Archive for the ‘freedom’ tag
“Tyranny is always better organized than freedom.” Charles Péguy
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Guest point by Eric Schwartzman (@ericschwartzman) on why he believes the Social Media Policy at the 2012 London Olympics failed
First off, social media could have at least partially erased the advantage that some state-sponsored “full-time amateur athletes” from Eastern Bloc countries enjoy over self-financed amateurs from Western countries. But unfortunately the social media gag order by the IOC neutered that chance by restricting athletes from sharing posts that mention their sponsors on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else online. Here’s the clause:
“Participants and other accredited persons are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet…” [PDF]
Since state-funded athletes don’t need to raise money from private enterprise to support their Olympic bids, social media could have given those who do a way to rally funds.
The financial pressure on US Olympians is no joke. The parents of Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte both filed for bankruptcy recently, crushed under the immense financial sacrifice it took to get their children to the Olympic Games. Recognizing the contributions of their sponsors via social media might have offered some relief. But Rule 40 erased that possibility.
The Track & Field Athletes Association, Olympians and fans have been protesting the policy by including the hastags #rule40 and #WeDemandChange in their tweets. Above is an image Olympic medalist Dawn Harper tweeted to protest the gag order.
What’s backwards is the premise of the rule, which assumes that if athletes use social media to promote their own sponsors, official Olympic sponsors and rights holding broadcasters will lose. This is second reason the effort failed. It assumed that the media landscape is a zero sum game and that the absence of unofficial sponsors in social media would be a gain for official sponsors in mainstream media.
But as we seen, social media drives traffic to owned media, increasing the number of eyeballs broadcasters have to sell to paid media.
“There have been plenty of negative hashtags assigned to NBC’s Olympics coverage on Twitter, including #NBCFail and #NBCStinks. But on Madison Avenue the hashtag for this Olympics so far is more like: #NBC$$$$.”
The take away is this. Social media doesn’t replace mainstream media. It drives mind share. More mind share equals more viewers. And more viewers means more value for official sponsors and broadcasters. What the IOC failed to appreciate is that tweets, blogs and mobile videos don’t cannibalize prime time viewership. They complement it.
To be fair, the IOC’s social media policy is certainly no anomaly. According to the National Labor Relations Board, most social media policies in the US are unlawful. Rule 40 is just one of many shortsighted gaffes that digitally illiterate gatekeepers from a bygone era have concocted to try and police the digital world by analog standards. Which brings me to the third, and final reason the social media policy at the London Olympics failed.
In the US, we enjoy freedom of speech. When organizations restrict that freedom they provoke real hate, and that hatred severely tarnish their brand. Social media policies govern personal expression and many regard personal expression as a natural right.
If organizations are seen as depriving individuals of what they consider to be their inalienable rights, such as the right to improve their working conditions or the right to bargain collectively, those same organizations are seen as unjust and their reputations suffer, which is the case for the IOC.
To sum it up, Rule 40 not only fumbled the chance to level the playing field for all Olympians, it skirted a ratings gain and stained the reputation of the International Olympic Organizing Committee. They protected themselves in the court of law and lost in the court of public opinion.
But it didn’t have to be a win-lose scenario. They could have had their cake and ate it too. If you’d like to learn how to develop practical, win-win social media guidelines by which your employees can conduct responsible, constructive social media engagement in both official and unofficial capacities, here’s a half price link good until the Closing Ceremonies for the first 50 sign-ups to take my online course on social media policy development.
Eric Schwartzman is the creator of www.SocialMediaBootCamp.com
Burned one too many times, esteemed entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell is too angry to let bygones be bygones. The former Imeem founder and Picplz creator is now funneling his rage against the anti-competitive machines of Twitter and Facebook into a social mission he calls App.net.
App.net, as described in a series of blog posts by Caldwell, will be a social utopia where people can post status updates without fear that their updates will be processed for targeting purposes or that their personal data will be sold to advertisers. It will also be a welcoming safe house for dejected and runaway developers who have been crushed by Twitter or bullied by Facebook.
In App.net’s sanctuary, people will pay an annual fee for freedom from advertisers. Much like Twitter in its earliest days, on App.net developers will build the tools — mobile applications, desktop clients, and so forth — that make the communication channel indispensable. Developers will even be encouraged to take the essence of the service and apply it in any fashion they see fit.
The ad-free, developer-friendly social platform doesn’t exist yet in a form that you or I can use. It is very real though, Caldwell assured me in an extensive interview yesterday. The infrastructure is already in place, and a consumer-facing website is in prototype stage, he said. A remarkably beautiful iPhone app built for a separate endeavor — more on that later — may also be repurposed for the App.net cause. Press and supporters will get access in a few days time, Caldwell promised.
But Caldwell needs, and desperately wants, the people to champion his mission. The brazen entrepreneur put out an impassioned call to those frustrated by ad-supported social services to back his company. Employing a Kickstarter-like model, Caldwell and team are asking for financial commitments from everyman supporters to make the idyllic social society a dream come true.
If thousands of backers pool together $500,000 in funding by August 13, then App.net will live to see at least a year, Dalton told me. If funds falls short, then in all likelihood so too will App.net.
But why is Caldwell doing this? Why is he risking humiliation and burning bridges for a social platform that people may not even know they want? After all, the average Twitter or Facebook user will surely balk at a $50 annual fee paid solely for the privilege of posting status updates. They can do that now free of charge.
In Caldwell’s world there does exist an idealistic group of people who are in desperate need of what App.net can provide: trust and freedom. And this group is large enough to unite and rally around something better, he reasons.
In his mind, developers and consumers are anxious to break free of the shackles imposed by Twitter and Facebook. That’s because, as Caldwell describes it, Twitter and Facebook have gone from good guys to goons, selling out users for a quick buck and squashing applications built on their platforms just as soon as they deem them harmful to their businesses.
Screwed by Facebook
Really though, Caldwell’s quest is one that’s deeply personal and motivated by years of being betrayed, the most recent instance courtesy of Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
As recounted in a blog post earlier today and shared with me with additional details during our conversation, Caldwell got “screwed” by Facebook.
Facebook declined to comment on this story. This is Caldwell’s version of events: Before App.net evolved to become a social framework for ad-free communication, Caldwell and his team were working on a consumer-facing iPhone application for app discovery through friends. The app, now sitting idly in the App Store just waiting to be approved (Caldwell won’t allow it to be), takes inventory of the user’s applications, but more importantly plugs into Facebook’s Open Graph to enable app discovery through friends. Caldwell called the app the best thing he’s ever worked on.
“Betting the life of my company on the Facebook developer platform is extremely crazy and risky,” Caldwell told me, adding that App.net had spent more than a year building Facebook developer tools.
“So I actually spent a lot of time talking to the people running Facebook platform to make sure that what we were doing was cool,” he said. “I even went so far as to get personal approval from Mark Zuckerberg … that if we were to build Open Graph app promotion tools that we wouldn’t just get squashed one day.”
Caldwell felt so reassured by Facebook and Zuckerberg that when he was called to Facebook’s office for a discussion with the platform team in June, he never expected to be intimated into giving up his project. But that’s what happened in his version of events.
Instead of lending its support, Facebook, said Caldwell, gave him an ultimatum: let us acqui-hire you for a nominal sum or we’ll kill off your application.
“I walked out of the meeting, frankly, livid,” he said. “This is exactly what it was like to have meetings in the music industry. They were all very nice to me. They would smile and tell me that they liked what I’m doing, but that if I don’t take the business terms then they’re going to put me out of business.”
Shoulda, woulda, coulda
The chain of events put in motion a start for App.net. Caldwell used his anger at Facebook to write a blog post on what Twitter could have been. The post created a tidal wave of positive response that inspired him to take the tools he has in place and apply them to a truly open platform.
“I’m so angry that Facebook is getting away with what they’re getting away with,” he told me, sharing that the only reason he chose to build on Facebook in the first place was because he didn’t want to build on Twitter. “Twitter is closed to third-party developers, and you’d have to be crazy to build on the platform … but back in day, if Twitter would have taken a different route, I think that they could have actually enabled an ecosystem that could have crushed Facebook.”
Facebook’s and Twitter’s platforms are actually not platforms at all, he said. “They’re more like tar pits or sand traps … no developer should build on [them].”
The betrayed entrepreneur now believes that he can right the wrongs of the social networking giants by shucking an advertising-based business model and making something that’s actually open. But he doesn’t want to do it unless there’s a critical mass of interest, hence why he’s going the crowdfunding route and not hitting up primary investor Andreessen Horowitz for additional cash.
“Doing this in a Kickstarter-like model is the best idea I could come up with to effectively gauge if someone wants it or not. If not enough people want it, I don’t want to take peoples’ money,” he said. “I don’t want to build something that’s not sustainable.”
The approach also leaves Caldwell open to ridicule, especially if App.net fails to hit its $500,000 funding goal. Plenty of critics have taken to Hacker News and Twitter to voice their opposition to Caldwell’s idea and criticize his open letter to Zuckerberg.
“I don’t understand what @daltonc is upset about in his latest article. He’s insulted that Facebook made an offer for his company?,” Twitter user Eric Florenzano said, echoing the sentiments of many others.
And hovering around $200,000 in funding, the project may never come to fruition. Caldwell, however, remains confident that App.net will get funded. He is, of course, using his own story as a way to light a fire and inspire people to join the cause.
“I’m trying to be radically transparent,” Caldwell said. “I’m doing my best to tell the truth and be genuine.”
Even if it works in the short-term, there’s no telling whether the service will have the mainstream appeal or the longevity of a Facebook or Twitter. Something to worry about another day, I suppose. Right now, there’s a crusade to lead.
Yesterday Twitter suspended UK journalist Guy Adam’s account for tweeting negatively about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, including tweeting an email address of the NBC executive in charge. Today we’ve learned that it was not NBC that initiated a complaint, but Twitter that took the surprising step of proactively informing NBC.
The assumption yesterday, unwritten but certainly thought, was that NBC had complained to Twitter. And that was bad enough, raising questions about freedom of speech and appropriate uses for Twitter, which has become a significant global communications utility, with 500 million registered users.
But today the Daily Telegraph revealed that actually, Twitter contacted NBC about the tweets, not vice versa. At least, according to a letter from NBC vice-president of communications Christopher McCloskey.
And that puts an entirely different complexion on things.
Up until now, Twitter has felt like something of a neutral party: If corporations or individuals complained about a tweet or an account, the company would investigate. And, if the terms of service had been violated or other violations found, Twitter would take action.
But it’s an entirely different matter to proactively be reviewing tweets and sending companies notifications about potential problems. Those are the actions of a publisher, not a communications utility. We’d expect to see that kind of move from a traditional movie or music industry organization, not our modern darling of geeky social news.
Bad form, Twitter. Seriously bad form.
It’s even worse when you consider that NBC and Twitter had a partnership to tell the story of London 2012 via tweets. That makes Twitter look like it has skin in this particular game … like the company was not a neutral party. Already some publications are stating quite openly that Twitter censored Adams because of the NBC partnership.
While that’s going too far based on the facts on-hand, one thing is for sure: This has really, really, really bad optics.
Suspending the journalist’s account was obviously — obviously! — a horrendously stupid idea. Anyone with even the smallest amount of media sense had to know that this would blow up. That Adams’ paper would publish about it. That the technology press would pick it up. That it would become a big story.
In fact, it’s the trending auto-complete on Google right now:
The smart way to deal with it was to not deal with it. The journalist in question, Guy Adams, would have continued to tweet, and most people would have continued to not notice.
But now it’s a big story, and Twitter has huge egg on its face.
Image credit: Nito/ShutterStock
Today, the TV freedom fighters of Roku closed a $45 million deal. The money came not from Silicon Valley hotshots but from a carefully selected string of strategic investors in media and entertainment.
This round’s investors include News Corp. (parent company of Fox), BSkyB (that’s British Sky Broadcasting), among other unnamed partners. Previous Roku venture investors Menlo Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners also joined the round.
“The investment is important to us, because there’s also a commercial deal with each of the strategic investors,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood in a phone conversation with VentureBeat this evening.
The exec told us the new money would be used primarily for an advertising/marketing blitz, akin to last year’s big holiday push, as well as expanding Roku’s services and continuing research and development activities.
John Miller from News Corp will additionally be joining the Roku board.
“We’ve had two great quarters this year,” Wood said. “Toward the beginning of the year, we passed 3 million boxes sold. Q1 and Q2, we beat our internal budgets quite handily. The streaming stick [the company's new USB-sizezd device that connects smart TVs to its content network] will start to ship this December.”
All in all, Wood concluded, the business’ fundamentals are solid.
And on the content side, he said, “We’re adding more than one new channel every day.” This is possible because, as today’s new strategic investments show, content creators are stepping up to the plate, as well.
“Generally, there’s this big shift of content moving more and more to the Internet and premium TV becoming mainstream,” said Wood. “For us, a big part of this partnership is credibility with the entertainment industry… making them comfortable with moving content to the Internet. We want to keep that momentum moving.”
For example, he said, Roku first started working with News Corp last year, rolling out three channels for the company’s various brands. “They were very happy, and they want to bring more content to our platform,” Wood said.
Other entities are getting onboard in other ways. “Dish has dropped AMC from their lineup,” said Wood, “and if you call their customer care line… they send you a free Roku player and some credit so you can buy it on Amazon. It’s definitely part of the mix now. The Internet is changing the dynamics of those negotiations.”
But this shift has come slowly and has cost all parties involved, from studio execs to couch potatoes, a certain amount of pain and suffering. “There’s a huge amount of money in content distribution,” said Wood. “Companies aren’t sure how the Internet will change their economics.”
But even though Roku and its ilk are without question disrupting traditional TV, Wood sees his own company as disrupting in a way that doesn’t rock the boat enough to drown key partners.
“We’ve had a strategy from the beginning to try to have excellent relationships with [entertainment companies],” he said. “A lot of tech startups are about trying to change the business models of industries, like Boxee or BitTorrent. … When Google started with YouTube, ther was a lot of pirated content.”
Obviously, he said, “Entertainment companies don’t like that, but for tech companies, it’s part of what drives their business.” Still, Wood contends, “That’s just not productive in terms of building a real business. Real businesses have partnerships; it’s rare to see them be successful while being adversarial.”
We finished our chat by asking if Roku, which still operates at a loss due to its aggressive growth, will be taking any more funding in the near future. “As far as we can tell 45M is enough to sustain us for a long, long time,” Wood said.
Roku was founded in 2002 and has taken a total of $67.4 million in funding to date. The company is based in Saratoga, Calif., pretty near Cupertino in the Bay Area.
Filed under: VentureBeat
A sign, if you needed one, of how big tech companies have become, how central they would like to be in the world of policymaking — and how they may be getting nervous about heavier regulation down the line: a new lobbying group is being formed called The Internet Association, with charter members reportedly including Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook. The group, due to launch formally in September, has made very little noise up to now, but today it announced the appointment of a president and CEO — Washington insider Michael Beckerman — to lead it in a more public effort.
The news comes in the same week that it was revealed that Google’s budget for lobbying went up by 90 percent in the last quarter to nearly $4 million (on par with large telcos like Verizon), while Facebook’s went up by 200 percent to $960,000, according to Reuters.
The Internet Association is being formed because, in the words of its new CEO, “The Internet must have a voice in Washington.” The group is planning a more formal launch, including revealing the names of its members and more about its purpose, in September.
On first look, this association will be mostly a lobby group. Its purpose, according to a release sent to TechCrunch, will be “to advance public policy solutions that strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet.” What makes it perhaps more noteworthy is that it looks like its ambition is to be the primary lobbying group for large tech companies.
The DC magazine the National Journal got the scoop on the news, and it cited an unnamed source who said that companies already committed to the effort include Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook. These, of course, also are involved with other lobbying efforts — both their own and around specific causes like broadband policy — but this could be the first group to represent all together on a general policy basis.
Part of the effort is not so much to burst the bubble of influence in Silicon Valley that these companies have; as it is to try to make a more concerted effort to extend that influence to Washington, presumably to make sure that the companies get as lightly regulated as possible.
“The Internet isn’t just Silicon Valley anymore, the Internet has moved to Main Street,” said Beckerman in a statement.”Our top priority is to ensure that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth and freedom.
“No one can predict what innovations will happen next. But we do know that the Internet’s decentralized and open model is what has enabled its unprecedented growth and innovation. We must guard against misguided attempts to handcuff this incredible source of job creation, freedom and creativity.”
Pior to this appointment, Beckerman held a number of other advisory and policy roles in Washington. They included a job as deputy staff director to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, the group that oversees U.S. telecoms and Internet policy. He had also been an advisor to Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and before that Upton’s chief policy advisor.
Kim Dotcom, the 38-year old founder of Megaupload, has been campaigning for “Internet freedom” from house arrest in New Zealand while he awaits his March hearing. As part of his campaign, Dotcom wrote an open letter to Hollywood, which was published in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Today, the magazine has published a hilarious response from Cougar Town director and writer Bruce Leddy.
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Who knew file-sharing badboy Kim Dotcom had a future in pop music? The iconic Kiwi transplant released a music video this past week, and with his German accent it’s totally Arnold Schwarzenegger doing little-kids rap.
But the new poster boy for internet freedom has a big-kids message:
“The war for the Internet has begun. Hollywood is in control of politics. The Government is killing innovation. Don’t let them get away with that.”
Whether you agree or disagree, Dotcom is eager to make his case on the new Kim.com, where he calls on American president Barack Obama to “end the war on internet freedom” … and shares ten facts about the MegaUpload scandal and court cases in an attempt to both exonerates his company and demonstrates the illegal nature of the US government’s actions.
And he explicitly links his message to Dr. Martin Luther King, saying “I have a dream, like Dr. King,” as well implicitly to Che Guevara, the famous Argentinian Marxist who contributed to the Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, by wearing the beret cap in the video.
Watch, listen, enjoy:
Somewhat interestingly … on the bottom of the Kim.com website is a small image: a copyright notice.
And there’s a terms of service, which states that the website is copyrighted and may not be used by organizations, companies, or businesses for any purposes. And one more thing:
Unauthorized framing of or linking to the Website is prohibited.
I don’t think Che had a terms of service page, Kim.
Note: last week Dotcom published the following letter to the movie industry via The Hollywood Reporter.
The Internet frightens you. But history has taught us that the greatest innovations were built on rejections. The VCR frightened you, but it ended up making billions of dollars in video sales.
You get so comfortable with your ways of doing business that any change is perceived as a threat. The problem is, we as a society don’t have a choice: The law of human nature is to communicate more efficiently. And the economic benefits of high-speed Internet and unlimited cloud storage are so great that we need to plan for the day when the transfer of terabytes of data will be measured in seconds.
Businesses and individuals will keep looking for faster connectivity, more robust online storage and more privacy. Transferring large pieces of content over the Internet will become common — not because global citizens are evil but because economic forces leading to “speed of light” data transfer and storage are so beneficial to societal growth.
Come on, guys, I am a computer nerd. I love Hollywood and movies. My whole life is like a movie.
I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for the mind-altering glimpse at the future in Star Wars. I am at the forefront of creating the cool stuff that will allow creative works to thrive in an Internet age. I have the solutions to your problems. I am not your enemy.
Providing “freemium” cloud storage to society is not a crime. What will Hollywood do when smartphones and tablets can wirelessly transfer a movie file within milliseconds?
The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of changing their views to fit the facts, they try to change the facts to fit their views. The fact remains that the benefits of Megaupload to society outweigh the burdens. But instead of adapting, you imported one of your action-conspiracy movie scripts into the real world. In my view, MPAA CEO and former Sen. Chris Dodd lobbied his friends in the White House to turn me into a villain who has to be destroyed. Due process? Rule of law? Eliminate me and my innovation and worry about the consequences later. Never mind that millions of Megaupload users lost access to cloud data like their wedding photos. Well done, Hollywood, everyone with similar innovations got the message. But wait … You did not read the end of the script.
The people of the Internet will unite. They will help me. And they are stronger than you. We will prevail in the war for Internet freedom and innovation that you have launched. We have logic, human nature and the invisible hand on our side.
As you should have known, our Mega services operated within the boundaries of the law. We had users that spanned from the military to Hollywood to lawyers and doctors. If you are unhappy with that, it is up to you to convince Congress to amend legislation. You tried with SOPA and you failed. As an alternative, you chose to lobby the Justice Department to ignore the law and stage a global show of force and destruction. The only parties a New Zealand court has found to have violated the law in this case are the local police and the FBI.
Regardless of the issues you have with new technologies, you can’t just engage armed forces halfway around the world, rip a peaceful man from his family, throw him in jail, terminate his business without a trial, take everything he owns without a hearing, deprive him of a fair chance to defend himself and do all that while your propaganda machine is destroying him in the media. Is that who you want to be?
There can still be a happy ending. I am working on solutions. Just call me or my lawyers. You know where to find me. Unfortunately I can only do lunch in New Zealand.
This open letter is free of copyright. Use it freely.
Image credit: Kim Dotcom
Image credit: Kim.com