Falling Short

The new Black Futures Lab; the arc of the FCC bends toward Sinclair Broadcasting; and more.


  • Yesterday, Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza launched the Black Futures Lab, “which seeks to engage advocacy organizations and legislators to advance local-, state- and federal-level policies that make Black communities stronger,” Kenrya Rankin reports for Colorlines. “It will also craft strategies that harness Black political power to bring those policies to fruition.”

  • The Computer History Museum’s board has announced that Dan’l Lewin, who most recently led Microsoft’s civic technology work, will be the museum’s next president and chief executive officer.

  • A nonprofit launched by Harvard engineering students hopes to encourage more young technologists to consider careers in public service by placing students in a 10-week fellowship at the U.S. Census Bureau, Adam Zewe writes.

  • FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel explained to The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky how six votes taken by the commission in the Trump era “are all custom built for the business plans of Sinclair Broadcasting.”

    “We’re burning down the values of media policy in this agency in order to service this company,” Rosenworcel added.

  • Too little, too late: Reason magazine acquired a recording of an hour-long off-the-record speech that former President Barack Obama delivered at MIT last week in which he said major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others “have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise,” Robby Soave reports.

    On Twitter, Zeynep Tufekci bemoaned the fact that “these ideas didn’t get near someone holding a powerful office.” As for me, I could do without calling any of the Big Five a “public good” from here on out. Maybe Obama meant “near-monopolies”?

  • YouTube, noted property of well-known “public good” Google/Alphabet, has refused to take down videos of a neo-nazi group shouting, “gas the kikes, race war now,” arguing that putting them behind a message that says “The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences,” is sufficient, Kelly Weill reports for The Daily Beast. The group responsible for the videos have been associated with five recent murders in the past few months, which certainly sounds like the promotion of violence to me.

  • Speaking of too little, too late: Facebook has launched an initiative to help news orgs try to make up the loss of ad dollars that the social media platform (and other big tech companies) have sucked up for themselves. Or, as Sara Fischer reports for Axios: “Facebook Journalism Project will announce today the launch of its Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, a $3 million, three-month pilot program in the U.S. to help metro newspapers beef up their digital subscription efforts.”

  • So dark the con of Amazon: After earning $5.6 billion in profits last year, Amazon paid the federal government a whopping zero ($0.00) dollars, Emma Roller reports for Splinter. “Jeff Bezos’ obsession with avoiding taxes goes back to Amazon’s inception,” Roller reports. “In 1995, Bezos originally wanted to build Amazon’s U.S. headquarters on a Native American reservation near San Francisco because it offered a tax break. But California stopped the deal from going through.” However, it seems the tiny nation of Luxembourg welcomed Amazon’s global headquarters with open arms. Amazon employees based in Luxembourg? Approximately 1,500. In Seattle? More than 40,000. And don’t forget about Amazon’s American employees on food stamps!

  • Clio Chang reviewed Facebook millionaire and former New Republic owner Chris Hughes treatise on the guaranteed income for Splinter News, writing, “Throughout his book, Hughes is able to outline the economic structures that allowed his precipitous rise to the 1%, but he falls short of calling on us to actually change them.”

    “By centering his policy idea around work, Hughes undermines the idea of a basic income as a right,” Chang writes. “The point of going big is to push the conversation left in order to challenge the paradigm of free-market libertarianism that created this mess in the first place.”

  • Neil Young criticized companies like Google for profiting off of music piracy in an essay posted to his website, Andrew Liptak reports for The Verge. “Today, in the age of FaceBook [sic] GOOGLE and Amazon,” Young wrote, “it’s hard to tell how a new and growing musical artist could make it in the way we did.”

  • Ryan Holiday, the author of a book about Peter Thiel’s vendetta against Gawker, has published an astounding excerpt/teaser of the book in The Times. Most incredible are the quotes of Thiel himself, who reveals himself to be more petty, thin-skinned, vindictive, and self-centered than I could possibly imagine.