Things That Matter

The F.C.C. Has Officially Voted To Repeal Net Neutrality And Americans Are Outraged

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to repeal net neutrality in a purely partisan vote.

The rules were set in place to regulate Internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast, Verizon, and TimeWarner, so they don’t harm American consumers. Essentially, net neutrality made it so ISPs had to treat all web traffic equally, meaning that no website could get preferential treatment over another. It also made it so ISPs couldn’t force you to pay more for faster service.

The vote came down to a 3:2 decision in favor of eliminating net neutrality, which more than 80 percent of Americans are in favor of protecting. The decision fell to party line, with three Republican men voting to eliminate the consumer protections and two Democrat women voting to preserve the right to fair and equal Internet. Repealing the Open Internet Order, the official name of the net neutrality rules, could bring disastrous consequences for free speech on the Internet, according to experts.

So, what can happen when companies aren’t regulated by net neutrality rules? An example is when AT&T blocked costumers from using FaceTime unless they changed their plans. Consumer watch groups threatened to take their complaints to the government, which forced AT&T to open up FaceTime capabilities to all the iPhones and iPads on their system.

Several politicians have come forward denouncing the FCC’s decision to roll back Internet protections for Americans. However, the impact of the vote won’t be immediate.

According to TechCrunch, Internet lovers should not be too concerned just yet. While the vote might have been super rushed, as many unpopular Republican decisions have been lately, the government will continue to move at the slow pace it always has. The vote today does not mean that net neutrality is instantly gone. The FCC will still have to get the decision entered into the federal register and that could take a couple of months.

Several states are already gearing up for a legal battle to challenge the ruling in an effort to reverse it.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a multi-state lawsuit against the FCC to stop what he calls an “illegal rollback of net neutrality.” Schneiderman warns that the decision could mean that consumers will have to start paying to access websites like Twitter and Facebook because it will be up to he ISPs who regulate traffic.

The states joining the lawsuit include: Virginia, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, and District of Columbia.

While most politicians have spoken out against the move, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro might be using it as a way to undermine Sen. Ted Cruz’ campaign.

The recent electoral loss of Roy Moore in Alabama has given Democrats a new lease on elections. There has already been a lot of speculation that Moore’s loss has set Democrats up to take on people like Cruz to and take back the House.

Major Internet companies have come out against the decision that will impact everyone who uses the Internet.

In a speech before the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claimed the repeal of net neutrality is in favor of Internet consumers.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said before the vote, as reported in the New York Times. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”

Yet, experts claim that the opposite will happen.

“If we don’t have net neutrality protections that enforce tenets of fairness online, you give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers,” Steve Huffman, chief executive of Reddit, told The New York Times. “This is not hyperbole.”

Even though the affects of this vote will not be felt immediately, the backlash is swift and widespread.

While most Americans are in favor of net neutrality, Schniederman discovered millions of fraudulent comments have been made online under names and identities dead people, children, or other people who’s identities were used. Schneiderman’s office is investigating the identity theft and will be using it to attack the recent vote.

The fight to save the Internet is not over. Please call your elected representatives and let them know you want to protect a fair and equal Internet for all Americans.

If you don’t know who to call, you can find your elected officials here.

You can also call FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at (202) 518-7933 or the FCC at (202) 418-1000 to let them know what you think of their decision.

READ: Here Is Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality, Especially If You Are Reading This On Facebook

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Now That Cuba Has Allowed Social Media Access, Government Officials Are Blocking Those Who Criticize Them

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Now That Cuba Has Allowed Social Media Access, Government Officials Are Blocking Those Who Criticize Them

Gilbert Sopakuwa / Flickr

While internet access is still relatively new in Cuba, there has already been some controversy when it comes to citizens criticizing public officials online. According to the Miami Herald, Twitter users have seen some of their profiles and comments regarding government officials blocked or removed altogether. Twitter users took to social media to voice their concern about having their voices and comments silenced by public officials.

Limited internet access in Cuba began in 2008 but it wasn’t until last December when mobile phones became readily available.

Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel promoted the idea of having a platform where Cuban officials and regular citizens could interact. With such a relatively new technology at the hands of public officials, they have swayed away from criticism. With internet access and Wi-Fi hotspots just becoming accessible to all on the island, many are getting their feet wet when it comes to social media. That includes government and public officials.

Jovann Silva Delgado, a Cuban lawyer who lives in the U.S, was recently blocked online by José Ramón Cabañas, the ambassador of Cuba in Washington. Silva says he was blocked by Cabañas because he criticized a protest last year initiated by the Cuban delegation at the United Nations.

“Beyond the political position of a public official, who holds a post presumably supported by voters, the social media networks of officials are to give an account of their management, which is paid with everyone’s money,” Silva told the Miami Herald.

This issue has been happening to multiple people trying to interact with public officials in Cuba.

Another user, Norges Rodríguez, founder of YucaByte, an online project on communication technology, said he was blocked. Rodríguez found out he was blocked by Jorge Luis Perdomo, minister of communications in Cuba, after trying to mention him in a tweet.

“Well, today I tried to mention the minister [of communications] in a tweet and I found out that I am blocked. I think I was respectful the last time I mentioned him,“ Rodríguez said in a tweet.

The Inventory project, a repository of open data for Cuba, is trying to list the names of Cuban officials who block citizens on social media.

The Inventory Project, invited users who have been blocked by public officials to give info on who blocked them to create a larger database. The Twitter profile asked users to provide a tweet with the the name of the user, the person who blocked, the date and a screenshot of the message that was blocked.

There has already been a long list of officials who have been reported for blocking citizens. Among them are National Assembly member Mariela Castro, daughter of former president Raúl Castro and Juan Antonio Fernández, ambassador of Cuba in Austria.

Just last May, a U.S. judge banned public officials from blocking those who criticize them online.

In the U.S., it’s a complete different story when it comes to citizens criticizing public officials. Last May, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that officials like President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked Twitter users who criticized him. The ruling was a victory for free speech and a harsh rebuke to Trump’s effort to prevent his critics from engaging with him on social media.

While there has been no law or ruling similar in Cuba, you can only expect some kind of action to be taken eventually. Social media interactions between citizens and public officials is still relatively new in Cuba but that gives no excuse to silence voices. Especially those trying to create public dialogue with leaders and government officials.

READ: Here’s A Brief Look At The History Of The Cuban People And The Island They Call Home

There Was A Red Alert For Net Neutrality. Here’s What That Means For You And Your Internet Freedom

Things That Matter

There Was A Red Alert For Net Neutrality. Here’s What That Means For You And Your Internet Freedom

A petition was presented by Democratic Senators —and at least one Republican —for the Congressional Review Act to reinstate net neutrality rules after its repeal in December 2017 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The CRA, a law that permits Congress to review and reject administrative decisions by federal agencies, would overturn the FCC’s repeal vote, bringing back the net neutrality rules and making it tougher for the agency to attempt to repeal them again. The petition filed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and signed by every Democratic Senator including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), sets up a 50-49 vote in favor of reinstating the regulations.

Under the petition, Senate Democrats will have 60 days to force a vote on the issue and if passed will move on to the House of Representatives for consideration

The action by the senate comes on the heels of months of grassroot campaigning in communities across the country that support net neutrality since its repeal back in December.

“In 2018, access to a free and open internet isn’t a privilege, it’s a right,” Senator Markey said in a press release. “Since the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality, we have witnessed a historic movement emerge to protect that right, and it continues to build. With only one more vote needed for my CRA resolution to undo the Trump administration’s political decision on net neutrality.”

Among the companies participating in the Red Alert are Tumblr, Reddit, Tinder and Foursquare.

The petition filing coincided with Net Neutrality Day of Action, organized by Red Alert, an activist initiative organized by Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press Action Fund, which will bring awareness to the signing and the consequences of keeping the FCC’s ruling. Thousands of other large and small websites were expected to participate in the Red Alert. The net neutrality repeal would affect these smaller websites by regulating speeds and changing the online consumer experience.

Why the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality impacts minority groups.

With the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality, it is set to disproportionately impact minority groups in the way they communicate through social media. Huge social movements began on the internet because they never received major coverage from mainstream news outlets. Movements like the Ferguson Protests and its use of social media brought awareness to its cause. With the repeal of Net Neutrality, the future of social movements like this will be affected by the power of bigger news outlets and what the public sees and hears first.

A refresher on what is Net Neutrality and why you should care.

While net neutrality wasn’t a law yet in 2010, the FCC introduced net neutrality regulations that prohibited internet service providers from acting as gatekeepers on the web. Basically meaning that internet providers shouldn’t be allowed to offer faster delivery to websites and apps in exchange for higher fees, out of fear that big companies could use their wealth to buy preferential treatment and squeeze out competition. In December of 2010, the FCC passed on a finalized version of these regulations. That became the first time the FCC made a rule to regulate access to the internet. In 2015, the FCC made its biggest move by voting 3-2 to enact regulations that prohibited broadband and wireless internet service providers from selling faster delivery of service until it was repealed by the now Republican controlled FCC by a 3-2 vote in December.

Here is the signed petition by the senators that will begin the process of bringing back #NetNeutrality

We will have to wait and see if the senate vote makes it to the House and even if the motion ends there, states like Washington, Oregon, and California are proposing—and even passing—net neutrality laws of their own, setting them up for a showdown with the FCC.  A recent poll showed that 86 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

READ: The F.C.C. Has Officially Voted To Repeal Net Neutrality And Americans Are Outraged

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