Internet freedom takes another blow in Putin’s Russia 

Earlier this month, Mail.Ru Group, owned by pro-Kremlin oligarch and billionaire Alisher Usmanov, purchased Russian social media website Vkontakte (VK), widely referred to as the “Russian Facebook.” VK is the most popular social network in Russia and the second-most visited website on RuNet (the Russian Internet). It has over 270 million accounts and 50 million unique daily visitors – Facebook, in contrast, attracts a much smaller Russian audience, with just 7.8 million unique daily visitors. The $1.5 billion acquisition by Usmanov’s Internet company is another sign of the dwindling level of Internet freedom in Russia. Usmanov, named Russia’s richest man this year by Russian Forbes, is worth $18.6 billion and already owns and operates the two other largest social media sites in Russia, Odnoklassinki and Moi Mir. A close ally to the Kremlin and good friend of President Vladimir Putin, Usmanov has a history of censorship; in 2011, he fired two senior editors at his publication Kommersant after they published a cartoon critical of Putin following highly contested parliamentary elections.

FCC finally discards the Sports Blackout Rule

Today the FCC voted 5-0 to do away with a Sports Blackout Rule that it is had on its books for forty years. Good for them. Is it good news for sports fans? Well, it’s not bad news. Ostensibly the FCC rule was enacted to support a statutory antitrust exception (that is still on the books) that allows four leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL) to negotiate broadcast contracts as a league.

Simply stated,...

GovernmentSurveillance by Rena Schild / Shutterstock

Is outcry over government surveillance all bark and no bite?

In the wake of the WikiLeaks (Julian Assange) and PRISM (Edward Snowden) revelations, much has been said and written about the extent to which state-sanctioned surveillance of citizens’ data communications – not to mention the communications of non-citizens – is occurring. With all of this clamor it might seem reasonable to expect voters to express their indignation at the polling places. However, this month’s general elections in New Zealand may suggest that the public is not prepared to make government surveillance a top priority. To be clear, some of the public’s commentary on the implications of government surveillance is thoughtful and reasoned, such as the contributions of TechPolicyDaily contributor Claude Barfield. But much is a cacophony, using the latest ‘scandals’ to score points in perennial political battles. Amongst the political sound and fury generated on the issue are warnings that such activities threaten to undermine democracy itself. A recent example is the call by 500 leading authors – including five Nobel Prize winners – for an international charter to curb the activities of national spy agencies.
SharingEconomy by Shutterstock

The sharing economy under pressure: Uber, Lyft and Airbnb’s regulatory roadblocks continue

Twenty years ago, government officials were trying to figure out how to get the solo driver commuting in their gas-guzzling car to share a ride, thereby saving some space on the road and helping the environment.  In 2014, people in urban areas are clamoring to ride-share through technology applications that better utilize invested capital in individuals’ cars, reduce the number of vehicles on the road, use less parking spaces, and have the added benefit of...