Media Policy Watch, May 2017

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FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn with Voices for Internet Freedom representatives at last week’s Skid Row forum

By Rose Kaplan

As we highlighted last month, the Trump administration has rolled back many Obama-era government transparency initiatives like Now, a House Committee is telling federal agencies not to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, a crucial tool for journalists and activists across the country, TechDirt’s Tim Cushing reports. And just last week, a journalist in West Virginia was arrested and charged with “willful disruption of government processes” for attempting to interview Health and Human Services Director Tom Price and White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway.

The chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services sent a letter last month to the head of the Treasury Department instructing him to decline Freedom of Information requests relating to communications between the two offices, a letter that open records advocates called “deeply troubling.” (Buzzfeed)

Meanwhile, California has been taking the lead on a number of privacy issues. Currently under consideration in the California Assembly is S.B. 54, the California Values Act, which would work to protect state data from federal immigration enforcement officials, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Adam Schwartz writes. And in Oakland, the city’s Public Safety Committee voted to move forward with a groundbreaking Surveillance and Community Safety Ordinance, which would implement an open community approval process for any new surveillance technologies the city seeks to adopt — see Brian Hofer’s post at for background.

Sometimes lost in the debates over net neutrality and surveillance is the extent to which issues of internet access and data privacy are also race and class issues. Two recent articles drive this point home. Vice Motherboard’s Jordan Pearson argues that “digital surveillance is class warfare: the poor are victimized by devices and the companies who profit them.” And a Free Press write-up of a public forum on internet issues held in Los Angeles’s Skid Row neighborhood last week makes clear just how much people of color, the poor, and the houseless depend on the internet every day.

The New York Times published a fascinating feature over the weekend on Google’s successful multi-year effort to take over the educational technology sector with Chromebooks, Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive. Along the way, its aggressive marketing to schools often rubbed districts the wrong way, and many parents aren’t happy with the privacy trade-offs.

Revisiting last month’s look at the proposed New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, here’s a pair of followup stories on related developments in the Garden State, both from Free Press’s News Voices project: over the past decade, New Jersey newspapers have experienced the same consolidations and budget cuts as papers across the country — Sarah Stonbely tracks the impact on four NJ weeklies:

And a public forum to brainstorm future media/journalism projects for the state birthed a couple innovative ideas, among them creating an “AmeriCorps for journalists” (remember the Digital Arts Service Corps? The ALLIANCE had a Corps member in 2010–2011 who referred me the organization after I finished my own year in the DASC), building a statewide public radio exchange, and doing local trainings to build media literacy around “fake news.”

Some of the identical form-letter anti-net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC.

Finally, here’s highlights from a busy month in net neutrality:

That’s all for May! Stay tuned for next month’s Media Policy Watch, check out our member benefits (plus: sliding-scale registration!), and subscribe to The ALLIANCE’s eBulletin to get Media Policy Watch in your inbox every month: