June 7, 2021—A new executive order issued by President Joe Biden last Thursday bans investments in 59 Chinese companies, including several well-known telecom companies.
The executive order aims at eliminating US involvement in the Chinese surveillance technology industry that allegedly “facilitate[s] repression of serious human rights abuse,” according to the report. The rise of Chinese surveillance, which technology is employed both inside and out of the country, “constitute unusual and extraordinary threats,” the report said.
Several Chinese telecom firms have been linked to the surveillance industry in China, such as China Mobile, China Telecommunications, China Unicom, and Huawei, which are all banned under the executive order. Beginning August 2, US investors will be given one year to pull their investments from the banned companies. The list is only an initial one, and more firms will be added to it in the coming months, the White House said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin says that the executive order harms “the legal rights and interest of the Chinese companies and also the interest of global investors, including American ones.”
Many US companies have been unhappy with Trump-era economic policies toward China, and lawsuits filed by over 3,500 US companies targeting the policies that have remained in place under the Biden administration are scheduled to begin later this summer.
Twitter banned in Nigeria
The Nigerian government said last Friday that Twitter will be permanently banned in the country after the platform removed a threatening tweet by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari movement for violating its “abusive behavior” policy, NPR reports.
The Nigerian government has ordered the arrest and prosecution of users that attempt to circumvent the ban and access the app, CNN reported. Many citizens have attempted to use virtual private networks to access the platform, but the office of Nigeria’s attorney general and ministry of justice said it would arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to get around the block.
Twitter’s public policy team commented on the matter Saturday, saying, “We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world.”
This is not the first time in recent history that Twitter has gotten into legal trouble with foreign governments. Last month, Twitter refused Russian orders to remove content from their websites following anti-Putin protests the government deemed illegal. They were fined as a result.
The Supreme Court rules on anti-hacking law
In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should not apply to people misusing systems that they’ve legally been granted access to, the Verge reported on Saturday.
The CFAA is federal anti-hacking legislation that makes it illegal to intentionally access a computer without authorization. The law also bans the use of “exceeding authorized access,” meaning those who misuse software to act outside of their authorized scope of practice can also face criminal charges.
The case, Van Buren v. United States, involved a former Georgia police officer who misused a police database to look up a woman’s license plate. Because his actions violated department rules, prosecutors said the officer had “exceeded” his access to the system. But his lawyers argued that since he had been granted access to the system, he should not be held liable under anti-hacking laws.
The Supreme Court sided with the officer, arguing in the majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett that the law was too broad and should not cover the “exceeding authorized access” of systems because it would criminalize a “breathtaking amount” of commonplace computer use.
January 6 Committee Social Media Subpoenas, Iranian Hacks, Google Ad Auctions Lawsuit
Lawmakers chastised the companies for providing little information in response to past committee inquiries.
January 14, 2021 – The House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to social media giants Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, saying the companies’ responses to prior requests for information were inadequate.
The committee had previously reached out to the companies to assess their knowledge of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic extremism and foreign influence in the 2020 election that may have taken place on their platforms.
Central to the inquiry is whether the companies took any steps to “prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” said committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
Iranian intelligence agency engaged in international hacks
U.S. Cyber Command said Wednesday that hacking group MuddyWaters is part of an Iranian intelligence agency which is responsible for several global cyberattacks.
The group, identified as part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, has been labeled an “Iranian threat group” by authorities.
The information comes following a year of increased cyberattack activity from abroad in the U.S. including the prominent breach at Colonial Pipeline involving hackers with ties to Russia.
Allegedly, the group has targeted nations across the Middle East, Europe and North America in efforts to surveil opponents.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2013 and 2017, Iranian hackers stole $3.4 billion in intellectual property from 170 universities and targeted U.S. officials and journalists as well as United Kingdom banks.
Google alleged to have misled publishers and advertisers
Newly unredacted allegations in a lawsuit by state attorneys general say that Google for years misled publishers and advertisers about pricing and processes in its ad auctions.
The lawsuit says Google created secret programs which deflated sales for some companies while increasing buyer prices, engaging in trust and monopoly-building activities.
The unredacted filing of the lawsuit occurred Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York after a judge ruled and amended complaint from last year could be unsealed.
Google says the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit,” and intends to file a motion for its dismissal next week, asserting that its advertising practices are competitive.
The suit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by over a dozen other states, alleging that Google’s practices inflate advertising costs which in turn create higher-priced products for consumers.
A separate antitrust case exists against Google from the U.S. Justice Department and over three dozen state attorneys general focusing on the company’s search services.
Additionally, a proposed bipartisan bill in the Senate with the support of a dozen lawmakers would treat Google’s search engine like a railroad operator and ban it from advantaging its own products and services at the expense of other businesses that rely on the platforms – just part of an ongoing adversarial relationship between Congress and the tech company.
Digital Literacy Legislation, Scott Woods Interview, Kim Kardashian Crypto Scam
Brenda Lawrence, a democratic representative from Michigan, introduced new legislation that will help measure the nation’s digital literacy.
January 13, 2022 — Representative Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bring government agencies together to address digital literacy.
The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission Act hopes to streamline the federal government’s approach to digital literacy by bringing together agency heads and experts to assess digital literacy in the United States, recommend how to measure digital literacy, and promote interagency cooperation. Right now there is no commonly used metric to measure digital literacy.
“As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re investing billions to expand access to broadband,” Lawrence said of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November. “Laying down the fiber is a strong first step to connect Americans around the country, but this effort won’t be as effective if people can’t use the online tools they’ve been given.”
The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission would be chaired by the Secretary of Education and the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel.
The legislation would require the commission to submit a report to Congress that contains recommendations on how to improve and maintain the digital and information literacy of individuals in the United States.
The commission will need to address low-income and disadvantaged areas and submit a final report with strategies to improve digital literacy through early education and community outreach.
Interview with Scott Woods at Broadband.Money
Scott Woods, director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will meet on Friday with Broadband Breakfast reporter, Justin Perkins for an “Ask Me Anything!” style interview for Broadband.Money.
“Scott is a broadband funding, implementation and stakeholder engagement expert and a key member of the OIGC leadership team responsible for implementing the historic $65 billion broadband funding program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA),” Broadband.Money said.
The Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives was established in 2021 to continue the work of the 2018 Minority Broadband Initiative. The intent of both the office and the original initiative was to close the digital divide in underserved communities by partnering with Historically Black Universities.
Woods’ office is the operator of a multitude of broadband and digital equity grant programs, which is why Friday’s conversation will center on providing opportunities for public and private partners wanting to strengthen broadband within their communities.
Kim Kardashian sued for crypto scam
Both celebrity Kim Kardashian and former boxer Floyd Mayweather are being sued by investors for allegedly falsely promoting a cryptocurrency called EthereumMax on their social media accounts.
CNN reports that a “class action lawsuit filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California accuses EthereumMax and its celebrity promoters of working together to artificially inflate the price of the token by making “false or misleading statements” in social media posts.”
The lawsuit alleges that investors who purchased EthereumMax in the early summer of 2021 lost money as a result of the celebrities’ false advertising.
CNN reported that a spokesperson for EthereumMax disputed the lawsuit stating that it was “riddled with misinformation.” Furthermore, CNN said that “representatives for Kardashian and Mayweather were not immediately available when contacted.”
Facebook Objection Dismissed, Glo Fiber Expanding, Utopia’s Timmerman Advocates Gigi Sohn
A judge dismissed Facebook’s objection to the FTC’s investigation into the company’s alleged anticompetitive practices.
January 12, 2022 – Facebook’s attempts to convince the court to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s anticompetition case against it have been rejected by D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg, which advocacy group Public Knowledge said in a Tuesday press release is “great news.”
Facebook, now called Meta, filed a complaint in October asking the court to dismiss the case that alleges the company is a monopoly power that controls over 60 percent of the “person social networking services” market. But the court effectively ruled that there is evidence that can move the case forward against the company.
“This is great news for the fight to hold Big Tech accountable and to offer users a real alternative to Facebook… thanks to the FTC’s persistence on this important issue, even the previously skeptical Judge Boasberg now agrees these concerns deserve further scrutiny.”
Boasberg also dismissed that argument also dismissed the argument that Khan should be recused from her position because of past comments she’s made about big technology companies.
Glo Fiber expanding network to Blacksburg, VA
Glo Fiber will be expanding its fiber optic network to include Blacksburg, Virginia this year to increase internet speeds for over 7,000 households and businesses, according to a Tuesday press release.
Shenandoah Telecommunications Company, the parent of Glo Fiber, will offer three tiers of symmetrical internet services, as well as streaming TV and phone service.
The news comes after the city council of Stephens City in Northern Virginia entered into a franchise agreement with Shenandoah and Glo to provide internet service to towns in the area.
Utopia Fiber wants Gigi Sohn at FCC
Roger Timmerman, the executive director at Utopia Fiber, wrote an opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday urging the Senate to push forth Gigi Sohn as the fifth Federal Communications Commission Commissioner because she would keep certain companies accountable in the market.
In the piece, he said that Sohn is best suited for this job because of her stance on big cable companies, her efforts to keep cable companies accountable, and her efforts to be a bipartisan voice in the world of telecommunications.
“If Gigi Sohn lands at the FCC, cable will need to be more accountable to consumers, businesses and taxpayers (who’ve subsidized their efforts for years with little in return)” Timmerman wrote. “Sohn wants to see policy that spurs innovation and investment, as well as economic development and jobs”.
Sohn has yet to be up for a Senate vote. If she’s approved, she will round-out the commission and provide the Democrats with the majority voice.
Utopia Fiber is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.
- Ron Yokubaitis: GOP Putting Partisanship over Reform with Gigi Sohn’s FCC Nomination
- Digital Equity the Focus at NTIA’s Listening Session on Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act
- January 6 Committee Social Media Subpoenas, Iranian Hacks, Google Ad Auctions Lawsuit
- Federal Communications Commissioner Starks Seeks to Encourage Democratic Principles Online
- Christopher Mitchell: Treasury Department Rescue Plan Act Rules Improve Broadband Funding
- Global Collaboration Important for Long-term Resolution on Supply Chain Concerns
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