Today Voices for Internet Freedom, a coalition that advocates for the digital civil rights of people of color and poor people, co-hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill with Rep. José Serrano (New York) to lay out its policy priorities for the 116th Congress.
Voices for Internet Freedom, whose leadership includes 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), spoke alongside Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (California) to educate congressional staff on how emerging and ongoing issues in media and tech affect people of color and poor people, and to call for policies that advance racial and economic justice.
In today’s landscape, it’s critical that Congress pursue policy changes that would transfer power in media and tech to people of color and poor folks. Structural and institutional racism have historically shaped our nation’s media and communications system. These dynamics have prevented people of color from leading newsrooms, owning broadcast outlets and telling their own stories.
As a result, corporate news outlets often portray people of color using damaging stereotypes and tropes, fueling the cycle of racial oppression — and the troubling recent resurgence of hateful activities.
During today’s briefing, elected officials and Voices members emphasized the need to close the broadband-affordability gap, reinstate the Net Neutrality rules, strengthen digital privacy and ensure that incarcerated and detained people have affordable access to communications.
Free Press Action Senior Policy Counsel Carmen Scurato introduced the coalition to a room full of Hill staffers. Next, she introduced Rep. Diaz Barragán, the second Latina in history to serve on the Energy & Commerce Committee’s powerful Subcommittee on Communications & Technology.
Rep. Barragán represents parts of South Los Angeles, including Compton, Wilmington and Harbor Gateway (shout-out to Harbor Gateway in my hometown of Torrance!). She explained that many of her constituents are people of color and low income, and that they need internet access to expand job and educational opportunities.
Center for Media Justice National Field Organizer Erin Shields and NHMC Policy Counsel Daiquiri Ryan summarized the coalition’s 2019 policy priorities, which include restoring the Net Neutrality protections, closing the digital divide — particularly the internet-affordability gap, bolstering digital privacy and securing affordable prison-phone rates. More information on those priorities, along with some background on the Voices coalition, is available here.
Francella Ochillo, NHMC’s vice president of policy and general counsel, closed the panel with powerful remarks and great tips on how Hill staffers can stay engaged on these issues.
Check out the video and photos from today’s event: