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A Day of Internet Censorship Protests, Online and Off

January 19, 2012

NEW YORK - Hundreds of Internet technology workers protested Wednesday outside the offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who support legislation the demonstrators say would threaten Internet freedom by cracking down on piracy without guarding against censorship.

Protest organizer Jessica Lawrence explains why they came.

"Piracy is a huge issue, and it's an issue that needs to be solved, but the way to solve it is not to come up with a cure that's worse than the disease."

Backers of the bills - including Hollywood studios, the recording industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - say something has to be done about the online theft of movies and music, which by one estimate costs U.S. companies $135 billion a year. The tech industry - including Google, Yahoo and Twitter - says there has to be a better way, one that doesn't risk snuffing out Internet freedom.

Amalia Deloney with the Center for Media Justice says Wednesday's blackouts of web sites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts had much of the country talking about the issue of Internet freedom - and showed the effectiveness of "digital demonstrations."

"It's very clear that people not only care very deeply about this issue but that the average person in the United States has a very, very good idea of what kind of Internet experience they want."

Chaka Mkali, a Minneapolis artist and activist, opposes Internet censorship. He says communities of color have enough trouble closing the "digital divide" between those who can easily access the Internet and those hampered by underprivileged status.

"Historically marginalized communities and people of color, we shouldn't have to face additional obstacles in our struggle to close that divide."

Professor Lateef Mtima founded and directs the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice at the Howard University School of Law. He says people mobilized and brought about changes in the proposed legislation.

"Now, average people understand that, hey, you know what, this stuff may seem sophisticated and unconnected to me at first, but when I have proper information, I now see what's really going on. I now see how it concretely affects my interests."

More information is available at http://sopastrike.com/strike.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY