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Bannon and Cambridge Analytica planned suppression of black voters, whistleblower tells Senate

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary committee today as part of the ongoing investigation of Cambridge Analytica and various forms of meddling in the 2016 elections, former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie said that the company and its then-VP Steve Bannon were pursuing voter suppression tactics aimed at black Americans. Although Wylie insisted that he himself did not take part in these programs, he testified to their existence. “One of the things that provoked me to leave was discussions about ‘voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans,” he said. “I didn’t participate on any voter suppression programs, so I can’t comment on the specifics of those programs.” “I can comment on their existence, and I can comment more generally on my understanding of what they were doing,” he explained under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “If it suited the client’s objective, the firm SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company was eager to capitalize on discontent and to stoke ethnic tensions,” read Wylie’s written testimony. “Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” he explained at another point in the session. He suggested questions on the nature of those weapons, and the specifics of any potential race-based voter suppression tactics, to be directed to Bannon. That such a system might work, however, he did address. “How specifically, then, did they target African American voters,” Sen. Harris had asked, “understanding as you do that the African American population is not a monolith? How did they then decipher and determine who was African American so they would target them in their intent to suppress the vote?” “Racial characteristics can be modeled and I’m not sure about the studies that my colleague here was referencing but we were able to get an AUC score, which is a way of measuring accuracy for race that was .89 I believe,” Wylie answered. AUC, he then explained, stands for “Area under the receiving operations characteristic. It’s a way of measuring precision, which the .89 figure means it’s very high.” In other words, black voters could be identified based on their social media presence and other factors, despite the fact that the black community is, obviously, far from homogeneous.

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After Senate victory, House announces plans to force its own vote on net neutrality

Hot on the heels of a surprising 52-47 Senate disapproval of the FCC’s new, weaker net neutrality rules, the House of Representatives will soon attempt to force a similar vote under the Congressional Review Act. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced in a statement and at a press conference following the Senate vote that he will begin the process first thing tomorrow morning. “I have introduced a companion CRA in the house,” Rep. Doyle said, “but I’m also going to begin a discharge petition which we will have open for signature tomorrow morning. And I urge every member who’s uproots a free and open internet to join me and sign this petition so we can bring this legislation to the floor.” The CRA requires Senate and House to submit the resolution itself, in the former’s case Joint Resolution 52 , after which a certain number of people to sign off on what’s called a discharge petition, actually forces a vote. Senate votes to reverse FCC order and restore net neutrality In the Senate this number is only 30, which makes it a useful tool for the minority party, which can easily gather that many votes if it’s an important issue (a full majority is still required to pass the resolution). But in the House a majority is required, 218 at present. That’s a more difficult ask, since Democrats only hold 193 seats there. They’d need two dozen Republicans to switch sides, and while it’s clear from the defection of three Senators from the party line that such bipartisan support is possible, it’s far from a done deal. Today’s success may help move the needle, though. Should the required votes be gathered, which could happen tomorrow, or take much longer, the vote will then be scheduled, though a Congressional aide I talked to was unsure how quickly it would follow. It only took a week in the Senate to go from petition to floor vote, but that period could be longer in the House depending on how the schedule works out.

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After Senate victory, House announces plans to force its own vote on net neutrality

Hot on the heels of a surprising 52-47 Senate disapproval of the FCC’s new, weaker net neutrality rules, the House of Representatives will soon attempt to force a similar vote under the Congressional Review Act. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced in a statement and at a press conference following the Senate vote that he will begin the process first thing tomorrow morning. “I have introduced a companion CRA in the house,” Rep. Doyle said, “but I’m also going to begin a discharge petition which we will have open for signature tomorrow morning. And I urge every member who’s uproots a free and open internet to join me and sign this petition so we can bring this legislation to the floor.” The CRA requires Senate and House to submit the resolution itself, in the former’s case Joint Resolution 52 , after which a certain number of people to sign off on what’s called a discharge petition, actually forces a vote. Senate votes to reverse FCC order and restore net neutrality In the Senate this number is only 30, which makes it a useful tool for the minority party, which can easily gather that many votes if it’s an important issue (a full majority is still required to pass the resolution). But in the House a majority is required, 218 at present. That’s a more difficult ask, since Democrats only hold 193 seats there. They’d need two dozen Republicans to switch sides, and while it’s clear from the defection of three Senators from the party line that such bipartisan support is possible, it’s far from a done deal. Today’s success may help move the needle, though. Should the required votes be gathered, which could happen tomorrow, or take much longer, the vote will then be scheduled, though a Congressional aide I talked to was unsure how quickly it would follow. It only took a week in the Senate to go from petition to floor vote, but that period could be longer in the House depending on how the schedule works out.

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After Senate victory, House announces plans to force its own vote on net neutrality

Hot on the heels of a surprising 52-47 Senate disapproval of the FCC’s new, weaker net neutrality rules, the House of Representatives will soon attempt to force a similar vote under the Congressional Review Act. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced in a statement and at a press conference following the Senate vote that he will begin the process first thing tomorrow morning. “I have introduced a companion CRA in the house,” Rep. Doyle said, “but I’m also going to begin a discharge petition which we will have open for signature tomorrow morning. And I urge every member who’s uproots a free and open internet to join me and sign this petition so we can bring this legislation to the floor.” The CRA requires Senate and House to submit the resolution itself, in the former’s case Joint Resolution 52 , after which a certain number of people to sign off on what’s called a discharge petition, actually forces a vote. Senate votes to reverse FCC order and restore net neutrality In the Senate this number is only 30, which makes it a useful tool for the minority party, which can easily gather that many votes if it’s an important issue (a full majority is still required to pass the resolution). But in the House a majority is required, 218 at present. That’s a more difficult ask, since Democrats only hold 193 seats there. They’d need two dozen Republicans to switch sides, and while it’s clear from the defection of three Senators from the party line that such bipartisan support is possible, it’s far from a done deal. Today’s success may help move the needle, though. Should the required votes be gathered, which could happen tomorrow, or take much longer, the vote will then be scheduled, though a Congressional aide I talked to was unsure how quickly it would follow. It only took a week in the Senate to go from petition to floor vote, but that period could be longer in the House depending on how the schedule works out.

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Senate votes today on rollback of net neutrality rollback

Today’s the big day for the Senate’s big push to undo the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order nullifying 2015’s net neutrality rules . A vote is scheduled for this afternoon on whether to repeal that order, though as of this writing the coalition is still one vote shy of making it happen. The vote is an application of the Congressional Review Act, which as you might guess from the name allows Congress to review and if necessary undo recent regulations enacted by federal agencies. It’s been seldom used for decades but the current administration has been very free with it as a method of squelching rules passed in the twilight of the Obama era. Today Senate Democrats strike back with the same weapon. A simple majority is required, but right now only a single Republican Senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, has courageously stepped across the aisle to join the Democrat-led effort. One more would pass the bill, though it would still have to get through the House and the President’s desk, making its prognosis poor. The FCC just repealed net neutrality. What happens next? That matters little, though: until today, many Senators will have been able to largely stay silent on the issue, and a vote to support this highly unpopular rule may come back to bite them come midterms. Net neutrality may very well be an issue constituencies care about, or at least that’s what Democratic challengers are hoping for. On the other hand, a Democratic-led CRA is a direct, partisan attack on the administration, which has supported this FCC’s actions, and would cause return to Obama-era rules, which few Republicans would relish.

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Net neutrality will officially die on June 11

After months of tension and a variety of smaller milestones, the FCC order voiding 2015’s net neutrality rules and instating its own, much weaker ones will finally take effect on June 11, the agency’s chairman Ajit Pai said today . Although the rule was approved in December, entered into the Federal Register in February, and under ordinary circumstances would have taken effect in April, “Restoring Internet Freedom” had one extra step that needed to be taken. The Office of Management and Budget needed to take a look at the rule because it changed how the industry reported information to the government, and under the Paperwork Reduction Act that authority had to approve the final version. That approval was granted on May 2, the FCC explained in a news release, and June 11 was picked as the effective date “to give providers time to comply with the transparency requirement.” The Congressional Review Act paperwork filed yesterday means the Senate will soon be voting on whether the rules can stay in place, but the likelihood of that bill passing the Senate and House and getting signed by the President is pretty much nil. Still, the votes will put proponents and opponents of net neutrality in the open and potentially make it an election issue. Lawsuits alleging various flaws in the process or rule itself may eventually cause it to be rolled back, but that will take months, if not years, and lacking evidence of direct harm judges are unlikely to take the rules out of effect while considering the case. Don’t expect much to happen immediately should the new rule take place; the industry is too savvy to blast out some new, abusive rules under the far more permissive framework established by this FCC. But as before, consumers will often be the first to spot shady behaviors and subtle changes to the wording of marketing or user agreements, so keep your eyes open and tip your friendly neighborhood tech blog if you see something. In a statement accompanying Pai’s announcement, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel made her position clear: The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land. The agency turned a blind eye to serious problems in its process—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in its files. The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed

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