Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 27, 2014

Posts in "Social Media"

November 25, 2014

Study Indicates Most Internet Users Understand Concept of Net Neutrality

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, the majority of Internet users correctly identified what the concept of net neutrality refers to.

The online survey released Tuesday – which quizzed roughly 1,000 Internet users between Sept. 12 and 18 – asked a number of questions, like whether Twitter has a 140 character limit and whether the Internet and the World Wide Web are the same.

One of the questions asked what net neutrality refers to, and according to Pew, 61 percent selected the correct answer from four options: “Equal treatment of digital content by internet service providers.”

Another 12 percent incorrectly chose the answer “The postings on websites that are nonpartisan” and 13 percent selected “A promise by users of some websites that they will not make critical comments.”

“The way Wikipedia editors are instructed to handle new entries on their site” was an answer selected by six percent of respondents and nine percent didn’t answer the question at all.

The percent of respondents who correctly answered a privacy-related question was much lower.

The survey found that only 44 percent of Internet users are “aware that when a company posts a privacy statement, it does not necessarily mean that the firm actually keeps in information it collects on users confidential.”

The majority – 52 percent – incorrectly answered that this statement was true: “When a company posts a privacy policy, it ensures that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users.”

November 24, 2014

Next Week: SCOTUS Hears Case on Threats Via Facebook

It’s a slow week in D.C. for tech policy with the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner. But next week, when things kick into gear again, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving threats issued via Facebook and the First Amendment.

Both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post had stories Sunday on the case that’s scheduled to be argued on Dec. 1.

The Washington Post writes: “In its first examination of the limits of free speech on social media, the Supreme Court will consider next week whether, as a jury concluded, [Anthony] Elonis’s postings constituted a “true threat” to his wife and others.”

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The appeal, up for arguments on Dec. 1, presents a vexing legal issue courts have long struggled to settle, and it does so when what people say can reach a bigger audience than ever before through social media. Although social-media companies have rules for managing individual speech online, the outcome could affect the leeway people have to express themselves, even darkly and violently, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites.

NPR and Slate had a rundowns on the case earlier this year.

From Slate, earlier this year on the legal nitty-gritty:

The case deals with an area of First Amendment law known as “true threats.” These kinds of threats are unprotected under the First Amendment. The trick is figuring out whether Elonis’ speech was a true threat or not. At his trial, the jury was told that the legal standard for whether something is an unprotected “true threat” is if an objective person could consider Elonis’ posts to be threatening. Elonis claims that the correct test should look at whether he intended for the posts to be understood as threats. He also argues that his rap lyrics are important protected speech, no different from the rap lyrics created by the great artists.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 3:11 p.m.
Social Media

November 13, 2014

LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner Talks Education

126695011 445x296 LinkedIns Jeff Weiner Talks Education

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner talks to the audience before a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama on September 26, 2011 in Mountain View, California. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has an interest in the issue of education and at a  Thursday event he talked about his personal investment in the matter.

“I got into business because I was interested in education reform,” he said at an event hosted by AtlanticLive. “And I can’t separate my career path from this interest in reforming education and democratizing access to information.”

Full story

November 10, 2014

The Week Ahead: Net Neutrality, Cybersecurity and Lifeline

Congress returns for the lame duck session and events on net neutrality, cybersecurity and the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program are on tap this week.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Partisan Divide Alive and Well Among Politicians… At Least on Twitter

If you were hoping for more bipartisanship among politicians, you might not want to hold your breath. It looks like the partisan divide is alive and well among politicians… at least on Twitter.

Twitter put together the above visual featuring the accounts of various governors and lawmakers in the House and Senate running for re-election, as well as candidates for these offices and some politicians not seeking re-election.

According to a Twitter blog post: “The big circles are the politicians who follow (and are followed back by) the most others. Blue circles represent Democrats; red circles represent Republicans.”

Among its findings: the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats accounted for in the visual interactive don’t have any mutual follows from politicians or candidates from the other party.

From the blog post:

Of the 581 Republicans, 85% have no mutual connections on Twitter with a single Democratic politician or candidate. Similarly, 86% of the Democrats have no mutual Republican connections on Twitter.

It also notes that Illinois Republican John Shimkus is the candidate with the highest number of mutual follows, 165 to be exact, and with 13 percent of them from Democrats. It looks like Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette has fewer mutual follows (140) than Shimkus, but a higher portion, 17 percent, of them from the opposing party.

October 14, 2014

The Week Ahead: FCC Meeting and the Future of Internet Regulation Event

The Federal Communications Commission holds an open meeting, the American Red Cross holds an event on video games and the laws of war and Tim Berners-Lee, Vinton G. Cerf and others are scheduled to participate at a Duke event on the future of Internet regulation.


The Society of Professional Journalists and the Medill School of Journalism hold a panel discussion on net neutrality and media.

The American Red Cross hosts an event on video games and the laws of war.


The Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative hosts a panel discussion on net neutrality rules and wireless Internet.

The Heritage Foundation hosts an event on regulation of the video marketplace.


The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus hosts a panel discussion on whether an update of the Communications Act needs to include the Internet.

The United States Institute of Peace hosts an event on the impact of technology on Afghanistan’s democratic process.


The Federal Communications Commission holds an open meeting.

Duke Law Center for Innovation Policy hosts an event titled “Internet Regulation in 2020.”

October 10, 2014

Weekly Recap: Net Neutrality, Mobile ‘Cramming’ and a Spacewalk

Among the highlights in happenings from the past few days: President Barack Obama talked net neutrality, AT&T Mobility agreed to a $105 million settlement over mobile “cramming” allegations, and an astronaut popular on Twitter took his first spacewalk outside the International Space Station. That and more news highlights as well as some Technocrat posts are below. For happenings from earlier this week, check out the Mid-Week Catchup.

Full story

October 8, 2014

Mid-Week Catchup: Twitter’s Lawsuit, Student Data Privacy & AT&T’s Data Breach

Need to catch up on what’s happened in tech policy news over the past day or so? A few highlights include Twitter’s lawsuit against the federal government, student data privacy and an AT&T data breach.

  • The Software & Information Industry Association and the Future of Privacy Forum released an education privacy pledge on student data, with Microsoft and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt among the companies that signed on.  A few stories point out that some big name companies did not sign on, like Apple, Google and Pearson.

October 3, 2014

Weekly Recap: Football, Spectrum Incentive Auctions and Facebook Research

Happy National Manufacturing Day! Football, the spectrum incentive auctions and research processes at Facebook were among the issues that cropped up this week. Here’s a look at some of the highlights along with a few Technocrat posts in case you missed them.

Full story

October 2, 2014

Roundup: Facebook Announces Research Process Change

This past summer, Facebook sparked controversy over its changing of users’ News Feeds for an emotion study and on Thursday, the company announced some changes to its research process.  Some of the initial articles on the announcement point out what’s missing from it, say it’s not really sufficient or say it’s a step forward.

In a blog post Thursday, Mike Schropfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer wrote:

Although this subject matter was important to research, we were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism. It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently.

Among the changes, according to the blog post, are an “enhanced review process” prior to research on certain groups of people and content  that could be “considered deeply personal” and the creation of an internal review panel for these projects. The blog post states that the “bootcamp” for new engineers will include education on the company’s research practices and that its published academic research will available on one site.

But the New York Times’ Vindu Goel points out that this doesn’t include outside review and that there are some unanswered questions:

But no outside body will review Facebook’s research projects, and the company declined to disclose what guidelines it would use to decide whether research was appropriate. Nor did it indicate whether it will get consent from users for projects like its emotion manipulation study, which set off a global furor when it was disclosed this summer.

In essence, Facebook’s message is the same as it has always been: Trust us, we promise to do better.

Gigaom’s Carmel DeAmicis writes that it’s unclear whether “external policing” will be conducted and points to potential problems with an internal review panel:

Facebook says its internal study review team will be comprised of lawyers, engineers, and privacy experts. That sounds hunky-dory, but outside accountability matters, since anyone who works for Facebook may be too close to the company to accurately determine ethical practices. For academic researchers, there are clear ways of doing things determined by industry organizations, external review boards, and even federal law.

It’s a step in the right direction for the company, but without additional systems to hold Facebook accountable, it’s not quite enough.

Ellis Hamberger at The Verge, on the other hand, has a more positive take:

Facebook can’t take back what it did, but today’s measures go a long way towards rectifying the underlying structures that enabled such an aggressive study to happen without Facebook’s higher-ups having any idea it was taking place. It should also help new engineers understand that Facebook users aren’t just numbers on a chart. 1.3 billion users is a whole lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you can experiment on them — even a tiny percentage of them — without being more transparent about exactly what you’re doing.

Josh Constine at TechCrunch writes: “If we’ve gained anything from the emotional manipulation study backlash, it’s that more of Facebook’s research will now be out in the open.”

“Before, it was buried in academic journals and often lacked comprehensible explanations of what Facebook was doing and why,” he writes. “That both made it feel like Facebook was shadily being secretive, and left research open to sensationalist interpretation.”

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