This morning, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler told Congress that the net neutrality rules weren't the result of meddling by the Obama administration. "There were no secret instructions from the White House," Wheeler said. "I did not, as CEO of an independent agency, feel obligated to follow the President's recommendation."
Web users have curtailed their use of social networking services, apps, email and even search engines as a result of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations about online surveillance by the government, Pew Research Center reports. "I don't search some things that I might have before," one survey respondent told researchers.
Google is demanding that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood turn over information about "Project Goliath" -- a Hollywood-backed initiative that reportedly involves enlisting state law enforcement officials in the fight against online copyright infringement. Google's move comes one week after it won a preliminary injunction prohibiting Hood from following through on threats to sue the company.
For many years, the Federal Trade Commission has policed privacy violations by companies that collect online data. But now that the Federal Communications Commission has reclassified broadband as a utility service, that agency will oversee broadband providers' privacy practices. Chairman Tom Wheeler says the agency is more than capable of doing so. "We didn't just fall off the turnip truck," he said this week.
Aereo might be out of business, but its long-running battle between television broadcasters shows no signs of ending. The bankrupt online video distributor now argues that its assets would have commanded more than around $1.5 million at auction if the broadcasters hadn't scared away buyers by making "baseless" arguments about Aereo's technology.
The National Security Agency's well-publicized online monitoring program is harming the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the site's parent organization alleges in a lawsuit filed today. The surveillance of online communications "compromises Wikimedia's organizational mission by making online access to knowledge a vehicle for U.S. government monitoring," the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation charges. The organization adds that it needs to "ensure anonymity" for people abroad who read or edit the online encyclopedia.
By this summer, cord-cutters who want to watch "Game of Thrones," "Girls," or "True Detective" will no longer have to wait for the DVDs to come out. The company officially said today that it intends to launch HBO Now, a stand-alone streaming service that people can purchase for $14.99 a month, even if they don't subscribe to cable television. While the news left many cord-cutters cheering, cable companies might still be able to find ways to prevent people from taking advantage of the new offering.
Several years ago, an outfit called Medical Justice must have thought it came up with a foolproof way of stifling bad reviews. The plan involved getting prospective patients to sign away a copyright interest in any online review. Then, if dissatisfied patients criticized a doctor on an online review forum, the doctor could threaten to sue the forum for copyright infringement, unless it took down the post.
Republicans on Capitol Hill don't appear any happier about the new net neutrality regulations now than they were last week, when the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 for the new rules. The latest GOP move against the new rules comes from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who this week introduced a bill that would vacate the FCC's new rules. Blackburn's "Internet Freedom Act" specifies that the FCC's net neutrality order "shall have no force or effect." What's more, the measure prohibits the FCC from reissuing the order.
The Direct Marketing Association won a legal skirmish this week, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the organization could continue with its challenge to Colorado's "Amazon tax." But the victory could prove short-lived -- at least if Justice Anthony Kennedy has his way. He suggested in a concurring opinion that state governments should be able to require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax. Specifically, Kennedy made clear that he believes the Supreme Court should overturn a 1992 decision that limits states' ability to force e-commerce companies to collect sales tax. To Kennedy, that requirement no longer makes sense.