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Speakers Want Open Internet Access Around The World

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WASHINGTON, November 22, 2009 - Speakers at a telecommunications law conference held last week touched on the importance of having unfiltered access to the Internet around the world.

“The freedom of speech implies a freedom of access,” said Jeremie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature Du Net. “This is a form of participating in politics and with other citizens,” he continued at the second annual University of Nebraska College of Law’s Space and Telecom Law Conference held in Washington on Thursday.

“In repressive countries, the internet is the only way journalists can get their information out. Even then journalists in these countries have to still watch out for what they write about,” said Clothilde Le Coz of Reporters Without Borders. “In repressive countries, everything is regulated by the government, including the press. When [the] press reports anything that is in the negative light, the journalist could be thrown in jail. However, with the expansion of the internet, even bloggers have been targeted,” he continued.

Le Coz said Reporters Without Boarders considers any filter on the Internet set up by the government to be an infringement of a person’s right to access information. According to Le Coz, Australia is planning to enact a law to filter out pornography online but the problem is that such a law would require an entity, likely the government, to decide what is considered pornography.

“Every time you restrict access, you restrict our freedom,” said Zimmermann. Andrew McLaughlin, deputy chief technology officer for policy in the Obama administration, said in Korea “if a person posts a comment on a blog or a forum, they have to officially identify themselves.”

According to McLaughlin, if one region in the world is restricting access to material online, there can be no exchange of information, and therefore, no growth. He said the United States should take interest in what information is open and available to all. Having free speech helps the exchange of ideas around the world, McLaughlin added.

Jan Malinowski, director of human rights and legal affairs for the Council of Europe, said “Communications is constructed under fundamental rights. Given the importance of how people are relying on the internet, it has become important that it is accessible, reliable, affordable, and secure.”

Agenda for FTC Workshop of Fate of Journalism Features Murdoch and Huffington

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The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday released the agenda and speakers for its upcoming workshop, “From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” The workshop has been organized to consider the emerging issues of an increasingly internet oriented society.

As more consumers turn to the internet for news and information, print news organizations have begun to struggle with the declining ad market. Besides the simple economics of the matter, as online news expands many wonder how the two news formats can successfully coexist.

“The workshop will consider a wide range of issues,” stated an FTC news release, “including: the economics of journalism in print and online; the wide variety of new business and non-profit models for journalism online; factors relevant to the new economic realities for news organizations, such as behavioral and other targeted online advertising, online news aggregators, and bloggers; and the ways in which the costs of journalism could be reduced without reducing quality.

The just-released agenda will feature a diverse group of speakers to discuss these topics. These participants include Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp. and Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post. Other panelists represent groups such as Yahoo!, Google, The Wall Street Journal, and the Knight Foundation.

The workshop will run from December 1-2, 2009 at the FTC Conference Center.

Bloggers Covered by Endorsement Rules, Says FTC

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The Federal Trade Commission on Monday announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act. The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The guidelines were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised guidelines, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.

The revised guidelines add new examples to illustrate the principle that “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

The revised guidelines specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. The FTC said it will consider paid endorsements – like other advertisements – to be deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised guidelines. The revised guidelines say that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement – or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. They also say that celebrities must disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

The FTC said that guidelines are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act, and are not binding law themselves.

Conference Participants: Media and Internet Must Target Minorities

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By William G. Korver, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, June 17 – Black and Hispanic Americans need to be more prominent and “in positions of authority” within the media in order to appeal to a growing multicultural society, a former Clinton administration telecommunications official said Tuesday.

Addressing the Center for Social Media’s conference here at American University titled “Beyond Broadcast,” Larry Irving, former chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said that blacks and Hispanics consume more media than do white Americans.

The media needed to embrace the opportunity to reach out to all racial and ethnic groups and to become “more of a brotherhood,” said Irving, currently president of Irving Information Group.

He said conference participants should engage in helping to set a well-articulated political agenda readily understandable to non-techies like their parents and grandparents. Only with a well-informed society, Irving argued, can a transformation be wrought in America’s businesses, culture, and media.

Irving also said that the president elected in November must find ways to ensure that new technology benefited all Americans , regardless of race, sex and class.

Besides Irving, afternoon sessions speakers included Ernest Wilson, dean of the University of Southern California’s communications school; Henry Jenkins, director of the comparative media studies program at MIT; and Persephone Miel, fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Because of changes in technology have led to turmoil within the media and media is essential to a healthy democracy, democracy in America is now imperiled, said Wilson.

Wilson, who also holds the Walter Annenberg chair in communication at USC, also blasted the public service media, like public radio and public television, for remaining “way behind the curve” for years.

Although Henry Jenkins of MIT could not attend the conference in person, attendees were still able to listen to his words due to the advances in technology.

Speaking remotely over the auditorium’s speakers, Jenkins stated that participatory journalism has caused information to originate not only from the top-down, but also from the bottom-up.

Jenkins said that the Internet, and participatory journalism specifically, must cease to be a luxury of the upper and middle classes. Lower classes of society must feel empowered and be able to acquire the skills needed for participatory journalism, he said.

Persephone Miel said that old media, though not dead, is “broken” because journalism is no longer scarce, but abundant. Although bloggers are often blamed for the decline of the old media, Miel said that bloggers are neither the source of the change nor the answer for how to fix the media.

Instead, Miel said that Network Neutrality – or policies that keep Bell and cable operators from engaging in discriminatory conduct – is needed so that “wealthy, wired, white people” are not the only individuals reached and affected by the Internet and participatory journalism.

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