Obama makes disappointing remarks on encryption →

While Obama didn’t speak directly about the Apple/FBI case in his appearance at SXSW, I sure don’t like his comments. Michael Shear at The New York Times:

“If, technologically, it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong that there is no key, there is no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?” Mr. Obama said. “How do we disrupt a terrorist plot?”

If the government has no way into a smartphone, he added, “then everyone is walking around with a Swiss bank account in your pocket.”

The argument of “bad things may happen so we need less security” is a scary one. John Gruber writes:

Our phones are either insecure, making life easier for law enforcement — or, our phones are secure, making life more difficult for law enforcement, rendering some potential evidence unobtainable. We don’t ban matches to prevent people from burning evidence. We don’t mandate weak locks to make it easier for the police to crack safes.

Regarding Donald Trump’s comments on libel law →

Hadas Gold at Politico, quoting Donald Trump:

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”

While shield laws are designed to give reporters the right to refuse to give up their sources, journalists aren’t immune to being charged with libel.

Trump says that big newspapers are allowed to do what they want because they are “completely protected,” but that’s just not true. Proving libel, however, is difficult. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, a plaintiff must be able to prove these five things:

  • A defamatory statement was made.
  • The defamatory statement is a matter of fact, not opinion.
  • The defamatory statement is false.
  • The defamatory statement is about (“of and concerning”) the plaintiff.
  • The defamatory statement was published with the requisite degree of “fault.”

The “actual malice” clause is often cited in libel cases, but the term is a little tricky. The thought is that if a reporter or organization published something with the knowledge that it was indeed false, it was done so with “actual malice.”

Trump claims that these newspapers are publishing “false articles,” but if the articles are factual, and merely contain content that he finds displeasing, it’s not libel.

Reporters are allowed to comment with opinion. Again, from the AP Stylebook:

The right of fair comment has been summarized as follows: “Everyone has a right to comment on matters of public interest and concern, provided they do so fairly and with an honest purpose. Such comments or criticism are not libelous, however severe in their terms, unless they are written maliciously. Thus it has been held that books, prints, pictures and statuary publicly exhibited, and the architecture of public buildings, and actors and exhibitors are all the legitimate subjects of newspapers’ criticism, and such criticism fairly and honestly made is not libelous, however strong the terms of censure may be.” (Hoeppner v. Dunkirk Pr. Co., 1930.)

Accurate reporting, no matter how distasteful it may feel to certain people, is a critical part of our democracy. The fact that a leading Presidential candidate wants to upset the balance is worrisome.

However, as with a lot of his comment, Trump is speaking to something that a President can’t actually control. Not only is Congress the branch of government in charge of laws, there are no federal libel laws. Libel is defined differently, state-to-state.

Loosening these laws is a troubling thought. Donald Trump can surely outgun just about any media organization on the planet when it comes to funding legal fights. The implication that he’d try to bend legislation for personal gain shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it is terrifying.

It’s bigger than a single phone →

Marco Arment:

As we’ve learned from national hero Edward Snowden and, well, almost every other high-profile action taken by law enforcement recently, this most likely has very little to do with the specific crime or iPhone that the FBI is citing in this case.

It’s their excuse to establish precedent and permanent backdoors for themselves so they can illegally spy on anyone’s data whenever they please.

This is the most dangerous kind of slippery slope in today’s world: one that starts under the guise of security in the face of terrorism.

Tim Cook: ‘We oppose this order’ →

Tim Cook:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

If you haven’t read this, go read it.

On Trump and Apple →

Arik Hesseldahl at Re/code:

Donald Trump, the billionaire and leading Republican candidate for President of the United States, says he wants Apple, the biggest technology company in the world by market valuation, to make its computers and other products in America. It made for a good sound bite, but it betrayed a deep ignorance of how the tech economy actually works and the role of American workers in it.

FCC votes to enable Title II protection for the Internet →

Jacob Kastrenakes:

The FCC’s new order establishes a standard that requires internet providers to take no actions that unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage consumers or the companies whose sites and apps they’re trying to access. At most, internet providers may slow down service only for the purpose of “reasonable network management” — not a business purpose.

A huge day.

FCC announces net neutrality plan →

Steve Lohr:

The plan calls for high-speed Internet service to be reclassified as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. But the chairman, Tom Wheeler, is taking what is called a light-touch approach, adopting a handful of its crucial provisions and tossing out others.

The provisions in the proposed open Internet order, the F.C.C. said, will give the commission strong legal authority to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else. Those prohibitions are hallmarks of the net neutrality concept.

The entire plan can be read here.

F.C.C. expected to regulate Internet access as utility →

Huge news in the fight for net neutrality from The New York Times:

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission this week is widely expected to propose regulating Internet service like a public utility, a move certain to unleash another round of intense debate and lobbying about how to ensure so-called net neutrality, or an open Internet.

It is expected that the proposal will reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Communications Act, according to industry analysts, lobbyists and former F.C.C. staff members.