Communication Leadership Blog

Isolation from technology and social networks increases risk of labor trafficking, USC study finds

By CCLP Staff | February 25, 2015 0

Migrant workers who are isolated from technology and social networks are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation. These and other findings are detailed in a powerful new report, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, released today by the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. This project was made possible by a grant from Humanity United, a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom.

The report includes the story of a young woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia after being misled by a deceptive labor recruiter. Despite having a mobile phone she did not want to call her family and make them worry. While being transported to an unknown destination by her brokers, she was apprehended by police. Interrogated and imprisoned, she hid her phone and called a friend for help. After a month the Philippine government finally intervened. As it turned out, the woman's phone served to connect and disconnect her with unscrupulous recruiters, as well as support.

Researchers also found that the confiscation of cell phones, restriction of Internet use, and deception in online recruiting can be indicators of labor trafficking - a form of modern day slavery. As one of the survivors of labor trafficking interviewed for the report revealed: "The [employment] agencies are very strict on mobile phones. When you reach the the country destination overseas, they will get your phone."

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Bush campaign strategist named senior fellow

By CCLP Staff | February 19, 2015 0

USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is pleased to announce a new senior fellow, Matthew Dowd. Dowd, 53, served as the chief strategist for George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and currently serves as a political analyst for ABC News.

As a CCLP senior fellow, Dowd will focus on "examining what we can do to bridge the political divides today in America involving campaigns, communication, and governing." He will also focus on "creating momentum in the social impact entrepreneur space with emphasis on linking capitalism and social consciousness."

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During the past 30 years, Matthew Dowd has helped shape strategies and campaigns for CEOs, corporations, foundations, governments, candidates and presidents. He most recently founded Paradox Capital, a social impact venture fund which is focused on for-profit social good companies. His experience in business and politics will help bridge the paradox between capitalism and social consciousness.

Over the last 25 years, Dowd has been an active entrepreneur in Austin, Texas, founding three highly successful companies, including Vianovo and Public Strategies.

Dowd has worked both sides of the political aisle, but now considers himself an Independent. Dowd's political work includes serving as the chief strategist on two winning re-election efforts - for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and for President George W. Bush in 2004. His innovative approach on the 2004 and 2000 campaigns led the bi-partisan American Association of Political Consultants to name him Strategist of the Year.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he advised a wide variety of political clients including helping former Democratic Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock win election and re-election. He began his career as a member of Democrat U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen's staff, and has worked on the staffs of two Democratic Congressmen, including Dick Gephardt.

Dowd currently serves as a special correspondent and analyst for ABC News where he appears on "This Week," "Good Morning America," and "Nightline," and writes a regular column for various publications. Dowd covers not only politics but cultural, economic and spiritual trends as well. He has served on the boards of various non-profit entities including Seton Family of Hospitals, a Catholic nonprofit health system in Texas. He was adviser to Bono at the One Campaign, and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has taught seminars at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Dowd is the co-author of Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, a New York Times bestseller published by Simon & Schuster.


This post was written by Justin Chapman, CCLP project fellow

Kantor calls for end to ports showdown

By CCLP Staff | February 19, 2015 0

Michael "Mickey" Kantor, co-chair of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy advisory board, penned an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, "End the storm at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports."


In his February 16 op-ed, Kantor described the "frustrating and costly slowdown of operations at West Coast port facilities," caused by a deterioration in contract negotiations between management and labor.

"Now the latest deterioration in the contract talks -- which resulted in an almost complete shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports over the holiday weekend, with 33 ships lined up waiting to be unloaded Monday -- has the potential to turn the slowdown into a full-scale crisis," Kantor wrote. "If the West Coast's 29 ports are not returned to full operation soon, it will create a shock wave that reverberates across the economy, derailing a promising economic recovery that is creating jobs and restoring a sense of economic security for the nation."

The effects of the slowdown and shutdown of the ports have reverberated across the country, Kantor said, with high-value goods manufacturers and agricultural producers particularly feeling the hit. And if the situation devolves into a strike or lockout, Los Angeles and the rest of the country will experience lasting consequences.

"Some of these losses, while painful enough in the short term, could become permanent if foreign customers ultimately find the products they need elsewhere," he wrote. "Our competitors around the globe, be they in manufacturing or agriculture, are all too willing to poach future business from the U.S. Such a hit to the economy is almost impossible to measure, but it will continue to have real-world consequences going forward."

Kantor stressed that this crisis is preventable, and called on President Obama to step in and "use his bully pulpit -- and all other means at his disposal -- to ensure that our nation remains open for business."


Kantor is a partner at Mayer Brown in the Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles offices. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, he served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from 1996-1997 and as United States Trade Representative from 1993-1996. While in office, he led the negotiations that created the World Trade Organization, North American Fair Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and was involved in the initial steps towards the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He is a consultant with the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

This post was written by Justin Chapman, CCLP project fellow

Adam Powell

New US student exchange aims to double college-level exchange students to, from Latin America

By Adam Powell | February 12, 2015 0

WASHINGTON - The newest U.S. educational exchange initiative was the focus of this month's CCLP Communications Leadership Forum here. Called "100,000 Strong in the Americas", the public-private partnership will try to nearly double the number of college students going between U.S. and Latin American colleges and universities.


Citing what he termed "an East-West bias," Daniel Restrepo, former Special Assistant to President Obama for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said it seems that U.S. study abroad programs focus almost exclusively on Europe.

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In memoriam: Senior fellow Laurie Becklund

By Elizabeth Krane | February 10, 2015 0

laurie.jpgSenior fellow Laurie Becklund, an award-winning journalist and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, passed away Sunday night at her home in Hollywood from metastatic breast cancer. She was 66. The USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy mourns the loss of Becklund, who exemplified CCLP's mission of shaping the future of news and civic discourse.

"Aileen and I knew and admired Laurie for more than 30 years," said CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan. "She was a courageous reporter but an even more courageous cancer victim. We were lucky to have had her in our lives."

Becklund spoke at Stanford's Medicine X conference in late 2014 to share her personal battle with cancer and discuss the importance of big data in modern cancer treatment and research.

"She was born a reporter," said journalist Barbara Kantrowitz to the Los Angeles Times, which published Becklund's obituary on Monday. "Nothing was uninteresting to her, and journalism was the best way to make use of her talent."

During her 25-year career in journalism, Becklund has won numerous awards for her investigations of issues ranging from the death squads in El Salvador to the "Coroner to the Stars" Thomas Noguchi. She was also a key writer on the Los Angeles Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize for covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Becklund co-authored four books, including Swoosh: The Story of Nike and the Men Who Played ThereĀ and Go Toward the Light, a Readers Digest book of the year which later became a CBS television film. After leaving the Times in 1993, Becklund covered the OJ Simpson case for CBS News and later developed a series of pioneering internet projects, including NetDayNews, SchoolWire, and Associated Student Press, a hyper-local news nonprofit that allowed student newspapers to work together.

Both the Los Angeles Times and LA Observed have published Becklund's obituary, highlighting her inspirational career.

Adam Powell

Americans can now listen to FM radio on their cell phone - for free

By Adam Powell | January 29, 2015 0

WASHINGTON - New software now allows millions of Americans to unlock the free FM radio receivers built into almost every smartphone sold in the US.

Called NextRadio, the free app unlocks the FM receiver, enabling the phone to receive all local FM radio stations for free without using the cell phone network, so there are no data charges or other costs. Just remember to recharge your battery.

NextRadio only works on Android cell phones, and not yet on all Android phones. Originally developed with Sprint, NextRadio now runs on all major US cell phone networks.


The new app does more than just unlock the FM receiver chip: it also launches TagStation, an interactive display showing all of the programming on local stations it can receive, including information on performing artists' upcoming appearances in that local area. Oh, and you buy the music you are hearing with a tap on the screen.

The new free download was demonstrated and discussed at a CCLP and Sunnylands forum here this week on improving cell phones as platforms for public safety and emergency preparedness, by Jeff Smulyan, chairman of Emmis Communications, a major US broadcast group. Smulyan said there would be a massive advertising campaign starting in February to publicize the new download.

Emmis, along with NPR and other public broadcasters have long favored unlocking the FM receivers, but Apple and most US mobile phone carriers have refused - and have declined to explain why. (For example, see this Boston Globe article).

By shifting use of mobile phones to a combination of cell network plus free over-the-air radio, mobile phone carriers may lose revenue as customers reduce use of their data plans. But one company, Sprint, decided to break with other US carriers and partner with Emmis to develop the new download; in return Sprint gets a share of revenues broadcasters receive from mobile customers.

In tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other emergencies, the ability to receive over-the-air radio can save lives, which is why it was a topic for the CCLP and Sunnylands forum on public safety and emergency preparedness.

"If your radio is now in your cell phone, that is just one less device that you have to have extra," said W. Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in a video ] last year. "It's important to make certain you can get broadcast in an emergency."

Fugate noted that in many emergencies, the cell phone system stops functioning because it is overloaded, and broadcast radio may be the only way people can receive life-saving information.

All of this of course is good news for commercial and public broadcasters in the US, who expect increased listening to their stations. Seventeen percent of all Americans over the age of 12 said they would listen "a lot more" to local radio stations after they download the NextRadio app, according to a recent survey.

In much of the world, especially in underdeveloped countries, people listen to radio on their cell phones for free using the same receiver chips that until now have been turned off in US phones.

In Cambodian cities, more people now listen to radio on their phones than on a radio, according to Gallup (slide 16 of this report). In Afghanistan, again according to Gallup, 17% of the population listens to radio on a cell phone (slide 28).

In much of the world, people can also watch television on their mobile phones; for example, see this Broadcasting Board of Governors article.

Indeed, when I discussed this subject at forums in Asia earlier this month, experts were surprised to learn that Americans could not use cell phones to receive broadcast radio - or to receive broadcast emergency information.

Policymakers and industry leaders take steps to improve cell phone capabilities during emergencies

By CCLP Staff | January 28, 2015 0

Mobile phones today offer enormous potential in regards to public safety and emergency preparedness, but current infrastructure and systems present substantial challenges as well. The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy have launched an initiative to research these issues, explore solutions and define minimum capabilities of cell phones for health care, public safety and other public services.

On Sunday and Monday, 20 high-level government officials, top mobile technology industry professionals, public advocates and entrepreneurs attended an event hosted by CCLP in Washington, DC. The event, entitled "Mobile Phones for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness," was the second meeting on the subject as part of the Mobile Phones for Public Service initiative.

The meeting was organized by Sunnylands president and CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan and senior fellow Adam Clayton Powell III. Attendees included Google vice president and "father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and representatives from T-Mobile, Emmis Communications, Mobile Commons, AMG Communications, Rand Corporation, National Institute of Justice, Food and Drug Administration and Sprint Nextel.

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Mignon Clyburn and Jeff Smulyan

"These CCLP meetings show how industry, government, entrepreneurs and researchers can come together to reach consensus on improving public services -- in this case, using cell phones as platforms for public safety and emergency preparedness," said Powell.

The group focused on four primary issues: the Wireless Emergency Alert system (WEA); Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911); FM radio chip activation; and the FCC's Lifeline program, and developed a series of next steps and action items.

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Vint Cerf and George Pendleton

Expanding WEA
Dr. Daniel Gonzales, senior physical scientist at the Rand Corporation, presented on findings of the WEA Mobile Penetration Study, as well as ongoing research for the Department of Homeland Security. The group discussed cooperation between government and private industry on improving alerts-testing, geo-targeting, message length and other issues. They also discussed what it would take to get to universal WEA capability and how to get mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) on board with WEA.

Locating 9-1-1 calls from cell phones
Next Generation 9-1-1 is an initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 service infrastructure. At the event, the group examined the challenge of locating people after they've dialed 9-1-1, as most calls are now made on mobile phones rather than easily locatable landlines. In April, the Washington Post reported that "an alarming proportion of 9-1-1 calls go unfulfilled because wireless technology fails to help locate victims in time." Many industry and government researchers are already working to address this challenge, and their work was analyzed at the CCLP meeting.

Activating the FM radio in your phone
Almost all US smartphones have FM radio chips, but most carriers don't activate them. That is starting to change: Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Broadcasting, showed meeting participants a new, free app that his company has helped to develop that will unlock FM receivers on many Android cell phones, allowing them to receive limited radio listening for free. Backed by a "billion-dollar" ad campaign, the app will be rolled out publicly next month. Read more in Powell's article on NextRadio here.

Radio chips are particularly important in times of natural disaster, such as the recent blizzard and state of emergency on the East Coast, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and terrorist attacks. The group talked about a possible compromise: getting mobile service carriers to agree on activating the radio chips in emergency situations. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, recently identified how important this is.

Reforming Lifeline
Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income subscribers to help ensure they can connect to basic services. Lifeline is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund (USF), which was created by Congress in 1934. Millions of Americans receive the subsidized mobile phone service, which is politically vulnerable because it's seen by some as a form of welfare.

CCLP is drafting a report on the Lifeline program for the FCC that may include recommendations for improving public safety.

The mobile carriers that participate in Lifeline vary widely by state, and some carriers (including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) only provide voice service through Lifeline subsidies, while Sprint - through a program with Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless - provides more flexible Lifeline plans that do appear to provide a texting and data option. One question addressed at the event was whether text messages and/or data are essential for public safety and emergency preparedness, and whether Lifeline providers should be encouraged to provide such services with their plans.

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CCLP research fellows Skye Featherstone and Ev Boyle conducted interviews with participants at the event. These interviews will be the basis for a short video to highlight key issues discussed as relevant to the meeting. Check back soon to watch the video.

By Justin Chapman, CCLP project fellow.

Latonero speaks at AAAS conference on big data and human rights

By CCLP Staff | January 28, 2015 0

On January 15 and 16, research director Mark Latonero spoke at the Science and Human Rights Coalition's "Big Data and Human Rights" conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Sessions explored how human rights can be affected by the collection and analysis of big data, the rapidly growing collections of information that can now be processed thanks to recent technological advances.

"The application of big data in the human rights domain is still really in its infancy," said Latonero. "The positives and negatives are not always clear and often exist in tension with one another, particularly when involving vulnerable populations."

Watch Mark Latonero's presentation:

The event was divided into three plenaries. The first session began with a discussion of the latest trends in big data, led by Toni Carbo of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) and Kavita Berger and Theresa Harris of AAAS. Carbo said that "last year there were 4 zettabytes of data." (One zettabyte is equivalent to one billion terabytes, with the number of bytes being written as a 4 followed by 21 zeroes.)

The second plenary examined how big data can be a threat to human rights. Jessica Wyndham of AAAS talked about the connections between science and human rights. In the final plenary, titled "Big Data in the Service of Human Rights: Opportunities and Responsibilities," Latonero discussed how human rights principles can guide responsible data-mediated interventions in preventing human trafficking.

According to a post by Kathy Wren of AAAS, "Latonero showed how analyzing classified ads can reveal patterns suggesting organized child sex trafficking and even investigate particular individuals. Corporations such as Western Union, Google, and J.P. Morgan Chase are also analyzing data that can reveal financial transactions or other evidence of human trafficking. When this data is shared with human rights groups and researchers, it brings up yet-unanswered questions about who has a responsibility to act if a human rights abuse is uncovered, and who has the responsibility to report and monitor that situation, Latonero said."

"The event was an important opportunity to explore big data and human rights from a scientific perspective," said Latonero. "While there is existing research on big data and development, humanitarian and crises, this meeting was important for those of us focusing specifically on data and human rights."

In 2014, Latonero was named to the inaugural class of fellows at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York, where he is studying the intersections between data, development, and human rights. At CCLP, Latonero spearheaded the Technology and Trafficking Initiative with groundbreaking research on technology's dual role in facilitating and combating human trafficking.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman and web & IT coordinator Liz Krane.

Senior fellow publishing new book on California as she wraps up CIR project on armed security guards

By CCLP Staff | January 22, 2015 0


As project editor on a two-month long assignment with the Center for Investigative Reporting, CCLP senior fellow Narda Zacchino oversaw reporter Shoshana Walter's and others' six part series "Hired Guns." The team reported on armed security guards across the country who endanger public safety through a haphazard system of lax laws, minimal oversight and almost no accountability. The project includes a graphic novel and an interactive map.

Zacchino and Walter are hoping that the series will raise awareness about this issue and change policies across the country. CNN teamed up with CIR and featured two segments on the story, which will be sent to hundreds of key legislators in policy making positions.

"There is a bill in Congress now, by Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, that would make FBI background checks available to security companies that want them," said Zacchino. "Right now that's not the case. We hope our series will enlighten people about the extent of the problem in the security industry and will get that bill passed. Certainly more needs to be done."

Zacchino has also written a new book about California, which she has been working on for several years. The book will finally be published this year by Thomas Dunn Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press.

The untitled book, now in the final editing stages, demonstrates that "government" and "regulation" are not dirty words, and that "freedom from environmental and workplace regulation and from taxes to benefit the wealthy class is not conducive to progress as a nation, or democracy for that matter."

The book's thesis stems from the "debate over the neoliberal model of Texas and Kansas, which endorses privatization, deregulation, reductions in government spending, eschewing subsidies, having minimal government 'interference' in business and a tax system that favors the wealthy, versus the pragmatic liberal model of Jerry Brown's California: raising taxes on those with incomes over $250,000 to help fund education, shifting money toward the schools of poor children, making alliances with other states and countries to counter climate change, rejecting military solutions to the problems posed by illegal immigration, raising the minimum wage and strengthening workers' rights."

Zacchino served as a top editor at the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. She has co-authored three books and co-founded Time Capsule Press, whose inaugural book, The LA Lakers: 50 Amazing Years in the City of Angels, was published in October 2009. She is an editorial and business consultant at the daily news website Truthdig. As a senior fellow, Zacchino works on programs exploring the role of media in democracy with a focus on state government financial crises.

By Justin Chapman

Hundreds gather in Annenberg Hall to watch President Obama's penultimate State of the Union address

By CCLP Staff | January 21, 2015 0

On Tuesday night about 250 people packed the new Wallis Annenberg Hall to watch President Obama's sixth State of the Union address, the Republican response by Sen. Joni Ernst and a panel discussion that included two CCLP senior fellows. The event, which according to CCLP senior fellow Dan Schnur had the largest on-campus turnout for a political event since the 2012 election night viewing, was co-sponsored by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and the Unruh Institute of Politics.

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See more event photos in our Flickr album

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