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2016 Annual Report

Your Wins, Your Rights,
Your Fights

In 2016 we scored some amazing wins in the fight for your rights to connect and communicate.

We ended the year facing a new political reality.
We’re moving fast to safeguard our victories — and standing in solidarity with communities under attack.

Read our Mission Statement

Free Press fights for your rights to connect and communicate.

We’re working to create a world where people have the information and opportunities they need to tell their own stories, hold leaders accountable, and participate in our democracy. We fight to save the free and open internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.

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Victories

We Went All Out to Defend Net Neutrality and Protect Your Privacy

Free Press helped secure historic Net Neutrality rules at the FCC in 2015

The impact? You’re free to share and access information online — without fear of internet service providers getting in your way.

Tim Karr

In 2016, we defended the rules against multiple attacks

Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon tried to overturn the FCC’s rules via a federal lawsuit and damaging legislation. With you by our side we defeated these companies at every turn.

In Court: Net Neutrality Upheld Group

In Court: Net Neutrality Upheld

Big phone and cable companies and their lobbyists filed suit almost as soon as the Net Neutrality rules were adopted. Free Press jumped in and helped argue the case defending the FCC — and in June a federal appeals court upheld the agency’s actions.

The ruling was a major victory for the millions and millions of internet users who fought for more than a decade to secure real Net Neutrality protections.

“The people have spoken, the courts have spoken and this should be the last word on Net Neutrality,” said Craig Aaron, president of the digital rights group Free Press.

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In Congress: Fended Off Attacks on the Open Internet Group

In Congress: Fended Off Attacks on the Open Internet

AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have shelled out more than $1 billion on congressional lobbying since Net Neutrality became an issue more than a decade ago — and in 2016 lawmakers introduced multiple bills to undermine the FCC rules. One of the biggest threats: a sneak attack tucked inside a must-pass funding bill that would have made it impossible for the FCC to prevent companies like Comcast from harming their customers.

Free Press activists raised an outcry, and none of these measures moved forward.

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At the FCC: Won New Privacy Protections Group

At the FCC: Won New Privacy Protections

Free Press urged the FCC to do more to protect internet users’ private information. In October, the FCC passed strong rules that require internet service providers to get your consent before they surveil, sell or collect personal data beyond what’s needed to provide broadband access.

“These rules mark a tremendous stride forward,” said Free Press Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia. “They give internet users far more control over how their personal information may be used by AT&T, Comcast and other carriers.”

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More Wins

Free Press teamed up with a diverse network of groups to mobilize millions of activists — and together we scored some significant wins:

Group Narrowed the Digital Divide

Narrowed the Digital Divide

The Lifeline program was created to subsidize phone service for people with low incomes; we succeeded in pushing the FCC to modernize the program to make funds available for broadband service.

“Internet access is as essential to participating in today’s economy and society as a landline phone was 30 years ago,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. “It makes sense to give low-income Americans the ability to apply the Lifeline discount to broadband — the defining communications service of the 21st century.”

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Group Got Companies to Stop Funding Hate Politics

Got Companies to Stop Funding Hate Politics

We partnered on a Color Of Change-led campaign to pressure tech companies to drop their financial support of the Donald Trump-led Republican National Convention. Companies including Amazon, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft agreed to “divest from hate.”

“Really big companies don’t have any motivation to pull their support in any way without some pressure from everyday people,” said Mary Alice Crim of the Free Press Action Fund.

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Group Helped Journalists Covering #DAPL

Helped Journalists Covering #DAPL

We pushed local authorities to drop the charges after Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and other independent journalists were arrested for covering the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest over the North Dakota Access Pipeline. WIN: The charges were dropped.

“Journalism isn't a crime, and authorities shouldn’t silence reporters who are trying to do their jobs,” said Mike Rispoli, Free Press’ journalism campaign director.

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Bold Ideas

Free Press tackled the crisis in local journalism — and promoted ways to ensure better representation in the media for people of color and other underserved communities.

News Voices: Reinventing Journalism

By bringing communities and newsrooms together, our News Voices project is finding new ways to cover stories that matter, amplify previously excluded voices and refocus on local needs.

Group Charting a New Path for Local Journalism

Charting a New Path for Local Journalism

News Voices is active in six New Jersey communities: Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Morristown, Newark and New Brunswick. We launched our work with community events that connected residents with reporters and explored ways to strengthen local media. Our ongoing outreach in these cities has led to all kinds of amazing projects.

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Group Calling for a Major Investment in Local Communities

Calling for a Major Investment in Local Communities

The FCC is wrapping up an auction worth billions of dollars that will redistribute the public airwaves from broadcasters to wireless companies. Our ambitious new campaign calls on the owners of public-TV stations sold in the auction to invest their windfall in media and technology projects that inform and engage the public.

New Jersey — perhaps more than any other state — is positioned to benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The state owns multiple public-TV stations, and we’re advocating to invest millions from their sale back in local communities to give Garden State residents essential news and information.

“A broad and exciting array of public interest initiatives, including digital news sites, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, public data sites, apps and civic engagement, could be built with some of the money generated by the auction. … We have a rare chance to strengthen communities by breathing new energy into local news and information.”

Chris Daggett, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation (News Voices partner)
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Vanessa Maria Graber
Tim Karr

Holding the Media Accountable

Free Press stands up for journalists and free speech. But we aren’t afraid to critique the media when it’s doing more harm than good.

Tackling the Media’s Coverage of Race and Politics Group

Tackling the Media’s Coverage of Race and Politics

In October we organized an event in New York on how news outlets have reinforced racism and deepened divisions in our society. Panelists included Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, Mic senior writer Zak Cheney-Rice, CNN reporter Tanzina Vega and Brandi Collins of Color Of Change.

“The language the media uses is coded so it comes across as acceptable,” said Free Press' Joseph Torres, who moderated the discussion. “But the message is clear. White supremacy is still very much in the framing of how the media covers issues related to people of color.”
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Urging the Media to Reject Hate Group

Urging the Media to Reject Hate

Much of our activism in 2016 centered on pushing the media to operate with integrity:

Free Press action graphic
Free Press action graphic
Free Press action graphic
Free Press action graphic
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Promoting Policy Solutions

Free Press provided roadmaps for getting everyone online — and protecting your digital rights.

Group Released Groundbreaking Research on the Digital Divide

Released Groundbreaking Research on the Digital Divide

Our report, Digital Denied, shows that the digital divide disproportionately impacts people of color and stems from systemic racial discrimination. Our research shows that while income differences explain some of the racial divide, they don’t explain all of it. For example, many families who are willing to pay for service find they can’t due to racially biased barriers like credit scoring.

Our study points the way to solutions — and we will urge policymakers to implement them.

“Along with economic inequality, there is another culprit exacerbating the digital divide, according to a study by public interest group Free Press: systemic racial discrimination in housing, banking and other sectors of the economy, along with broadband-industry practices that pose barriers to internet adoption among marginalized groups.”

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Group Inspired Changes in Major Candidates’ Tech Policy Platforms

Inspired Changes in Major Candidates’ Tech Policy Platforms

During the presidential primaries, Free Press Action Fund staff and activists questioned presidential candidates from both parties at more than 40 campaign events. Our goal: highlighting the need to safeguard Net Neutrality, curb surveillance and promote affordable internet access.

Free Press also released an internet-policy platform endorsed by 17 groups and published a voter guide on the candidates. Our work helped push presidential candidates to issue detailed tech policies. We also collaborated with allies to push an amendment to the Democratic Party platform that added strong antitrust language challenging corporate power.

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Free Press Action Fund staffers Katherine Fuchs and Lucia Martínez

Serious Threats

Everything Free Press has fought for — and stood for — is at risk.

Your Rights Are in Jeopardy

The Trump team and its enablers pose a serious and immediate threat to our friends and families, our loved ones and our neighbors. We need the open internet to organize online and fight back, but the administration wants to roll back all of our victories — starting with Net Neutrality.

Group Threats to Net Neutrality

Threats to Net Neutrality

Trump picked Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, to chair the FCC. Pai has vowed to “take a weed whacker” to the Net Neutrality rules. He also opposes the new online privacy protections we won in 2016. Meanwhile, an emboldened Republican majority in Congress is likely to push all kinds of harmful legislation. We will fight to block their dangerous agendas.

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Group Threats to Press Freedom

Threats to Press Freedom

Trump is attacking any news outlets that critique him, and he recently described the media as “the opposition party.” We need a free press to hold him accountable.

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Gage Skidmore
Ervins Strauhmanis

Corporate Power Is Becoming More Concentrated — and You’re Paying the Price

Just two companies, Charter and Comcast, now control nearly two-thirds of the nation’s high-speed internet subscribers. And now AT&T wants to buy Time Warner in a deal that would be one of the biggest media mergers ever.

The Dangers of Media Consolidation Group

The Dangers of Media Consolidation

In 2016, deals worth $90 billion merged the nation’s second-, third- and sixth-largest cable-TV and internet providers. You’ll foot the bill — and you’ll have nowhere else to turn.

The AT&T/Time Warner merger would harm consumers nationwide. AT&T is still fighting Net Neutrality and has helped the government engage in mass surveillance. Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT, major movie franchises like Harry Potter and Batman, DC Comics … the list goes on. If this deal goes through, AT&T would control internet access for hundreds of millions of people and the content they view, enabling it to prioritize its own offerings and use sneaky tricks to undermine the open internet.

We’re fighting to stop this mega-merger.

“It’s a massive deal concentrating a huge amount of media power under one corporate umbrella,” said Craig Aaron, president of the consumer advocacy group Free Press. “Consumers benefit when companies have to negotiate and fight with each other.”

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Mass Spying Threatens Your Privacy

We can expect a major expansion of the surveillance state under Trump. We’re working with allies to engage Muslims, undocumented immigrants, communities of color, whistleblowers and others whose civil liberties and privacy are under threat.

Group The Dangers of Mass Spying

The Dangers of Mass Spying

People of color and other vulnerable communities have long been subject to government surveillance. In December, Free Press partnered with the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change and Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology to organize “Color of Freedom,” an event that brought together dozens of grassroots activists with leading surveillance experts to highlight threats and explore opportunities for collaboration. In the year ahead, we’ll work to ensure that the communities mass surveillance most impacts are front and center in the fight for reform.

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Jonathan McIntosh

We Won't Back Down

Free Press has shown time and time again that no matter how daunting the odds are,
we fight back — and win.

“The Trump administration is just the latest and perhaps most significant threat to come our way,” said Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press. “We’re ready and united.”

What Resistance Looks Like

Free Press kicked into gear right after Election Day, shaping our campaign to push back on hate and preserve our wins.

Group How We're Fighting Back

How We're Fighting Back

  • Launched the “100 Days of Disruption” campaign. Every day our activists get an email inviting them to take a specific action — like exposing Trump’s plan to cut funds for NPR and PBS.
  • Urged Congress to reject white supremacist Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist. We teamed up with allies to deliver to Congress the signatures of more than 1 million people denouncing Bannon’s appointment.
  • Urged the Senate not to confirm Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. Hostility toward people of color, women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community — and support for mass surveillance — have defined Sessions’ political career.
  • Called on Congress to reject Trump’s plan to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and slash its funding. So far 35,000 people have taken action.
  • Called on major tech firms to refuse to help Trump create a Muslim registry. Free Press and 21 other groups urged tech companies to refuse to help the Trump team build a registry. WIN: Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have announced that they won’t help Trump.
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Standing Strong for the Fights Ahead

Expanding Coalitions and Networks Group

Expanding Coalitions and Networks

We’re strategizing with allies daily to prepare for the fights to save the Net Neutrality rules and defend press freedom. And we’re forging new relationships with labor, environmental, Jewish and Muslim groups to push back against Trump’s worst appointees.

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Prioritizing Racial Equity Group

Prioritizing Racial Equity

Free Press is committed to addressing institutional and systemic racism in media and technology. In 2016, we did more to center race and racial equity in our work. We’re also putting into place equitable internal policies, diversifying our staff and board and supporting the leadership and success of staff of color.

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Extending Our Reach Group

Expanding Our Reach

We’re blessed to have an incredible crew of advocates and organizers who fight for your rights every day — and in 2017, we’ll be establishing a new presence in California and expanding our News Voices project to North Carolina. We’re grateful to have so many passionate and engaged activists across the country who are gearing up to take on the huge challenges ahead.

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About Free Press

In the News

Free Press kept your rights to connect and communicate in the spotlight, earning more than 1,100 media hits in 2016.

Coverage of our work appeared in major outlets like the Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Brad Resnick Photography
Brad Resnick Photography

Financial Year in Review

We will publish our summary of our audited financial information in May 2017.

Our Team

  • Craig Aaron

    President and CEO

  • Kimberly Longey

    Chief Operating Officer

  • Candace Clement

    Campaign Director

  • Dutch Cosmian

    Digital Director

  • Mary Alice Crim

    Field Director

  • Carrie Cuthbert

    Development Director

  • Dana Floberg

    C. Edwin Baker Policy Fellow

  • Nicole Fritz

    Finance Manager

  • Katherine Fuchs

    Campaign Organizer

  • Sandra Fulton

    Government Relations Manager

  • Jessica J. González*

    Deputy Director and Senior Counsel

  • Timothy Karr

    Senior Director of Strategy

  • Amy Kroin

    Editor

  • Gaurav Laroia

    Policy Counsel

  • Sara Longsmith

    Foundation Relations Manager

  • Lucia Martínez

    Digital Campaigner

  • Amy Martyn

    Administrative Director

  • Fiona Morgan

    Journalism Program Director

  • Yesenia Perez-Algarin

    Associate Development Director

  • Misty Perez Truedson

    Managing Director

  • O’neil Pryce*

    Special Assistant to the President and CEO

  • Mike Rispoli

    Journalism Campaign Director

  • James L. Thompson

    Organizer

  • Joseph Torres

    Senior External Affairs Director

  • S. Derek Turner

    Research Director

  • Stefan Ward-Wheten

    Office Manager

  • Collette Watson*

    Digital Campaigner and Kairos Fellow

  • Matt Wood

    Policy Director

*As of February 2017

Board of Directors

  • Craig Aaron

    Free Press President and CEO

  • Alvaro Bedoya

    Executive Director, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology

  • Michael Copps

    Former FCC Commissioner

  • Olga M. Davidson

    Professor at Wellesley College

  • Kim Gandy*

    President of the National Network to End Domestic Violence

  • Victor Pickard

    Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication

  • Liza Pike

    New Media Mentors Project Director

  • Ben Scott, Chair

    Senior Adviser to New America’s Open Technology Institute

Directors Emeriti

  • Robert W. McChesney

    Media scholar at the University of Illinois

  • John Nichols

    Nation Correspondent

  • Josh Silver

    CEO of United Republic

*Term ended in December 2016