June 25, 2012 – Having access to broadband technology and other digital tools is a key ingredient to economic, social, and political connectedness. Yet only 69 percent of Americans have broadband internet connections at home.
What vital services are the other one-third missing? One example was apparent at last Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club, on “The Internet Presidential Campaign of 2012”: access to news and information vital to full political participation.
At the Broadband Breakfast Club event, a range of top panelists – including individuals associated with President Barack Obama’s online campaign in 2008, and with Gov. Mitt Romney’s online campaign this year – discussed how new uses of social networking are influencing the race. The event was featured in U.S. News and World Report.
Among the biggest phenomenon: the dramatic drop-off of viewership of live television. Within the last week, 30 percent of Americans said they did not watch live television, either broadcast or cable, according to Ryan Meerstein. In Ohio, a major political battleground state, the number was even higher: 40 percent.
That falloff from live television viewership makes it plain that broadband internet is the multi-faceted medium for communications: whether “broadcast” or customized, whether professional or social. If you aren’t hooked into broadband, you’re likely to be as relevant as broadcast television.
Addressing the Underserved
Next month’s Broadband Breakfast Club – on July 17, 2012 – will address what efforts are being undertaken to promote broadband usage and adoption to the nation’s underserved population. What are governments, corporations and foundations – including the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Lifeline and the industry-led Connect to Compete program – doing to tackle this problem?
It’s also vital to understand the significance of broadband disconnectedness: increasing isolation from the mainstreams of today’s information ecology.
We’ve long adjusted to the fact that the American elite no longer reads the same newspapers or watches the same Nightly News broadcasts. Instead, we’ve moved to an exciting fragmentation in blogs, tweets, and social networks. What we have in common now are the use of social networks: Facebook, Google and other niche marketplaces or business needs.
It’s all the more important that broadband literacy becomes part of our common knowledge. Being able to logon, to use social networks wisely, to search with savvy, and to create a LinkedIn resume as well as a PDF version – these are the types of skills far more necessary than it ever was to be media literate.
Smart Phones and the Broadband Future
It’s not all negative news regarding the nation’s underserved. At last Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club, panelists spoke about the way that political campaigns were using increasingly using mobile broadband technology. “Mobile adoption in the Hispanic community is very high,” said Rob Saliterman of Google. “It is absolutely a way to reach Hispanic voters more efficiently that TV advertising, or other forms of online advertising.”
Mobile is also a way to get through to people whose online activities – or at least their online political activities – are limited during the daytime work hours. Mobile platforms are a way that “this message got to this person, and it would not have gotten to them when they go to the office,” said Stephen Geer of OMP, who worked for Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Broadband researchers have also discussed the phenomenon. “For several years, Pew Internet research has found that African-Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to use their cell phones for non-voice applications such as using the internet, playing games, or accessing multimedia content,” according to a July 2011 report (PDF) by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “These differences extend to smartphone ownership as well, as 44% of black and Latino adults are smartphone owners, compared with 30% of whites.”
Fully 68 percent of smartphone owners use a smartphone to go online in a typical day, and 25 percent of them go online mostly using a smartphone, that study found. Those behavior patterns are remarkable different from those of typical adults. The typical adult may use a smartphone, too, but go online using a computer. Only 23 percent of all adults go online using a smartphone in a typical day, and eight percent go online mostly using a smartphone.
Addressing the Underserved By Tackling Cost, Relevance and Digital Literacy
So while broadband is one key to economic and political engagement, the number of of Americans with broadband at home (the 69 percent) contrasts starkly with the more than 90 percent of Americans who have telephone service at their home.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan from March 2010 identified three areas that need to be addressed to getting all Americans online: the cost of broadband, basic digital literacy skills and highlighting the relevance of broadband. In the lead-up to the Broadband Breakfast Club event on July 17, we aim to analyze several of the key efforts and how they are tackling the problem of getting all Americans access to broadband… and the educational tools that Americans need to make it a part of their daily lives.
Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He founded BroadbandCensus.com, and he brings experts and practicioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. He’s doing that now as Executive Director for Broadband Illinois, based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield.
Stamping out Election Falsehoods Like Playing Whack-a-Mole, Says Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger
February 5, 2021 – With election misinformation and conspiracy theories rampant in Election 2020, secretaries of state representing pivotal states swapped stories on Thursday about the howlers they faced – and what they did to try to maintain public trust in upholding election integrity.
Perhaps no one faced more pressure to act to overturn the results of his state’s presidential vote tally than Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Among the many false accusations he faced was that a Ron Raffensperger, allegedly a brother of his, works for a Chinese technology firm. While there is such a person, and that person does in fact work for the Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei, that Ron Raffensperger is not Brad Raffensperger’s brother.
At Thursday’s meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Raffensperger said again that he does not have a brother named Ron. He also expressed condolences for the real Ron Raffensperger out there.
Stamping out falsehoods is like playing a game of ‘rumor-whack-a-mole,’ said Brad Raffensperger. Once you eradicate one rumor, another just pops up. It’s as if the truth has 30,000 Twitter followers while falsehood has 80 million followers, he added.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs addressed the “Sharpiegate” scandal, another fake claim concocted by Republicans. Sharpiegate was the wrong notion pushed by some that Sharpie pens distributed at polling places were handed out for voting.
But the felt-tip pen’s ink bled through the ballot, making it unreadable by a machine and thus keeping the Sharpie victim’s vote from being counted. The twist in this particular story is that only the Sharpie-marked ballots cast by Republican candidates were thrown out, somehow.
While recognizing the seriousness of this misinformation campaign, exacerbated by Eric Trump’s tweets about it, souvenir Sharpies were ordered bearing “Sharpiegate 2020” printed on them – just as a joke, said Hobbs.
Michigan had a plan in place for months on how to collect, process, and release voting results, said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. However, because its processes were so efficient, Michigan caught its critics off guard. This exposed Michigan to accusations of allegedly counting its ballots too fast in an effort to try to “fix” the election. Robocalls targeted minority majority communities, including in Detroit.
Ohio also anticipated a barrage of misinformation. As a preemptive measure, the state rolled out numerous tools and resources to inform citizens of voting processes.
Secretaries of state need to help voters build confidence knowing their voice will be heard in a fair and honest contest, and not to tear it down, said Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State. He praised Ohio’s election integrity and said it had a record low in ballot rejection, and a record high in ballot workers.
The state also tried to stop spreaders of misinformation by warning of felony charges for spreading lies.
At New America Foundation Event on India, Panelists Talk of ‘Digital Colonization’ by U.S. and China
October 1, 2020 – When it comes to social media, India is currently in a “two-house race” between the United States and China, explained India expert Madhulika Srikumar at New America on Wednesday.
Tiktok and Facebook have been big players in this race, each attracted to India’s large audience base.
Srikumar, an attorney formerly with the Cyber Initiative at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, cited two statistics. First, one-third of TikTok’s users were Indian, before the app was banned in June by the Indian government. Second, if India’s Facebook audience were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world.
She explained the recent trend of Chinese and U.S. companies each investing in Indian companies.
New American CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter said in response, “When I hear you Madhu, all I can think of is digital colonization.”
Slaughter stressed that it was vital we don’t have a world where states lock down their internet and asserted that the world would be a better place if there was more competition and if companies had to be more open with their policies
“Our institutions for holding power accountable are still from the analog age,” Said Rebecca MacKinnon, founding director of New America’s Ranking Digital Rights project, adding that there’s nothing in our law that could prevent Tiktok from becoming a vehicle for hate speech.
Slaughter blamed the platforms, claiming that platforms were publishers wielding great political power who were responsible for polarization and declining trust.
She pointed to a future Biden-Harris administration, and projected that if elected, it would provide a new vision for internet policy by working with a number of other countries, including Europe, to adopt global standards for a free internet. This consortium would insist that companies abide by such rules.
When asked whether the UN could play a role, Slaughter said that it could, but it would need to have strong member support since “the current U.S. government has distain for non-US institutions.” The United Nations would have difficulty putting regulations in place with one of it’s biggest members not being supportive.
MacKinnon agreed that UN involvement would be complicated. For the past decade, there’s been a fight brewing over who sets standards for the tech community and for global technologies.
Srikumar, in turn, appealed for greater resources to flesh out what exactly an open internet means, as well as a move to divorce content from gatekeepers.
Joshua Keating, senior editor of Slate moderated the webinar.
See also “The Privacy Negotiators: The Need for U.S. Tech Companies to Mediate Agreements on Government Access to Data in India,” by Madhulika Srikumar on New America
Mobile Technology Aided the Growth of Black Lives Matter, But Will Hashtag Outrage Lead to Change?
September 21, 2020 — In the United States, widespread public use of mobile phone cameras and social media has thrust the longstanding issue of police brutality against Black Americans into the national spotlight like never before.
Delving deeply into the subject of how digital tools have contributed to the goals of anti-brutality activists, panelists at a Brookings Institution event on September 14 detailed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and whether the explosive growth of the hashtag #BLM might result in any institutional change.
In the summer of 2014, videos, images, and text narratives of violent encounters between police officers and unarmed Black people circulated widely through news and social media, spurring public outrage.
“A large digital archive of Tweets started in 2014, when Michael Brown was killed,” said Rashawn Ray, professor of sociology and executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland.
Media activism fueled by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner gave rise to Black Lives Matter, or #BLM, a loosely-coordinated, nationwide movement dedicated to ending police brutality, which uses online media extensively.
The panelists referenced the “Beyond the Hashtag” report authored by Meredith Clark, assistant professor at the University of Virginia, analyzes the movement’s rise on Twitter.
“Mobile technology became an agent of change,” said Mignon Clyburn, former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, referring to the 2007 introduction of the iPhone as a turning point in the way individuals utilize devices. “Devices became smaller, less expensive, and more ubiquitous,” said Clyburn, “we are now seeing a global, mobile revolution.”
Increased accessibility to mobile devices and social media cracked open doors previously kept tightly shut by pro-corporate, pro-government gatekeepers of the media, which spread anti-Black ideologies. Mobile devices initiated a leveling of the media playing field, allowing for marginalized groups to intervene in dialogues.
“Black Americans have the opportunity to share distinctively what is happening to us,” said Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow in governance studies and the director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute.
“These videos show our humanity, and how it is destroyed and undermined,” added Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
While videos taken to report instances of police brutality are critical resources, they come with significant consequences for those filming and viewing them.
In order to record an instance of police, an individual has to be courageous, as many citizen journalists attempting to capture an act of police brutality, end up a subject of cruelty.
“You have the right to record protected under First Amendment,” Clarke informed, urging that officers be trained on respecting citizens First Amendment rights to film.
While recording instances of police brutality is distressing in itself, sharing the video online, although necessary, amplifies the video’s power to traumatize indefinitely. “There will no doubt be a generation of children that will be traumatized,” by repeatedly seeing images of Black Americans brutalized by the police, said Lee.
Clarke urged individuals who decide to share content, to do so with a trigger warning.
While digital tools have enabled video evidence of brutality to be caught, amass widespread attention, and cause public outrage, as of yet, it has not translated into real-life justice for Black individuals. Difficulty to bring prosecution against excessively violent officers remains.
Clarke noted that police union contracts are barriers to reform. “The terms of collective bargaining agreements allow officers to see video evidence before reporting on how the events transpired,” detailed Clarke.
Ray called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, H.R. 7120, introduced by Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, which he said was currently ‘collecting dust’ in the Senate.
The bill would establish new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, necessitating them to report data on use-of-force incidents, obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and wear body cameras.
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