Fight for the Future


Frequently Asked Questions – How we do Online Campaigning

Posted 14:31 EDT on June 3, 2016

Many people and activists have asked us about how FFTF is effective at online campaigning. So we’re launching a first draft of a FAQ on the topic, in the hope that it’s helpful. We decided to focus in this post on the first part of political debate – connecting people in the digital age to the policymaking process itself.

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59 Companies and Grassroots Groups to Push FCC on Zero-Rating; Call for Open, Public Process to Review Existing Zero-Rating Plans

Posted 13:18 EDT on May 24, 2016

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ahead of FCC open meeting, call for evaluation of zero-rating plans to be informed by a transparent, open process

WASHINGTON – Today, 59 companies and grassroots NGOs that sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting an open, public process to inform its evaluation of the zero-rating plans offered by Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

Signatories to the letter included 38 businesses that support a free and open Internet, including companies such as Pinterest, reddit, Etsy, Vimeo, Automattic, Yelp, CREDO Mobile, Cogent, Level 3, Medium, Mozilla, Union Square Ventures, Vimeo and Kickstarter. 21 civil society groups and coalitions representing diverse constituencies, including Center for Media Justice, 18 Million Rising, Center for Rural Strategies, Engine Advocacy, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Daily Kos, and Access Now, also signed on.

The letter’s signers reference the FCC’s open public process for the net neutrality ruling last year that saw nearly four million individuals make their voices heard. The letter was sent to the FCC before the Commission’s open meeting this Wednesday, May 25.

The letter states:

“In the Open Internet Order, the FCC declined to issue a bright-line rule against zero-rating, noting a lack of consensus on the issue in the record. However, in the time since the Order was released, ISPs have created a broad enough set of test cases that a decision on each of them would have much the same effect as a new rule, only without the same public participation and transparency. These decisions are too important to happen behind closed doors.”

The full letter and list of signatories can be found here: http://www.stayopenfcc.org/letter.pdf

Said Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng, “If the FCC undercuts its own Open Internet rules by approving zero-rating plans, without even consulting the historic and diverse array of activists, academics, startups, and 3.7 million Internet users who weighed in to make these rules happen, it would be nothing less than appalling. That’s why we’re joining this call for an open process.”

The Open Internet rules under which the FCC would make these decisions exist thanks to comments from nearly 3.7 million people, hundreds of startups, activists, academics, and advocates.

Around the world, Tech companies, Internet users, and civil society organizations around the world have been demanding open process around these decisions—and participating in record numbers—most notably in India, where over 500 startups (http://blog.savetheinternet.in/startups-pm-letter/) and one million people (http://blog.savetheinternet.in/one-million-submissions/) weighed in to ban zero-rating, and in Europe, where a massive consultation on zero-rating and net neutrality rules is set to begin. (http://savetheinternet.eu/)

In the fight for net neutrality in the US, racial justice activists played an especially important role, countering cynical propaganda from cable and telecom companies, and making the case that the Open Internet was essential for media diversity and the ability of communities of color to organize.

The following are statements from letter signers:

Brad Burnham, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures

“Anyone who is paying attention should be very worried about the future of the independent web. The flurry of decentralized, permissionless, innovation that characterized the early web is giving way to a homogenized experience delivered through a small number of dominant gatekeepers. If the FCC allows those dominant platforms to buy favored distribution from wireless carriers, that trend will accelerate. Early stage investors who fueled the innovation on the open web will forced to walk away from even the most creative ideas for fear they will never reach consumers.”

Steven Renderos, Senior Campaign Manager at the Center for Media Justice

“There’s too much at stake for communities of color to not have our voices included as the Federal Communications Commission considers how to address Zero-Rating data plans.  The threat of a second class Internet experience posed by practices like Zero-Rating is the reason people of color fought so hard to ensure the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules applied to wireless as well. The best policymaking happens when communities most directly affected are part of that process, and the FCC can and should consider our voices before making any decisions.”

Holmes Wilson, Co-Founder, Fight For The Future

“We didn’t win the historic fight for net neutrality only to allow big telecom companies to tear it down with zero rating schemes. The FCC must hold an open process to consider these dangers to free expression”.

Mark Tseng Putterman, Media Justice Campaigner at 18MillionRising.org

“As American consumers and especially as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Big Cable’s attack on Net Neutrality through zero-rating programs is an attack on our ability to communicate, access culturally relevant content, and organize online. Zero-rating programs that rely on arbitrary data caps and exempt some content from those caps are particularly harmful for demographics such as young Asian Americans that increasingly rely on data-intensive consumption of streaming video over traditional television.

An open and equal Internet plays a crucial role in providing outlets for AAPI civic and cultural engagement outside the mainstream avenues from which we are too often excluded. From the independent blogs we get our news from, to the viral AAPI YouTube celebrities who speak to our experiences, to the political power we harness through trending hashtags and online petitions, Net Neutrality provides spaces for us to thrive as consumers, content creators, and change-makers. We urge the FCC to curb the abilities of corporations to shape our habits online and to begin an open, public process to inform its evaluation of zero-rating programs.”       

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Contact:

Steven Renderos, Senior Campaign Manager at the Center for Media Justice, steven@mediajustice.org

Holmes Wilson, Co-Founder, Fight For The Future, hwilson@gmail.com, (614) 465-6371

Brad Burnham, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures, brad@usv.com

Evan Engstrom, Acting Executive Director, Engine, 415-570-4455 

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Chelsea Manning’s Military Appeal Filed: Legal Defense Team Argues for Commutation of Sentence and Groups File Four Related Amici Briefs

Posted 16:34 EDT on May 19, 2016

Defense Team Mounts Appeal Based on Harsh Treatment and Excessive Sentencing. ACLU, Amnesty International, Open Society Justice Initiative, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Center for Democracy & Technology, File Amicus Briefs on Critical Components of Chelsea Manning’s Case

Contact: Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953, christina@balestramedia.com

Today, Chelsea Manning’s Legal Defense Team released the text of the unclassified portion of the 250-page appeal filed with the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday. In the appellate brief, her counsel urges the court to dismiss the case, or at a minimum, reduce the unprecedented thirty-five year confinement term to ten years. The appeal presents several reasons Chelsea’s case should be dismissed or the confinement term reduced, including that she was placed in solitary confinement for almost one year while awaiting trial, the government failed to produce significant evidence that Chelsea’s disclosures actually harmed the United States’ national security or diplomatic interests, the military judge considered improper aggravation evidence at sentencing, and several of the charges lacked evidence or violated constitutional or other legal principles. Finally, the appeal points out that Chelsea’s sentence is the harshest in history for a whistleblower, and should be reduced out of fairness.

Read the appeal brief here: http://bit.ly/27EkPE0

“There is no question that Chelsea Manning’s sentence is incredibly excessive—wildly disproportionate to the reality of the situation and precedent—as it represents the most severe punishment received by any other whistleblower in American history,” said attorney Vincent Ward, co-counsel for the Chelsea Manning Legal Defense team. “Chelsea was struggling with the mental and emotional effects of gender dysphoria at a time when there was little national dialogue about transgender issues, without receiving the support from the US Army to which she was entitled or the whistleblower protections that should be offered. We hope that this court will take her harsh treatment into account and use its jurisdiction to adjust Chelsea’s sentence fairly.”

In its amicus brief, Amnesty International Ltd. contends that the military judge erred in concluding that Chelsea Manning “was not held in solitary confinement.” In fact, Manning was held for nine months before trial in a 6’ by 8’ cell for 23 to 24 hours a day. That is prolonged solitary confinement as defined by the Nelson Mandela Rules, which the United States sponsored and the United Nations unanimously adopted. Thus, the conditions of Manning’s pretrial detainment violated United States and international law, as discussed in detail in Amnesty International’s amicus brief. More here.

“A war against whistleblowers is being waged in this country and this case represents how this country treats anyone who reveals even a single page of classified information,” added attorney Nancy Hollander, lead counsel for the Chelsea Manning Legal Defense team. “We need brave individuals to hold the government accountable for its actions at home and abroad and we call upon this court to overturn the dangerous precedent of Chelsea Manning’s excessive sentencing.”

Capt. Dave Hammond at the U.S. Army Defense Appellate Division is co-counsel for Chelsea Manning on this appeal and co-authored the brief.

In their amicus brief, the Open Society Justice Initiative argues that the 35-year sentence imposed on Manning far exceeds international legal norms and should be reduced. Drawing on a survey of law and practice in 30 countries, it notes that the sentence is "far higher than the penalties that our closest allies would consider proportionate” in this case. In the U.K, for example, the crimes of which Manning was found guilty carry a maximum penalty of 2 years in jail. Several countries have developed jurisprudence requiring that the aggregate sentence for multiple offenses, especially where related—for instance, as in Manning’s case, disclosures made to the same person—should not be unduly harsh, and generally should not exceed the maximum penalty for a single offense. More here.

In addition to the Espionage Act, under which there have been few prosecutions considering its vague and unconstitutional provisions, charges were also leveled against Chelsea Manning under the antiquated Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984—a statute usually applied to hackers—and the unproven claim that her disclosures caused any specific harm.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s amicus brief, focusing on the First Amendment, argues that Manning’s conviction under the Espionage Act should be overturned because the prosecution was unconstitutional. The Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague when it is used against government whistleblowers or leakers because it gives the government too much leeway to engage in selective prosecution of disfavored speakers, leaving some leakers alone and sending others to prison, even if they all revealed similarly classified information. The law also violates the First Amendment because it results in prosecutions where a court gives no consideration to the public interest in the disclosures, including whether any of the information reveals government illegality or misconduct. More here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), joined by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Center for Democracy & Technology, filed a brief asking the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday to overturn Chelsea Manning’s conviction for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), arguing that the law is intended to punish people for breaking into computer systems—something Manning didn’t do. EFF told the court that violating a written policy, which restricted Manning from using unauthorized software to access a State Department database, is not a crime under the CFAA. More here.

For interviews with Chelsea Manning Defense Team counsel, please contact Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953, christina@balestramedia.com.

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A look inside the closed-door DMCA meetings

Posted 11:49 EDT on May 17, 2016 Jeff and Andrew Lyon outside SF courthouse

Hey,

I’m Jeff, CTO at Fight for the Future. We recently teamed up with Channel Awesome to launch takedownabuse.org, a web protest to fight the ongoing mass censorship of the Internet due to abusive copyright takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Thanks to everyone who helped overwhelm the government with nearly 100,000 public comments, we were able to convince the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) to give us a seat at the table in their closed-door meetings on DMCA reforms. Mike from Channel Awesome and I traveled to San Francisco, eager to speak on behalf of everyone who took action at takedownabuse.org.

Unfortunately, the hearings appeared to be rigged against the public interest, and unless we step up our game, it’s looking very likely that the USCO will make the DMCA even worse, with major giveaways to the copyright industry that put SOPA-style restrictions on independent content creators.

Here are some of my experiences and thoughts about what we’re up against:

  • The “roundtable discussions” were closed-door meetings with limited seating that effectively shut the public out from the proceedings. No live streaming was available and very limited open microphone time made it nearly impossible for anyone who wasn’t an invited participant to speak.

  • Speaking of participants, the hearings were dominated by representatives and lobbyists from the copyright industry. Representatives from other public interest groups like Mozilla and EFF were completely outnumbered by organizations like the RIAA, MPAA, Digimarc and Copyright Alliance. You can see the participant list here, but the end result was the lobbyists were able to skew the discussions in their favor.

  • The copyright industry wants to eliminate the counter-notice process that people can use to fight DMCA takedown claims. Instead they want a “take down, stay down” system where website owners have to police user-uploaded content and proactively remove any copyrighted material. I argued that this would create an enormous burden for website owners and make it effectively impossible for users to upload copyrighted works in fair-use contexts (such as parody or political commentary).

  • The only time I saw the stone-faced regulators break from their serious demeanor was when it was the MPAA attorney’s turn to talk. After some some light-hearted joking banter with the regulators, the MPAA attorney suggested new legislation to take down entire websites (aka SOPA) for suspected copyright infringement.

  • There were repeated attempts by the copyright industry to discredit the nearly 100,000 public comments sent through takedownabuse.org. I sat next to the CEO of Copyright Alliance, who had previously likened us to “zombies.” One of the other participants accused us of engaging in a cyber attack. Both Mike from Channel Awesome and I argued passionately on behalf of everyone who submitted comments, that the Copyright Office needs to take the public input seriously. We are not robots or zombies or hackers! We are real people who are living with an Internet where fair use and free speech is under attack.

And here’s where the good news starts. The MPAA and RIAA wanted to go into these meetings and have a one-sided discussion where they could spread doom-and-gloom about how the Internet is destroying their business models. We made this impossible. They never expected to be facing down 100,000 public comments and the same people who helped kill SOPA. We called the industry to task for their abuse of the DMCA and we’re ready for anything they might throw at us next.

Speaking of that, the U.S. Copyright Office will open up another round of public commenting in the coming weeks. We don’t yet know whether they’ll take our concerns seriously, but we will have a lot more than 24 hours to get our comments in, regardless. Please stay tuned by signing up at www.takedownabuse.org and we’ll be sure to tell you when the next round of comments opens!

Sincerely,

Jeff Lyon
CTO, Fight for the Future

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