The public debate over net neutrality isn't much of a debate, if the 1.1 million public comments on the Federal Communication Commission's proposed "open internet" rules are any guide. Wading through more than a million comments — the second-most the FCC has ever received on an issue, after the 1.4 million comments about Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction — is a daunting task. How do you make sense of that much data?
The Knight Foundation commissioned data visualization and analysis firm Quid to dig into the public comments and sift out common themes. Quid looked at a sample of 250,000 comments, then created this cluster map, shared via NPR's All Tech Considered:
(Quid, via NPR)
More than 30 percent of the comments were from letters or templates, primarily from five major advocacy groups — four in favor of net neutrality, one opposed — and Quid collapsed each template into one comment. The largest cluster of comments (15 percent) focused on how a pay-to-play system — proponents call it a fast-lane for web services willing to pay and a regular lane for everybody else — would harm the diversity of the internet.
But "taken with the entire body of comments sampled, there weren't enough unique or organic anti-net-neutrality comments to register on the map," explains NPR's Elise Hu.
The FCC's commenters are obviously a self-selected sample, and Quid also looked into their demographics. So, who are they? Men, mostly: Only 29 percent of the comments Quid studied appeared to be from women. And certain areas of the country were more prone to comment, as Quid shows in this map:
Historically, though, public comments don't have much impact on FCC rule-making, George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce told NPR in July. Data-rich input from industry sources is much more influential, he said, but there is a good way for the FCC commissioners to gauge the temperature of the country: "Take a look at things like public opinion polls," he said. "A public opinion poll is a far more reliable indicator of what the public thinks about an issue like net neutrality than a bunch of postcards or one-liners." Peter Weber
The U.S. government shutdown at midnight on Friday after a four-week spending bill, which passed in the House Thursday, failed 50-49 in the Senate. It needed 60 votes to pass. President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met privately Friday in an attempt to negotiate a deal, but at voting time, most Senate Democrats stood firm in their refusal to support a measure that does not protect young undocumented immigrants.
Republicans have portrayed Democrats' stand as unfair to the 9 million children who depend on the CHIP health insurance program. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Democrats "obstructionist losers, not legislators," and said "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," The Washington Post reports.
After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a new measure to fund the government for three weeks, instead of four, CNN reports. The Senate will reconvene on Saturday at noon.
This is the first government shutdown in more than four years, and the first to occur while a single party controls both the White House and Congress. Jessica Hullinger
Facebook apparently has a new weapon against fake news: Facebook users.
In a post to the site Friday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that in an effort to surface only trustworthy news content, the social media giant will allow its users to opine on which news sources they believe are most credible. These results — culled via customer surveys — will help Facebook determine which content deserves to show up in users' news feeds.
The change is part of Facebook's ongoing effort to revitalize its news feed after it came under fire for promulgating false news stories from untrustworthy sources during the 2016 presidential election. "There's too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization in the world today," Zuckerberg wrote, adding that the "objective" solution is to have the "community determine which sources are broadly trusted." "We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with," Zuckerberg wrote.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook official tasked with overseeing the news feed feature, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook executives can't "decide what sources of news are trusted and what are not trusted, [in] the same way I don't think we can't decide what is true and what is not."
Of course, Americans have had quite a tough time determining what is and is not fake news. BuzzFeed News reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that fake news did better on Facebook than real news in the final months of the election. Mosseri emphasized to the Journal that user opinions would be "just one of many [methods used] to order posts in users' news feeds."
Investigators still do not know why Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people during an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October, CBS News reports. In a press conference Friday, authorities conceded that three months of investigation had not yielded any findings on Paddock's motivations, though Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did emphasize that Paddock acted alone and that his girlfriend — who was at one point suspected of helping him — would not be charged with any crime.
During the press conference, Lombardo also discussed a newly released 81-page report that examined Paddock's actions in the months leading up to the shooting, which was the deadliest in modern American history. The evidence indicated Paddock had been planning an attack for a while; investigators found he purchased over 50 firearms in the 12 months leading up to the shooting, and that he had studied the response strategies of various law enforcement departments.
Lombardo noted that "disturbing" internet searches Paddock had conducted indicated he may have considered carrying out the attack at other concerts or at beaches in California, CBS News reported. Investigators also found child pornography on Paddock's computer.
The Justice Department said Friday that it intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November. Menendez, 63, was accused of taking luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from his friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for government favors. One juror afterwards told reporters that the deadlock was 10-2 in favor of acquittal, Politico writes.
"An early retrial date is in the best interests of the public, and the United States is available to schedule a retrial at the Court's earliest convenience," the Justice Department wrote in its filing Friday.
Menendez's 11-week trial was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades. He is up for re-election this year. Jeva Lange
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissively referring to him as "sort of the Steve King of the Senate," a reference to one of the House's most outspoken immigration hardliners.
"All I can say is we're not going to end family immigration for DACA," Graham had told MSNBC earlier Friday. "The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he's become sort of the Steve King of the Senate."
Cotton was not amused. "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa," he told reporters, jabbing at Graham's short-lived campaign for the Republican nomination. "He didn't make it off the starting line, he didn't even make it off the kiddy table debates."
Tom Cotton: "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa."
Reporters actually went "oooooh" after.
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) January 19, 2018
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met in a rare private meeting Friday afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a budget ahead of the looming midnight deadline. Aides said that Republican congressional leaders were not in attendance.
"We made some progress but we still have a good number of disagreements," Schumer told reporters afterward. "The discussion will continue."
Schumer speaks out after "long and detailed" meeting with Pres. Trump over shutdown: "We made some progress but we still have a number of disagreements," adds "the discussions will continue." pic.twitter.com/1mxnOWcatG
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 19, 2018
While the House passed a bill Thursday to keep the government funded until Feb. 16, it is widely thought that the measure will not pass the Senate, where it needs 60 votes. Democrats have refused to support a funding measure that does not protect young undocumented immigrants.
Congress has nine hours to agree on a budget before the government shuts down at midnight. Jeva Lange
The Supreme Court confirmed Friday that it will consider the legality of President Trump's travel ban, which restricts travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and for certain government officials from Venezuela, The New York Times reports.
Six of the eight nations targeted by the ban are predominately Muslim. A lawsuit filed by Hawaii legally challenged the ban, which was issued in September, and succeeded before a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court has signaled it could be amenable to Trump's ban, which is the third of its kind to be issued by the Trump administration. Oral arguments could begin as soon as April. Jeva Lange