Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Cable lobby erases “cable” from its name but can’t erase all the bad memories

March 20th, 2019
A cable TV set-top box, with cables laying on top.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | DonNichols)

Cable lobbyists don't want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation's top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word "cable" from their names. But the lobby groups' core mission—the fight against regulation of cable networks—remains unchanged.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for. The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001.

The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation's other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America's Communications Association or "ACA Connects," though the ACA's website still uses the americancable.org domain name.

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Posted in American Cable Association, cable lobby, NCTA, Policy | Comments (0)

Federal judge: Public oil lease sales must include detailed climate analysis

March 20th, 2019
A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Enlarge / A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a federal judge wrote that the Department of the Interior must complete a thorough climate change analysis when considering leasing public land for oil and gas extraction.

The opinion included an order to halt all new oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres of publicly managed land in Wyoming until the DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can complete a proper review.

The case was initially brought in 2016 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against former President Barack Obama's DOI. The plaintiffs, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, argued that the DOI made oil and gas lease sales in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming without taking into account the "direct, indirect, and cumulative" impacts to the climate that drilling would have.

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Posted in BLM, DOI, Energy, interior, law, Legal, oil and gas, oil lease, Policy, science | Comments (0)

“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

March 20th, 2019
“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

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On Monday, Devin Nunes' cow was an obscure Twitter account with around 1,200 followers. Then Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed a lawsuit demanding that Twitter and several Twitter accounts—including the user behind the pseudonymous cow—pay him $250 million for the "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations" caused by their tweets.

Now, Devin Nunes' cow has more than 420,000 Twitter followers—that's more than Nunes himself, who has 395,000 followers.

It's a beautiful example of the Streisand Effect. Nunes appears to have filed the lawsuit in part to raise his own profile within the conservative movement, as the lawsuit was peppered with gratuitous swipes at the Democratic Party, Fusion GPS, and other high-profile villains in the conservative pantheon.

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Posted in Devin Nunes, Devin Nunes' cow, lawsuits, Policy, Streisand Effect | Comments (0)

4chan, 8chan blocked by Australian and NZ ISPs for hosting shooting video

March 20th, 2019
A laptop with a no-entry sign over its screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | pictafolio)

Internet service providers in Australia have temporarily blocked access to dozens of websites, including 4chan and 8chan, that hosted video of last week's New Zealand mass shooting. New Zealand ISPs have also been blocking websites that host the video.

In Australia, ISP Vodafone said that blocking requests generally come from courts or law enforcement agencies but that this time ISPs acted on their own. "This was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response," Vodafone Australia said in a statement, according to an Australian Associated Press (AAP) article yesterday.

Telstra and Optus also blocked the sites in Australia. Besides 4chan and 8chan, ISP-level blocking affected the social network Voat, the blog Zerohedge, video hosting site LiveLeak, and others. "The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later," AAP wrote.

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Posted in 4chan, 8chan, australia, new zealand shooting, Policy | Comments (0)

Google fined $1.69 billion by the EU for anti-competitive advertising practices

March 20th, 2019
A Google logo on an Android phone.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately. Fresh off the revelation that Google would implement a browser and search-engine picker in EU-sold Android devices, Google's advertising division is getting slapped with a fine next, to the tune of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion). The European Commission's latest antitrust ruling says that Google's bundling of its advertising platform with its custom search engine program is anti-competitive towards other ad providers.

The particular wing of Google's advertising empire the Commission is concerned with here is "AdSense for Search." Adsense for Search does not refer to the famous ads above Google.com search results, but instead are ads displayed in "Custom Search" results that can be embedded inside their web sites. We have a version of this on Ars—just click the magnifying glass in the top navigation bar and search for something. You won't leave Ars Technica; instead you'll get a customized version of Google Search embedded in arstechnica.com, complete with Google Ads above the results. These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from Google.com ads. The European Commission's ruling is all about these "ads for custom search engines."

The European Commission provided this helpful graphic of Google's custom search ad practices.

The European Commission provided this helpful graphic of Google's custom search ad practices. (credit: European Commission)

The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive. First, from 2006 to 2009, Google ads had to exclusively be shown on pages with Google custom search engines. You weren't allowed to do something like use Google to crawl your site and then show Yahoo ads above the embedded results.

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NZ declares massacre video “objectionable,” arrests people who shared it

March 20th, 2019
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Youngsters perform a Haka during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Youngsters perform a Haka during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (credit: Carl Court | Getty Images)

The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week's white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.

New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks has determined that the 17-minute video livestreamed during the Christchurch shooting is objectionable under New Zealand law. "It is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda," a press release from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification states.

Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.

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Posted in censorship, Christchurch shooting, free speech, new zealand, Policy | Comments (0)

Devin Nunes’ ludicrous $250 million lawsuit against Twitter, explained

March 19th, 2019
A man in a suit points and smiles as he walks inside a building.

Enlarge / Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in 2018. (credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A lot of people on Twitter have been criticizing and mocking Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and he's not going to take it anymore. On Monday, he sued several of his online critics—as well as Twitter itself—for defamation, negligence, and conspiracy. He claims that his critics' harsh words have cost him $250 million in "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations."

Eric Goldman, a legal scholar at Santa Clara University, isn't optimistic about Nunes's chances. "There were so many obvious examples in the complaint of tweets that were clearly not defamatory," Goldman told Ars in a phone conversation. "It's not a lawsuit I would have wanted to bring, as a lawyer or as a plaintiff."

Nunes will face a particularly uphill battle with respect to Twitter, Prof. Goldman argues. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives online platforms like Twitter broad immunity against liability for the writings of their users. "Twitter is clearly going to qualify for Section 230," Goldman says. And that means that Nunes won't get a dollar—to say nothing of $250 million—from the social media giant.

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Posted in Devin Nunes, lawsuits, Policy, Section 230, SLAPP, Twitter, Virginia | Comments (0)

Report: Carbon-capture group gets some serious lobbying muscle

March 19th, 2019
A pipe at a carbon capture plant carrying CO2.

Enlarge / A pipe installed as part of the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project carries carbon dioxide captured from the emissions of the NRG Energy Inc. WA Parish generating station in Thompsons, Texas, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Beltway news site Axios reported that a carbon-capture-focused lobby created last year has teamed up with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a powerful lobbying association with lots of resources. The news suggests that proponents of carbon capture and storage (CCS) are getting more serious about pulling strings in Washington after new tax credits were approved last year.

The carbon-capture lobby, called the Energy Advance Center (EAC), was listed last year in April. In 2018, the lobby spent $80,000 on CCS-related lobbying and retained three lobbyists, according to Open Secrets. EAC is supported by oil companies like BP and Chevron, as well as power firm Southern Company and technology firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

According to Axios, EAC is now under the umbrella of NAM. That means it will be able to use the lobbying association's resources to push for more advantageous terms for carbon-capture projects and protect the nascent industry's new tax credits in the future. Ars Technica contacted NAM and did not receive a response.

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Posted in carbon capture, Energy, National Association of Manufacturers, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Facebook: No one reported NZ shooting video during 17-minute livestream

March 19th, 2019
People look on as men pray in a park near Al Noor mosque after a terrorist killed 50 people.

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—MARCH 19: People look on as men pray in a park near Al Noor mosque after a terrorist attack that killed 50 people. (credit: Getty Images | Carl Court)

Facebook says a livestream of last week's New Zealand mass shooting was viewed fewer than 200 times during its live broadcast and that nobody reported the video to Facebook while the livestream was ongoing.

"The first user report on the original video came in 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended," Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby wrote in an update posted yesterday.

Ultimately, the original Facebook Live video of the terrorist attack "was viewed about 4,000 times in total before being removed from Facebook," the company said. Video of the attack was uploaded many times after the original was removed, and a few hundred thousand videos were viewable on Facebook before being taken down.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Christchurch shooting, Facebook, new zealand shooting, Policy | Comments (0)

New Jersey becomes second state to ban cashless shops and restaurants

March 18th, 2019
Extreme close-up photo of credit cards.

(credit: frankieleon / Flickr)

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill banning cashless retail stores and restaurants in the Garden State. Murphy's signature makes New Jersey the second state in the US to ban cashless stores, after Massachusetts banned them in 1978.

More recently, New Jersey's move follows that of Philadelphia, which banned cashless stores earlier this month. Philadelphia's legislation was a reaction to a growing number of stores that only accept credit cards or require customers to pay with an app, like Amazon's new Amazon Go stores.

Ars contacted Amazon for comment on the new law, but the company did not respond.

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Posted in amazon, Biz & IT, cashless, Philadelphia, Policy | Comments (0)