Welcome to the November 14, 2014 Media Law Roundup — a survey of the week’s developing media news.
Russian Propaganda War
On November 10, 2014, Russia launched a brand-new global media organization. The new network, named Sputnik after the Russian satellite launched during the Cold War, will be produced in thirty different languages and have offices in major cities including London, Paris, Washington, and the capitals of many former Soviet republics. During the press conference announcing Sputnik’s launch, Russian television pundit Dmitry K. Kiselyov said, “We are against the aggressive propaganda that everybody is fed with and that imposes a unipolar model of the world.” On its first day, the English version of Sputnik ran articles on topics such as American “secession” and Americas supposed manipulation of names for ISIS in order to garner support for airstrikes. “We will say what other countries are silent about,” Kiselyov said. “The world is tired of one country thinking of itself as exceptional.” Reports are unclear as to which country Kiselyov is referring.
Net Neutrality Vote Postponed
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote on American net neutrality laws has been postponed until 2015. This comes after President Obama made an official statement that spoke in favor of strong rules to secure net neutrality. According to sources present at the most recent FCC meeting, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler appeared to be visibly frustrated. Wheeler addressed those present saying, “What you want is what everyone wants: an open internet that doesn’t affect your business. What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.” Corporations such as AT&T and Comcast have made it clear that they plan to fight net neutrality rules that align with President Obama’s suggestions.
Microsoft Free White Space Internet
On November 9, 2014, the Hindustan Times reported that Microsoft India plans to bring free Wi-Fi to the country via “white space.” White space is derived from unused waves between two television channels, and can provide WiFi with a range of up to ten kilometers, compared to traditional WiFi’s range of one hundred meters. Microsoft India is in talks with the Indian government to begin a pilot project in two districts. The white space project will contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India plan to connect all of India to governance via technology.
Twitter and Online Harassment
Twitter has partnered with Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) a North American nonprofit women’s advocacy group, in order to provide a platform through which women can report online harassment experienced on the site. A Pew Research Internet Project report found that twenty-five percent of women between 18 and 24 years of age experience sexual harassment online, compared to thirteen percent of men the same age. Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM!, said, “We’re so glad that Twitter recognizes that the best way to ensure equally free speech for all users on their platform is to ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by harassment, abuse and threats.” Women can fill out this form to report online harassment received via Twitter.
Firefox Partners with Tor
Mozilla has partnered with Tor to create a version of its Firefox browser that runs Tor anonymity software. The project, titled “Polaris,” is the follow-up to a series of browser extensions that help Firefox users defend themselves from unwanted surveillance. Denelle Dixon-Thayer, the leader of Mozilla’s legal team, stated that the Tor browser was an effort to bring high-level privacy to “more mainstream audiences.” The Polaris announcement comes on the heels of advancements made by Apple and Google to provide default encryption protection on their latest devices, which resulted in criticism from FBI director James Comey.
Brazil is heading up a new internet governance platform that will transform its NETmundial conference into “an essential mechanism to advance the creation of policies and governance for the global internet.” The NETmundial initiative will seek to provide a place for its members to provide their ideas on internet governance and gather the necessary support to bring those ideas to fruition. The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI), the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are behind the organization and have begun assembling its council, which includes government officials, academics, technology experts, and members of civil society. The NETmundial Initiative’s Council, all members of which “will also have to support and agree with the principles that came out of the NETmundial meeting in Sao Paulo earlier this year,” will be determined by the end of 2014.