Friday, November 27, 2015

Between Snowden and Paris: Using a Public Square for Reflection and Debate

In the main square of Strasbourg, France, artist Davide Dormino recently installed “Anything to Say,” a public art tribute to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Public art installation in tribute to whistleblowers Edward
Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
Strasbourg, France. (photo: Tim Karr)
Statues depicting each of these whistleblowers stand shoulder to shoulder on a row of chairs. An empty chair is placed to the right of Snowden so that members of the public can take a stand alongside the three.

“They all chose to get up on the chairs of courage,” Dormino says about the subjects of his installation. “They made their move in spite of becoming visible, thus threatened and judged. Some think they are traitors. History never had a positive opinion of contemporary revolutionaries. You need courage to act, to stand up on that empty chair…”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Comcast Doesn’t Want You to Know About Data Caps

Comcast wants you to believe that it’s just playing fair in its latest push to control the Internet. Last week the cable-Internet colossus expanded its plan to impose unnecessary broadband-usage caps on Comcast users in cities across the South.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told the Associated Press that caps “introduce some more fairness” into the way Internet users pay for data. Comcast customers who exceed a monthly 300 Gigabyte usage cap will have additional fees tacked onto their monthly bill.

Photo: Free Press
That’s a bitter pill to swallow for the millions of Comcast customers who’ve already seen bills for the company’s cable bundle rise at many times the rate of inflation. Those hoping to save costs by cutting cable television altogether now face a Comcast-imposed scheme to choke out the popular trend of watching TV over the Internet.

No Congestion Here

In documents leaked onto reddit last week, Comcast instructs its customer service representatives how to spin the expansion of data caps. The reasons for the caps, the documents say, are “fairness and [the need to provide] a more flexible policy to our customers.” But what could be more fair and flexible than giving customers the unlimited data plan that many originally paid for?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your ISP Thinks It Has the Right to Censor You

Image: Backbone Campaign
Earlier this year, the Newseum Institute asked 1,000 Americans to name their rights under the First Amendment. A clear majority listed freedom of speech first — before freedom of religion, assembly, and other core civil liberties.

And that makes sense. Protecting free speech is essential to the health of any functioning democracy.

Free speech matters to the hundreds of millions of Internet users who exercise this right every time they connect with others online. But if you ask some of the lawyers working for the companies that sell you Internet access, they’ll insist that it’s more important to protect the free speech rights of phone and cable giants like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

When Talking About American Broadband, Don’t Say the ‘I’ Word

Want a blazing fast Internet? Well, you can get it if you live in select parts of the United States where ultra-high-speed services are available — and if you’re willing to pay a lot of money.

On Monday, Comcast announced that it will charge $300 a month for Gigabit Pro, its new 2 gigabit symmetrical service (2 Gbps down, 2 Gbps up). At those speeds, Comcast says, you can download a full music album in less than a second.

But there’s a catch: The service is available only to those living in and around Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, San Francisco and in urban areas of Tennessee and Indiana. And you have to be willing to fork out $1,000 more on installation and activation fees.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Free Press Beams a Message over Times Square

The open Internet flexed its political muscle in 2015, with millions of activists going online to demand Net Neutrality, protest an epidemic of hate crimes and celebrate equal marriage rights.

Free Press has brought this message of online power to Times Square, the world’s premier showcase for old media, placing a video spot on a 1,624 square-foot screen high above Broadway and 43rd Street.

The spot, running from July 1–Sept. 30, is a provocation to both media corporations and the millions of people who pass through this dynamic location.

Why Times Square? Long known as the “crossroads of the world,” Times Square has evolved in the last two decades from a seedy and abandoned stretch of pavement into a place where powerful corporations pump their brands via colossal advertising displays.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Internet Test Reveals Many Americans Not Getting the Speeds They Paid For

For too long Internet users had to take it on faith that our Internet access providers were making good on their promises to give us what we pay for.

But even those who pay a premium for top speeds have found that certain sites and services sputter out at the pace of dial-up. And calling your ISP’s customer-service department to find out what’s going on can be a torturous exercise — requiring you to endure an endless loop of hold music as you pray for a sentient being to pick up the line.

(Photo: Bernard Dupont,
Now you can do something about it. Last month the Free Press Action Fund and our partners launched the Internet Health Test to collect data on the speeds offered by the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The test is an interactive tool that lets users run speed measurements across multiple “interconnection points” and gather information on whether and where ISPs are degrading speeds.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Sun Must Set on Mass Surveillance

The Senate's pro-surveillance wing is scrambling to advance new legislation to preserve the NSA's unchecked ability to spy on all of us.

And they're in a rush. Authorization for the federal government's bulk collection of phone records is set to expire on June 1.

Their efforts were scuttled last Friday -- moments before members of Congress returned to their home states for the week-long Memorial Day recess -- as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to muster the votes needed to continue the surveillance program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Opposition to spreads 
Originally published at

Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for world domination is in deep trouble.

The billionaire Facebook founder recently took to his social network in a bid to save, his plan to give billions of the planet’s poorest people a limited taste of the World Wide Web.

“We have a historic opportunity ahead of us to improve the lives of billions of people,” he said in an impassioned video plea. “It’s just the right thing to do.” is essentially a mobile application that provides free access to a handful of other applications, platforms and websites, including Facebook, Wikipedia and the BBC. Use of comes at no cost; local carriers stream data via the service for free.

Monday, April 27, 2015

In the Jungle with Friedlander

I had the happy fortune to spend a week taking pictures with Lee Friedlander. It was the mid-1990s. I was living in Hanoi, Vietnam and was asked by a mutual friend to guide Friedlander through the country’s distant northwest corner, 350 miles up a rutted mountain road to the former French hill station of SaPa.

I elected to take the back way, a track that winds close to the border with Laos and passes through remote provinces peopled by ethnic tribes. That’s what Lee wants to photograph, I thought.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your Right to Record: Protected by Law, Disrespected by Law Enforcement

Originally published at PBS MediaShift

While Feidin Santana and Ramsey Orta are hardly household names, these men played pivotal roles in one of the most important civil rights stories of our time.

They made news by using their cellphone cameras to record the police killings of two unarmed black men: Walter Scott and Eric Garner. And though they may not have realized it at the time, such recording is constitutionally protected.

But that may be little comfort to people who record tense encounters between police and the public. After filming the April 4 shooting of Walter Scott, Santana told NBC News, “I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else.”

Thursday, April 09, 2015

For Telco Industry Hacks, Progress Is Just Another Word for Crony Capitalism

Published at

The Internet’s politically engaged public is here to stay. Millions of people have begun to use online tools to engage in policy fights and protect our online rights — most recently to secure historic Net Neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission.

Net Neutrality supporters at a 2014 rally
in front of City Hall, NYC.
That’s a good thing. But it’s rattled the cages of those on the losing side of these battles. Many of their responses don’t deserve to be taken seriously. But every so often something emerges from Washington that is so reckless and repugnant that it cannot be ignored.

On April 1, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an industry-funded think tank, convened a panel of industry-funded “experts.” ITIF held the D.C. event to blast what it calls “tech populism” — embodied, speakers said, by groups like Free Press, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In its place panelists touted “tech progressivism” — for which industry-funded think tanks like ITIF and the Progressive Policy Institute are the supposed standard-bearers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

We, the Internet, won

Originally published at DailyDot

We, the Internet, won.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved real net neutrality protections, which prevent Internet access providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from becoming the gatekeepers to everything online.

Today’s vote puts control over the Internet where it belongs: in the hands of the people who use it everyday and in every way.

The FCC now has the authority to require that providers act as “common carriers” for all content. That means that they can only connect Internet users to the places we want to go, without slowing our ability to communicate with the people, websites, and services of our choosing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Getting a Win for Net Neutrality

Originally published at the Seattle Times

THE Federal Communications Commission, which on Thursday is expected to circulate a groundbreaking ruling to protect the open Internet, has heard more from the public on the issue of net neutrality than on any other matter in its history.

Nearly 4 million Americans have weighed in. And according to data the agency released earlier this year, Seattle had a higher number of people per capita who urged the agency to stand up for real net-neutrality protections.

It's easy to see why.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Building an Internet Movement from the Bottom-Up

In the early days of the Arab Spring, Wael Ghonim declared, “If you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet.”

In retrospect Ghonim, a well-known Egyptian activist at the center of Cairo protests, should not have stopped there. Just giving a society the Internet isn’t enough to set it free.

As pro-democracy and social justice movements have taken root on the Web, they’ve been challenged by official efforts to remake networks into tools of censorship and exclusion.