Press Review April 4th 2014

In a crucial vote for the future of European telecom, GigaOm reports that the European Parliament (EP) has passed a package of reform laws. The legislation, which was most prominently supported by the Socialist, Liberal, Green, and Left blocs in the EP, introduces a number of changes to how European telecom works, most prominently stepping toward creating a single telecom market by eliminating roaming fees as well as introducing “net neutrality”. The latter denotes the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all data on the Internet equally and not discriminating or charging differentially based based on various factors. The package must now make it through the next parliament, to be elected on 25 May 2014, and be approved by the representatives of the various E.U. members.

 Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s digital agenda chief who originally proposed the reform package.
Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s digital agenda chief who originally proposed the reform package.

Can one government foment a democratic revolution in another? The United States and its allies have had numerous programs during the Cold War and since to bring about regime-change often in the name of democracy and human rights. An article yesterday in the Washington Post by Alberto Arce, Desmond Butler and Jack Gillum highlights what is perhaps the most peculiar recent example of this phenomenon: Project ZZ. The story explores how USAID, the American government’s premier civilian foreign aid agency, through a network of contractors and subcontractors tried to create a mobile text messaging-based version of the popular social networking and micro-blogging platform Twitter named “ZunZuneo”, Cuban slang for the hummingbird’s tweet. The aim of the platform was to give Cuban citizens a government control-free means of communicating and mobilizing in the hopes of eventually fomenting a democratic revolution, although it was not initially overtly political. While the platform was successful early on, garnering tens of thousands of users, USAID was ultimately unable to spin-off ZunZuneo into an entity independent of the U.S. government, compromising it and its users and quickening its demise.

The futurist website io9 discusses whether high-technology in warfare has strengthened arguments for re-introducing the military draft. The key arguments assessed by io9 for re-introducing the draft are two-fold. The first is that as warfare becomes a more remote experience for civilian and even military populations – thanks to the increased use of high-tech and especially autonomous weapons – governments will be empowered to conduct war-making with minimal input ffrom the populations. The argument goes that by re-introducing the draft, civilian populations, regardless of their background, would be directly confronted by their government actions and more likely to prevent them from embarking on unnecessary foreign military adventures. The second is that an all volunteer force is incapable of bringing in the necessary human resources required by the military, especially those with specific high-tech skills who would not normally be attracted to the military.

Yuriko Koike, chairwoman of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party General Council and a parliamentarian and former minister of defense, has asked whether Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea affects the Russian Far East and the Japan-Russia dispute over Etorofu Island, where she estimated that 60 percent of the population is ethnically and linguistically Ukrainian. Koike underlined the deterioration in Japan-Russia relations in recent weeks, especially as it relates to the two country’s territorial disputes: “After coming to power at the end of 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had sought to improve relations with Putin in the hope of beginning serious talks on the Northern Territories. But now that Putin has made his project of imperial restoration crystal clear, those hopes are stillborn.”

In the Press Review section of the GovFaces blog you will find regular updates on important social, political, and economic issues of the day. Items presented here and in the Analysis & Opinion sections do not necessarily reflect the views of GovFaces.