Category Archives: FCC

Sinclair Broadcasting Airs Allied Progress Ad – Between Attacks on the Group

Sinclair: “We hope you won’t buy into the hysteria and hype.”

By CommonDreams. Published 4-8-2018

Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to air a commercial from a progressive watchdog that’s critical of the broadcaster’s actions.

But Allied Progress called foul Sunday.

Sinclair began running the 30-second spot with a 15-second defense of Sinclair, followed by the Allied Progress 30-second ad, and then another 15-second of Sinclair’s voiceover: “The misleading ad you just saw focused on a brief promotional message that simply said we’re a source for truthful news. It ignored thousands of hours of local news we produce each year to keep you informed. The ad was purchased by a group known for its liberal bias, and we hope you won’t buy into the hysteria and hype.” Continue reading

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Uproar After Congress Sneaks Attack on Digital Privacy Rights Into Omnibus Spending Bill

Attaching it to massive spending deal, lawmakers rush through controversial bill that allows law enforcement to hand over personal data without a warrant

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-22-2018

Critics of the CLOUD Act ” are rightfully pointing out that it jettisons current human rights protections in favor of vague standards that could gut individual rights.” (Photo: Electoric Frontier Foundation)

Buried in the 2,232-page omnibus spending bill that the U.S. House passed Thursday is a piece of legislation that digital privacy advocates warn “expands American and foreign law enforcement’s ability to target and access people’s data across international borders.”

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data or CLOUD Act (S. 2383 and H.R. 4943) would add an official provision for U.S. law enforcement to access “the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information” for people all across the globe, regardless of where they live and what that nation’s privacy laws dictate. It would also create a “backdoor” into Americans’ data, enabling the U.S. government to bypass its citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights to access and even use their data. Continue reading

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Trump FCC Sued for Granting ‘Favors to Massive Media Conglomerates Like Sinclair’

“This FCC seems intent on looking the other way as people in the U.S. brace for a new wave of media mergers.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-9-2018

In an effort to stop the GOP-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from gutting regulations aimed at preventing major corporations from dominating local media, a coalition of advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing the agency of repeatedly violating court orders to examine the impact of its deregulatory moves “on localism, diversity, and competition in broadcast ownership.”

“This FCC seems intent on looking the other way as people in the U.S. brace for a new wave of media mergers,” said Jessica González, deputy director of Free Press, one of the groups behind the suit. “Runaway consolidation gouges newsrooms and hurts communities—especially marginalized communities that more often depend on broadcast TV for local news.” Continue reading

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What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders

 

By Derek KravitzAl Shaw and Isaac Arnsdorf. Published 3-7-2018 by ProPublica

When the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once lobbied or whose work they once opposed.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, an authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees, including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and senior officials within the government, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. Trump Town is the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists; and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial disclosure reports. Continue reading

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Net Neutrality Fight ‘Not Over’: Groups Launch Internet-Wide Campaign Pushing Congress to Overrule FCC Vote

“The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-14-2017

“Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year,” said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

The Republican-controlled FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal net neutrality, but open internet defenders are urging the public to not be swayed by the proliferation of “net neutrality is officially dead” headlines—the fight is “not over,” they say.

Just hours after the FCC’s vote, the coalition of activist groups behind Team Internet and BattlefortheNet.com announced the launch of “a massive internet-wide campaign” calling on members of Congress to overturn the FCC’s move by passing a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate. Continue reading

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Protests Planned Nationwide as Vote on FCC’s ‘Catastrophic’ Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Looms

Open internet supporters are demanding that lawmakers answer a simple question: “Do you stand for your constituents’ ability to communicate and connect, or do you stand for Verizon’s bottom line?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-4-2017

“Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. (Photo: Battle for the Net)

With the FCC set to vote on chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to kill neutrality in just over a week, a diverse coalition—ranging from consumer protection organizations to progressive lawmakers to Harvard professors—is denouncing the FCC’s proposals and scheduling nationwide protests to combat the agency’s move to let massive telecom companies “cash in on the internet” at the expense of consumers.

This is the free speech fight of our generation and internet users are pissed off and paying attention,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents.” Continue reading

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The StingRay Spy Device Is Exactly Why the 4th Amendment Was Written

At least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays.

By Olivia Donaldson

Photo: The Desk

Imagine you are in the middle of your typical day-to-day activities. Maybe you are driving, spending time with family, or working. If you are like most people, your phone is at your side on a daily basis. Little do you know that, at any time, police and law enforcement could be looking at information stored on your phone. You haven’t done anything wrong. You haven’t been asked for permission. You aren’t suspected of any crime.

The StingRay

Police have the power to collect your location along with the numbers of your incoming and outgoing calls and intercept the content of call and text communication. They can do all of this without you ever knowing about it.

How? They use a shoebox-sized device called a StingRay. This device (also called an IMSI catcher) mimics cell phone towers, prompting all the phones in the area to connect to it even if the phones aren’t in use.

The police use StingRays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes. The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.

Quietly, StingRay use is growing throughout local and federal law enforcement with little to no oversight. The ACLU has discovered that at least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays, but says that this “dramatically underrepresents the actual use of StingRays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.”

The Violation

Information from potentially thousands of phones is being collected every time a StingRay is used. Signals are sent into the homes, bags, and pockets of innocent individuals. The Electronic Frontier Foundation likens this to the Pre-Revolutionary War practice of soldiers going door-to-door, searching without suspicion.

Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International notes that, “there really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this.”

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The StingRay clearly violates these standards. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that restricting the government from violating privacy is essential for a free society. That’s why the Fourth Amendment exists. The StingRay is creating a dangerous precedent that tells the government that it’s okay for them to violate our rights. Because of this, freedom is quietly slipping out the window.

Little Regulation

Law Enforcement is using StingRays without a warrant in most cases. For example, the San Bernardino Police Department used their StingRay 300 times without a warrant in a little over a year.

In 2010, the Tallahassee Police Department used a StingRay in a warrantless search to track down the suspect of a crime. A testimony from an unsealed hearing transcript talks about how police went about finding their target. The ACLU sums it up well:

“Police drove through the area using the vehicle-based device until they found the apartment complex in which the target phone was located, and then they walked around with the handheld device and stood ‘at every door and every window in that complex’ until they figured out which apartment the phone was located in. In other words, police were lurking outside people’s windows and sending powerful electronic signals into their private homes in order to collect information from within.”

A handful of states have passed laws requiring police and federal agents to get a warrant before using a StingRay. They must show probable cause for one of the thousands of phones that they are actually searching. This is far from enough.

Additionally, there are many concerns that agents are withholding information from federal judges to monitor subjects without approval – bypassing the probable cause standard laid out in the Constitution. They even go as far as to let criminals go to avoid disclosing information about these devices to the courts.

If the public doesn’t become aware of this issue, the police will continue to use StingRays to infringe on our rights in secret and with impunity.

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson is a recent high school graduate that is currently opting out of college and participating in an entrepreneurial program called Praxis.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Editorial note: If you’d like to read about the current use of StingRays by the Trump administration, we ran an article on the subject back in May.

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‘Death Sentence for Local Media’: Warnings as FCC Pushes Change to Benefit Right-Wing Media Giant

Free press advocates say rule changes are “massive handout” to broadcaster Sinclair that would have far-reaching and negative impacts in communities nationwide

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-26-2017

Federal Communications Chairmain Ajit Pai continues to push through rollbacks that critics warn will enable major media companies to have an outsize influence on public opinion and fail to serve local communities. (Photo: USDA/Flickr/cc)

In a series of moves this week that have alarmed free speech advocates and critics of media consolidation, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) voted to abolish a rule requiring radio and television broadcasters to maintain studios near the communities they serve, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced further plans to end certain media ownership rules.

The policy shifts are expected to significantly benefit the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group—whose reported close ties to Pai have raised concerns as the federal government reviews Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, which would expand the broadcaster’s reach to 72 percent of the country. Continue reading

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‘Classic Propaganda’: Sinclair Broadcasting Pushes Aside Fox News to Become ‘Trump TV’

“It’s unheard of to have one company pushing one specific agenda reaching so many people and doing it in a way designed to evade local input”

By Common Dreams. Published 7-30-2017

The Sinclair Broadcasting cut a biased deal with Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign. Now the Trump FCC is paying back the favor. (screenshot)

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the Sinclair Broadcasting group cut a deal with Jared Kushner for “good” coverage of the Trump Administration, which seems to have paid off.

Politico reported last December:

  Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without    commentary,  Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio,  reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 viewers[sic]— than networks like  CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000. Continue reading

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‘You Can’t Make This Up’: Comcast Threatens Legal Action Against Net Neutrality Proponents

If FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s plan “is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies”

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-23-2017

“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. (Photo: Alyson Hurt/cc/flickr)

Open Internet proponents who have been fighting the Trump administration’s rollback of net neutrality protections, which has been enacted at the bidding of the telecom industry, said Tuesday that Comcast is now threatening legal action saying the website Comcastroturf.com is infringing on its trademark.

As the organization Fight for the Future quipped on Twitter, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

The website in question is currently providing a tool for the public to see if their names are among those stolen and used by anti-net neutrality bots to post comments in support of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to undo Title II protections that classify the internet as a public utility. Continue reading

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