Category Archives: Communication industry

Supreme Court Just Ruled That Using Social Media Is a Constitutional Right

By Ephrat Livni – Public space in the digital age has no shape and no physical place. But the Supreme Court is now sorting out what that means for free-speech rights.

On June 19, the justices unanimously held that states can’t broadly limit access to social media because cyberspace “is one of the most important places to exchange views.”

“A fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Given the fact that social-media platforms in particular allow for this kind of free communication, and that the constitution protects the right to exchange, more> https://goo.gl/XRLDt7

Sending a strong signal on global internet freedom

By Stuart N. Brotman – The growing restrictions on internet freedom around the world are easy to document; less so any visible American strategy that would reverse the ominous trends at hand.

According to its most recent annual report in this area, Freedom on the Net 2016, two-thirds of the world’s internet users live under government censorship. Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.

The types of blocked content include political communication aimed at promoting democratic values, such as online petitions and calls for public protests. Even satire can be punished severely: a 22-year old in Egypt was imprisoned for three years after photo-shopping Mickey Mouse ears on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Unfortunately, this type of criminal penalty is hardly unique.

Overall, Freedom House deemed only 17 surveyed countries to have real internet freedom; 28 were partly free and 20 were characterized as not free. The leading bad state actors should not be surprising: China, Syria, Iran, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Cuba (North Korea was not included in the survey, alas).

The U.S. would be hurt if the marketplace of ideas and the online commercial marketplace that thrive here are diminished overseas.

However, there has been radio silence to date about this issue from the White House and the Department of State. more> https://goo.gl/msTcLz

Updates from GE

Renewable Energy Makes Things Tough On The Grid, But New Software Could Help

By Bruce Watson – In 2016, more than two-thirds of power in Europe came from nonrenewable sources. Globally, renewables are expected to reach parity with coal and gas around 2040.

Nevertheless, the speed with which intermittent renewables — the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow — are coming on board is making it harder for European utilities to balance the grid. That’s because the grid, as large as it is, is also a delicate system where supply must match demand at all times or there’s a risk of blackouts.

In France, for example, strong winds in the north mixed with a sunny week on the Riviera in the south can lead to a surfeit of electricity that puts the balance at risk.

The intermittency also makes profits hard to find, with European utilities on average struggling to increase profits 1 percent in 2016. Countries around the world are watching how Europe uses thermal generation to keep the grid balanced; prioritizes low-cost, clean and renewable energy; and keeps utilities profitable amid a rapidly changing energy network. more> https://goo.gl/iC532f

Understanding The Digital Revolution And What It Means

By Henning Meyer – The digital revolution, used here as shorthand for broader technological change, is one of today’s most hotly debated topics in politics, economics and business.

We are undoubtedly faced with large-scale disruptions in many areas that require adjustments.

To analyse exposure to the digital revolution and potential policy solutions you need to start breaking it down into manageable dimensions. Three areas in particular warrant special attention: What are the forces shaping the application of new technologies? What does the digital revolution mean for the future of work? And what kind of policies could help to address these issues?

There is a general lack of structured analysis of the ways in which technological progress translates into real life. This is an important shortcoming as it leads to a distorted view of real-time developments. Here we try to structure this process and identify five filters that in effect moderate technology’s impact.

First, an ethical filter. This filter restricts research itself as it sets a permission framework for what can be done.

Second, a social filter. Social resistance against technological change is not new and it is likely to be more intense in areas where there is a perceived threat to people’s jobs.

Third, a corporate governance filter.

Fourth, a legal filter also moderates what is possible and what is applied in the real world.

Last but not least a productivity filter. This filter means in principle that the application of new technology does not have a dramatic effect on productivity because either the productivity bottleneck lies elsewhere or diminishing marginal returns mean that there is little real improvement in products or services. more> https://goo.gl/nZdclG

A pioneering computer scientist wants algorithms to be regulated like cars, banks, and drugs

By Katherine Ellen Foley – It’s convenient when Facebook can tag your friends in photos for you, and it’s fun when Snapchat can apply a filter to your face. Both are examples of algorithms that have been trained to recognize eyes, noses, and mouths with consistent accuracy.

Such algorithms are already deeply embedded in many aspects of our lives. They do such things as setting prices on stock markets, flying aircraft on autopilot, calculating insurance risks, finding you an Uber, and devising routes for delivery trucks.

But algorithms make mistakes too, and when they do it can be extremely hard to figure out why—witness the flash crashes on stock markets and the autopilot failure that brought down Air France flight 447 in 2009. more> https://goo.gl/O8inEI

You Can’t Solve These Problems on an Ad Hoc Basis

By Sasha Cohen O’Connell – Resolving today’s most pressing cyber security and Internet governance challenges is dependent on the tech industry and the government working together on both policy development and policy implementation.

Specifically, collaboration is required to successfully research, design, debate, and ultimately implement effective solutions.

While there is overwhelming consensus on the need for collaboration, it remains a huge challenge. Why?

While many factors contribute to the problem, including differing incentive structures, cultures and business models, one critical element—organizational structure—is a significant and often overlooked hurdle that needs attention and creative solutions.

Most collaborations today are done by ad hoc teams of operational personnel, lawyers, government affairs departments, and/or trade associations or other outside third parties. This setup is neither efficient nor effective. more> https://goo.gl/B0j8RA

Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers

By Stuart N. Brotman – The final outcome of this high-profile, high-impact proceeding will not be apparent until sometime late in 2017, at the earliest. Congress may also become more seriously involved at some point on the legislative front.

But without a doubt, as Chairman Pai noted in his Newseum speech, a “fierce debate” lies ahead for a number of months at least. And if past is prologue, the FCC may well receive an avalanche of comments in response to these proposed changes; the record in the Title II Order shows that over four million comments were filed by interested parties and the general public combined.

There will be no lack of political discourse, to be sure.

As we move into 2016, an unresolved national communications policy dilemma remains: whether the public-switched telephone network and the internet are parallel systems or parts of a larger ubiquitous network environment. Determining which characterization will be followed has profound consequences for regulatory treatment.

Given the emerging dominance of mobile over fixed service, if the FCC can’t regulate both, it may win the battle but lose the war. Given that a further appeal is likely regardless of which side prevails, including possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress may find itself re-emerging as the best source of guidance for the FCC. Legislative action can definitively clarify whether Congress intends for the telephone network and internet to be joined at the hip, or should continue to function in parallel with differing regulatory treatment. more> https://goo.gl/f4x8Uh

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Why cyber warfare isn’t

By Mike Hearn – One of the issues (though not at all the only one) is how governments understand the term “cyber warfare”. This term has spread rapidly throughout government in the past 20 years. Presidents, Prime Ministers, generals and journalists all believe they understand what “cyber warfare” is, but they don’t and this lack of understanding leads to events like today’s.

The big problem is that cyber warfare is totally different to normal warfare, in fact it’s so different that calling it warfare at all is meaningless. In regular warfare you can build up your own defenses without improving your opponent’s defenses, and you can develop new weapons that your opponents will not have. This basic asymmetry is key to the very concept of war: the side with the better weapons, defenses and tactics should normally win.

But cyber warfare doesn’t work like that. Because everyone uses the same software infrastructure, and the “weapons” are nothing more than weaknesses in that global infrastructure, building up your own defenses by fixing problems inherently builds up your opponents defenses too. And developing new “weapons” is only possible if your opponents are able to develop the very same weapons for themselves, by exploiting the very same vulnerabilities in your country that you are exploiting in theirs.

Governments have huge problems understanding this fact because politicians tend to reflexively trust their own intelligence agencies, who deliberately obfuscate about it. more> https://goo.gl/t1YWuS

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21st-century propaganda: A guide to interpreting and confronting the dark arts of persuasion

By Gideon Lichfield – The belief, or rather hope, that humankind is ultimately rational has gripped Western politics at least since Descartes, and inspired such 19th-century optimists as Thomas Jefferson and John Stuart Mill. “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe,” Jefferson famously wrote.

But in recent years we’ve learned much about the human mind that contradicts the view of people as rationally self-interested decision-makers. Psychologists have established that we form beliefs first and only then look for evidence to back them up.

Research has turned up apparent physiological and psychological differences between liberals and conservatives, and found evidence that these differences have ancient evolutionary origins. It has identified the “backfire effect,” a.k.a. confirmation bias, in which people hew to even more strongly to an existing belief when shown evidence that clearly contradicts it.

Other research has looked at the habits of highly effective propagandists such as China, Russia, and alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos.

The main takeaways: truth, rationality, consistency, and likability aren’t necessary for getting people to absorb your viewpoint. Things that do work: incessant repetition, distractions from the main issue, sidestepping counterarguments rather than refuting them, using “peripheral cues” to establish credibility or authority, and antagonizing people who dislike you in order to get the attention of people who might like you. more> https://goo.gl/ddOwca

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GE’s Immelt bets big on digital factories, shareholders are wary

By Alwyn Scott – The $4 billion GE has spent on developing digital products – ranging from tiny sensors in jet engines to augmented reality and software that can crunch large volumes of data – is on the scale of investments Google and Facebook Inc (FB.N) made to build their businesses, Bill Ruh, CEO of GE’s digital division, told Reuters.

Now that GE has shed non-essential operations, including most of its large financial unit, its fortunes will rise or fall depending on whether that investment delivers.

GE’s technology – and similar systems by IBM, Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) and others – is a hot new battleground in manufacturing.

The companies promise they can spot problems before machines break down, yield cost savings of 30 percent or more, and raise labor productivity that has slowed sharply in recent years.

The company has spent $5 billion setting up new U.S. factories in the last five years. As it now adds digital technology to its plants, it needs fewer, and higher skilled, workers than in the past.

“We’re going to have a smarter worker,” Jeff Immelt said in an interview. “We’re not going to have as many workers.” more> https://goo.gl/MDXuzw