Why Russia Should Be in the Rearview Mirror for Telecom Companies

Since Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in February, companies with a history of operating in complex and challenging markets have been weighing the difficult realities of their responsibilities to the people they serve. Those that supply essential goods and services, such as internet connectivity, pharmaceuticals, food, and consumer products have confronted difficult choices. The war has highlighted which companies must choose between providing essential services and managing the reputational and regulatory risks of operating as usual in Russia.

The risks that telecom companies operate in are evident. This month, telecommunications company VEON – the owner of Ukraine’s largest mobile company, Kyivstar, and Russia’s third-largest mobile company, Beeline – announced it would start selling its operations in Russia. This is a significant announcement because Beeline is a company providing essential internet connectivity service to the Russian population and because it represents a noticeable turning point.

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TikTok Is China’s Trojan Horse

People are easy to dupe.  Give us something for free and we will open the door to just about anything in return, including our most sensitive family, health, and financial information. 

The ancient Greeks knew something about the human psyche when they built a massive wooden horse and put it outside the enemy gates at Troy.  Unsuspecting Trojans marveled at the gift and ushered it inside unexamined.  Hidden in the horse were the Greek men of war who emerged to sack the city. 

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Let’s Add the First Amendment to the Nation’s Back-to-School Checklist

With high school teachers nationwide now in the process of planning their return to begin a new academic term, a new piece of valuable summer homework for them is recommended. It’s the survey results from the Knight Foundation Future of the First Amendment project. This is the eighth such survey conducted since 2004, and it deserves a close reading and a plan of action for when students return to the classroom.

Viewed over time, there can be a sense of optimism that both American high school students and their teachers have maintained a consistency over many years regarding the notion that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.  Yet that view now is clouded when they are confronted with “offensive” or “threatening” speech.  In these instances, the level of support drops below half.  And only 57% in this survey indicated that news organizations should be able to publish without government censorship.

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Ukraine War’s Powerful First Amendment Lessons

As Americans, we are witnessing the horror that Russia is inflicting on Ukraine with its bloody invasion that is causing massive devastation and death throughout the country.  Ironically, the tragic events abroad also can help us gain a greater appreciation for the democratic values that we enjoy at home – values that Ukraine would like to emulate as it struggles to remain a democratic country.

That’s because the proverbial Iron Curtain has been fortified by Vladimir Putin as a barrier against the Russian people.  The populace there now is experiencing an unprecedented news and information crackdown by the government, which is shutting off outside news media and social media outlets or causing them to leave the country. 

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Consumers May Hold the Key to Confronting Election Misinformation

NewsGuard is a company created by a team of journalists who assess the credibility and transparency of news and information, including whether a website repeatedly publishes false content.

Recently, it found that 113 websites out of 7,000 reviewed were spreading election misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential vote and are still active in doing so.  Of these, 81% have continued to spread false claims about the election and its aftermath, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Fifteen Days in June: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers Case

Last month, Justice Charles D. Wood of the Westchester County Supreme Court issued a controversial order blocking The New York Times from publishing or seeking various documents related to Project Veritas.  The Times had published an article on Nov. 11, 2021 that discussed the group’s journalistic practices, along with an investigation by the Department of Justice concerning the potential theft by Project Veritas of President Biden’s daughter Ashley’s diary.  The article also mentioned a separate defamation case against the Times that Project Veritas had initiated in 2020, based on coverage of a video the group had released alleging voter fraud related to the campaign of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn).

Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet commented that “[t]his ruling is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent.  When a court silences journalism, it fails its citizens and undermines their right to know.  The Supreme Court made that clear in the Pentagon Papers case, a landmark ruling against prior restraint blocking the publication of newsworthy journalism.  That principle clearly applies here.  We are seeking an immediate review of this decision.”

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Invest in Better Digital Privacy Protection Along With Faster Broadband Speeds

Among the key provisions of the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal) signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday, Nov. 15, is $65 billion that will be dedicated to improving access to reliable high-speed Internet.  This will include both increased availability of broadband to more than 30 million Americans who do not have minimally acceptable broadband speeds, and assistance in lowering prices for Internet services so that more households can afford better Internet service.

This new law aimed at closing the digital divide also should be used to close the digital privacy divide – the gap between more personal information being stored and shared and the level of privacy protection for online users that is provided to them.

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The Censor’s Dilemma

Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock.  The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”  

As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”

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Attacking Free Speech Doesn’t Just Hurt Tech: America Must Stay True to Its First Amendment Principles

The First Amendment is one of the cornerstone principles that define this nation. There is no such thing as freedom if we cannot speak freely.   

Today, however, our nation seems less interested in protecting free speech than at any time I can recall. Major advocates of free speech like the ACLU are wavering in their support of our First Amendment, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are fighting for the government to censor online speech.  

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A Third-Way Approach to Regulating Facial Recognition Systems

The use of facial recognition systems powered by algorithms and software continues to raise controversy given their potential use by law enforcement and other government agencies.  For over a decade, the Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has evaluated facial recognition to identify and report gaps in its capabilities.  Its most recent report in 2019 quantified the effect of age, race, and sex on facial recognition accuracy.

The greatest discrepancies that NIST measured were higher false-positive rates in women, African Americans, and particularly African American women.  It noted, “False positives might present a security concern to the system owner, as they may allow access to impostors.  False positives also might present privacy and civil rights and civil liberties concerns such as when matches result in additional questioning, surveillance, errors in benefit adjudication, or loss of liberty.”

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