Tag Archives: Washington Post

Facebook Shuts Down DC Anti-Racist Rally Pages

Facebook announced that it had uncovered websites that may have been intended to disrupt the coming mid-term elections. According to the Washington Post Facebook deleted 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and May of this year.  The misinformation websites lured nearly 300,000 people with ads, events and regular posts focused on race, fascism and feminism with the intent to spark backlash against Donald Trump. Facebook notified law enforcement officials before deleting the profiles Tuesday morning. The company also notified members of congress of the activity and will notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation.

But it seems that some legitimate organizations have been caught up in the Facebook cleanup operation. Organizers in Washington D.C are angry with Facebook for taking down their legitimate page that was organizing a counter protest against a “Unite the Right  2.0” rally scheduled to take place in D.C on August 12th.

DCist, one one of organizers of the counter protest, say their counter-rally is legitimate and backed by a number of real organizations.

Dylan Petrohilos of “Resist This” said, “This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals.”  Petrohilos was a defendant in a rioting case during the Inauguration of Donald Trump. 

Petrohilos said “Shut It Down DC” is the group organizing the counter protest. The group formed after known white supremacist Jason Kessle, organizer of the Charlottesville rally, announced plans for the D.C. rally. The counter protest will involve numerous local groups, including the D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, and Smash Racism D.C.

Facebook issued a press release saying that the original creator of the “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” page was created in part with a fake “Resisters” account. Facebook did not explicitly connect the pages to the Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). According to U.S. intelligence officials the IRA is a source Russian misinformation and propaganda efforts. Facebook did however say it had “found evidence of some connections” between the IRA and whoever was behind the pages.

Facebook wrote; The Event – “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” – was scheduled to protest an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington. Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate pages to co-host the event. These legitimate pages unwittingly helped build interest in “No Unite Right 2 – DC” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests.

Organizers say that the counter-protest will still take place.  A legitimate replacement event page has been created. Organizers however are still angry with Facebook for removing the original page because it had numerous RSVPs and was the hub for discussion and planning.

 

The War for Net Neutrality! Breaking It Down

The FCC voted along party lines to end the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. This war for a free and open Internet has been going on for some time. This is just the latest battle.  This decision is by no means the end of it. But what is happening and what does it mean for Black Internet users?

 

 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all data carried over the Internet is treated the same. That means that whether you’re streaming Netflix, shopping online, playing games or just reading the news, all the data is the same. Same speed and same price. For users of the Internet that meant that you could access any website and use as much data as you wanted. Before the change Internet service providers or ISPs like Comcast or Verizon could not deliberately speed up or slow down Internet traffic from specific websites or apps. But they did. The practice was known as throttling. The net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair. If you really want to understand how this works imagine sitting in traffic while those willing to pay whiz by you in the express lane. That is the basic idea behind the new rules of the Internet. 

How does that affect Black people?

People using the Internet, schools, small businesses and others are now subject to a potential new way of using the Internet and paying for it. You could be charged for high-speed streaming like Netflix. You could also be charged more for using data from some websites or apps over others. The rules used to say that ISPs could not favor one website over another for its content, the aptly named fast lane/slow lane Internet. Those rules just went out the window. Expect more throttling and slower web speeds and loading. Businesses with numerous computers and heavy data consumption could end up paying more. Start up businesses, especially minority owned, could be stifled by high data costs. According to MIT the repeal of net neutrality could be harmful to innovation. The exact opposite of what FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims.

Where this hurts black people, other minorities and the poor, is that just getting Internet could be costly. Already we are dealing with a lack of high speed Internet in poor and minority schools. As matter of fact the United States is already behind in both wireless and fixed wire Internet speeds.

Poor and minority children are already dealing with poor public education. That situation could be further eroded further by a lack of adequate access to the Internet. Classroom instruction will suffer as they fall further behind more affluent school districts. The digital divide is going to grow along with an under-educated under-class that is the source of poverty.

In some cities high speed Internet is nearly non-existent. Detroit for example is one of the worst cities in the country for high speed Internet especially for poor people. Repealing net neutrality is not going to help this situation.

Black people are avid users of mobile technology. The use of mobile devices could become more expensive. Shopping online, banking and other online activities could be slowed down or throttled. Another area of concern for black people is social and political activism.  A free and open Internet meant that no matter who you are you could get your message to the masses. These new rules could make it expensive for, or even censor, groups like #Black Lives Matter. Many believe that the Internet is key to free speech and the right of the public to know. 

Who is benefitting from this rule change?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Most people would agree that the telecom companies are benefitting the most from this rule change. FCC Chairman Pai, an Obama appointment and promoted to chairman by Trump, has claimed that the new rules will not affect a free and open and Internet. Pai has been a critic of the net neutrality rules and believes that the rules of the Obama administration allowed the government to “micro-manage the Internet.”

The telecom industry approves of Pai’s plan. Pai argued that earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. In a blog post, Comcast downplayed concerns, saying customers “will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.” Yet at the same time it appears that Comcast is already planning to charge you for more Internet speed.

According to the Los Angeles Times  several companies have also been preparing for this moment for some time and the profits of priority handling of Internet content. These companies will not say what they consider a free and open Internet is nor will they promise to treat all data the same. Basically they are keeping quiet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast have run full page ads in the Washington Post claiming to preserve an “open Internet.” These practices supposedly include “no blocking of legal content,” “not throttling” data speeds and “no unfair discrimination.” They never said you wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

Another winner of the repeal are the big content providers. Netflix, Google and other large content providers also have the money and the leverage of millions of subscribers to negotiate deals with ISPs. This would allow them access to the Internet fast lanes and potentially get a competitive advantage. Any deal that Netflix, Google or YouTube cuts with the ISPs could mean a price increase for the consumer. You lose.

Supporters of net neutrality believe that consumers could be charged extra to stream certain content if they don’t want to be hampered by network congestion or throttling. Others are warning that consumer choices of Internet service providers could shrink and prices of broadband service could increase due to lack of competition.

What is actually happening is that the FCC, under the Trump administration, has declared that information is free. Access to it is not. The Internet, until now, was regulated as a utility. This brings that to an end. Now the Internet belongs to private industry and they are willing to make you pay for access because that is what they do. They couldn’t care less about your business needs, your child’s education or your need to know…period. They have the capability to keep the ignorant ignorant, the poor poor and the the competition from competing.. They can slow down information or cut it off completely if you don’t pay. Corporations have scored a victory but the war is far from over. 

Next: The Net Neutrality War is Not Over!

 

 

Hackers Hit OPM Again!

OPM LogoUncle Sam’s Office of Personnel Management has suffered a major data breach.  The personnel records of as many as 4 million current and former federal employees may have been compromised.

According to a press release from the OPM the agency identified a cyber security incident involving personally identifiable information (PII) of federal employees. OPM says it is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team or CERT and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine the full impact to Federal personnel. The OPM manages security clearances and employee records for every federal agency.

The federal government is the nation’s largest employer with over  4.3 million people on the payroll. According to the OPM in 2012 the federal government employed a total of 332,850 African-Americans.

This is the second data breach for the OPM. The agency admitted to a previous breach in March of 2014.  The OPM claims it has implemented improved security since that breach and this new breach came before those new standards put in place. The previous breach has been blamed on Chinese hackers and according to the Washington Post, this attack is also believed to have originated in China.

In response China said today that allegations that it is involved in breaking into U.S. government computers are irresponsible.

During a regular news briefing Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Beijing hopes the U.S. would be “less suspicious and stop making any unverified allegations, but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.”

Because this is OPM’s second breach within a year many experts and elected officials have legitimate questions about security practices within the agency. U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said, “Today’s reported breach is part of a troubling pattern by this agency in failing to secure the personal data of federal employees, the second major breach in a year. Cyberattacks present a critical threat to our national security and our economy. We cannot afford to keep dragging our feet in addressing the escalating threats posed by hackers out to steal individuals’ personal information.”

This intrusion was discovered by an internal network monitoring systems. It is still unclear whether the attackers exploited any residual effects from the earlier attack. There is the potential that hackers have installed a back door in OPM’s computer systems allowing them to enter at will and take what they wish. A major concern because of this data breach is that America’s intelligence operatives may be exposed. A topic few in the government are speaking about.

OPM’s chief information officer told The Washington Post.“OPM has undertaken an aggressive effort to update our cyber security posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to our networks. As a result of adding these tools, we were able to detect this intrusion into our networks.”

Because of the incident, OPM is sending notifications to approximately 4 million past and current federal employees whose PII may have been compromised.  OPM stated that the investigation is on-going and additional PII data loss could be discovered. OPM will conduct additional notifications as necessary. OPM is offering a package of identity protection services including credit report access, credit monitoring and identify theft insurance and recovery services to potentially affected individuals through CSID, a company that specializes in these services.