Grant Gross

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The Week in Internet News: U.S. Lawmakers Skewer Big Tech Firms

Attacking the big guys: During an antitrust hearing, U.S. lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – heaped criticism on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google about their market power, the Washington Post reports. “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. Republicans complained about alleged anti-conservative bias in online services, while many Democrats talked about how the companies’ market power was being used against competitors, NPR says.

Encryption laws vs. the economy: Laws in Australia creating law enforcement access to encrypted communications are hurting the tech sector in the country, tech giant Atlassian told lawmakers there, the Guardian reports. The anti-encryption laws have discouraged talent from working in Australia and may limit economic growth during the post-COVID-19 recovery, the company said.

Paying for news: Also in Australia, the government there has released the world’s first draft law to force Google and Facebook to pay traditional news media to publish their material, Al Jazeera reports. Under the plan, the tech companies would have to negotiate with Australian media companies to use their content.

Jailed for TikToking: An Egyptian court has ordered two-year Continue reading

Member News: Teaching Computer Science in Rural Nigeria

Computing for the people: The San Francisco Chapter has an article by a software developer using open source software and open standards hardware to teach computer science skills to students in rural Nigeria. Chioma Ezedi Chukwu, founder of the STEMTeers mentorship program, writes that open source is more than free tools, software, or hardware. “It was a great opportunity to learn, learn by building and create with innovation.”

Coding for kids: Meanwhile, the Pacific Islands Chapter highlights a hackathon for kids event at a childcare center in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The goal of the event, focused on design thinking, was to equip the students with lifelong skills in the digital age.

Supporting e-learning: In other education-related news, the Uganda Chapter is focused on helping teachers and students improve their digital skills as the country embraces e-learning following the COVID-19 pandemic. “Educators need to adjust their teaching methods to cope with the new changes,” an article says. “Educators should be able to cause change or affect the learner beyond the chalk and blackboard while learners need to be taken through an adaptability process as they transition to digital education.”

Tracking the virus: The Chapter in the Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Looking for a Broadband Miracle in Rural Canada

Creating a miracle: Residents of rural British Columbia, Canada, are pushing for better Internet access, with one resident saying getting access to good connectivity is like “hoping for a miracle,” the CBC reports. Local government leaders are working with community leaders and businesses to improve Internet services. Local leaders are researching options to establish a broadband Internet service in Clearwater, British Columbia, including the possibility of building new mobile towers.

Building their own: Meanwhile, a few hundred miles south in Klamath, California, Yurok tribal officials have announced a new project that they hope will significantly boost Internet speeds and expand coverage on their reservation, KRCR News reports. The$2.1 million project is funded by the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. One of the goals is to better allow students to participate in distance learning.

No distance learning for you: In a related story, a study from Future Ready Schools finds that 16.9 million U.S. students lack home Internet access, Education Dive says. In addition, 3.6 million U.S. households lack a computer, impacting 7.3 million students, according to the study. About a third of Native American, Latino, and African-American students in the Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Hackers Target COVID-19 Research

Hacking the research: Intelligence agencies from the U.S., U.K., and Canada have accused a Russian hacking group of targeting organizations conducting COVID-19 research, the Washington Post reports. The so-called Cozy Bear hacking group is trying to steal vaccine research specifically, the intelligence groups say.

Hacking the tweets: Meanwhile, 130 of Twitter’s most high-profile accounts were targeted by hackers recently, with a few of them compromised, in an apparent bitcoin scam, the New York Post writes. Among the accounts targeted were Kanye West, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, and Warren Buffett. The hackers reportedly paid a Twitter employee to help them with the attack.

No data collection, please: The government of China is cracking down on apps that collect what it considers too much personal data, the South China Morning Post says. The government has ordered several tech companies, including Alibaba Group and Tencent, to remove non-compliant apps as soon as possible.

Broadband is fundamental: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called broadband a “fundamental right” in an interview with CNN. Many rural areas in the U.S. still lack broadband, and that needs to change, he said. “If you think about the rural community today, they are going to Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Balloon-Based Internet Comes to Kenya

Up, up and away: Google’s Project Loon, focused on providing Internet access with balloons floating in the stratosphere, has begun providing service in Kenya, CNN reports. The project will use about 35 balloons floating 20 kilometers above the ground to provide 4G LTE service covering 50,000 square kilometers in central and western Kenya.

Reach the sky: A broadband cooperative in rural Pennsylvania has built its own wireless network to provider faster Internet service, The Philadelphia Inquirer says. The Rural Broadband Cooperative, made up mostly of retirees, uses a 120-foot, former HAM radio tower that they erected on Stone Mountain. The service, with about 40 paying customers, offers speeds of up to 25 megabits per second.

The great divide: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the seriousness of the digital divide in Pakistan, The Diplomat says. While the country has moved to online school, many areas lack broadband service, and in some areas, mobile services are shut down by the government because of security concerns. “Students across the country, from the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas to Balochistan, have been protesting against online classes, not only on social media but in front of various press clubs, universities, and on roads. They have Continue reading

Member News: Chapters Focus on Encryption

Lock it down: Several Internet Society chapters across the globe have written about the importance of encryption in recent weeks. The Namibia Chapter wrote about the way encryption can improve privacy and fight against the big business of criminal hacking. “Cybercrime is a global business, often run by multinational outfits,” the Chapter wrote. The Hong Kong Chapter, meanwhile, wrote that “encryption matters to all of us.” Internet users need to work together to protect encryption, the Chapter added. “No party can stand alone to persuade governments to stop creating laws or policies that harm encryption and digital security.”

Freedom for all: The Hong Kong Chapter also called for Internet freedoms to continue in the region as the Chinese government pushes for new security laws there. “We are convinced that the freedoms of speech, press and publication guaranteed by the Basic Law are also applicable to the media industry on the Internet,” the chapter wrote. “Internet users have the freedom and right to obtain, share information and express their expressions, and are protected from being censored, blocked or criminalized.”

Expanding the community: The Nepal Chapter recently wrote about community networks in the country, by highlighting the Rural Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Facebook Faces Advertising Boycott

Voting with their dollars: Hundreds of companies have pulled their advertising from Facebook because of the social media giant’s lax policing of misinformation and hate speech, CNN reports. Still, most of the company’s biggest advertisers haven’t joined the boycott, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly predicted “these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”

Driving as a service: German car maker BMW is exploring ways to offer common features, like heated seats and cruise control, in a subscription-based, as-a-service model, The Independent reports. The Next Web called the subscription model “anti-consumer rubbish.” Video game maker Brianna Wu also tweeted her disappointment: “Sorry, but if this catches on, I will never buy another new car. Never.”

Networked threats: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has designated Chinese networking companies Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, Al Jazeera says. This follows long-term concerns about the companies’ relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and the possibility of surveillance through their equipment. The FCC has proposed that rural telecom carriers be required to replace equipment from the two vendors.

Paying for speed: The Japanese government plans to subsidize local 5G companies as a way to catch up Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Google to Pay Some News Publishers

News isn’t free: Google has announced it will pay some news publishers in a “new news experience” it is rolling out later this year, TechCrunch reports. News outlets in Germany, Australia, and Brazil are among the first group of publishers that have signed on. The goal is to “help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests,” Google says.

AI in HR: Japanese companies are turning to artificial intelligence to help hire employees, Japan Times says. SoftBank says it has cut labor time by 75 percent by using AI to sift through tens of thousands of resumes. Still, some companies are concerned about AI giving them inappropriate or discriminatory decisions.

Attacking encryption: Three U.S. Senators have introduced legislation that would require tech companies to help law enforcement agencies defeat end-to-end encryption, PC Mag reports. The Republican bill would allow courts to order companies to bypass encryption when police agencies request it.

More broadband for all: In the meantime, a group of U.S. representatives has introduced legislation to spend $100 billion to deploy fiber-based broadband Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: U.S. DOJ Wants to Hold Website Liable for User Comments

Legal landmines: The U.S. Department of Justice has proposed ending a 24-year-old provision that protections websites and social media outlets from lawsuits for comments and other content posted by users, the Washington Post reports. While some Republicans have complained about social media sites allegedly burying conservative voices, the proposal would actually force sites into heavy moderation as a way to avoid lawsuits. The DOJ proposal would also end legal protections for tech companies that fail to allow law enforcement access to encrypted communications.

Taxing the Internet: The European Union is considering a digital goods tax, but it may have to do so without an agreement from the U.S. government, Al Jazeera reports. The U.S. government has announced it is withdrawing from negotiations with European countries over new international tax rules on digital goods. Nearly 140 countries have been involved in the negotiations.

Internet in space: SpaceX is opening up its Starlink low-earth orbit Internet service to beta testers, ZDNet says. SpaceX now has 540 satellites deployed, allowing for “minor” coverage. The company plans to eventually launch as many as 30,000 Starlink satellites.

The café society: Operators of Internet cafés and gaming centers in Thailand are pushing for Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Twitter Removes 170,000 Pro-China Accounts

No more tweets for you: Twitter has removed 170,000 accounts it says are tied to a coordinated pro-China campaign, BBC.com reports. A core network of nearly 24,000 accounts along with 150,000 “amplifier” accounts were among those removed, the company said. The accounts were pushing pro-communist messages while criticizing protestors in Hong Hong.

No more Zoom for you: Meanwhile, video conferencing giant Zoom has shut down the account of a pro-democracy activist on the request of the Chinese government, The Independent writes. The account was closed after Zhou Fengsuo and other activists held a digital event commemorating the 1989 Tienanmen Square Massacre. After criticism, Zoom reactivated the account.

Closing the gap: Sub-Saharan Africa is the Internet’s next frontier, writes Forbes contributor Miriam Tuerk. “Expanding network connectivity across sub-Saharan Africa will open up digital services that many of us now take for granted,” she says.  “Mobile Banking, WhatsApp chatting and video, e-health, e-education are key services only possible with reliable internet connectivity.”

Where’s the WiFi? The state of Michigan has launched a map of free WiFi hotspots in an effort to aid residents without Internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic, WKZO.com reports. “While public Wi-Fi hot spots are not a Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Zoom Says End-to-End Encryption Only for Paying Users

No free encryption: Popular videoconferencing service Zoom has promised to roll out end-to-end encryption, but it won’t provide encrypted service to free users, The Verge reports. The decision allows Zoom to share information about free conference with law enforcement agencies. Zoom doesn’t want to give free users end-to-end encryption “because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said.

A big spike: Internet use has gone up dramatically in rural India in recent weeks, with people flocking to YouTube, Netflix, and other services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Inc42.com reports. Data consumption on the BharatNet fiber backbone nearly tripled, to 150 Terabytes in May from 55 TB in January. During the same timeframe, Netflix use in rural India grew by 422 percent, with YouTube and Facebook growing by 219 percent and 374 percent, respectively.

Broadband challenges: The government of Nigeria has a new broadband plan with a goal of increasing download speeds to 25 Mbps in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas, Quartz Africa says. The country now has a mean download speed of less than 1.6 Mbps. But Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Executive Order Targets Social Media

Trump vs. Twitter: U.S. President Donald Trump, one of Twitter’s most prolific users, has signed an executive order directing government agencies to target social media sites after Twitter fact-checked one of his tweets about voting by mail. The executive order argues social media platforms should lose their lawsuit protections for content posted by users, by directing the Federal Communications Commission to begin a rule-making proceeding to determine when those protections should be stripped away, NPR reports.

Internet freedom? Meanwhile, Business Insider notes that Trump said he’d shut down Twitter if he could, even as he tried to emphasize his “commitment to free and open debate on the Internet.” Trump, with more than 80 million followers on Twitter, complained about social media platforms stifling conservative voices.

Robots vs. COVID-19: A shopping center in Thailand is deploying artificial intelligence-powered robots to fight COVID-19, Euronews.com reports. The mall has thermal scanners to check shoppers’ temperatures, and robots carry public health messages and hand sanitizer.

AI on the beach: In Israel, startup Sightbit is using AI and video cameras to help lifeguards on busy beaches, NoCamels reports. The company is running a pilot program at one of Israel’s most popular beaches. Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Hong Kong Residents Flock to VPNs

Surveillance is coming: Hong Kong residents are rushing to download virtual private network apps after the Chinese government announced it intends to pass a new national security law covering the region, the South China Morning Post reports. Residents are worried that the Chinese government will restrict Internet access and put new surveillance measures in place in the quasi-independent region.

Fastest Internet ever: A team of researchers in Australia has logged data speeds of a blazing 44.2 terabits per second, claiming the fastest Internet speeds ever, the BBC reports. Researchers set the new record speed by using a device that replaces around 80 lasers found in some existing telecom hardware with a single piece of equipment called a “micro-comb.”

AI vs. coronavirus: Chinese ride-hailing provider Didi Chuxing says it will start using artificial intelligence to verify if drivers in its Latin American markets wear masks and disinfect cars to keep riders safe during the coronavirus pandemic, Al Jazeera says. Beginning on May 22, Didi’s drivers in Latin America needed to take a selfie with mask on to pass the AI verification, and starring in June they will need to report their body temperature to the phone app and upload Continue reading

Member News: Internet Society Chapters Assist Communities with Telework, Remote Education

Keep working: In recent months, several Internet Society Chapters have focused on helping people to keep working during COVID-19 lockdowns. The Benin Chapter recently published a guide to remote work, with recommendations for videoconferencing apps, project management software, and file storage services. “We are facing a real health crisis, COVID-19, which is shaking up our habits and pushing companies to adapt to new working methods,” the Chapter’s post says. “Authorizing employees to telecommute is the ideal solution for the continuity of your activity and avoiding contagion within your teams.”

Building your brand: Meanwhile, the Israel Chapter hosted a webinar on employment and careers in the digital industry. Speaker Shani Haddad, CEO and founder of Brainnu, talked about the importance of people marketing themselves and telling their own stories.

Learning at a distance: It’s not just workers dealing with new situations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Samoan Chapter has posted about distance learning, noting that the Samoa Information Technology Association has developed an e-learning platform for students attending school from home. Education is “one of the key areas that is being heavily affected by the lockdown,” the post notes.

No censorship: The Chapter in Spain has raised concerns Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: COVID-19 Tracing Creates Opportunities, Raises Concerns

Electronic doorman: In many restaurants, offices, and other locations in China, visitors must now show their COVID-19 risk status through a phone app before they are allowed entry, reports Agence-France Presse on Yahoo News. “A green light lets you in anywhere. A yellow light could send you into home confinement. The dreaded red light throws a person into a strict two-week quarantine at a hotel.” This use of contact tracing is raising privacy alarms in other countries.

Conflicting apps: Meanwhile, the Australian government’s new COVID-19 tracing app may interfere with Bluetooth-connected medical devices, including those used by people with diabetes, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.  Diabetes Australia has warned users of continuous glucose monitoring apps that there may be connection problems.

Keeping track of yourself: In Japan, a 16-year-old student has designed an app that allows users to keep track of their whereabouts on their mobile phones, to help with contact tracing, The Associated Press reports on Japan Times. If a user is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Asiato app can tell them where they’ve been in recent weeks. This allows users to reach out to people they may have infected or to inform health authorities.

A digital human touch: Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Hackers Revamp Malware With COVID-19 Messages

Taking advantage: Cyberattackers are reconfiguring the Remcos trojan, which allows them full access to victims’ computers, to include COVID-19 warnings in spam and phishing emails, Security Boulevard reports. “With the economy directly affected by the pandemic, people pay more attention to emails pretending to offer solutions, loans and other types of financial support. Another effective approach is to scare people with threats of account closures or company furloughs.”

The impact of a shutdown: An ongoing phone and Internet service shutdown in the Kashmir region is hurting the ability to distribute information and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greater Kashmir says. “People in need of essentials used to reach out to us on our helplines which have turned defunct,” said the chairman of an aid agency. “We used to make phone calls to our existing 750 beneficiaries for conveying them about timings to pick up their quota of essentials. But suspension of mobile networks has disturbed this entire process.”

Cooperative Internet service: The Christian Science Monitor has a story about small rural cooperatives building their own Internet services. Cooperatives, which are private businesses owned by customers, are common in parts of the U.S. Midwest, some providing electricity and Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Classroom in a Car

Searching for a signal: CNN has a story about a teacher in rural Virginia who drives 20 minutes to find a good WiFi signal in order to work. The middle school history teacher is one of about 18 million U.S. residents who lack access to high-speed broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The teacher “lives in a valley between two mountains, where the only available home internet option is a satellite connection. Her emails can take 30 seconds to load, only to quit mid-message. She can’t even open files on Google Drive, let alone upload lesson modules or get on a Zoom call with colleagues.”

Demanding access: Meanwhile, in Oakland, California, hundreds of teachers and students are calling for free access to the Internet, demanding that the school district and mayor “take all necessary measures” to ensure that students have access, KTVU reports. “There is no equity in education for our most vulnerable students if all Oakland families do not have access to the internet,” said Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, said.

Legislating access: In the U.S. Congress, Senate Democrats are introducing a bill that would create a new $4 billion fund for schools Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: Schools Still Face Equipment Challenges for Virtual Learning

Equipment shortages: As schools in the U.S. and other countries attempt to switch over to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are still trying to get students Internet access or devices to use to access the Internet. In Chicago, only about half of the 115,000 public school students who need a computer have received one, WBEZ reports. Another 43,000 computers will be handed out, and 10,000 have been ordered and will be coming “over the next few weeks.”

Equipment shortages, part 2: In California, the state is planning to distribute laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets to more than 70,000 students so they can participate in distance learning, MercuryNews.com reports. The state has requested funding and devices from companies, business leaders and philanthropists around the state.

Getting creative: Some schools are exploring alternatives when students don’t have Internet access or devices, NBC News says. A teacher in Tennessee turned to using a copy machine to print out packets and mail them to students. In Arkansas, where 23 percent of households lack Internet service, a local PBS affiliate is providing daily television programming tied to the state’s distance learning curriculum.

Pumping up encryption: Popular video conferencing app Zoom will Continue reading

The Week in Internet News: The Digital Divide During a Pandemic

The great divide: The continuing digital divide in the U.S. is hurting people as they try to shop, attend school, and work during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, The Guardian says. Broadband Now estimates that 42 million U.S. residents don’t have Internet access, and M-Lab says that the majority of residents in 62 percent of the counties across the U.S. don’t have adequate broadband speeds.

The struggle is real: Meanwhile, students in rural Alabama are struggling to complete their schoolwork because a lack of Internet access, according to an Associated Press story at Enewscourier.com. In nine Alabama counties, less than 30 percent of the population has access. “We don’t want to leave 20 to 30 percent of our population behind just because of where they live,” said John Heard, school superintendent in Perry County.

The good news: Even with many people across the world working from home or attending school from home, the Internet is holding up, ZDNet reports. Fastly, an edge cloud computing provider, found that in the hard-hit New York and New Jersey area, Internet traffic jumped by nearly 45 percent in March, but download speeds decreased by less than 6 percent. In California, traffic Continue reading

Member News: Internet Society Chapters Focus on Connecting People During Pandemic

Staying connected: Several Internet Society Chapters are focusing on ways to help people stay connected while living under stay-at-home orders or following social-distancing guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Netherlands Chapter has released a toolbox of open source tools to help people work from home.

Resources for the people: Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic Chapter has released a list of COVID-related resources for residents. The list includes information on virtual private networks, on teleworking, and on the country’s cybersecurity resources. The Chapter also released a set of recommendations for the government, for Internet service providers, and for other companies. For example, the Chapter recommends that ISPs offer flexible or low-cost service plans to customers during the pandemic.

Pandemic privacy: One of the many concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic is a loss of privacy as governments and private organizations track mobile phones as a way to monitor the spread of the virus and the effectiveness of social-distancing programs. The Canada Chapter notes that the pandemic has raised fears about the surveillance state. In Canada, the prime minister has ruled against cell phone surveillance for tracking the spread of the virus, but “if the virus rapidly spreads further, no doubt device tracking Continue reading

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