Concerned Internet users and digital rights supporters gathered on Friday 6 June at the headquarters of the Austrian Telecom Regulator in Vienna (RTR, Mariahilferstraße 12-14, Vienna). This meeting helped to kick off a public consultation on net neutrality in the European Union that starts today and ends on July 21, 2016.
The fight for net neutrality has moved from the United States, Brazil, India and now on to the European Union. As net neutrality policies are being decided around the world, what happens in the EU will have a major influence on how the US will deal with zero rating programs, which effectively create fast lanes for web content that pay against data caps, and on net neutrality policies that are being decided now in countries that have yet to have a similar fight.
“People are rallying in Vienna to defend the internet in the upcoming EU net neutrality rules. The public interest and the public voice must be heard.” said Thomas Lohninger, privacy activist at the civil liberties organisation AKVorrat. “Net neutrality is what has made the Internet thrive and grow all over the world, and the European union cannot lag behind. If we allow telecoms to treat Internet traffic differently based on who can pay, we will create an Internet with fast lanes and slow lanes, stifling free speech and innovation. If the rules are passed, we could be shutting down the next best invention for the world without even knowing it.”
Protesters opposed proposals to weaken net neutrality rules, holding "Save the Net” signs and unfurling a slow lane across the square to demonstrate what the Internet will be like for the “have-nots” in the future, along with traffic signs that read 56kb/s for everyone except paying corporations.
The rally was organized by several civil society organisations in Austria, including Netzfreiheit, AKVorrat, Wikimedia Austria, Open Knowledge Austria, and other advocacy organizations.
For the latest on upcoming events: SavetheInternet.EU
“The fight for net neutrality has arrived in Europe and we can’t stand to lose protections for it. People care deeply about this issue and are even showing up in person to protest bad loopholes for telecoms,” said Lohninger. “The whole world is watching EU’s ability to pass strong policy in the face of heavy industry lobbying, and people will be standing up in the coming days to make sure that doesn’t happen. We won’t allow the EU to turn out to be more lobbyist friendly on this key issue than the US or India.”
“Because of the importance of the EU as a market, if we lose meaningful net neutrality there it will have a huge impact globally, both on the policy process in other countries but also on the course of the Internet itself. If the rules give an edge to big established sites with the ability to make special deals (e.g. Google and Facebook) that makes those sites harder to compete with, globally, and it will tilt the Internet’s future in the direction of big corporations”, said Holmes Wilson, Co-Director of Fight for the Future.
Fight for the Future is a digital rights nonprofit with more than 1.4 million members that works to defend the Internet as an open and powerful platform for freedom of expression. They are best known for organizing the largest online protests in history against SOPA, for net neutrality, and against government surveillance. Learn more on twitter or at FightForTheFuture.org.
As Congress begins discussion of Section 702, groups have united against the warrantless surveillance powers of that law, tipping debate towards its expiration.
WASHINGTON –Today Fight for the Future and a bipartisan coalition of public interest groups launched end702.com, a site calling for the expiration of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, absent a full reform, in order to prevent warrantless mass surveillance of Americans. Section 702 is currently scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2017.
With Congress beginning hearings on the Section 702 program, including a Senate Judiciary hearing that was held in May, groups from the left and the right have come together in recent months to make their position clear—there can be no renewal of Sec 702 unless warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private lives is stopped. With growing skepticism across the US that Congress will be capable of passing a legitimate reform that protects the privacy and security of Americans, these groups are getting behind a sunset of the provision as the only realistic acceptable outcome.
Congress has been under pressure to address the government’s bulk collection of communications data after clandestine NSA surveillance programs, operating under the expanded definition of Section 702, were revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden three years ago today. Now that the expiration of Section 702 is approaching, Congress will be forced to address how the provision has been used against US residents and be counted in history as either continuing unprecedented warrantless mass surveillance or finally ending the law that enables it.
“Now that we know how the government has abused the surveillance laws, Congress must start their review of Section 702 from where most Americans and organizations on the left and the right stand—the constitutional right of everyone to not be warrantlessly surveilled. If 702 in any form doesn’t meet that mark, it has no place for continuation,” said Fight for the Future co-director Tiffiniy Cheng.
Coalition members include Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Defending Dissent Foundation, Restore the Fourth, Human Rights Watch, Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, Government Accountability Project, Calyx, Roots Action, X-Lab, Arab American Institute, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Campaign for Liberty, Niskanen Center, Fight for the Future, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“The government’s mass surveillance is changing the way we as a society act,” said Sean Vitka, legislative counsel with Fight for the Future. “It is changing how we think and interact with the world. We must not allow the surveillance state to continue changing who we are, and that means ensuring that the Section 702 we know today expires.”
“Since the Snowden revelations, polls and studies have shown that people care deeply about their privacy and security, have been self-censoring themselves, and have changed their behavior. As data and privacy become a business liability, and as more people are targeted for their race or religion based on this data, the government’s programs on mass surveillance are becoming so politically toxic, most members of Congress or the White House will be embarrassed for supporting it.” said Tiffiniy Cheng.
The Snowden disclosures revealed how the government has expanded the authority that Congress intended to provide in Section 702 to allow for the warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world. Under this law, intelligence agencies have collected Internet communications as they pass through the network to reach their destination without a warrant. Despite Section 702’s clear intention of allowing surveillance of persons “other than United States persons,” these agencies also claim the legal authority to search specifically for Americans within these enormous databases of information without a warrant.
For years, members of Congress and public interest groups have called for information about how deeply intelligence agencies penetrate into the private lives of Americans, and they have recently reupped their demands for more information. Intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice have not revealed how the government is using its mass surveillance powers. Without such information, the people and Congress cannot determine the benefits or the costs of the programs that the government claims are authorized under Section 702, much less determine how to fix their many problems.
Mass surveillance has already had profound negative effects on American society. Pew Research Center recently found that 30 percent of American adults have taken steps to hide their online activity from the government. Another study, published in Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly, found that government surveillance is causing self-censorship of dissenting opinions. Further research indicates that government surveillance has caused writers to increase their self-censored and individuals to stop researching controversial issues.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Steven Renderos, Senior Campaign Manager at the Center for Media Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org
Holmes Wilson, Co-Founder, Fight For The Future, email@example.com, (614) 465-6371
Brad Burnham, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.