A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy

Although the tidal wave of misinformation continues unabated, the New Year already has seen one ray of hope. In early January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the first-in-the-nation law that requires public schools to teach media literacy at all grade levels – K-12.

Murphy noted in his signing statement: “Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of misinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse. It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”

Continue reading “A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy”

Why Elon Musk’s Digital Town Square Model for Twitter Remains Elusive

When Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, he sent a prominent virtue signal.  Musk indicated that under his ownership, Twitter would be “a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.” 

This notion was quickly picked up in numerous glowing tweets, then amplified by media worldwide.  But we have learned in the ensuing months that there never was and never will be a digital town square.

Continue reading “Why Elon Musk’s Digital Town Square Model for Twitter Remains Elusive”

Two Teachable First Amendment Moments

Since Election Day 2022, we have experienced two extraordinary teachable moments about the First Amendment. Those all along the political spectrum should review them as a crash-course refresher for the clear red line that our nation’s Founding Fathers envisioned when they crafted this bedrock of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, has decided to lift a nearly three-year ban on using the popular social media platform that had been imposed on Donald J. Trump during the final days of his presidency. Musk indicated this reversal represented “the will of the people,” based on a quick, unscientific online poll he posted that indicated a slim majority approved of former president Trump being allowed to use Twitter again to reach the 88 million people who had been his followers at the time of his banishment.

Continue reading “Two Teachable First Amendment Moments”

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.

Continue reading “Why Russia Should Be in the Rearview Mirror for Telecom Companies”

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. 

Continue reading “TikTok Is China’s Trojan Horse”

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. 

Continue reading “Ukraine War’s Powerful First Amendment Lessons”

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.  

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

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.”

Continue reading “A Third-Way Approach to Regulating Facial Recognition Systems”

Guardrails for Describing Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation

Perhaps the most distasteful national omelet we’ve been served during the past four years has been the one that has mixed together an unsavory combination of three ingredients: fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.

While many express growing concerns and look for ways to deal with them, that may be difficult – if not impossible – as long as we use these terms without any agreed-upon definitions that set useful boundaries and are easy to understand among the public at large.  The alternative is to continue repeating the mantra “fake news-misinformation- disinformation” so often that it loses meaning, or using the terms interchangeably so that they become permanently blurred in our minds.

Continue reading “Guardrails for Describing Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation”

Digital Privacy Laws Should Reflect Our Work-From-Home Pandemic Lives

With COVID-19 and economic recovery at the top of the policy agenda for the Biden Administration and the new Congress, it may take awhile until serious attention is devoted to enacting national digital privacy legislation.  This continues to put states in a leadership position to craft their own approaches.  Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Washington are among the states that are in the process of developing their own bills for timely legislative approval.

And Virginia’s pending Consumer Data Protection Act is poised to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, after receiving very strong bipartisan support in both the Virginia House and the state Senate.

Continue reading “Digital Privacy Laws Should Reflect Our Work-From-Home Pandemic Lives”