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Transparency

White House: Missing Email Problem Resolved

WASHINGTON, December 14, 2009 – The White House said Monday that millions of emails from back-up tapes related to at least 33 different days during the Bush Administration have been restored.

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WASHINGTON, December 14, 2009 – The White House said Monday that millions of emails from back-up tapes related to at least 33 different days during the Bush Administration have been restored.

“The millions of restored emails will be transferred to the National Archives. They eventually will be made available to historians, students, and the general public under laws providing for the release of such documents from prior administrations,” said Norm Eisen, special counsel to President Obama for ethics and government reform.

The emails have been at the center of a litigation battle dating back to 2005. Eisen said the Office of Administration originally conducted analysis suggesting that millions of emails from the Executive Office of the President, created between March 2003 and October 2005, might be missing.

Approximately two years later, in September 2007, the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed lawsuits against the EOP and the National Archives to reveal the missing emails. “The litigation continued for over a year, and involved numerous motions and other courtroom fights,” according to the White House.

“President Obama made it a priority to resolve this … The White House quickly began discussions with NSA and CREW, and the parties agreed to stay the litigation on March 31, 2009—a temporary pause, in the hopes of working things out,” said Eisen. The Obama official announced Monday that the parties have decided to settle the pending lawsuits.

“The President is firmly committed to ensuring that the records of this Administration—as well as those of all previous administrations—are properly retained and preserved,” said Eisen.

Transparency

‘A Lot’ of Providers Haven’t Complied with FCC Transparency Order, ISP Lawyer Claims

International Municipal Lawyers Association heard service providers need to prioritize transparency.

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Photo of Casey Lide, partner at Keller and Heckman

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2022 – A lawyer who counsels internet service providers on service agreements said last week that “a lot” of ISPs have yet to publish network management and performance terms on their websites as required by a Federal Communications Commission order from 2018.

Casey Lide, a partner at Keller and Heckman who specializes in community broadband initiatives, said in a February 8 presentation hosted by the International Municipal Lawyers Association that he’s seen ISPs not having “complied” with the ISP Transparency Statement, which requires ISPs to describe their network management practices, performance characteristics, and performance terms on their website or submitted to the FCC.

Lide told the association that service providers need to prioritize transparency, as the FCC continues to add to the list of transparency rules that they must follow.

Last month, the FCC voted to issue “broadband nutrition labels”––a list that displays ISP pricing and speed of service in a consumer-friendly format. “There’s no details yet on how the nutrition labels for broadband would work yet,” Lide said.

Cybersecurity needs attention

Panelists also urged public entities to broaden their cybersecurity efforts to protect customer data and ensure continuity of service. “Ransomware is the biggest threat to public and private entities,” said Keller and Heckman partner Tracy Marshall.

Ransomware occurs when hackers take critical data, hold it hostage, and demand money for the data. Marshall noted examples of ransomware attacks, including the May 2021 that shut down the east coast’s main fuel supply and caused fuel prices to spike and the attack that targeted meat giant JBS, which paid $11 million in bitcoin to hackers in 2021. Although these are high-profile examples, Marshall said ransomware attacks “affect organizations of all types and sizes.”

“The most costly part of a ransomware attack is responding to it,” Marshall said, adding that It’s difficult for entities to decide where to cut their losses and “having to decide what essential services must be forgone to fund the monetary loss.”

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Transparency

Panel Concludes U.S. Relatively Unprepared to Lead Global Push for Web Transparency

Experts say a lack of privacy policy in the U.S. could lead to uncoordinated efforts to lead international cooperation.

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Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2021 – Digital policy experts said at an Atlantic Council event Monday that the U.S. is unprepared to lead an emerging global push for online platforms to institute more transparent website policies.

Efforts abroad, such as the Danish government’s “Action Coalition” as part of its Tech for Democracy Initiative, may prove difficult for the U.S. to support, with continued absence of  substantive online privacy policy on American soil.

Many believe that to promote international web transparency, the U.S. must regulate the large number of companies headquartered within its borders. However, the U.S. does not have a federal privacy law and such regulation is thus difficult.

Within the U.S., privacy experts have called on the Federal Trade Commission to enforce privacy protections against internet service providers.

Experts say that the necessary actions of democratic governance to promote online transparency must take place in parallel in order for such a push to be successful.

Chloe Colliver, head of digital policy and strategy at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Global, said Monday that European Union involvement in transparency efforts still remains somewhat unclear, yet its involvement could provide a significant boost to the movement.

Much of the difficulty in promoting better transparency among online platforms lies in that allowing platforms to write rules that would govern themselves would create a significant conflict of interest, yet no one would be more knowledgeable in writing rules for governance than those same platforms.

In terms of other transparency reforms, Colliver suggests that how much data companies can collect from users be rethought, and many experts believe that multistakeholder research and development centers should be created as well as that models for research oversight may require revision.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Free Press Denounces Facebook Ads, New Content Moderation, Problems of Broadband Adoption

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Photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Anthony Quintano used with permission

Ads that describe immigrants of color as an “invasion” violate Facebook’s community standards and should not be allowed to run, according to a Wednesday petition from Free Press.

Between January and February, President Donald Trump’s Facebook page ran more than 2,000 ads that used the word “invasion” to describe immigration from Central and South America. Since then, several other lawmakers such as Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., have used the same language in their own ads.

In August, a white supremacist shooter drove to El Paso and killed 22 people, the majority of whom were Latinx. His manifesto echoed the same “invasion” rhetoric, showcasing the potentially lethal consequences of promoting such language.

“Facebook reviews ads before they’re allowed to run on the platform, and the company has rules that all advertisers are supposed to follow,” Free Press wrote. “These policies expressly prohibit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color and national origin. And yet Trump, allied nativist and white-supremacist groups and nativist lawmakers are allowed to run campaign ads using dehumanizing, white-supremacist rhetoric.”

Facebook rolls out tool to facilitate user-generated content moderation

Facebook announced on Wednesday a new tool to proactively moderate content in public and private groups. The “Group Quality” tool will show administrators which content was removed and flagged, as well false news that has been shared in the group.

Determining whether or not a group should be taken down is a complicated process, wrote Facebook VP of Engineering Tom Alison in a blog post. The most important factor is subject matter. Conduct of group administrators is also taken into account.

The platform also announced a new simplification of group privacy settings, changing the options from public, closed, or secret to just public or private.

Many critics of Facebook remain skeptical that these updates will lead to any substantial changes. “Just in the past month, I reported groups calling for a global purge of Islam, extermination of people based on religion, and calling for violence through a race war, and Facebook’s response was that none of these groups was a violation of community standards,” computer science professor Megan Squire told NBC News.

Broadband adoption is a more important metric that broadband deployment, says John Horrigan

The Federal Communications Commission is largely focused on broadband deployment, but a more important metric is that of broadband adoption, according to recent analysis in Daily Yonder from Technology Policy Institute Senior Fellow John Horrigan.

The digital divide is more about consumer adoption than network deployment, and household economics is a larger factor in non-adoption decisions than geography.

Data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that of the 20.4 million households that do not subscribe to broadband, 4.5 million cite lack of deployment as the reason while 15.9 million cite other reasons.

“It turns out that a number of factors – such as monthly fee, cost of the computer, and the capacity of smartphones, far outpace network issues as reasons people offer for not subscribing to broadband,” Horrigan wrote. “In fact, cost factors – either monthly fee or a computer – are the most important reasons (when combined) that people do not subscribe to broadband.”

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