Webinar – Why Internet Freedom Matters for Nonprofits and Libraries – 2015-02-12


Welcome to Why Internet Freedom
Matters for Nonprofits and Libraries and How We Can All Help Defend
It. My name is Becky Wiegand and I am the Webinar Program Manager here at
TechSoup where I work to help bring resources like this out to our broader nonprofit and library
community. Prior to joining TechSoup 7 years ago, I worked for a decade in Washington DC with
small nonprofits where I was often the person having to make technology decisions for my
organizations. I am glad to be your host today. And really excited to have our
presenter with us, Rebecca MacKinnon, who is really an extraordinary leading voice in this
topic and in this area. So we are really thrilled to have her join us. She directs the Ranking
Digital Rights Project at New America. She is also the author of Consent of the Network:
the Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, and the cofounder of the International
Citizen Media Network Global Voices Online. In the late 90s and early 2000s, she was
CNN’s Bureau Chief and Correspondent in Beijing and Tokyo and she now lives in Washington
DC. And we are thrilled to have her. So I mentioned that Rebecca is in Washington
DC. I am based here in San Francisco along with my colleague Ale. Where are you? Go
ahead and let us know where you are joining us from so we can see where all of our participants
are at today. Feel free to chat into the window. We know you can’t see all of the comments
that are being shared out and chatted, so if there are things that you have to
say that we think are useful to share back with the rest of the audience, we will be
sure to do that. We have people mentioning that they are in Florida, Texas, New
Jersey, South Carolina, all over the country. So we are so glad to have you all on. Looking at our agenda for today, I’ll do a
quick introduction of TechSoup for those of you who aren’t familiar with what we do.
And then we will ask you some questions. So what do you think is the greatest threat to
Internet freedom? You will have an opportunity to do a live poll with us. And then Rebecca is
going to take over and talk about what’s going on out in the world right now. There is a
lot of news related to Internet freedom and she will cover some of those big
stories around big data, privacy, censorship, and surveillance, and then some things that
we can do about it, how to create a movement for sustainable cyberspace around
the world. There will be time for Q&A and additional resources later on,
but feel free to ask them at any time. TechSoup global is network of 63 partner
NGOs serving 121 countries around the world to provide technology resources and
support to help you meet your mission. We are doing this all over the globe which
you can see. And we are working toward the time when every social benefit organization has the
technology, resources, and knowledge it needs to operate at its full potential. We do that
in a variety of ways including events like this. But we also do it in providing technology donations
from some corporate partners like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, to the tune of
almost $5 billion worth of savings to the nonprofit and social sectors. You can learn more about
those programs at TechSoup.org. So onto our poll question of the day, go ahead
and click on your screen and you can select as many of these as you think are applicable.
What do you think is the greatest threat to Internet freedom? And I guess because it says
greatest threat it assumes you are going to select the most important one to you. But you can select
more than one and you are welcome to chat in any other options that you think are important
that I may not have included on this list. There certainly are a lot of threats to Internet
freedom today, so let us know what you think by participating in this poll. This helps give
us an idea of where you are at, what you think. And it also helps inform Rebecca as to kind
of the areas that you are most concerned with. And she will get to covering many of these in a
few minutes here. So go ahead and take a moment. I will leave this up so everybody
has chance to participate. I’ll give just a few more seconds
to let you click on that screen. And it looks like almost 55% say over reach of
government surveillance is the greatest threat to Internet freedom right now. And another
50% say lack of privacy for personal info. Those are certainly big threats. And then the
other one is corporate control of Internet. So those are certainly real threats
that we are all encountering right now. So with that in mind I would like to welcome
our presenter today, Rebecca MacKinnon. We are so glad to have you joining us.
Thanks so much for being on the program. Rebecca: Thank you so much Becky. It’s just
really great to be here with your community. I’ve known about TechSoup for a long
time and I’ve heard from a lot of people about what a great resource it is. So it’s
a real honor to be here with you guys today. And just in the shameless plug department, I
wrote a book a few years ago. It came out in 2012 called ostentatiously, Consent of the Networked:
the Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. I can’t say it without using that voice because it is
sort of an ostentatious title. But a lot of the things that I’m going to talk about today sort of draw
from many of the ideas that came out in that book which obviously, events have overtaken
us. Snowden came out with his revelations about NSA surveillance after the book came
out. I sort of felt like saying “I told you so” a little bit, but such is life. But in any case, moving on to the present day,
as all of you know from watching and reading the news, there were these horrendous terror
attacks in Paris not long ago at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo Magazine and elsewhere.
And one of the reactions that came out of this, came from the president of France who is
calling for more controls on the Internet because he is concerned that terrorists are
using social media like Facebook and Twitter to organize and recruit, and that there needs
to be more control over what kinds of speech social networks allow and don’t allow because of
concerns that terrorists are using the Internet. And specifically, he is calling for companies to
be held legally responsible for what their users are doing on their platforms. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
I’ll talk a bit more about them later, but this is one of the organizations that is
dedicated to defending Internet user’s rights around the world. They came out with a
response to Hollande’s call for more control saying that this is the wrong response.
Saying that yes, these attacks are horrific. Yes, it is true that a lot of really evil people use
the Internet. But holding companies legally responsible for everything that their users might do
on those platforms is not the solution, that it can lead to censorship, that it can
lead to good people to nonprofits to activists being also censored. And the
technical, kind of legal term for holding Internet companies responsible for
their users’ activity is “intermediary liability” because the Internet companies for sort of
an intermediary, and holding them liable. And in this country actually, we’ve had issues
and debates about this. Some of you may remember that in the beginning of 2012, Wikipedia went
dark for roughly a day in protest over legislation that was being proposed by our Congress that
was meant to protect basically copyright holders from piracy on the Internet. That was going to
hold companies liable for copyright violations committed by users. This was
the Stop Online Piracy Act, and then also a companion piece of legislation.
And there was a huge online protest against this and rallying people to call their Congress,
congressional representatives and Senators and managed to stop this legislation. But
one of the big issues here and one reason why there was such a rallying call against
this legislation was the concern that it would be abused. That yes, there is
online piracy. It may be a illegal but the laws can be abused if you are holding companies
accountable for what their users are doing online. Companies are going to feel pressure to over
censor even things that aren’t violating the law, or even things that might fall within fair
use, or that are artistic or journalistic, and speech will be chilled. And also, there
were a bunch of other technical requirements in that legislation that really mimicked the kind
of censorship that goes on in places like China, that people just felt was going to lend
itself to a global Internet that just becomes much more censored and controlled. And so
these are issues that continue to come up and it’s a really hard balance.
I saw the some of you in your poll indicated that online extremism is a problem. And
it certainly is. But we have an issue in the world today in terms of we just don’t know what
the right kind of rules and structures are. And I’m showing a picture of a desert here.
And you are wondering what does that have to do with the Internet? Well, the reason I am showing
a picture of a desert is that a good friend of mine Rosental Alves who is a Professor of
Journalism in the University of Austin Texas likes to talk about the pre-Internet age as an
information desert. So our laws about information, about speech were all designed, and our
entire social structure and sort of economy around information and speech was all based
on the assumption that information is scarce, information scarcity. But then the
rains came. The Internet showed up. And now we have a rain forest. And the
number of organisms and the proliferation of new innovations, you can’t keep track
of it. It is an information overabundance. And what kind of structures do you put in
place assuming that you do want governance, assuming that you don’t want to live in a state
of nature where life is nasty, brutish, and short, and the strong survive over the weak. Assuming
that you do want some form of governance and rules going on, what are the appropriate rules
in a universe where information is just so abundant that you can’t control it. And the challenge we
are facing today is a real need to kind of re-think how we approach just the whole series of
laws and social structures to deal with that. As I sort of implied earlier, now as citizens or
if we are nonprofits or what we call civil society, our relationship with government, with
society more broadly, with the economy, is increasingly mediated. It is dependent
on the Internet, on mobile platforms that in order to get anything done, in order
to communicate in terms of just understanding what our government’s doing, communicating with
our government, we are dependent on the Internet. But how do you make sure that these platforms
you’re using, that the services you’re using are actually being run, being shaped, being
governed in a way that respects your civil liberties, that respects your human rights, that are open,
interoperable, and enable everyone to participate in a way that is compatible with a democratic
society? And that is the big challenge. How you make sure that the Internet is serving
the citizens’ interest and not just the interest of the companies that are creating most of
the platforms and products and government that is regulating it. And that is a
huge challenge. And one of the examples before the NSA Snowden revelations came out,
there was a guy in Germany named Malte Spitz, he’s a member of the Green Party, who did
an experiment that’s actually hard to do in the United States, because in
Germany the law made it possible for him to ask his phone company, ask his mobile
phone company to give him all the data about everywhere he had been, everywhere that
a cell tower had tracked him over a period of several weeks. So he got all this data
and a local newspaper made an interactive map of absolutely everywhere he had been
according to his cell phone company over the period of several weeks, just as a way
of showing the extent to which these platforms and services are a choke point and a
collector of all this data about you. And of course you are wanting to use the
cell phone, you’re wanting to use the service, but it collects all this stuff. And how do you make
sure all that information is not going to be abused? And again, pre-Snowden, in 2006, that was the
first time we began to hear about what might be the NSA mass surveillance happening on our
phone networks and Internet service providers. An employee, or former employee named Mark
Klein at AT&T in San Francisco blew the whistle on the existence of a secret NSA
controlled room in an AT&T facility. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation that
I mentioned earlier actually has been involved with a lawsuit that has lasted basically a
decade over the discovery of this facility. And then of course, Edward Snowden comes out
2 years ago now – my goodness time flies – and confirms yes, the NSA has built an
infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. And of course many of
you have pointed out, you are very concerned about the level of surveillance and
unaccountable surveillance going on in our society that Snowden has revealed. At
the same time, a lot of companies are reacting to this, and are concerned that they
are going to lose user trust if they don’t take steps to kind of put some distance between themselves
and the NSA, and other government bodies that are trying to get at their
data. And so Apple and also Google with its Android mobile operating system
recently announced that they are going to encrypt all the data on your phone so that even if the
NSA or the law enforcement came looking for it, the company wouldn’t actually be able to access
it. And of course then, you get into a debate. The Director of the FBI has been appealing along
with many other people in the law enforcement and national security community saying,
“You guys are just helping the criminals.” And then of course the response is, “Well,
if you guys weren’t abusing your access maybe we’d be more likely to help you. But since
it is documented that you are abusing your access, and because we are also concerned
about security for users with hacking and criminal attempts to obtain peoples’ data,
sorry guys, we are going to keep this encrypted.” So the industry is sort of in this standoff
with law enforcement and the FBI. And it is tough because there are some really legitimately
bad people out there doing things. Yet at the same time, how do you balance, or
how do you kind of obtain a proper equilibrium between the need for security and the need
for privacy without which we have trouble really functioning as a democracy.
There are also issues with censorship around the world. Now in the United States
we have a lot less censorship taking place, whether it be political or religious
censorship than in most other countries. But there are different types of
corporate censorship that happen just based on the company’s own decisions
about what is appropriate for their users. So Apple when it operates in China is
responding to all kinds of government requests to take things off its Chinese app
store that the Chinese government considers politically inflammatory. But in the
United States they are not getting government requests to take down content, but they are just making
their own kind of decisions about what is offensive and taking it off their app store. So
there was a famous case a few years ago of a political cartoonist who won a Pulitzer
price whose app was taken out of the app store because somebody at Apple thought it
violated their rules about offensive speech, because it was making fun of the president.
So that is kind of one of the examples where companies are sometimes just making their
own judgment calls about what is appropriate and what isn’t and you don’t even kind of
know how those decisions are being made, and there is no way to appeal them. Now I want to bring us back to sort
of an international perspective here which is that I think a lot of us
assume that because we have the Internet that the world is getting freer. But if you
look at the research that has been going on, and this is a screen shot of the website
of Freedom House, they do yearly reports where they are kind of ranking the
conditions in companies around the world in terms of freedom of speech, freedom
online and so on. They have documented now that it has been 8 straight years of decline
in political rights and civil liberties all around the world. And they have a similar
parallel decline that they have been documenting in online freedoms and press
freedoms. And this is a global trend. So there is this assumption that if you look
at the bottom arrow here, I often use this as a more interactive graphic, but there is an
assumption I think that a lot of Americans make that because we have the Internet,
authoritarian countries are going to become more and more democratic over time.
But one of the things that I have been arguing for quite a number of years now is that we can’t
assume that actually. If we allow current trends to continue, maybe a lot of authoritarian
countries might become a little more open or have more public debates going
on, but not really democratized. Whereas democracies may just kind of
slide the other way because you’ll have powerful incumbent forces both on the corporate
side and the government side kind of slowly sort of architecting law and technology in
their own interests. And how do we make sure that it doesn’t sort of meet
in the ugly middle like that. And one other resource that I would like to
point to is the Web Index which is put out by the Web Foundation which was created
by Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the worldwide web. So he is very concerned
about its health. I just wanted to show you. I’m going to see if I can share my Firefox browser
here and show you a couple results they have in their latest ranking in terms of how
the US compares with some other countries. So bear with me while I get my Firefox
going, and hopefully, you are seeing that. And I am going to enlarge it. So this is the Web Index and
I’ve got a tab here that shows – let’s see here. So we are going to look
very specifically. This is kind of all the – the screen you are seeing now is basically
kind of all the countries on all scores and kind of on everything. The US
is number 6 which isn’t too bad. But if you scroll down here they’ve got all kinds
of different categories which you can kind of look at your leisure yourself later. But I am going
to the freedom and openness section here. And the US is creeping down to number
14. So one of the things I think that we in the United States tend to forget is that
we are not the model for everything anymore. There are a lot of countries that have actually
begun to move ahead in terms of freedoms online, in terms of access. If you look at Net
Neutrality, actually this is very interesting. We creep down further. If you look at Safeguards
to Protect Privacy, looky here. We are number 52, again, big concerns. If you look at
things like access, Universal Access here, we are sort of middling. If you look at Access and
Affordability, again, there’s a lot of countries that have gotten ahead of us here. So
it’s interesting I think to poke around and look at what’s going on in the United
States versus what other countries have shown is possible, because I think sometimes when
we get kind of in our own national context we lose sight of what some of
the other possibilities might be, or what some of the other
possible conversations might be. So now I am going to try and
get out of this thing on here. See if my automatic – oh, there we go. Let’s see, this did not work. Let me just
quit this browser. Sorry about the – oops. I think I just locked up. And my there? Becky: I just brought you back out. Rebecca: Very good. I like quit everything by
mistake rather than just quitting my browser, apologies. Anyway, you got the picture there
with the Web Index. But what’s interesting is that the Web Foundation makes
some basic policy recommendations. And this gets into kind of what we should all
be calling for here in our country and globally. And first of all is of course is push back
in surveillance with every opportunity. Make broadband affordable and accessible
to all. And push our elected representatives to make that a reality. Guarantee
that all women, men, girls and boys can access essential information. That is less of
a problem in the United States than in some places, but there are still issues around people being
able in schools, sometimes even in some libraries and public places, being able to access
for instance, sexual health information or information about sexuality that some
institutions choose to restrict to young people or adults that are trying to access
their networks. And then more importantly, or I should say last but not least, everyone needs
to be educated on what their digital rights are. The fact that your civil liberties,
your human rights extend to the Internet. The Internet isn’t just some kind of
commercial mall where you have no rights. It’s if you’re not going to have your rights protected
online, they are going to be degraded off-line. And we need in our civics education to better
understand that, better underscore that, and having digital literacy understanding
something about how things work and who controls the tools and shapes
the tools we use is really important. And as Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the
World Wide Web said, if we don’t do something about all of this, if we don’t take steps, there
is a real danger that the interests of those who already have control, who are already
sort of the incumbent power holders, are going to solidify their control and
power. And we need to make sure that power is held accountable, that power abuses
can be identified and held in check online as well as off-line. And kind of moving along
here, again, just drawing some parallels in history, what we are starting to see happening is
the growth of a movement for Internet rights, for digital rights, for digital freedoms. And
there is quite a bit of parallel I tend to think between what is happening with Internet
rights and the environmental movement. This is a picture that was taken on an anniversary
of Earth Day which the first one was in 1970. And it took a couple of decades to really
get the environmental movement going and to really get legislation going in the
right direction. And obviously, the fight against climate change is still a long-running uphill
battle. But if you look at where government was, and where companies were in the 1970s versus
where it is today, there’s been movement in the right direction. And similarly, this
is a battle of the generation that is going on. Here’s a demonstration in Washington DC a
couple years ago. I didn’t put the year on here. Again, this was not too long after
the Snowden revelations came out. And we are seeing a global movement. This
is a picture from India, a hunger strike against Internet censorship, that people
were upset that the government was blocking basically speech that was making fun
of politicians. So this is increasingly a global movement. This is a demonstration
in Warsaw in 2012 against a trade agreement known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act.
I’m always forgetting that acronym, A.C.T.A. which was going to have a lot of elements
in it that SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act that I talked about earlier on that
Wikipedia was protesting against. They were like, the Americans didn’t
want it. We don’t want it here either. And they blocked this trade agreement that many
of their governments had actually signed onto without consulting with their public. Another
part of this movement is a global effort to try and get law enforcement
and national security frameworks at least in the democratic world to be
consistent with human rights principles when it comes to online law
enforcement and surveillance activity. And so as part of this movement, a group
of nonprofits, activist organizations from around the world, academics, and others
have come up with a set of 13 principals in terms of, if a government is going to do
surveillance, and there can be some legitimate arguments for why surveillance might
happen in terms of catching criminals, conducting investigations, that any laws around
surveillance any practices around surveillance need to fit 13 conditions in terms of safeguards, in
terms of public oversight, in terms of due process, in terms of proportionality the
proportion of the surveillance action, the scope of the surveillance action has to fit
proportionally to what it is they are looking for. And this is a global human rights issue. They
just changed recent human rights commissioners, but the recent Human Rights Commissioner
for human rights in the UN, Navi Pillay has spoken out on this. And unfortunately
the US is not in the league shall we say. But since I know that there are a lot of
TechSoup members from libraries around the world, I just want to give a shout out to the American
Library Association that has been very active on surveillance and privacy. So those
of you who are involved with libraries, the ALA is a very great resource. There’s
been a group of civil liberties groups in this country who’ve come up with a set
of principles for civil rights and big data. And they have actually begun to influence
White House policy around how do you make sure that when companies are collecting
information about people through your browser or whatever it is, through websites, it’s not
going to be used to discriminate against people in loans or in other ways. So The
Leadership Conference sort of shepherding a whole coalition of groups around that.
There is another resource I want to point everyone to is the ACLU. The American Civil
Liberties Union has a great set of resources at dotrights.org that you can browse and sign
up to take action, sign up to get involved in different ways. The Electronic Frontier
Foundation has a really great resource that they just updated called the Surveillance
Self-Defense. It’s sort of a module and you can click around in it depending on sort of
what kind of person you are. If you are a journalist, or an activist, or a student, or whatever, you
can sort of click on different types of profiles and kind of learn about what your risks are when
it comes to surveillance and how to protect yourself against surveillance, and also how to get
involved. But this is really again, you know, just like we are fighting for civil
liberties, it’s a struggle that never ends that you fight for social justice. You
fight for better water or whatever it is that you are working towards, you are constantly
having to be vigilant. You never kind of win the battle and everything is solved and
you don’t have to worry about it again. And this is the work of a generation in
terms of changing legislation, finding ways to hold companies accountable, demanding
transparency both from the government and the companies whose services we depend on,
or from the nonprofit websites for that matter, making sure that everybody is really living
up to their claims. Building movements, building social movements online and off
line, making sure that our technologies that we are using are human rights compatible,
that means that in terms of privacy settings, in terms of security, in terms of equity
and so on. How do the technologies stack up with the kind of society that we want to have. And
just public participation in technology’s future. And what I mean by that is the digital
spaces we inhabit are increasingly critical for our political participation, the ability
of our nonprofits to succeed etc. etc., and we need to make sure that those spaces,
we need to participate in the governance of those spaces. We need to know who
is controlling them or who has influence in shaping them, what’s possible or
what’s not possible, and get involved. Make sure whether it be with your political
representatives, or again, the companies whose products you might use
or whose stock you might own, you need to be part of that conversation just
like we want to be part of the conversation of how our city is run, how our state is run.
And if you are not participating it is less likely that it is going to go in a direction that is in your
interest. It is more likely to be in your interest if you are participating. So our
digital spaces are the same way. So just to wrap up, and Becky mentioned
this earlier. What’s also kind of exciting is that since we are all nonprofits here and
we all you know, are thinking about funders, and there was an event that was just
yesterday in New York with the Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation,
Mozilla, Open Society Foundations, and really kind of trying to bring a whole lot of
other philanthropic organizations under the tent to say, philanthropy has got to step up here, that the
nonprofit sector, civil society is not going to survive unless we really put our money
into this notion that the Internet and the digitally networked technologies that we
depend on need to be compatible with democracy, need to be compatible with the social
justice. And they are gearing up to fund work that will help to make that possible, but I think
that will also connect what people are doing off-line with the struggle to make sure that
our online spaces are compatible with what we are doing off-line.
I know Becky is going to share all the web addresses and so on, but I think you
will find it really interesting to go on their website and take a look at some of the ideas that
have come up. There’s a video of the discussion that has gone on. And the fact of the matter is,
the digital space we inhabit has become as important to engage and participate in, as the
physical space in our cities and communities. And it is great that the funders that
some of us are somewhat dependent on are getting behind that notion. And
so I am going to, with that, wrap up. And just in the interest of shameless
self-promotion on my ancient book that is way out of date just say, thanks
again. And there are a couple of URLs here. One is to the website for my book where I
have a blog that has some more recent stuff that I’ve written and also a project
that I haven’t talked too much about, or I haven’t talked about at all in this
presentation because I wanted it to be more broad, but I’ve got a very kind of early stage project
where we are going to be ranking and benchmarking and comparing what companies do to respect
their users rights to freedom of expression and privacy. And it will hopefully, come out
with an initial ranking at the end of the year if we get our funding lined up. But that’s again, just
trying to work on little pieces of this here and there. So with that, I look
forward to your questions. Becky: Thank you so much for that Rebecca
really illuminating, and inspirational, and also somewhat terrifying which is, I think,
how we all feel about a lot of these things. And in fact, you just mentioned around the
ranking digital rights project you are hoping to have some resources ranking how companies
are doing. And we have a question from Judy saying, “I am concerned about the focus
on limiting government and law enforcement while private corporations both American and
foreign can still collect any data they want.” So what is being done about that? Or what
can we do about that? Is there a way that we can hold people accountable in corporate
relationships? Or are their corporate allies that we can look to who are setting a
good example? I know it’s a big question. Rebecca: Yeah, that’s a really good
question. And it is absolutely true that particularly a democratic government, if
we can get it to actually act in our will can do a lot to help us. And
in that Web Index that I showed, the US scores really badly on privacy. And one
of the reasons, in addition to the whole issue with the NSA, actually has to do with the fact
that there are a lot of countries out there that have much better regulation of companies in
terms of how data is collected, how it is shared, how if they are going to collect or share
anything how they need to disclose it, get your permission and so on. There is much
clearer regulation of these things in Europe for instance than there is here.
So pushing for privacy legislation that would make it harder for abuses to
take place, I think is absolutely part of it. So the government is not always the bad
guy. The thing is, we need to make sure we can hold the Government accountable,
so it’s kind of a double-edged thing. Similarly with companies, companies do
care whether you trust them ultimately. So I know some people who have tried to
boycott Facebook and didn’t really get very far. But I can tell you that now that Facebook
and Twitter are listed on the stock market, that there are socially responsible investors
who are going to these companies and saying, “We expect that you are going to adhere to some
responsible practices when it comes to privacy and freedom of expression, and
we want to see evidence of that.” So just as the whole socially
responsible investment universe has actually been influencing companies
for a long time when it comes to labor, when it comes to environmental
practices and so on, there are some funds that are starting to look at what companies
are doing on freedom of expression and privacy. It’s still pretty early but the more they get
demand, the more these investment funds will start. And this includes like mutual fund companies,
not just things that require you to be rich. And so yeah, it’s definitely, I think
trying to influence companies, part of it is just making your voice heard along
with everybody else when you are mad about something. Don’t just accept it. Because
when there is a user out cry about certain things, you do see companies, particularly
Facebook or Google changing policies when their users get upset sort of in
large numbers. And particularly, when users, or when angry users hook up with organizations
like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who can then get meetings with
high level executives and say, “This is unacceptable and we are going
to trash you unless you change it.” And that can sort of help. I’ve seen that
cause changes to company policies in the past. So there’s no kind of silver bullet, but the good
news is that there are some things you can do. And speaking of legislation I’m seeing,
I’m just noticing the questions here Becky, if you don’t mind, about FCC net neutrality
and that’s another way that at least in my view, and I know that not everybody agrees,
but net neutrality is one of those places where regulation prevents abuse, and helps
to protect consumers against certain content being more accessible than other
content, depending on whether a company has an arrangement with a another company.
So again, there’s always a fine line. Government needs to be held accountable too.
But if you have absolutely no regulation, then that can also be a problem. There is
a reason why we have food safety regulations and don’t just leave it to the market. And so
there is a reason why we need privacy regulation, net neutrality regulation and so on.
In terms of exactly where that is going to get with the FCC, I would need a bit more of a
crystal ball. It sounds like there’s going to be – we are in stages of fights
that will go on for some years. I’m seeing a couple other questions.
And Becky just please interrupt me if you want me to do
something different. Becky: Well, actually I wanted to just kind of
shift our gear a little bit to some of the things you talked about a little bit around access because
a lot of our organizations whether they are libraries or they are community-based organizations, or
they run tech centers, or maybe they are a shelter that has a computer lab, they are a lot of times the
people on the front lines who are providing access to people who don’t otherwise have it.
And a couple years ago Obama had a goal that he announced that he wanted to
extend Internet access to 98% of America and that was one of his big telecommunications
goals. Corporate America is not going to fill in all of the rural parts of the country
with Internet and broadband in particular, but he was going to try and make that happen.
I wonder, how do we know how that is doing? Is there a way to know how we are
doing with access for our communities? Rebecca: Yeah. So I have some colleagues at
what’s called the Open Technology Institute who’ve been working on that particular issue
of access much more closely than I have. I can get you guys some resources on that. But
it’s definitely, all of this has been just kind of step-by-step sort of political battles in
terms of who gets to control what resources. And so as with many things, the president saying
something is going to happen and it happening you know, are not the same. But things seem
to be moving roughly in the right direction. But we are behind. We are behind on
affordability of broadband access globally. We are behind in terms of access speeds.
Another person who has been doing a lot of work on this is Susan Crawford who is currently
at Harvard Law School who has been writing about this quite a lot and I think commenting
on every twist and turn of the access debate as well as the net neutrality debate. But yeah,
I’d be happy to send you some resources on that too. In fact, I can see if I can come up
with a couple links while I’m talking. Becky: Yeah, that would be great.
And in that vein we had a question, for the people who are day-to-day
providing access in some tangible way whether it is at a library or a computer center
or just helping patrons, boys and girls clubs, things like that, or community members, how do
you support and encourage them to go out there and learn about the Internet and experience the
Internet with lots of limitations here and there. You mentioned restrictions around what
kind of content they might be able to view while in a library. And David
actually, one of our participants asked, “Where do you see the line drawn
between freedom of access versus patron or child protection where somebody might
be looking at something sexually explicit?” And that is a real debate. I mean, libraries
also have some very logistical limitations. Like we have a bank of computers and they
limit to 30 or 45 minute chunks of time that you can sit at them. So how much freedom of
access is there if you have that kind of limitation? Rebecca: Yeah, well exactly. When you have
scarce resources and you have legitimate child protection issues and legitimate
issues around appropriate content, age-appropriate content, and real social
responsibilities around that to your community, it is absolutely balancing all of that is really hard.
There is a lot of commercial web filtering software that sometimes over blocks things. So it will keep
out the porn but it also will keep out the sex ed sites and so on. So kind of trying to
deal with that is always a challenge. But I think where it comes down ultimately is
that you want to be transparent and accountable about your policies, so that if
people feel that you are over doing it, or people feel that you are being unfair, the
rules are clear, the reasons for them are clear, there is some way to kind of make
sure that somebody isn’t abusing other people’s freedom of speech. Yeah, obviously
it’s hard because it is a public resource. Lots of people want to use library computers.
It’s reasonable that people should be free to stay on for 8 hours. So it’s kind of free
as in speech not as in beer as they like to say. Becky: Free as in kittens,
it’s not that either. Rebecca: Yeah. And so just finding, just being
honest when you screw up too as hard as that is. I find this whether it’s with companies or
big institutions, not just small institutions and just sort of educating yourself
about where the problems could come up, and sort of being prepared to deal with them,
because this happens too with big institutions that they’ll kind of put in a new piece of
software and just didn’t understand it well enough to see what the downsides might be and
how you’re going to have an appeals process if there is an issue. Becky: Right. That’s important. Well,
when you mentioned the software thing, we had a couple of people, Sherry asked
and also Judy asked, that they have concerns around how do they protect themselves against
cyber-attacks and hackers and things like that with the increasing costs both in time
and money of putting information online. How do organizations, especially cash strapped,
time strapped, limited resource organizations, where do they look to find out what is going
to protect them, what is going to help them? Sherry comments that they were told
recently that cyber attacks are not covered by general liability insurance and they need
to make sure their data is better protected. Where can they look for resources on how to do
that, especially when they don’t have the time and money, and they also may not want to restrict
Internet freedom to the people in their office or to the people they serve? Rebecca: This is again, a real problem because
there are some software that help you protect your network that also makes it possible to survey
your users. So again, it’s a double-edged issue. There are a number of organizations and
I think TechSoup is kind of one of them that provide resources to nonprofits
for where to go for cyber security advice that’s affordable for a nonprofit. Becky: We didn’t even plan
that plug so I appreciate that. Rebecca: You didn’t even plan – yeah,
yeah, full disclosure. That was my own. That came from me. Nobody asked me to say that.
But it is true, there are a number of organizations for more kind of activisty or journalistic
organizations and more kind of self-defense. If you feel that you are going to be targeted,
there is an organization called Tactical Tech that provides a suite of free tools for
protecting your data, protecting your sources, protecting your own communications.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some resources on that self-defense website,
although that is more for kind of surveillance rather than for defending against cyber
attacks. But yeah there are starting to be a number of these funders out there who are now
kind of waking up. They are starting to fund some projects that are meant to directly
service nonprofits to kind of help deal with the cyber security problem. And they don’t have,
other than TechSoup, I don’t have a bunch of links handy on cyber security advice, but I’m
pretty sure the TechSoup has some of those because I think I saw some
on your website not long ago. Becky: Yeah, we actually do. And we have a
guide that we recently put out on online security and privacy and a whole bunch of resources.
So I will be sure to include some of those in the follow-up email as well.
We have just a couple minutes left so I will ask another question here. Ale
asks, “Can you speak to any of the movements that work to empower marginalized
communities, or people of color, or immigrants that may not have net freedom and calls on
their experience around restricted human rights and freedoms?” Like how do we
bring those communities into this? And in particular, for organizations that are
direct service, that are serving communities that may not be in the know on all of these
topics already, but we want to make sure that their voices are heard? Rebecca: Yeah, well there’s one organization who
I’ve met some of the people who work with them and for them called Color of Change.
I think the URL is colorofchange.org. And I am just going to their website
right now. I’m not sharing my browser, but on the front page they have
a thing about Internet freedom. But they very much sort of
connect for minority communities, for economically disadvantaged communities,
kind of how do these issues connect, how does big data, how does surveillance,
how does net neutrality sort of connect up to communities that – yeah, I think
it’s colorofchange.org, all one word. They have a bunch of resources definitely.
And they are not just working on online issues, it’s sort of off-line as well. But
that is one organization that I know of. I do know that let’s see. Also I had a slide
earlier to a webpage for the Leadership Conference. And I think their URL is
civilrights.org. Great URL. And they very much have a
whole bunch of resources as well around precisely this kind of issue. Becky: Well, terrific. Thank you so much for
that. And we will be sure to include those links in the follow-up email as well. If you
have additional questions for our audience, or if our audience has additional questions
they can go ahead and continue the conversation and share their experiences and ask more in the
Tech for Good forum which we will have a link to in the top of the follow-up email. If you
would take a moment and let us know today, what did you learn? It can be something
you are going to try to implement or something that you are going to think
more about. And this is just to kind of recap a little bit of what we talked about today. So feel
free to chat into us to let us know what you learned. And one of our participants
shared something already in there. Thank you so much Rebecca, really, really
appreciate you taking the time to talk to our audience about this today. It is so important.
And it is a kind of roadmap of what the world is going to look like in the coming decade
because we are all carrying little computers in our pockets, and yet, have very little direct
control over what is happening with the information that is collected there. So it’s great to have all
these resources and how we can have a voice in it and how we can enable our
communities to have a voice in it. Rebecca: Well, thank you so much. My father is a
history Prof., so I like to take the long view on life. And in the short run everything is really
scary, but in the long run I think history shows it’s like if people get actively involved,
things can move in the right direction. It’s just not a straight line ever. Becky: Absolutely. We saw that with tens
of thousands of comments being posted to the really wonky FCC website last fall. It was
like the most they’d ever received, ever cumulatively. Rebecca: Never give up. Becky: Exactly. So here are some additional
resources and again, we will point to those in the follow-up email. Lastly, I
would like to invite you to join us for upcoming webinars. We will be covering
a variety of topics in the coming weeks starting with next Wednesday talking
about Inclusive Information Access around Assistive Technologies in Libraries.
And then we will be talking about Tech Donations for Religious and Faith Based Organizations on
Thursday. Following that we will have a series of 2 webinars for people using
QuickBooks to handle their accounting, both for new users and existing nonprofit
users. So we hope you’ll join us for some of those events coming soon. You
can find us at TechSoupGlobal.org, TechSoup.org, on Facebook or on Twitter. Thank you so much Rebecca for your participation
today. And thank you to our audience for being so active, and asking these
wonderful questions, and sharing your learnings. Lastly I’d like to thank ReadyTalk our webinar
sponsor who provided the use of today’s platform for us to present this webinar. We are using
their ReadyTalk 500 tool which is also available in TechSoup’s catalog at
TechSoup.org/ReadyTalk. Please take a moment when you leave this
window to complete the postevent survey to help us to continue
improving our webinar programs. Thank you also much and
have a terrific day. Bye-bye.

1 thought on “Webinar – Why Internet Freedom Matters for Nonprofits and Libraries – 2015-02-12

  • Learned a great deal from watching this. I am glad I was able to see it since I missed when it first came out. Thank you folks. 🙂

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