease option to purchase a new phone.

Sprint knows that customers are not looking forward to buying a new phone that sometimes retail for as much as $700. So they have sweetened the pot a little. The company has introduced the iPhone Forever plan. For $22 a month more on their monthly bill customers can upgrade to the newest iPhone annually as soon as it becomes available. This option will be very popular among techno-geeks and gadget hounds who can’t be seen without the latest smartphone. But yeah, that’s a contract.

Breaking It Down

Cellphone carriers are fighting for their lives. The market is saturated and finding new customers is like trying to find diamonds on the street. Right now if you are a cellphone customer, and who isn’t, the game is all yours. This switch to no contracts means the market will open up and go crazy for a short while. Many people who are in a contract can jump ship anytime they want because a competitor will pay their early termination fee. That is about to end because there will be no more contracts. With the cellphone carriers in an all out war there will be winners. First, cellphone makers will see an increase in sales as all the carriers offer anytime upgrades. So cellphone makers will crank up the factory and marketing to get more, newer and better phones on the market. Cellphone re-sellers are going to make a few bucks and so keep an eye out for the explosion of used cellphones about to hit the market. Some will be nearly brand new. And customers, with their new phones can pick any carrier, anytime they want.

So now what? Now the game gets really bloody. Cellphone carriers, the big ones, will soon die off or merge. You’ll see more and more small and regional cell carriers. Remember the break up of Ma Bell? These smaller companies will offer more options, more deals and more services. Thats the sweet spot for black people. The competitive market is just too tough a game and its not going to change. Now the game is to buy the best cellphone you can afford and hold on to it. Switch to the carrier with the best deal and dump them when you find a better deal.  The next blood letting will come from the data plans. Unlimited text, talk and data is the next next and final battle for survival. One or more of the big carriers will finally die off.

 

 

 

 

 

Obama Hosts Technology Demo Day

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www.whitehouse.gov

President Obama hosted the first ever White House Demo Day on his birthday. The purpose of Demo Day was to accelerate diversity in the U.S. tech sector and highlight the administration’s dedication to this goal.

The event hosted more than 90 entrepreneurs from 30 different companies. Many participants were expecting to see and demonstrate start up technology efforts from various entrepreneurs. The diverse group of participants represented the spectrum of  women and minorities struggling to get recognition from the established tech community. In a show of support the White House and ventures capitalist announced several programs and initiatives to advance diversity in tech.

One group of 40 top venture capital firms representing over $110 billion dollars invested in almost 7,000 start ups announced their commitment to a more inclusive entrepreneur environment. In a letter from the New Enterprise Association, a group that includes Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital,  and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, committed to monitor diversity within their individual firms and the companies they invest in.  The significance of this letter cannot be understated when women and African-Americans face huge obstacles to employment and investment in Silicon Valley.

Big name technology companies also made their presence known. IBM, Microsoft, Airbnb and Indiegogo are falling in step with the likes of Apple, Intel, Facebook and Pinterest by announcing that they will adopt the Rooney Rule. The rule comes from the NFL and states that a women or minority must at least be interviewed for senior positions in their companies. As many as 45 venture capital firms have adopted the Rooney Rule. But there are some who believe that even though the rule is well meaning it won’t work.

Google and Facebook announced a new program aimed at improving their diversity. Facebook launched the Supplier Diversity Program, that will focus on increasing the number of women and minority-owned business in the company’s supply chain.

In another announcement the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the expansion of its InnovateHER 2016: Innovating for Women Business Challenge. The program is national competition intended to identifying products and services designed to uplift and empower women and families. The contest is conducted through a string of local business competitions that includes a final round of live presentations. The idea is to spur innovative efforts by and for women.

Now you know

 

 

Obama Launches ConnectHome Initiative


connected-504President Obama announced a broad initiative intended to provide high-speed Internet service to low-income households. The announcement came last Wednesday.

The pilot program, named ConnectHome, hopes to deliver high-speed broadband access to over 275,000 low-income households across the U.S. The pilot program will launch in 27 U.S. cities including New York, Boston and Seattle and the Choctaw Tribal Nation in Oklahoma. According to the White House the program will connect almost 200,000 underpriviledged children to the Internet. The program will be kept small to prove it can work.

ConnectHome is part of the Obama administration’s continuing effort to close the digital divide and ensure that all people have access to high speed Internet service regardless of income level.

In March, President Obama created the Broadband Opportunity Council, made up of 25 federal agencies and departments. The group was given the objective of giving more people access to broadband. The Obama administration sees broadband access as a critical component for U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.

According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center African-Americans were less likely to use the Internet and also less likely to have broadband Internet access.

African-Americans fall behind whites by seven percentage points (87 to 80 percent) when it comes to Internet use. Black people follow whites by 12 percent in home broadband adoption.

The Obama administration continues to fight against the digital divide and government agencies are backing him up. Most recently the FCC announced an effort to allow Americans on public assistance to use their benefits to pay for stand alone Internet access.

“Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.  “But the fact of the matter is that the majority of Americans earning less than $25,000 a year don’t have broadband at home.”

The ConnectHome program is a partnership between the U.S. government and a group of organizations from both the private and public sector. Google Fiber has agreed to connect public housing communities in Atlanta, Durham, Kansas City, and Nashville with home Internet service.

CenturyLink, will provide broadband service to HUD homes in Seattle for $9.95 a month for the first year. That rate will increase to $14.95 in the next four years. Other corporations that are participating include Cox Communications and Sprint.

ConnectHome goes beyond simply providing an Internet connection. Other companies are stepping in to provide training and devices to low income Americans. Best Buy, a major electronics retailer, will train HUD residents and provide technical support.

The James M. Cox Foundation will provide 1,500 tablet computers to familes and students in Macon, GA for $30 a piece. The Cox Foundation is a not-for-profit associated with Internet service provider Cox Communications.  GitHub, an open source project,  is kicking in $250,000 to pay for digital literacy. The Public Broadcasting Service is producing new programs for children and the American Library Association will provide on-site training.

ConnectHome will link the president’s ConnectED initiative. That program is a five year initiative which was announced in 2013. ConnectED intends to get 99 percent of US students, grades K-12, on high-speed Internet access in school and libraries within five years.

Breaking It Down

As a nation we must avoid creating a permanent under class of citizens. There is much talk of ending poverty and improving education. So the imperative must be to create total access to information. The ability to acces the Internet literally means to open the world to the economic disadvantaged. We will never have economic equality. That is contradictory to the economic system we live under. But we must provide equality of economic opportunity. Leaving people in poverty creates anger and resentment leading to violence and crime. How is that good for anybody? Knowledge, education, ConnectHome and the ConnectEd initiative can help bring people out of poverty. Children who are unable to complete homework assignments because they have no Internet are victims of a sub-standard education. It’s a sentence to a life below economic standards. The Internet is the greatest communication tool yet in human history. It can literally provide the user an education to the college level or higher if they have it and know how to use it.  President Obama is right to point out that the nation’s economic might is tied directly to the ability to access the Internet and limitless information. Ignoring the needs of the poor is a threat to national security. The president of the United States swore an oath to combat the nation’s enemies foreign and domestic. Ignorance is the enemy. Poverty is the enemy. And they are within our borders.

 

Racist Attack Obama on Twitter and Google Maps

obama-potus-smartphoneIn what has become almost common for racist Americans President Obama has come under attack on his new Twitter account. The president was bombarded by racist and threatening tweets in the first days of his opening his Twitter account.

President uses the Twitter handle @POTUS the acronym for President of the United States. It didn’t take long for the racists to attack him personally using racial slurs and calling for his lynching.

The images and language directed at the President reflect the deep racial hatred that some people feel toward the first African-American president.

One post had a doctored image of President Obama’s famous “Hope” campaign poster. The image showed the president with his head in a noose, his eyes closed and his neck twisted as if broken. It was meant to appear as if he had been lynched. The word “HOPE” was replaced with “Rope.”

The picture was accompanied by the message “#arrestobama, #treason we need ‘ROPE FOR CHANGE.’ ” The message came from a user using the handle @jeffgully49. This was not @jeffgulley49’s first posted image of the president in a noose. His Twitter image shows President Obama behind Bars.  “We still hang for treason, don’t we?” his post said.

@jeffgully49 is Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis, MN. His posting got him a visit from the Secret Service on Thursday. When reached by the New York Times for comment Gullickson reponded with an email asking how much The New York Times would pay him for an interview.

Another Twitter user posted to the president with just two words: “Black monkey.” another person wrote “Get back in your cage monkey.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the language directed at the president is “all too common on the Internet.” Earnest said that officials would not spend much time trying to block abusive commenters from the president’s account.

Another Twitter account, @BarackObama, owned by the Organization for Action, a liberal activist group, is regularly targeted by racist attacks.

President Obama is the first president to use the technology of the Internet to communicate his messages effectively. Top advisers to the president consider such hate filled speech as a small price to pay. Twitter, Facebook and other platforms provide the White House the opportunity to target the president’s message directly to the voters.

Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s former long time aide and advisor said, “The potential for anonymity allows people to say offensive, horrible things on Twitter that they would never say anywhere else, but we’re talking about a tiny fraction of the community.” Pfeiffer urged the president to engage on social media, including urging White House officials to create Twitter accounts.

Twitter has been criticized for not cracking down on so-called trolls. These are sometimes anonymous people who post abusive or inappropriate comments on the social networking site. Twitter does not police individual users or initiate action against them. But that appears to be changing.

In a note to his employees earlier this year Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote that he intended to start kicking trolls off of the platform “right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.”

In April, Twitter updated its abuse policy making it tougher for trolls to flood Twitter with threats and harassment. Twitter’s changes expand the definition of violent threats to include indirect threats and tweets that promote violence. The social messaging giant has gone a step farther and created a tool that automatically flags tweets that seem likely to be abusive based on triggers including the age of the account and content that fits the pattern of previous tweets identified as abuse.

Twitter’s changes  signal a shift in the company’s approach not only to abuse, but to growth. Twitter shareholders are applying pressure on the company to grow its monthly active user base. This left Twitter reluctant to stand up to abuse out of fear of jeopardizing its already declining user base. However over the last year Twitter’s management realized that the company stands to lose a lot more if it continues to let trolls post openly. Management has decided that it’s better to alienate destructive users if it means holding onto the good ones.

Costolo said problems with trolls are driving away the company’s users. “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years,” Costolo wrote in an internal memo. “It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

Google is also taking a stand against the racist activity that infects their Google Maps website.  Google has apologized after it was discovered that searches in the Washington, DC area containing the word “nigger” directed users to the White House. Another search of the words “nigger house” or “nigger king”  directed the user to the home of President Barack Obama. Global searches for terms including “niggahouse” also return the White House as the number one search result.

Google explained in a blog post apologizing for the “mess up,”  that the situation was caused because its Maps service uses content from across the web. Most of which isn’t vetted to match searches to locations.  This model explains why a search for ‘failure’ used to serve U.S. President Geoge W. Bush as the top result, before the company implemented a change.  Google said: “Our team has been working hard to fix this issue. Building upon a key algorithmic change we developed for Google Search, we’ve started to update our ranking system to address the majority of these searches—this will gradually roll out globally and we’ll continue to refine our systems over time. Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don’t.”

 

 

 

 

Obama Pushes Consumer Privacy Bill

AP_barack_obama_press_conference_sk_131220_16x9_992President Obama has introduced draft legislation intended to ease the burden on consumers who wish to view or delete personal information that companies collect and keep. The White House announced the release of the draft based on the principles of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights originally released in 2012.

Consumer privacy is another Internet related issue that Obama promised to address in his State of the Union address. The president previously released a fact sheet outlining both this and other proposed changes. President Obama has made significant efforts in addressing national cyber security and other consumer Internet related issues including connectivity and broadband, public private information sharing and data breach notification legislation.

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015 addresses the staggering volume of personal data that corporations collect from consumers regularly. This data is the raw material used internally, analyzed by advertisers, or sold to a third-party aggregator as the final product of the information industry. The bill introduced by the president would require corporations to explain how they use this data in “concise and easily understandable” language. The bill also requires options for consumers to review, correct, or delete information.

Data covered by this bill includes names, addresses, social security or passport numbers, fingerprints, or credit card numbers. Excluded information includes “de-anonymized” data that theoretically cannot be traced back to a specific person. Information used to identify a cyber security related problem is also excluded as long as companies make “reasonable efforts” to remove any personally identifiable information. The bill requires companies to be specific about what information is collected, who it will be shared with, when and if it will be destroyed, how it’s kept secure, and how customers can see or remove it.

Data collectors will also be required to take “reasonable steps” to mitigate privacy risks and make these efforts clear to users. The  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be tasked with establishing rules for privacy reviews. Any company violating the terms of the act is subject to FTC lawsuits, as well as user and states attorney general action. The president’s bill allows exemptions for small businesses, including businesses that process data for 10,000 people a year or less or have no more than five employees.

California’s “Shine the Light” law already makes it possible to find out what information companies have collected. The California law requires companies to reveal what information they’ve sold to third-party marketing companies. Facebook, one of the largest data collectors in the world has already attempted to make their privacy policies more transparent considering the tremendous amount of information it holds.

Center on Privacy and Technology director Alvaro Bedoya at Georgetown’s law school worries that Obama’s bill could actually preempt state laws allowing companies to collect what they want as long as they maintain some level of transparency. Bedoya cites rules in Illinois and Texas that ban companies from collecting biometric information without permission. “This bill would erase those protections without offering any clear replacement.” He added that it “seems to assume a world where all of our data is collected about us, all of the time.”

Bedoya is not alone in his thinking. Nonprofit Consumer Watchdog labeled the bill as “full of loopholes” saying it “envisions a process where industry will dominate in developing codes of conduct.”

The Center for Digital Democracy says it relies too much on companies’ judgment to decide whether information is sensitive and how it should be managed. This limits the FTC’s power.

In a written statement the Center for Digital Democracy said “Although the president’s Privacy Bill of Rights promised transparency and control, it creates a labyrinth-like process that consumers must navigate before they can actually access and correct their own data records held by companies.”

The Center for Democracy and Technology says it “falls short on the privacy protections needed in today’s digital world.”

Bedoya hopes the bill that reaches Congress provides more specific and clear lines of authority, opening the door to meaningful reform. President Obama continues to push on other fronts.  This month he introduced another cybersecurity executive orderAnother attempt to create rules governing breaches like last year’s Sony hack.

Breaking It Down

As a black consumer you need to be aware of the level of data collection that is going on. Because the more corporations know about you the more likely they are to tailor offerings, sales, and information just for black people and that is not always a good thing. Not at all.

But before I get into the dangers of information collection let me explain a simple scary fact to you. Everything you buy is recorded somewhere with your name on it. You sell more information about yourself than you can imagine. What you don’t sell you give away or the major corporation figures out a way to steal it or buy it from someone else. Is this information about you true? Is it accurate and up to date? You don’t know and the information industry won’t let you see it. Major corporations are now collecting every bit of information they can about you. No matter where you are or who you are or what that information is. There is nothing to stop them. President Obama is trying to change that.

Now welcome to the age of digital discrimination. Corporations use the information they collect from black consumers to guide them to choices just for them. Sound familiar? Your information is used to direct you away from homes you can’t buy. That’s called red lining. your information is used to hide jobs you can’t have. Employment discrimination. Your information is used to decide what medical treatment you get and what you pay for prescriptions. Your information is used to determine what price you pay for merchandise and it is not always cheaper. Your information is used to decide what banks you can do business with, what loans you can get and what advertisements you see. Corporations claim its the machines doing it. Do we believe that?

The purpose of the Consumer Bill of Rights is to allow you some control over this information. But it is not going to solve the problem of digital discrimination.  I don’t know what will.

African-Americans and Net Neutrality

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeIn a close three to two vote along party lines, the FCC announced new rules on Internet governance to support net neutrality and the open Internet, protecting freedom of innovation and access to web content.

The new rules from the FCC, changed the way ISPs operate. The Internet has been re-classified as a utility. This means that all people have a right to the Internet. The new rules reflect the FCC’s re-classification of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service under the 1934 Communications Act. 

ISPs are now subject to the privacy provisions of the Communications Act of 1934. This new rule requires your ISP to provide you with any information they collect and maintain on you, the customer, upon written request.

Net neutrality has also been extended to wireless devices such as smartphones. The decision prevents cell providers from throttling, or slowing down, the data stream to your mobile device. A common practice of many carriers when they believe you consume too much data.

The three key provisions of the Open Internet Order covers both fixed and mobile internet access;

  • No blocking. ISPs cannot block access to legal content, apps, services or non-harmful devices;
  • No throttling. ISPs are forbidden from impairing or otherwise degrading legal Internet traffic on the basis of such criteria as content, apps, services or non-harmful devices.
  • No paid priority. ISPs are not allowed to charge for favored access of legal Internet traffic over other kinds in exchange for money. They are banned from giving their own content and services, and that of their affiliates, priority.

Internet service providers (ISPs), the companies that own the wires and antennas that transmit data, were seeking the right to charge Internet websites, content providers, and users based on how much data they put out or consume through those wires and antennas.

Advocates of net neutrality feared the creation of a two-tier internet where data flows are controlled and regulated based on one’s ability to pay.

Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission said, “We cannot have a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes that speed the traffic of the privileged and leave the rest of us lagging behind. We cannot have gatekeepers who tell us what we can and cannot do and where we can and cannot go online. And we do not need blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization schemes that undermine the Internet as we know it.”

ISPs have a different view of the situation and the decision. These companies feel they have the right to profit from their investment they made in expanding the network and improving the speed of data transmission. They believe it is unfair for companies like Netflix, that consume huge amounts of network capacity, to use that capacity without paying more for it. They have a point. They also believe that the rules of the 1934 Communications Act are outdated and should not, and cannot, apply to today’s technology. These regulations, they believe, could cripple innovation by discouraging investment in networks. Some believe the rules could permit the government to impose new Internet taxes and tariffs increasing consumer bills and even give the government the power to force ISPs to share their networks with competitors. Sen. Ted Cruz has gone so far as to say the new rules are “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Republicans have accused the White House of skewing the independence of the FCC and called for an investigation into Obama’s role in shaping the rules. They conceded however they could not pass a veto proof net neutrality bill without support from Democrats. Major ISPs, cable and telecom companies have promised a court battle to reverse the ruling.

The FCC also voted to preempt state laws that prevented at least two cities from expanding their city owned broadband networks to neighboring communities especially rural areas.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

These communities have sought to over turn restrictive state laws prohibiting them from delivering high speed connectivity to rural neighbors. “There are a few irrefutable truths about broadband,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of the vote. “One is you can’t say you’re for broadband, and then turn around and endorse limits.”

Breaking It Down.

Many African-Americans may ask what is net neutrality and what does it mean to me? It means that black people will not be caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Black people and the economically disadvantage should not be left behind in the age of information. The ability to access knowledge, much like the public library, must be equal for all people.

In order for our schools to provide a quality education we need to have high speed Internet access. We cannot have politicians telling us they don’t have the money in the budget to pay for the needed connectivity.  The same way they tell us there is no money for music, athletics and other vitals of a good education. Connected schools for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

This decision is all about the digital divide. The gap between the have and the have nots. If we, as a nation, condone the restriction of access to the Internet based on who can pay then we take an terrifying step toward a dystopian society where education is for the rich alone. Don’t let that happen.

We have to realize that education is changing. Right now we are taking classes online and getting degrees. But soon the text book will be obsolete. It takes too much time and too many resources to update paper books. Books will be delivered over the Internet to a reader or tablet. Up to date and relevant content for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

We will have a society where education moves to the electronic classroom from pre-school to college and beyond. Classes tailored to the need and desires of the student. Lessons will be interactive and learning will be self-paced. Vastly improved quality of education for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

ISPs, in an effort to drive up profit margins, will eventually decide to categorize and price Internet access. That is the cablelization effect. We should not be forced to pick and choose what websites and services we can afford. Don’t let that happen.

Without net neutrality many people would find themselves limited to packages of Internet websites they can visit a month. Poor people will have to choose between researching information about their health or information about their government. They can’t afford both. Don’t let that happen.

This scenario will create an underclass of people who see the Internet and information as a luxury. As black people we understand very well how the denial of knowledge can impact people and equality. Denial of knowledge has been used throughout history to deny people equal rights.  Don’t let that happen.

The Internet must be considered a utility. Similar to essentials like water, electricity and the telephone, it is a matter of fairness and human dignity.

I understand perfectly what the ISPs are saying when it comes to their investment in the networks. But like the telephone companies learned long ago, once you become essential to the human condition you lose the right to decide who you can do business with and how much you can charge. Consider it an honor.

But restricting access to knowledge and information is the equivalent of charging admission to the public library. We can’t let that happen.