OVERNIGHT TECH: Twitter project hits back at FCC commissioner

THE LEDE: A research department at Indiana University studying Twitter trends is pushing back against what it calls "misleading information" about its program echoed by Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai.

The university’s computing department said the FCC's Pai, a Republican, did not reach out to any of the researchers on the project about the "accuracy of his allegations" in a Washington Post op-ed published over the weekend. With Pai’s op-ed, “the smear campaign against our research project continues,” researchers said.


The four-year-old "Truthy" project at the university analyzes tweets — political and otherwise — to see what factors go into the spread of trends on social media. It also looks at ways social media can be abused.

Pai said the project seemed like it was taken "straight out of a George Orwell novel."

"Hmm. A government-funded initiative is going to 'assist in the preservation of open debate' by monitoring social media for 'subversive propaganda' and combating what it considers to be “the diffusion of false and misleading ideas'?" Pai wrote in his op-ed.

The project, which is partially funded by the federal government's National Science Foundation, has caught heat since August. The department even created a page attempting to explain "The Truth about Truthy," which it has updated to respond to criticism.

“Contrary to these claims, the Truthy project is not designed and has not been used to create a database of political misinformation to be used by the federal government to monitor the activities of those who oppose its policies,” researchers said on the page.

Throughout the weekend and into Monday, the group's Twitter account dedicated itself to retweeting individuals supportive of the project and knocking the FCC commissioner for the "smear job."

Earlier this year, Pai drew public attention to an FCC study of editorial decisions in newsrooms, which prompted a major backlash from people concerned about the government meddling with the freedom of the press. After the outrage, the FCC ended up killing the study. In his Washington Post op-ed, Pai wrote that the same principle in that case also applies with the Truthy project.

Former AG outlines possible response for JPMorgan Chase hack: If JPMorgan Chase’s massive data breach was committed by a foreign government “then the government ought to be able to respond,” former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said last week. Speaking with reporters during a conference organized by the French-American Foundation, Mukasey said the Obama administration had plenty of options, should officials determine that the hack came from a foreign nation state.

“It doesn’t have to be a cyber response,” he said. “You can respond in a whole variety of ways. If this was an asymmetric attack then let’s be asymmetric in response,” he added, while noting that he did not know who was behind the attack which affected 76 million household accounts. Some analysts have indicated that Russian hackers were behind the data breach.

Detection, not new laws, needed to fight hackers, Mukasey adds: Mukasey also talked about cyber issues more broadly, saying that the best way the Obama administration could fight hackers would be to chase them down and bring them to court. “I think the issue is detection, running people down and punishing them rather than passing new laws,” he said at the French-American Foundation event. He was not familiar with a pair of contentious congressional proposals to encourage companies to share information with each other and the government, but indicated that new laws weren’t the most pressing need.

Thune is on Instagram: The top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee posted his first picture on Instagram this weekend. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who would take over the powerful Senate panel if Republicans win a majority at the polls this November, posted a picture after a “successful” trip on the opening day of pheasant hunting season. 

Comptel hires up to lobby on Telecom Act: The telecommunications trade group Comptel made two new lobbying hires in recent weeks to focus on the multi-year congressional update of the foundational 1996 Telecommunications Act. The group — which includes Sprint, Verizon and Cogent Communications — hired former Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and other lobbyists at Steptoe & Johnson in July, according to disclosure forms released this week.

In August, it hired a handful of former Capitol Hill staffers now at the Alpine Group to focus on Congress's update to the law as well as other issues of net neutrality, broadband deployment and the FCC’s Universal Service Fund.

Consumer advocates push FCC prison calling reforms: Consumer groups cheered the FCC’s move on Friday to further rein in the cost of phone calls from prison. On Monday, Public Knowledge called the move “another step toward reducing the unfair financial burden on incarcerated people and their families.” Making sure that inmates can keep in touch with friends and family “is one of the best ways to ensure our communities are safer and to decrease re-offenses and reentry into the criminal justice system," it added.

On Friday, the FCC voted to move forward with a proposal to limit the cost of in-state calls from prison, a year after putting restrictions on interstate calls. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who has been a strong proponent of reform, said that the current system of high fees and constant charges “is the clearest, most egregious case of market failure that I have seen.”

Wireless group releases net neutrality video: CTIA-The Wireless Association has a new video out explaining why the FCC’s new rules on Internet service providers should not apply to wireless companies. “Wireless is different,” a narrator explains in the video.

Tata joints ITI: Tata Consultancy Services joined the Information technology Industry Council (ITI), bringing the trade group's membership up to an even 60 companies. ITI President Dean Garfield said the announcement is “perfectly timed,” since the group is deepening its work in India, where Tata has its headquarters.



At 10:50 a.m., the Wearables and Things conference in Arlington, Va., will host a talk on the policy and regulatory considerations of businesses producing wearable technology. The speaker will be Reginald Brothers, the undersecretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is hosting a forum on new net neutrality regulations in College Station, Texas, at 10 a.m. local, which is 11 a.m. on the East Coast.

In the evening, the Washington startup incubator 1776 is hosting a competition to find innovative solutions to global problems.



An influential advocate for banks and financial services on Monday released 10 principles it believes the government should follow when issuing new cybersecurity regulations.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee wants Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to hold a hearing on the millions of new connected refrigerators, cars and other devices.

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Comcast to commit not to place “fast lanes” on the Internet.

Critics of the government’s spy agencies are worried that Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race could end the public career of one of their best allies in Congress. 

Tivo has hired former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to lobby on an expiring television law.


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