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Tom - Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill in the Senate last week that would effectively allow Internet service providers to slow down or block Internet content or applications of their choosing. The move came the same day as the federal government decided to move forward on an official Net neutrality policy that would prevent ISPs from making those types of decisions. McCain's bill, the Internet Freedom Act, would block the Federal Communications Commission from making Net neutrality the law of the land. According to a report at NetworkWorld, McCain "called the proposed Net neutrality rules a 'government takeover' of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an 'already anemic' job market in the US." McCain was on the opposite side of the Net neutrality debate from President Barack Obama during last year's presidential campaign. During his White House campaign, President Barack Obama came out strongly in favor of Net neutrality, which is backed by companies such as Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, eBay and consumer advocacy groups, but opposed by telecommunications, wireless and cable companies.
Linda - Supporters of Net neutrality argue that the rule is needed to ensure that Internet providers don't censor content, or slow down traffic to Web sites that are in competition with their business allies. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski argued that "reasonable and enforceable rules of the road" were needed "to preserve a free and open Internet." But, the FCC chairman said, there have been "some significant situations where broadband providers have degraded the data streams of popular lawful services and blocked consumer access to lawful applications." The FCC regulators voted unanimously to support an open Internet rule and the proposed rule now goes to the public for comment until Jan. 14, after which the Federal Communications Commissions will review the feedback and possibly seek more comment. A final rule is not expected until the spring of next year. The vote came despite a flurry of lobbying against the net neutrality rule by telecommunications service providers like AT&T Inc (T.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Qwest Communications International Inc (Q.N). Advocates of net neutrality such as Google Inc (GOOG.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and public interest groups say Internet service providers must be barred from blocking or slowing traffic according to how much revenue the content generates.
Tom - The Huffington Post is reporting that The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has demanded that the company providing Internet service for the Yes Men shut down their site on Tuesday, claiming the spoof troupe's fake version of the Chamber's site constituted copyright infringement. The mockup of the Chamber's site was part of the Yes Men's elaborate hoax, which included a phony press conference at the National Press Club, where a fraudulent Chamber spokesman announced that the superlative lobbying organization had reversed its controversial stance on climate change. Hurricane Electric obeyed the Chamber's letter and shut down the spoof site. But in the process, they shut down hundreds of other sites maintained by May First / People Link, the Yes Men's direct provider. Hurricane Electric said the sites were down for an hour or so. He said he reconnected them after May First agreed to take the site off Hurricane's network. May First immediately "mirrored" the Yes Men spoof page, keeping it online.
Linda - Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men had strong words for the Chamber, saying "This is a blow against free speech, and it demonstrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of the Chamber," "The only freedom they care about is the economic freedom of large corporations to operate free of the hassles of science, reality, and democracy." Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, which is representing the Yes Men, called the case a "pretty clear fair use case." Copyright law allows for "fair use" of copyrighted material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teachin, scholarship, or research." Zimmerman sent a letter to the Chamber's lawyers demanding they withdraw their takedown notice. The letter also pointed the lawyers to the "Free Speech" page on the Chamber's site.
Tom - Wired magazine is reporting that the Central Intelligence Agency has invested in a software firm called Visible Technologies that specializes in monitoring social media sites, including blogs, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day. Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.
Linda - In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give intelligence agencies “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally.” Such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company. Neither party would disclose the size of In-Q-Tel’s investment in Visible, a 90-person company with expected revenues of about $20 million in 2010. But a source familiar with the deal says the In-Q-Tel cash will be used to boost Visible’s foreign languages capabilities, which already include Arabic, French, Spanish and nine other languages.
Tom - In international media news, CNN is reporting that a Saudi court sentenced a female journalist Saturday to 60 lashes for her work on a controversial Arabic-language TV show that aired an episode in which a man bragged about his sex life. The court in Jeddah also imposed a two-year travel ban on Rosanna Al-Yami, according to a Saudi Information Ministry official, who could not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The ban prevents her from traveling outside Saudi Arabia. This official identified Al-Yami as a fixer, who helps journalists obtain stories, and a coordinator for Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., the network that aired "A Thick Red Line," a popular show on social taboos. On one episode, a Saudi man, Mazen Abdul Jawad, bragged about sex and got into trouble with Saudi authorities for his boasts. Abdul Jawad was put on trial and sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
Linda - The episode caused an uproar in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia, where Shariah, or Islamic law, is practiced. Premarital sex is illegal, and unrelated men and women are not permitted to mingle. Saudi authorities shut down the Lebanese network's offices in Jeddah and Riyadh after the interview aired a few months ago. Abdul Jawad was arrested shortly after the program aired and charged with violating Saudi Arabia's crime of publicizing vice. Suleiman Al-Jumeii, the attorney who represents Abdul Jawad, also confirmed the sentence against Al-Yami, saying he believes she is the first Saudi journalist ever to be sentenced to lashes. While the charges include involvement in preparing the program, she was not involved in setting up the episode in which Abdul Jawad appeared, the lawyer said.
Tom - And in London, Reuters is reporting that hundreds of angry demonstrators besieged the BBC's television studios Thursday to protest against a planned appearance by the leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP) on a flagship political program. Some 500 demonstrators, waving placards reading "Stop the Fascist BNP" and shouting "Smash the BNP," protested outside the television complex in West London, where BNP leader Nick Griffin was to appear as a panelist on the BBC's "Question Time" show. At one stage, a crowd of protesters surged through a security barrier at the entrance to the complex, bursting through a line of yellow-jacketed police officers. Police said six people were arrested and three police officers were hurt.
Linda - The first appearance by a far-right politician on a program regularly watched by three million people aroused strong reactions. Anti-racism groups argued the BNP should not be given a platform on the publicly-funded BBC while others backed it on free speech grounds. Griffin, who was elected to the European Parliament in June, told Sky News the protest was "an attempt to use the mob to interfere with democratic politics." The BNP, which calls for a halt to immigration and Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and seeks to encourage voluntary repatriation of immigrants, won two seats in the European Parliament in elections in June.