Access 2021: Dave Binkley Memorial Lecture: Open Media: Laura Tribe

Notes from the closing key by Laura Tribe from Open Media.

  • Open Media: advocacy group for keeping internet low cost, surveillance free (etc.), especially conversations and diversity of voices in democratic process; help educate public, build tools to help participate in discussions
  • Goal: how you can get involved
  • Recap: Big picture: we’re tired of pandemic but conf being held online for the 2nd time, which shows the power of the internet and digital connectivity.
  • When the pandemic struck, Internet became critical safety net. But some people were left behind.
  • 2019 CRTC basic connectivity: over 90% urban had available; 45.6% rural had access; First Nations reserves 0% NL / Territories, 1% SK, 2% MB, 68% BC, 92% NB
  • Doesn’t take into account if affordable, enough, data cap.
  • Who is left out? Access online sales/services? School? Those people went missing.
  • Plan was on the government agenda before pandemic, but it took months of pressuring to make it happen. Government unilaterally agree.
  • Universal Broadband Service (UBS): need better infrastructure, more competition, highest cell phone data prices.
  • Promising speed targets from 2016 will be implemented by 2030. This is not good enough.
  • Funding is going to the same companies that have ignored the communities in need because of the way the rules are set up.
  • Foundation is still missing. To participate in the digital community, need to be online.
  • We can’t afford to take it for granted. And need to help bridge the digital divide.
  • How much does the government care when the agenda for the next year doesn’t mention those they’ve left behind? Connectivity has faded because elections meant targeting of key stakeholders and what would get votes.
  • Liberal government considered it “mission accomplished” because UBS was announced.
  • It’s going to take a lot of work to get the focus back on there.
  • Solution: Regular the tech giants.
  • The solutions being proposed by government is based on specific stakeholders, leaving out a lot of voices.
  • 3 major proposals. Important to keep in mind the rhetoric on being strick on big tech, but seeing it more as piggy banks, punching bag, and no clear oversight.
  • 1: Reform broadcasting act. C-10
    • Intention: overhaul act
    • How do we integrate streaming companies, and how big telecom companies are following the same rules
    • Launched expert panel
    • Jan 2020, released findings
    • Nothing has happened on telecom side
    • Broadcasting: a lot of industry and stakeholders in Quebec. Shape digital content and platform look more like traditional media. How to shape internet to cable TV?
    • Seems backward.
    • Targeted streaming platform. How they’re undermining existing companies and Canadian content (CanCon).
    • ^ original proposal. A lot of amendments introduced.
    • Are individuals liable for online content? Would CRTC regulate individual content under broadcasting act? — this was removed
    • Kept that platforms responsible for all content, including % of CanCon.
    • Definition of CanCon is problematic, and not revised.
    • Became an argument between Conservatives and Liberals.
    • Users lost. They were the last ones to be considered.
    • Paternalistic approach, which you can see in the others as well.
    • Didn’t pass Senate before election called. So needs to go through again. Part of 100 day agenda of Liberals.
    • Wasn’t supposed to be about the internet.
  • 2: Regulate platform on harmful/hateful content
    • “Online harm”
    • Most wide-reaching, also part of 100 day agenda
    • How do we deal with without running against charter rights?
    • Decided to go on own path, different from US.
    • Deciding what is okay, and making platforms responsible. If violate, pay.
    • Hateful = legal definition
    • Harmful = no legal definition
    • Sept consultation, held during election, wasn’t really a “consultation”, more a presentation of plan.
    • Updating “hateful” definition. Restore previous definition.
    • Everything is more policy, subjective.
    • New regulator to oversee (user generated content) platforms with substantial penalties if not following regulations.
    • All flagged content would go to law enforcement without notification, no regulation on how long/etc.
    • Doubling down on power and growth of these companies.
    • The only way to build a “new regulator” to oversee is those companies.
    • There’s no competition.
    • Decisions are made by companies. Currently not working, and yet would deputize these companies.
    • No incentive for platforms to uphold things like free speech, etc.
    • No penalties for over-policing.
    • Our content is going to come down.
    • Amplified by how content is flagged. Users flag users. Easily gamified, weaponized to silence marginalized voices.
    • Direct pipeline from platform to law enforcement. No mechanism on what is done with the content. Content could be flagged for increased surveillance of marginalized groups.
    • It’s not going to work.
    • Other countries have tried. Over-reporting, only a handful of content actually flagged that should have been flagged. Would have been taken down anyway due to violation of Terms.
    • Consultation closed.
    • Not making submissions public.
    • Making FOI requests. Not speedy.
    • Report of summarization of what they heard not yet out.
    • Need to go back to the drawing board.
  • 3: Save the news industry, how to prop it up
    • Two models: EU, AU
    • Require platforms to pay news outlets for every time one of their links are shared.
    • Theory: Platforms are getting money from traffic.
    • However, a lot of it is that these very news outlets are paying for ads in platforms instead of newspapers.
    • Also problematic: platform has not made money from users posting.
    • It’s not working in EU.
    • Google pulled news links from search results. The news outlets then opted out because the search results was so important.
    • FB just wouldn’t allow news links in AU.
    • Every proposal is doubling down the power of the tech companies.
    • Say it went through, news outlets are even more reliant on the platforms to pay them and for the news to be shared on these platforms.
    • It’s accepting the status quo of the companies being big and just trying to get money from them.
    • Incentivizing these platforms to share not-news. All you’re left with are blogs, conspiracy theories, rumours which is more likely to lead misinformation.
  • There has been a big shift in how government thinks about tech.
  • Closed door, walled garden model, which goes from what’s good to stakeholders, excluding the Canadian people.
  • How to appear big action, being tough on tech; which is focused on oversight or over-reach.
  • What to do about it?
    • Stay up to date.
    • Highlighted a lot of problems, but there are solutions. Current solutions are flawed, but underlying issues trying to address are real; which can lead to more discussion.
    • It touches everyone and we need to make sure those voices are heard.
    • You can bring so much to the conversations on the table.
    • Libraries need to be places where access is available to anyone. Academic institutions is often only open to students, but many might not be able to afford it.
    • Lend laptops, especially low income communities. Devices to access internet.
    • Get your representatives, such as associations, to be involved in the discussions.
    • Prime group to expand the discourse to access knowledge, data, etc.
    • How these issues intersect with your work.
    • The more voices brought to the table, the more robust solutions we can build.

Q&A

  • Question: ?
    • CRTC appoint chairs of the two departments that oversee.
    • The people who tend to apply are from the industry.
    • No one sitting at the table that says they’re missing these other voices.
    • In theory, a great model: submissions are in the public record.
    • But when compared to government consultation, have to talk to them.
    • Concerns about how regulator is connected.
    • C-10 was done behind a closed door. Who are the 100 stakeholders the government talked to?
    • CRTC at least has to “talk” to you, but not voted in.
  • UNDRIP Article 16 is about “Right to Media”.  The Department of Canadian Heritage Act is focused on “Canadian identity and values, cultural development and heritage” (AKA: colonial propaganda). Has OpenMedia explored whether bills such as C-10 which puts Heritage/CRTC in greater control of additional media is in violation of UNDRIP article 16?
    • ?
  • You discussed the dangers of abusive reporting, do you know of a moderation model that would avoid falling into that pitfall?
    • No.
    • The biggest concern on self/user reporting is just to take everything down within 24 hours.
    • No incentive for companies to check.
    • Could shift interval depending on the type of content.
    • Current proposal is only to appeal take down stuff that should’ve been taken down, so incentive is to take down content.
  • Since making money available to build rural infrastructure has failed to achieve that goal, can we talk about punishing Bell etc for not meeting expansion goals?
    • Are the goals met?
    • Is the service you promised actually met?
    • Right now, dependent on ISP report
    • Only based on saying it’s available.
    • Needs to take implementation meeting requirements into account, such as speed tests.
    • No independent metrics or accountability.
    • Needs to have penalties for not meeting it. Funding needs to be rescinded.
    • Right now, money is going to the existing big companies. Gives them incentive to hold out until government funds them to implement.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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