Tech and policy: online courses for credit, anti-CISPA petition, ad rules for social networks

Tech and policy, of the “how technology is changing the world” flavor:

• Are online courses for credit an answer to California’s crowded colleges? That’s what legislation being introduced today aims to address. A bill by State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would allow students at the state’s public colleges and universities to receive credit for some online courses, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some courses from Coursera or Udacity, providers of MOOCs (massive open online courses), for example, might be eligible for credit. This could prove controversial. “The decision to award credit has been one of those solemn things that the faculty hold very dear. But it could be a catalyst for widespread change,”  Josh Jarrett, a higher education officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the New York Times. If the bill passes, Steinberg’s office is saying California would be the first state to solve budget problems by using online education to supplement public higher education.

• An online petition urging the White House to stop CISPA has gathered more than the 100,000 required signatures, which means the Obama administration must respond. The controversial Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act, which was reintroduced in Congress last month after stalling last year, would increase cooperation between businesses and the government in the name of a more secure Internet, and has been criticized as a potential threat to Americans’ privacy. (See Quoted: Is CISPA from ’1984′? and Quoted: on Mozilla’s opposition to CISPA.)  The Obama administration, which last month issued an executive cybersecurity order, has called for legislation that would have more teeth. But Techdirt points out that Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has criticized CISPA for its lack of privacy protections.

• Ads on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks must follow the same rules as those on other platforms, the Federal Trade Commission says. This means the 140-character limit for tweets, for example, are no excuse for deceptive or misleading advertising. Disclosures need to be clear and easily accessible, and referring consumers to more information elsewhere isn’t adequate, the FTC said in a 53-page report released Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal says the guidelines, which update those issued by the FTC in 2000 amid the rise of online shopping, suggest what might prompt the FTC to begin an investigation — and come as marketers and advertisers have more options than ever on how to reach consumers.


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