TIME Tech

The Future Internet World Order

Pay attention to the "swing states" that will determine the future of Internet governance, which depends on a reshuffling of the prevailing world order.

In the future, who – or what – will govern the Internet? The answer to that question could also shed light on one of the biggest foreign policy questions of the decade: As power is shifting among states and diffusing, what is the future of the world order?

That first question was in the spotlight in 2012, right around the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. It was the first time in nearly a decade that the topic of Internet governance attracted major international media attention. The conference provided a snapshot of the status quo: It ended in a diplomatic éclat with 89 states, including Russia and China, signing a new telecommunications treaty and 55 countries, including the United States, the vast majority of OECD members and several others such as Mongolia, India and Peru, publicly opposing it. The conference became the latest showdown of the ongoing struggle over the future of the Internet, with some countries led by Russia and China seeking greater governmental control and others supporting an Internet governance model driven by civil society, the private sector and governments.

Caught in the middle are the “swing states”– countries that have not decided which vision for the future of the Internet they will support. Yet, the outcome of this debate ultimately depends on these states – the ones that have not yet firmly staked out a position and who represent a significant share of the world’s population and economy.

The future of the world order, too, depends on a set of “swing states.” In 2011, G. John Ikenberry, an international relations theorist at Princeton, published his influential article “The Future of the Liberal World Order,” in Foreign Affairs arguing that though the composition of world power is changing, the liberal international order and its liberal and democratic norms are alive and well. The events in Ukraine reignited this debate, as some point to the ongoing conflict as an evidence of the demise of this same world order. They say that these norms are eroding and increasingly contested. So which is it? Again – the answer will come from the swing states. Writing in the Washington Quarterly in Winter 2013, Richard Fontaine and Daniel M. Kliman note that the direction these countries go “may, together, decisively influence the trajectory of the current international order.”

In a new study, we scrutinize the role of swing states in the wake of the discord at WCIT in 2012. Our report Tipping the Scale moves beyond previous analyses that have focused on predefined groups of countries such as the “IBSA,” “BRICS” or “MINTs” by applying a more systematic approach using the voting record at the WCIT as a baseline. We examined the 193 UN member states using a range of indicators to identify a core group of 30 swing states that we believe will be the global game-changers. Our findings will hopefully serve as a checklist to compare current efforts and to inform future strategic planning.

While it is not surprising to find India, Brazil and South Africa among the key 30 swing states, some of our findings raise interesting questions. For example, why did Belarus, “Europe’s last dictatorship,” as some have called it, vote against the Internet regulations from that Dubai conference while most of the other authoritarian regimes voted for them? Why did Brazil vote for them in spite of a vibrant civil society supporting multistakeholderism? And what about Turkey, Mexico and South Korea, the only OECD members voting for the regulations in spite of having endorsed the OECD’s Principles for Internet Policy-Making, which explicitly reference multistakeholder cooperation? And, critically, what do these voting records tell us about other political realities in each country?

Ultimately, this Internet governance debate is embedded in the larger systemic shift – the reshuffling of the world order. Take Brazil and India, two of the countries that have attracted greater attention during this debate, not only with regard to the future of the Internet but the future of the international order. Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Ghana and Malaysia also are on our list and deserve more attention. Their behavior shapes what norms and institutions will govern our lives in the future, including finance, post-2015 development goals, international security – and the future of the Internet.

Tim Maurer is a research fellow at New America, the focuses on cyberspace and international affairs at New America. Robert Morgus is a research associate at the Open Technology Institute, where he provides research and writing support on cyber space and international affairs. This piece originally appeared at The Weekly Wonk.

TIME Media

Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State

President Obama Delivers Statement On Veterans Affairs Scandal
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) arrives to make a statement to the news media about the recent problems at the Veterans Affairs Department with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Advancements in technology have fueled this White House's obsession with controlling the message.

Jay Carney is free. But not loose – at least so far. After resigning as the press secretary for President Obama on June 20, Carney gave insight into the Obama administration’s handling of classified documents, and responded to criticism that this administration has been the most Orwellian in recent history.

“I know — because I covered them — that this was said of Clinton and Bush, and it will probably be said of the next White House,” said Carney in a recent New York Times Magazine interview. “I think a little perspective is useful…It is a serious, serious matter to leak classified information. Some of the debate around this kind of forgets how serious that is.”

But, it could also be the changing nature of the relationship between the media and the White House. At a recent event at the New America Foundation, journalists and historians challenged Carney, arguing that this White House has been more secret than previous occupants.

“Increasingly, the Obama White House has become so brittle, and so controlling of the message, that people are afraid to respond to me,” said Kimberly Dozier, a former Associated Press reporter. She was one of the journalists whose phone records were obtained by the Department of Justice last spring during its investigation into a leak of classified information about a failed Al-Qaeda plot. The scope of that investigation, some critics said, was unprecedented overreach.

According to ProPublica, the Obama administration has filed eight cases under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes disclosing information harmful to national security. Before the Obama administration, only three known cases had ever been charged under the act.

But some say that the crackdown by the Obama administration is not due to an extraordinary effort, but rather due to advancements in surveillance.

“[Bush administration] lawyers told me that they wanted to prosecute as many leaks then, but technology had not moved on to the point where it is today, where it is so easy to track peoples’ electronic footprint,” said Dozier, who is now a contributing writer at The Daily Beast. “There are simply more tools for the Department of Justice now than they had back then.”

Thom Shanker, the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, noted that his employer has implemented rigorous standards to balance the security risks of reporting classified information with the public’s right to know.

“When we reported on WikiLeaks, we had conversations with all of the relevant agencies, and the takeaway is that the American public learned how it was operating,” said Shanker. “We asked then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was a former C.I.A. director, what he thought about the WikiLeaks story, and he said, ‘As an intelligence professional, I am very upset whenever this happens, but I can tell you that I don’t see any specific damage to our national security programs because of the way the information was handled.’”

But as citizen journalism – people without an official press affiliation reporting on personal blogs – becomes more popular, the way the military and intelligence community is reported on could shift. Random bloggers need not follow the professional standards by which journalists abide.

Matthew Pinsker, a professor of history at Dickinson College, pointed out that this “new” form of journalism is a throwback to previous models that did not value objectivity and impartiality. In some ways, bloggers use the same practices of 19th Century pamphleteers, where anybody with a hand-crank could stand on a corner and shout to a group of people.

If these bloggers can’t hold themselves to the same standards of journalists in the 20th Century, “maybe the Obama administration is justified in pursuing leakers in a harsher way,” Pinsker said.

Regardless, as both the news industry and surveillance technology continue to evolve, the White House will have to work harder to determine which offenses merit harsher tactics – to balance national security interests with respect for the Fourth Estate.

“The government really needs to get its message out to the American people, and it knows that the best way to do that is by using the American news media,” said Shanker. “The relationship between the government and the media is like a marriage; it is a dysfunctional marriage to be sure, but we stay together for the kids.”

Justin Lynch is the Social Media Coordinator at the New America Foundation. Outside of New America, Justin is the Youth Ambassador to the United Nations for Voices of African Mothers, where he works to promote gender equality and educational opportunity in West Africa. This piece appeared originally at The Weekly Wonk.

TIME Religion

More Muslims Approve of Obama Than Any Other Religious Group

President Barack Obama in Texas
U.S. President Barack Obama the legendary Paramount Theater in Austin on July 10, 2014. Bob Daemmrich—Corbis

Mormons are the least approving group

More than 70 percent of Muslim-Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance, a higher percentage than that of any other religious group, according to data released by Gallup Friday. On the other end of the spectrum, only 18 percent of Mormons said they approve of the President’s performance.

Overall, the data suggests a sharp religious division. Non-Christians are much more likely to approve of Obama’s performance than their Christian counterparts — minorities of Protestants, Catholics and Mormons approve of the President while majorities of Jewish, Muslim, non-religious, and other non-Christian people do so.

The data also show that most Americans continue to identify as Christians, with approximately 50 percent saying they are Protestant and 25 percent saying they are Catholic.

Obama’s approval rating across all groups stands at 43 percent.

The data, complied from 88,000 interviews, was collected during interviews for Gallup’s daily tracking poll during the first six months of 2014.

TIME politics

The Secret Language of Millennials

187345382
Concert crowd Getty Images/Vetta

Boomers just don’t understand what younger people are saying about politics and culture.

Fifty years ago, baby boomers and their parents suffered through what was ubiquitously understood as “the generation gap,” or the inability for different generations to speak clearly with one another.

A new national poll of Americans ages 18 to 29 — the millennial generation — provides strong evidence of a new generation gap, this time with the boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) playing the role of uncomprehending parents. When millennials say they are liberal, it means something very different than it did when Barack Obama was coming of age. When millennials say they are socialists, they’re not participating in ostalgie for the old German Democratic Republic. And their strong belief in economic fairness shouldn’t be confused with the attitudes of the Occupy movement.

The poll of millennials was conducted by the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit publisher of Reason.com, the website and video platform I edit) and the Rupe Foundation earlier this spring. It engaged nearly 2,400 representative 18-to-29-year-olds on a wide variety of topics.

This new generation gap certainly helps explain why millennials are far less partisan than folks 30 and older. Just 22% of millennials identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, compared with 40% of older voters. After splitting their votes for George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 (each candidate got about 48%), millennials have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections. Forty-three percent of millennials call themselves Democrats or lean that way. Yet that’s still a smaller percentage than it is for older Americans, 49% of whom are Democrats or lean Democrat. Most strikingly, 34% of millennials call themselves true independents, meaning they don’t lean toward either party. For older Americans, it’s just 10%.

Millennials use language differently than boomers and Gen X-ers (those born from 1965 to 1980). In the Reason-Rupe poll, about 62% of millennials call themselves liberal. By that, they mean they favor gay marriage and pot legalization, but those views hold little or no implication for their views on government spending. To millennials, being socially liberal is being liberal, period. For most older Americans, calling yourself a liberal means you want to increase the size, scope and spending of the government. (It may not even mean you support legal pot and marriage equality.) Despite the strong liberal tilt among millennials, 53% say they would support a candidate who was socially liberal and fiscally conservative. (Are you listening, major parties?)

There are other areas in which language doesn’t track neatly with boomer and Gen X definitions. Millennials have no firsthand memories of the Soviet Union or the Cold War. Forty-two percent say they prefer socialism as a means of organizing society, but only 16% can define the term properly as government ownership of the means of production. In fact, when asked whether they want an economy managed by the free market or by the government, 64% want the former and just 32% want the latter. Scratch a millennial “socialist” and you are likely to find a budding entrepreneur (55% say they want to start their own business someday). Although they support a government-provided social safety net, two-thirds of millennials agree that “government is usually inefficient and wasteful,” and they are highly skeptical toward government with regards to privacy and nanny-state regulations about e-cigarettes, soda sizes and the like.

For all the attention lavished on the youthful, anticapitalist Occupy movement a few years ago, it turns out that millennials have strongly positive attitudes toward free markets. (Just don’t call it capitalism.) Not surprisingly, they define fairness in a way that is less about income disparity and more about getting your due. Almost 6 in 10 believe you can get ahead with hard work, and a similar number want a society in which wealth is parceled out according to your achievement, not via the tax code or government redistribution of income. Even though 70% favor guaranteed health care, housing and income, millennials have no problem with unequal outcomes.

Like most older Americans, too, millennials are deeply worried about massive and growing federal budgets and debt, with 78% calling such things a major problem.

It would be a real shame if we can’t have the sorts of conversations we need to address and remedy such issues because different generations are talking past each other. Millennials are different from boomers or Gen X-ers: culture comes first and politics second to them. They are less partisan, and they are less hung up about things such as pot use, gay marriage and immigration. But in many ways, they agree with older generations when it comes to the value and legitimacy of work, the role of government in helping the poor and the inefficiency of government to do that.

Everyone agrees that there are crises everywhere: Social Security and Medicare are going bust, and the economy has been on life support for years. The best solutions will engage and involve Americans of all ages. The Reason-Rupe poll points to some places where generations are talking past each other and others where there is wide agreement. Giving its finding, a close read might just help narrow today’s generation gap so we can get on with improving all generations’ prospects.

TIME Religion

What the NSA Can Learn From Prophet Muhammad

Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws.

Whether it’s a legal scholar or a 7-year-old child that’s bullied on the playground, it’s hard to argue with this Harvard Law Review definition of privacy from 1890: “The right to be left alone.” Add to this simple concept a detailed U.S. Constitution and separation of powers to prevent abuse, and it seems like a no-brainer that we would leave alone those who have done nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, that simple concept seems lost on the NSA, as recent revelations indicate they invaded the privacy rights of prominent American Muslim lawyers for at least six years. As an American Muslim lawyer myself, who knows who else is reading my emails?

In spying on innocent American Muslim lawyers, the NSA likely violated the U.S. Constitution, and definitely violated the Qur’an’s powerful teachings on privacy.

Not only did the Qur’an champion privacy rights centuries before any modern constitution, but also, perhaps no law in history preserves the right to privacy as thoroughly and emphatically as does the Qur’an. Chapter 24:28-29 declares:

“O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave and saluted the inmates thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful. And if you find no one therein, do not enter them until you are given permission. And if it be said to you, ‘Go back’ then go back; that is purer for you. And God knows well what you do.

In our era of NSA surveillance and warrantless wiretaps, this Qur’anic teaching’s immense value should become crystal clear. The Qur’an forbids entering any home of another person, inhabited or uninhabited, without the owner’s permission. The Qur’an further commands people to retreat immediately when they’re told to retreat from the home in question—all in the name of protecting a person’s privacy. The Qur’an makes no exceptions, but specifically commands, “enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave.”

As far as “the right to be left alone,” how astutely the Qur’an declared thirteen-hundred years before Harvard Law, “if it be said to you ‘Go back’ then go back.”

In fact, Prophet Muhammad’s hadith, or teachings, detail how important privacy is in Islam:

“A man peeped through a hole in the door of God’s Apostle’s house, and at that time, God’s Apostle had a Midri (an iron comb or bar) with which he was rubbing his head. So when God’s Apostle saw him, he said (to him), “If I had been sure that you were looking at me (through the door), I would have poked your eye with this (sharp iron bar).” God’s Apostle added, “The asking for permission to enter has been enjoined so that one may not look unlawfully (at what there is in the house without the permission of its people).” –Bukhari

Some might allege that poking an eye is a cruel punishment. On the contrary, this hadith further emphasizes Islam’s ardent protection of an individual’s privacy. Privacy, particularly for women and minors—two classes that are most victim to sexual abuse—cannot be emphasized enough.

First, consider the ease with which a person can simply not take the unauthorized liberty of peering into another’s home without permission. Contrast that with the massive potential and actual harm that exists for those who are victim to such voyeurism. Based on the ease of compliance and the potentially devastating harm to a victim of privacy violations, an active deterrent is necessary to ensure that privacy—for all people—remains protected.

Thus, Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws. And with these NSA spying revelations, it seems that even Western government efforts in the modern era pale in comparison to the unmatched privacy laws Prophet Muhammad established fourteen-hundred years ago.

So NSA, stop spying on American Muslims and stop referring to your victims with derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad. Instead, if you wish to uphold the U.S. Constitution, learn about Muhammad’s ardent protection of human rights and privacy rights.

And hopefully then, we can finally be left alone.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. The above is an excerpt from Qasim’s Amazon #1 Best Selling book on Islam, EXTREMIST. Find Qasim on Twitter @MuslimIQ.

TIME politics

A Modest Proposal for Exploiting Corrupt Politicians

Why not have a more creative way of dealing with convicted pols?

Ray Nagin, the former mayor of my hometown of New Orleans, has just been sentenced to ten years in federal prison. He began his tenure in office by cracking down on corruption, but by the end of his two terms – after his feckless performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – he was taking kickbacks and payoffs from city contractors.

What he did was bad, so he deserves to be punished. Yet I cannot help wondering what good it will do to put a 58-year-old happily-married father of three in a prison for a decade. He’s certainly not a danger to the community. Nor is there much likelihood that he will commit such a crime again, if only because he’s not mayor anymore.

Perhaps the justification for having America’s taxpayers pay a fortune to keep him locked up is that it will serve as a deterrent to other officials who might be contemplating corruption. However, there is scant evidence of a deterrent effect, at least in my home state. The Oakdale federal prison where the judge recommended that Nagin be sent has recently served as a home for a whole motley troupe of sticky-fingered Louisiana former politicians: Congressman William Jefferson, Governor Edwin Edwards, Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown, and State Representative Girod Jackson III.

So it seems to me that, as with nonviolent drug offenders, we need some alternatives to prison for corrupt politicians. The whole field of alternatives to incarceration seems a bit lame these days, in need of an infusion of new ideas. Perhaps Louisiana could lead the way.

One idea would be to exile Louisiana’s steady stream of colorful corrupt politicians to an island in the marshlands, such as Grand Isle. This little Elba could become a tourist attraction, like the bird sanctuary and Tabasco factory on Avery Island. Visitors from around the world could pay to poke, feed, and photograph an authentic corrupt Louisiana politician.

Another idea would be to create a Corrupt Convicts Corps and put these fallen politicians to work. They could be confined by ankle bracelets to house arrest in the evenings, but during the day they could investigate the dealings of current politicians and sleuth out corruption. They’d likely be pretty good at it, since they know the tricks of the trade.

Convicted politicians would have to serve in the corps until they ferreted out and helped convict another corrupt officeholder, who would then take over that slot in the corps. This would assure that the corps would be continually replenished with younger and wilier corrupt politicians. Such a talented posse of enforcers might serve as a deterrent. It would also cut down on the costs of prisons and anti-corruption units.

TIME politics

The Students vs. the Unions

New York City’s mayor handed teachers a big win. Struggling students will be the losers

Back in 2005, when New York City was pre-crash flush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered the United Federation of Teachers a raise in return for 150 extra minutes of classroom work per week. The mayor’s idea was to spend that extra time tutoring the kids who needed the most help–the bottom third of each class. UFT president Randi Weingarten agreed that the group sessions would be small, no more than 10 students per class. Schools chancellor Joel Klein wanted three 50-minute periods per week. The union wanted five 30-minute periods. They compromised on four 37½-minute sessions.

The program was never given a name, which made it easier for New York’s new “progressive” mayor Bill de Blasio to give it back–to eliminate the required 150 minutes of special instruction–in his negotiations with the UFT this spring. You might well wonder why. I tried to find out but received a heaping ration of gobbledygook from a source close to the mayor. He said that the program had been “inflexible” and “one size fits all.” That it was not “workable to the purpose.” Translation: it didn’t work. But how do we know that? No studies or evaluations were done. At his press conference announcing the new union deal, the mayor and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, gave several foggy reasons for the change: the time would be used for additional parent conferences and for “professional development” so the teachers could learn how to teach the new core curriculum. A lot of unspecific wiggle room was negotiated on both counts–part of the mayor’s drive toward “flexibility.”

But flexibility is not a trait often associated with teachers’ unions. The American Federation of Teachers, which Weingarten now heads, calls itself “a union of professionals,” but it negotiates as if it were a union of assembly-line workers. Let’s start with the 37½ minutes, especially that half-minute. What happens if the teacher is in midsentence–or is in the midst of a breakthrough with a student–when the bell rings? A professional finishes the lesson and is paid in personal satisfaction. (I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of teachers do so; these sorts of work rules insult their dedication.) A professional talks to parents whenever and wherever. A professional also doesn’t resist evaluation–but the current New York City union president, Michael Mulgrew, actually bragged that he “gummed up the works” on an evaluation agreement with the far more rigorous Bloomberg administration; de Blasio, of course, hasn’t sought to implement that deal.

The most damning aspect of de Blasio’s giveback is the “didn’t work” argument. We are talking about one of the ground-zero principles of a healthy school system: extra help for those who need it. If the program doesn’t work, you don’t eliminate it. You fix it. The mayor’s spokesman said the extra help would be continued in “flexible” ways. Apparently, “flexibility” is a mayoral euphemism for “I cave.” And given the current atmosphere, if it isn’t specified in the contract, it doesn’t exist. A mayor who actually cared about education would be seeking longer school days, longer school years, more charter schools (which have to be more rigorously monitored) and the elimination of tenure and seniority rules to make sure that the best professionals, not the longest-serving assembly-line workers, are in the classrooms.

Teachers’ unions are suddenly on the defensive across the country. The Supreme Court recently ruled–unfairly, I believe–that some home health care workers did not have to join the union that negotiated their contract. That could have an impact on all public-employee unions. In California, a district court judge recently threw out the state’s tenure rules. In his ruling, he wrote that the widespread protection of incompetent teachers “shocks the conscience.” A group called the Partnership for Educational Justice, which is led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, is filing a similar suit in New York and promises to take the movement national. Brown’s group has hired Robert Gibbs, the former Obama press secretary, to run its communications strategy; other Obama stalwarts will soon join the effort as well. Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the California decision, which caused the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, to call for him to be fired.

All of which raises an old labor-movement question for Democrats in 2014 and 2016: Which side are you on? Competent teachers should certainly be paid more, but the protection of incompetence is a national scandal, as is the unions’ resistance to teacher evaluations and charter schools, as is the quiet undermining of educational creativity by eliminating special programs for needy students. The Obama Administration has clearly edged away from the unions’ excesses. But what about the rest of the party? Which side are they on: the students’ or the unions’?

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

TIME

Telecom-Funded Congressional Group: Don’t Regulate Telecom Industry!

At an event funded by the telecom industry, organizations funded by the telecom industry argue against – wait for it! – regulating the telecom industry

The non-profit Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) hosted an event on Capitol Hill Wednesday during which an impressive line-up of tech policy analysts argued against strictly regulating the telecom industry.

Consumer and public interest groups have called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to re-categorize Internet service providers, like Comcast and Verizon, so that strong “net neutrality” rules, requiring broadband companies to treat all content on the internet equally, can be enforced.

The speakers—who included academics, politicians and think tank analysts—argued such a move would hobble the open Internet, “cripple capital investment in the tech industry,” and harm Hispanic as well as other “minority and disenfranchised communities.”

It all sounded very dire. In fact, by the time the hour-and-half long event gave way to an evening reception, it was hard to shake the impression that if public and consumer interest groups get their way, the very fabric of modern society—technological innovation! equality! free speech!—would be torn asunder.

But before you run off and phone your Congressman, there’s one thing you need to remember: that event Wednesday was funded in part by the telecom industry.

You’d be forgiven for missing that fact.

Held in an elegant, wood-paneled room in the Dirksen Senate Building, the event was formally hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI), a congressional group founded in 2003 to foster “a broad awareness of the diversity of thought, heritage, interests and views of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent.” Among CHLI’s sponsors are the three biggest players in the telecom industry: Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T.

CHLI’s co-host, Ibarra Strategy Group, gets funding from Verizon.

The event was a part of CHLI’s “Congressional Briefing Series,” which is underwritten by Verizon, Comcast-NBCUniversal, AT&T, and Telemundo, a subsidiary of Comcast-NBCUniversal, as well as others, like Pfizer and AARP.

All of the event’s panelists happen to work, or recently to have worked, for organizations that are funded by the telecom industry. For example, Doug Brake, who has written numerous articles slamming calls for strong net neutrality rules, including one for Forbes, in which he dismissed net neutrality advocates as “paranoid bloggers,” is employed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), which, according to Reuters, receives funding from the telecom industry.

Two of the panelists were also affiliated with the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), which has received funding from AT&T: Martin Chavez, the former three-term mayor of Albuquerque, is HTTP’s senior advisor. Jason Llorenz, who presented as an academic from Rutgers University, was recently HTTP’s executive director.

CHLI executive director Mary Ann Gomez told TIME that the event had nothing to do with its sponsors or their sponsors’ policy preferences; however, CHLI asks its sponsors to suggest themes for its yearly “Congressional Briefing Series.” CHLI also asks its sponsors to suggest the speakers who present at these events. All of CHLI’s sponsors underwrite all the events throughout the year, not just the panels that have to do with their policy interests, Gomez said.

So what’s this all about? For the last six months, public and consumer interest groups have been calling on the FCC to consider re-categorizing the telecom industry as a “Title II” industry, along with traditional phone companies. Advocates say that doing so would give the agency formal jurisdiction over broadband services—jurisdiction that has been challenged recently in the courts.

In 2010, the FCC passed net neutrality rules requiring broadband providers to treat all content that passes over its pipes equally, regardless of its source, but in January of this year, a federal district court overturned those rules on the grounds that the agency did not have jurisdiction over such services. The telecom industry has described the effort to re-categorize it as a “Title II” industry as a “radical” “nuclear option.”

So in May, the FCC proposed a new set of net neutrality rules that would allow web companies to pay broadband providers, like Verizon and Comcast, to deliver their content more quickly and in better quality than content from other sources. Netflix, for example, pays Comcast for access to a “fast lane” so that its content can stream more quickly.

The telecom industry says that “net neutrality” can exist simultaneously with such “paid prioritization agreements.” Consumer interest advocates such as Public Knowledge say that’s hooey. “Allowing rich companies to pay for fast lanes, while the rest of us have to compete for the same congested lane—that’s not net neutrality,” said John Bergmayer, a senior counsel at Public Knowledge.

The FCC is accepting public comments on its proposed net neutrality rules until July 15. At least we know now where CHLI stands.

TIME Tech

Good Drone, Bad Drone: How to Fix the Drone PR Problem

Military drone flying over the clouds.
Military drone flying over the clouds. Erik Simonsen—Getty Images

Just saying the word makes people shudder, but there are plenty of good drones already in use. And as to future possibilities, the sky’s the limit.

It’s no wonder the drone industry doesn’t like the word “drone.” Thanks to the work of human rights activists in exposing the ugly side of how Predator and Reaper drones kill innocent people overseas, “drones” can evoke a one-word reaction similar to the word “sweatshops”: yuck! Then there’s the transnational campaign to ban fully autonomous drones, a campaign that’s instilling public fear about a brave, new world where kill decisions are increasingly made by machines. Add to the mix the specter of drones being used by government agencies here at home to increase Big Brother’s ability to invade our privacy, and you have a reaction to drones that isn’t just disgust and fear, but defiance.

After Congress passed legislation in 2012 calling for the opening of U.S. airspace to drones by 2015, dozens of states began cobbling together legislation. Some bills restrict law enforcement agencies from gathering information on the public without a court order; others prohibit the weaponization of domestic drones. Cities began passing “no-drone resolutions” restricting the use of their airspace. The small town of Deer Trail, Colo., garnered national attention when it contemplated providing a bounty for shooting down a drone. Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano pronounced that the first American who shoots down a drone that comes too close to his children in his backyard will be an American hero. Matt Rosendale, a Montana state senator running for Congress, unveiled an ad where he points his rifle at a hovering drone and declares that he is ready to “stand tall for freedom.”

The drone industry reacted to its image problem with a disastrous campaign to simply drop the hot-potato term “drone” and instead use cumbersome names like “unmanned aerial systems,” “unmanned aerial vehicles,” “remotely piloted aircraft” or, worse yet, their acronyms (UASs, UAVs, RPAs). At the 2013 annual D.C. gathering of the drone lobby, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), presenters continually pleaded with attendees to drop the term “drone.” The wireless password for the attending journalists was a not-so-subtle “dontsaydrones.”

AUVSI President Michael Toscano got in trouble during a March 2013 Senate hearing when he lectured the senators that they shouldn’t use the term “drone” because of its hostile connotation. Senator Leahy fired back, “I appreciate you telling us what we should call them, but why don’t you leave that decision to us. We’ll decide what we’ll call them and you call them whatever you like to call them.”

Recognizing defeat, the industry began a much more successful PR campaign touting the positive uses of drones. Indeed, there are plenty of good drones already in use, and as to future possibilities, the sky’s the limit. Drones can battle wildfires, track endangered species, predict weather patterns, provide farmers with crop analysis, deliver humanitarian aid and, yes, perhaps drones might one day deliver your Amazon packages or your take-out tacos.

And let’s face it: some drones are fun. There are tens of thousands of DIY hobbyists around the world who are crafting home-built drones to film themselves on the ski slopes or take aerial photos of their weddings. Even Martha Stewart has her own drone, gushing on Twitter that it takes amazing photos of her farm: “We love the possibilities and opportunities drones offer. Do you?”

But not even Martha Stewart can sweep aside the important ethical and legal issues that have arisen with President Obama’s killer drones, or the deployment of autonomous drones or the coming use of domestic spy drones. My organization, CODEPINK, has protested these issues at many a drone convention and Congressional hearing. We have tried to get the industry to work with us by supporting international and national regulations to make drone use compliant with international law and our moral values. But the industry has not wanted to alienate weapons companies like General Atomics, whose bread and butter come from lethal drones or powerful government agencies like the CIA.

Rather than ignoring or white-washing the problematic nature of killer drones, spy drones and autonomous killer robots, the industry—and drone enthusiasts—should work with the human rights and peace communities to distinguish between good, the bad and the ugly.

Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of the peace group www.codepink.org, is author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

TIME sexuality

Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture

You are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. There is a clear line between appreciation and appropriation

I need some of you to cut it the hell out. Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Beyoncé and weaves that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Shanequa from around the way” voice. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.

Let me explain.

Black people can’t have anything. Any of these things include, but aren’t limited to: a general sense of physical safety, comfort with law enforcement, adequate funding and appreciation for black spaces like schools and neighborhoods, appropriate venues for our voices to be heard about criticism of issues without our race going on trial because of it, and solid voting rights (cc: Chris McDaniel).

And then, when you thought this pillaging couldn’t get any worse, extracurricular black activities get snatched up, too: our music, our dances, our slang, our clothing, our hairstyles. All of these things are rounded up, whitewashed and repackaged for your consumption. But here’s the shade — the non-black people who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience, systemic racism and the dangers of simply living while black. Though I suppose there’s some thrill in this “rolling with the homies” philosophy some adopt, white people are not racially oppressed in the United States of America.

White people are not racially oppressed in the United States of America.

White people are not racially oppressed in the United States of America.

Nothing about whiteness will get a white person in trouble the way blackness can get a black person shot down in his tracks. These are just facts. It’s not entirely the fault of white people. It’s not as if you can help being born white in America, any more than I can help being born black in America.

The truth is that America is a country that operates on systems of racism in which we all participate, whether consciously or unconsciously, to our benefit or to our detriment, and that system allows white people to succeed. This system also creates barriers so that minorities, such as black people, have a much harder time being able to do things like vote and get houses and not have to deal with racists and stuff. You know. Casual.

But while you’re gasping at the heat and the steam of the strong truth tea I just spilled,what’s even worse about all of this, if you thought things could get even crappier, is the fact that all of this is exponentially worse for black women. A culture of racism is bad enough, but pairing it with patriarchal structures that intend to undermine women’s advancement is like double-fisting bleach and acid rain.

At the end of the day, if you are a white male, gay or not, you retain so much privilege. What is extremely unfairly denied you because of your sexuality could float back to you, if no one knew that you preferred the romantic and sexual company of men over women. (You know what I’m talking about. Those “anonymous” torsos on Grindr, Jack’d and Adam4Adam, show very familiar heterosexual faces to the public.) The difference is that the black women with whom you think you align so well, whose language you use and stereotypical mannerisms you adopt, cannot hide their blackness and womanhood to protect themselves the way that you can hide your homosexuality. We have no place to hide, or means to do it even if we desired them.

In all of the ways that your gender and race give you so much, in those exact same ways, our gender and race work against our prosperity. To claim that you’re a minority woman just for the sake of laughs, and to say that the things allowed her or the things enjoyed by her are done better by you isn’t cute or funny. First of all, it’s aggravating as hell. Second, it’s damaging and perpetuating of yet another set of aggressions against us.

All of this being said, you should not have to stop liking the things you like. This is not an attempt to try to suck the fun out of your life. Appreciating a culture and appropriating one are very, very different things, with a much thicker line than some people think, if you use all of the three seconds it takes to be considerate before you open your mouth. If you love some of the same things that some black women love, by all means, you and your black girlfriends go ahead and rock the hell out. Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not. Breathing fire behind ugly stereotypes that reduce black females to loud caricatures for you to emulate isn’t, either.

So, you aren’t a strong black woman, or a ghetto girl, or any of that other foolery that some of you with trash Vine accounts try to be. It’s okay. You don’t have to be. No one asked you to be. You weren’t ever meant to be. What you can be, however, is part of the solution.

Check your privilege. Try to strengthen the people around you.

Sierra Mannie is a rising senior majoring in Classics and English at the University of Mississippi. She is a regular contributor to the Opinion section of the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, where this article originally appeared.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser