Media Bits and Bytes – Doity Woids Edition

Sinclair eats Tribune Media; Obscene but not absurd; NYT does it again; Women still down in the Valley; Beware the botnets; Canadian breakthrough; California takes on cop tech
May 9, 2017



Here’s What Happened the Last Time Sinclair Bought a Big-City Station

By Paul Farhi
May 8, 2017
Washington Post

With its $3.9 billion bid for Tribune Media on Monday, Sinclair aims to add dozens of big-city stations — in Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas, among other cities — to an already bulging portfolio that includes 173 mostly small-city stations.
Sinclair has been criticized for using its many stations to push Republican presidential candidates since at least 2004 when it announced it would air a documentary critical of Democratic candidate John F. Kerry but backed down amid pressure. It drew criticism from Democrats on the eve of the 2012 election when its stations in several battleground states aired a half-hour news “special” that faulted President Obama for his handling of the economy, his signature health-care law and the terrorist attack on a U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya.

FCC Can’t Fine CBS for Stephen Colbert’s Sex Joke About Trump and Putin, Experts Say

By Susan Seager
May 6, 2017

Robert Corn-Revere, former FCC chief counsel and a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington D.C., said that late-night shows like Colbert’s fall outside the FCC’s rules banning indecent speech, which only apply between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Colbert’s “cock holster” joke aired Monday during Colbert’s “The Late Show” opening monologue that began at 11:30 p.m. ET/ 10:30 p.m. CT.

Bret Stephens Isn’t the Only Problem at the New York Times Op-Ed Page

By Sarah Jones
May 2, 2017
The New Republic

At this point the case against the New York Times’s decision to give Bret Stephens an op-ed column is well-known. His presence at The Wall Street Journal made a perverse sense, in that the Journal is a bastion of an increasingly lonely school of conservative thought: tax cuts for the wealthy, unfettered market capitalism, more war. His move to the Times, however, has understandably incited outrage.
But Bret Stephens isn’t the only problem with the Times editorial page. He may not even be the biggest problem. At a time when smart opinion journalism has become a necessity to counteract the lies coming from the White House, as well as to offset the deficiencies of impartial journalism, the Times op-ed page is awash in out-of-touch, mediocre columnists who are badly out of sync with the era in which we live.

Google and Silicon Valley's Self-Congratulatory Culture Leads Them to Pay Women Far Less Than Men

By Jason Rhode  
April 12, 2017

Google has a problem with diversity and equal pay, so the federal government is suing them. The problems of the world’s most prominent Internet company reflect the larger issues of Silicon Valley’s fairness gap. To those who much has been given, much is expected. Google (and companies like it) were supposed to deliver the future and do no evil. What gives?
Every once and again, I see the kind of small-mindedness which drives home the large, amorphous cloud of non-specific vice that predominates in Silicon Valley. Google is waging a lawyer-war with the United States Department of Labor. One of the final acts of the Obama Administration was to file suit against Oracle, Palantir, and Google, for “hiring discrimination and pay disparities,” according to Seth Fiegerman at CNN Money. With Silicon Valley making inroads at the Trump administration—Peter Thiel is famously tied to the Donald—who knows how long the suit will last?

Botnets of Things

By Bruce Schneier
April 2017
Technology Review

Botnets have existed for at least a decade. As early as 2000, hackers were breaking into computers over the Internet and controlling them en masse from centralized systems. Among other things, the hackers used the combined computing power of these botnets to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, which flood websites with traffic to take them down.
But now the problem is getting worse, thanks to a flood of cheap webcams, digital video recorders, and other gadgets in the “Internet of things.” Because these devices typically have little or no security, hackers can take them over with little effort. And that makes it easier than ever to build huge botnets that take down much more than one site at a time.

California: Let’s End Unchecked Police Surveillance

By Dave Maass
May 2, 2017
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Too often, the political process advantages police over the public interest. In California, a new bill—S.B. 21—offers the rare opportunity to shift the balance in favor of privacy.  It’s time for Californians to seize back control of these surveillance technologies. Police should not have unilateral power to decide which privacy invasions are in the public interest. All surveillance technologies must go through a public process in which citizens and elected officials have a chance to decide the limits of high-tech policing, including whether to acquire and use new spying tools in the first place.

How Public Participation Saved Canada's Internet (Or: What Happens When Decision-Makers Actually Listen)

By Cynthia Khoo
May 5, 2017
Free Press

Our communications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), released a landmark decision that planted a flag for Net Neutrality, bolstering the future of online innovation, competition and affordable choice and allowing residents to meaningfully participate in today’s digital society.
The decision took a stand against what we see as the anti-competitive and harmful practice of zero-rating. Zero-rating is when an internet service provider charges users different rates for the exact same amount of data at the same speed, based on which apps or websites you use. It’s what happens when, for instance, data used to visit Facebook is given special treatment versus data used to visit your favorite blogger or independent media outlet, just because Facebook struck an agreement with your ISP.
This allows ISPs to manipulate low and expensive data caps to drive user behavior and tilt the playing field toward big players with deep pockets. Especially when marketed as “free data,” zero-rating also distracts consumers from asking why data is so expensive to begin with — or from questioning the legitimacy of having data caps at all.
The CRTC made clear in its decision that harmful zero-rating practices would violate Canada’s Net Neutrality rules, and set out four main criteria it would use to assess the legality of future zero-rating programs that ISPs might implement: the level of content discrimination, the level of exclusivity, the impact on internet openness and innovation, and the presence of financial compensation (e.g., a content provider paying an ISP to zero-rate it).

May 9, 2017