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FCC Chairman’s plan to roll back net neutrality laws is met with outrage

(TECH NEWS)

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Grab the pitchforks

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced his plan, called Title II, to to limit the agency’s regulation of Internet service providers (ISPs), spelling bad news for net neutrality.

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This announcement is causing quite an uproar in the tech community, and understandably so.

So much for the land of the free

The FCC approved the net neutrality rules in 2015, preventing ISPs from selectively speeding up or slowing down traffic from certain websites and apps. With this motion, the FCC also voted to increase regulatory control over ISPs by reclassifying them as common carriers like telephone services.

The rules were put into effect to keep the Internet open and fair.

Pai claims that the rules governing cable and broadcasting companies are harmful to businesses, but it seems TItle II would be even moreso.

A dirtier, darker internet

Revoking the reclassification would all but obliterate the rules protecting the Internet. These rules protect consumers from ISPs trying to act as gatekeepers and favor their own content over competitors’ content. This would limit online competition and give companies like AT&T and Comcast a virtual monopoly over internet browsing. The internet would potentially become an abyss of sponsored data, limited to whatever ISPs are willing to let consumers access.

Consumer groups also claim that publicly traded broadband companies have upped investment by 5% since the current rules were enacted.

Pai hasn’t said much about how the FCC will govern net neutrality after Title II, claiming only that his plan would only include voluntary commitment from broadband services — which would likely only incite sketchy business practices and further reduce competition.

Battle cries

Internet Association President and Ceo Michael Beckerman outlined major issues with Title II, stating that rolling back the restrictions would hinder innovation and make the internet a much worse place for consumers.

Indeed, repealing the 2015 legislation makes little sense. As Beckerman explains, “Robust net neutrality rules benefit all players in the ecosystem by attracting more people to the web and increasing demand for internet connections.”

Beckerman is not alone in his fervent disapproval.

Among net neutrality proponents are heavy hitters like Google and Netflix. In addition, more than 800 startups signed a letter to Pai requesting him to protect net neutrality. A press conference was held hours before Pai’s announcement where Democrats gathered to discuss how best to fight Title II.

At the conference, Senator Richard Blumenthal said opposition of the plan must form a strategy “that mobilizes public opinion, that reaches out to the chairman and others on the commission.”

Pai also endorsed Trump’s recent measure undoing Internet privacy protections enacted last October that limited control of ISPs over consumer data.

He seems determined to shift the power from consumers to ISPs:

“Make no mistake about it: This is a fight we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.”

Take a breath

Slow down, buddy. While the Republicans’ 2 to 1 majority on this commission is not exactly comforting for net neutrality advocates, the fact that the current rules were affirmed by a federal appeals court could stand in the way of Pai’s plan.

Much remains uncertain except a rough road ahead for both sides.

#NetNeutrality

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

Tech News

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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