In case of emergency, who controls the Internet?

S. 773, The Cybersecurity Act of 2009, presently being redacted by the Senate Commerce Committee, is a piece of pending legislation that bears watching. On April 1, 2009, Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced legislation designed to promote cybersecurity, a reasonable cause per se. 

President Obama, in a public statement delivered from the East Room of the White House on May 29, 2009 emphasized the need for “securing our nation’s cyber infrastructure”. While considering this essential, he emphasized his commitment to an open Internet:

Let me also be clear about what we will not do. Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be open and free.

Now those in the know, including The Center for Democracy and Technology,  have expressed concerns about components of the proposed legislation. CDT, defines itself as “a non-profit public interest organization working to keep the Internet open, innovative, and free.” Its mission is to build “consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.”

Now those who claim to be in the know,  in a variety of recent articles over the past several days,  in the blogosphere and elsewhere,  have made statements about this issue which are more prone to incite than inform. Some of the rhetoric being used is akin to that being employed in the health care debate. Both issues are too important to be reduced to epithets.

On August 20, Commerce Committee staff circulated for comment a draft Committee Amendment to S. 773.

In an effort to render a reasoned interpretation of where this proposed legislation now stands, C&C contacted Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Director of its Project on Freedom, Security & Technology. He provided  the following statement:

“The draft Committee Amendment to the Cybersecurity Act marks a substantial improvement over the original version, but ambiguous language in the draft Committee Amendment also raises new concerns and questions about its scope.”

Previously this blog referenced the attempt by the government of Iran to impose an information blackout during the  protest by its citizens of a suspect election. “Internet access has been successfully curtailed to strangle the flow of information in and out of the country.” (http://bit.ly/2N4UUg). Of course the citizenry turned to their cellphones and through tweets on Twitter and video on YouTube circumvented the Internet shut down. 

Throughout history, to the present day, totalitarian regimes  use access to information to subjugate. In this country, civil liberties are protected. The balancing of  these rights with legitimate national security concerns in an Internet driven world is what is at stake in this case.

While there are a number of elements in S. 733 in need of scrutiny,  the section which deals with Presidential  authority to address a cybersecurity emergency is certainly and rightly a “hot button” issue, no pun intended (“kill switch” was a term previously employed in connection with this provision).

Beyond the Commerce Committee, there are other proposed pieces of related legislation circulating. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is supposed to issue its own bill sometime this fall.

 It is expected that The Center for Democracy & Technology, in consort with other responsible organizations, will continue to voice concerns and work with Commerce Committee staff regarding this bill. In the meantime, stay calm and vigilant.

To read the full text of President Obama’s statement on securing our cyber infrastructure go to: http://bit.ly/f8hI8

To learn more about The Center for Democracy & Technology and its work go to: http://www.cdt.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/08/31/in-case-of-emergency-who-controls-the-internet/

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Internet addiction, seriously

Recently I came across a Time magazine article about patients at a Chinese Internet Addiction Center that started me doing some serious research on the existence of this condition, debated as to whether it is to be considered a bona fide psychological disorder, and also the implications of a totalitarian society like China declaring it as such. I conjure up images of A Clockwork Orange and  Nineteen Eighty-Four.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1880659,00.html

There is certainly a legitimate concern it seems to me about “overuse” and “abuse” – cybersex in particular comes to mind, but should it be included in the next (2012) edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)?

Apparently the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association have had some ambivalence about labeling this as an actual clinical disorder as well.

The Wikipedia article on Internet addiction, which provides a pretty fair overview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_addiction) points out that while “a person could have a pathological relationship with… specific aspects of the Internet…that does not make the Internet medium itself…addictive.”

On the other hand many consider this definitely a matter to be reckoned with, for example the Texas State University Counseling Center devotes a full section of its web site to the issue: http://www.counseling.txstate.edu/resources/shoverview/bro/interadd.html

Dr. Kimberly B. Young of St. Bonaventure University in her article “Treatment Outcomes with Internet Addicts” published in a journal I wager few outside the “tech-way” have heard of, CyberPsychology & Behavior, (2007, Vol. 10, No. 5; pp. 671-679) writes, “Technology is changing the nature of problems people are having as well as how we treat them.” Dr. Young, a psychologist,  has published numerous works relating to this, including her, some might say, groundbreaking book, Caught in the Net: How to Recognize Internet addiction and A Winning Strategy for Recovery. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (1998). She is also the executive director of the Center for Online and Internet Addiction.

The idea of Internet addiction started out as somewhat of a joke. In 1995, Dr. Ivan Goldberg, a New York psychiatrist, coined the term Internet addiction disorder (IAD) in jest. Some still treat the matter lightly, perhaps feeling uncomfortable in their own enthusiastic, dare we say, time consuming utilization; W. M. Auckerman, the Editor of Computing Japan magazine advocates reciting the following “prayer” if concerned about being overtaken by the malady:

Almighty Webmaster:
Grant me the serenity to know when to log off,
The courage to know when to check email,
And the wisdom to stay away from chat rooms.

To the patients at the Chinese Internet Addiction Center in Beijing whose strict disiplinary schedule during their obligatory three month stay includes rising at 6:30 a.m. to a regimen of military drills, therapy sessions, and reading, and of course no access to cell phones or computers, this is no laughing matter!

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/08/08/internet-addiction-seriously/

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Iran’s eyewitnesses not “citizen” journalists

I have been considering the issue of elevating eyewitness reports – on Twitter – or elsewhere, to the level of citizen journalism. In fact, I have been doing extensive evaluation of this matter as the “phenomenon” occurring during the recent protests of the election in Iran has been generally hailed as technology advancing democracy. Thanks to cell phones and Twitter, citizens can provide “information” to a waiting world, no matter how hard a particular regime tries to suppress what may be taking place.

In theory, this is a good thing. It would mean that no government is able to hide behind a technology “blackout” which it might try to impose; and indeed in Iran, such was and is being attempted by the powers that be. Internet access has been successfully curtailed to strangle the flow of information in and out of the country. But the Supreme Leader did not reckon with the ability of great numbers of tweets to reach eager readers throughout the world, or cell phone photos and videos either.

This is all justifiably to be recognized as a step forward for humankind to be sure.  But, to convert eyewitness reports – which is what we are truly dealing with – into what has been dubbed  “citizen journalism” is a leap not to be taken lightly.

First, the authenticity of any given set of data, whether transmitted in words or pictures, is not finally subject to thorough verification. There is no standard under which the “reporting” is undertaken; normal professional reporting dictates corroboration through at least two separate sources for any bit of information to be considered credible and accepted for public airing. There is no oversight, or editorial scrutiny; in point of fact, one can question the source and origin of many of the tweets represented to be from Iran.

So what we have are eyewitness reports – an element often used by police and journalists in helping to piece together an incident or event; while a truly remarkable outpouring of verbiage and pictorial documentation, which certainly by its sheer volume and commonality of content, renders a “picture” of a government using totally heinous means to subdue an uprising over a questionable election, to raise these sincerely heroic efforts to get the word out to the world to the level of journalism is to reach too far and in the process to lower the bar for fact.

I have previously called attention to related matters in  prior posts which addressed the important concept of “truthiness” (see tag cloud). Truth, is not just “true enough”. The measure must be the strictest yardstick.

So while not diminishing the accomplishment of “the people” in sweeping away the “veil” attempted to cover the atrocities committed in the name of civil obedience through the use of new media and new technology, let’s not overreach, that would be to diminish the work of journalists throughout history who have indeed often risked their very lives to report the facts!

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/07/15/irans-eyewitnesses-not-citizen-journalists/

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Viral “marketing” – word of mouth in a YouTube world

We are presently experiencing a virtual pandemic. I am not referring to the current Swine Flu, more properly named the H1N1 Flu . I am speaking of viral marketing,  the term itself is relatively recent and started to be used in the mid 1990’s. The term’s imagery is particularly engaging. While it certainly can carry a negative connotation I want to address the ramifications of this “phenomena” as it relates to the age-old concept of “word of mouth” now sometimes referred to simply as “WOM”.  We have all heard this: there is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. Among other attributes of WOM, the perceived non-commerical nature of the communication enhances its credibility. One of my basic premisses about WOM in its contemporary manifestation is that technology has spawned a social networking capability that adds such potential impact to word of mouth  that it has or at least is on its way to re-asserting itself as one principal means for driving acceptance/popularity of products, persons, ideas, and “information”.

How did someone or something get notice – positive or negative – historically, let’s say in Rome in 63 B.C. “Word” travelled on horseback or chariot; escapades and episodes were passed from person to person and made reputations, for ill or well. But it wasn’t exactly speedy delivery.

Cicero, the great orator, politician, and philosopher of the period said “Like readily consorts with like”; the idea is that the transmission of a message from an accepted source has both credibility and influence, and is therefore eagerly  shared with others,  because in part, the person who passes it on  wants to be associated with the remark and the party making it.

In viral communication, those who get the “virus” affect going are usually individuals with what has been characterized as high social networking potential (SNP).  There is in fact a whole new area of marketing/public relations activity devoted just to injecting positive “buzz” intentionally through using a viral approach – kind of like seeding a cloud to produce a rain shower.

The Susan Boyle example from the TV show “Britian’s Got Talent” is a textbook study in viral communication and its potential impact. The YouTube clip of her singing in the competition literally spanned the globe with meteoric speed, and due largely to this she has become something of an icon – and rightly so, exemplifying  the adage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover”. Thus the rise of another “star”  born through the power of the Internet.

There are lots of implications for all of this. Does the viral approach to popularizing persons and things have merit or is it a menace? The verdict is yet to be rendered –  by a jury of our peers  –  and the jury is still out.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/05/24/viral-marketing-word-of-mouth-in-a-youtube-world/

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Boy do we need a Chief Technology Officer!

I have been absorbing the news for the past few days. It’s really true. President Obama, in his weekly radio and internet address on Saturday, April 18, announced that Aneesh Chopra will be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. Chopra currently holds the CTO position in the state of Virginia. Why is this appointment meaningful?

First, a little background. The Obama administration’s agenda as regards technology is summarized this way: “President Obama and Vice President Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America’s competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation’s most pressing problems — ” http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

This nation has a lot of work to do to bring technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT) into balance with societal needs. Yes we’re tweeting away, and faithfully updating our Facebook profiles, but we have no where near harnessed existing technology to make a difference in the lives of many in meaningful ways, or organized our public functions, governmental and otherwise to take optimal advantage of what technology can do.

This is only part of the task ahead. The nation’s first Chief  Technology Officer will need to be forward thinking about what the future demands. This is an important part of the job description.

There are many parts to this puzzle. The Obama technology agenda document identifies a number of  areas of interest, I will note just a few: “preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.” – “Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.” -” Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.” – “America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access.”  For the complete document detail go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

The CTO position will officially be that of associate director for technology under the administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy office. Hardly a cabinet level position. But it’s a step in the right direction. A step into the future.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/23/boy-do-we-need-a-chief-technology-officer/

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Quick Takes: social network fatigue

(Introducing the new feature “Quick Takes” on this blog; very brief posts on very timely topics with more detailed discussion to follow as warranted.)

A recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that while 45% of the U.S. population across all age categories are positive regarding using computer and mobile devices for social networking, fully 48% are essentially “not so inclined”, feel tech devices are overwhelming to them, and often steer clear of internet use.

The bottom line: there may be a point of no return – in terms of “return on investment” so to speak in regard to the networking phenomenon. Twitter “tweets” and Facebook “status updates” may not constitute the “quality” interactions we really crave.  Some studies in the field of psychology and social psychology indicate that a real rather than virtual conversation with an “actual” friend is much more fulfilling than the 140 character maximum communication of a  “tweet”.

Read more related to social networking at:  http://www.pewinternet.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/10/quick-takes-social-network-fatigue/

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Jurors, a new hope for the new Information Age

Today’s New York Times article by John Schwartz http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/us/18juries.html?_r=1

 raises a number of important questions regarding for example the seeming dichotomy between traditional jurisprudence and contemporary information technology which is really the thrust of the story. But then there is, as Paul Harvey always said (may he rest in peace, see my previous post on Harvey) “the rest of the story”.

 What I want to focus on here is the quest for enlightenment beyond the confines of the courtroom for which the as many as nine jurors reported about clearly thirsted.

 “…conducting Google searches on the lawyers and the defendant, looking up news articles about the case, checking definitions on Wikipedia and searching for evidence that had been specifically excluded by the judge. One juror, asked by the judge about the research, said, “Well, I was curious,” according to Mr. Raben.”

 Peter Raben is the defense attorney for the case in question. “It was a heartbreak,” Mr. Raben added.

 Au contraire, mon amie. (caution: accumulating French flourishes ahead in this post)  In a recent post I cited the book True Enough by Farhad Manjoo. In his book Manjoo points to a concerning trend that people are accepting as gospel any pronouncements made by those they “follow” to use the Twitter idiom. This is great for the Russ Limbaughs of the world who actually laud this characteristic by giving it credence through the use of such terms as “dittohead”.

But in terms of our future as a society, I would much rather the Socratic Method be extolled.

 Well, lo and behold, these nine jurors are practicing intellectual curiosity don’t you know. Wow, what a concept! Yes there needs to be a rapprochement between the justice system and the new ways of accessing and sharing information and from some of the article’s content it seems we are groping our way in that direction, but I must say: la curiosité, c’est magnifique!

 

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/18/jurors-a-new-hope-for-the-new-information-age/

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