Non-profit

Public Knowledge

Website:

www.publicknowledge.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-2336690

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $5,629,518
Expenses: $2,837,102
Assets: $5,010,054

Formation:

2001

Type:

Nonprofit advocacy group

Founders:

David Bollier

Gigi Sohn

Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C.-based technology advocacy group focused on intellectual property law, competition, and choice in the digital marketplace and an open standards/end-to-end internet. Public Knowledge is a staunch supporter of expanded regulations on internet businesses and technology companies, backing so-called “net neutrality” regulations against internet service providers[1] and supporting antitrust action against other technology companies. [2]

Public Knowledge receives substantial funding from left-progressive institutional foundations, especially the Ford Foundation, which provided Public Knowledge with $1 million with a further $2.5 million approved for future payment in 2017. [3]

History

Public Knowledge was founded by David Bollier and Gigi Sohn in 2001. Bollier is an author, activist, blogger, and consultant and was a former board member for Public Knowledge. [4]

Sohn worked as the CEO of Public Knowledge from 2001-2013. Prior to co-founding Public Knowledge, she worked at the left-wing Ford Foundation and the Media Access Project. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Sohn as a member of his Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. [5]

Advocacy

Net Neutrality

Public Knowledge supports net neutrality,[6] a policy under which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may not charge end-users or content provider companies differential rates for the information “packets” that carry information through the internet system. Left-progressive organizations like Public Knowledge, Free Press, and Demand Progress, alongside content provider companies like Netflix and Alphabet (Google’s parent company), pushed for the Obama administration-majority Federal Communications Commission’s “Title II” net neutrality regulations that were later repealed by the subsequent Trump administration-majority FCC. [7][8]

The group works in a variety of ways, including on Capitol Hill, through government agencies, working with allies and coalitions, participating and hosting public events, and through communications. [9]

Antitrust

Public Knowledge supports “aggressive antitrust enforcement” against major technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. In 2016, Public Knowledge president Gene Kimmelman, a former antitrust official during the Obama administration,[10] testified before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee on “Competition in Digital Technology Markets: Examining Self-Preferencing by Digital Platforms” in favor of new regulations and a new regulatory agency. [11]

Public Knowledge publicly opposed the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. [12] In 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the AT&T and Time Warner merger could proceed. Kimmelman stated that he was disappointed in the result and that there needed to be more regulatory oversight, ensuring citizens and smaller distributors and programmers weren’t harmed further, supporting his and Public Knowledge’s stance that there should be strong, enforceable net neutrality rules. [13] In 2019, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the district court’s earlier opinion, and the merger was allowed to proceed. John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, said the verdict was disappointing, but not surprising. [14]

Response to the 2019 Coronavirus Pandemic

Infodemic

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Public Knowledge launched a tracking system that would log digital platform responses to alleged “misinformation.” The group’s system monitors how major digital platforms, including Twitter and Google, respond to the crisis and analyzes their approaches. This report is then used to help policymakers, media, and the public to understand what digital companies are doing to fight the rising “infodemic.” Public Knowledge explained that an “infodemic” was “a dangerous onslaught of misunderstandings, inaccurate data, and lies about the coronavirus spread rapidly online.” [15]

Public Knowledge stated the reason for creating the tracking system was to hold the platforms accountable for the good and bad work they were doing. Public Knowledge then provides additional policy recommendations with the platform results. [16]

Data Privacy

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, governments are utilizing data and technology for surveillance to track citizens in an attempt combat the spread of the illness. A group of 15 mostly liberal organizations wrote to Congress to push for the protection of citizens’ privacy and to secure personal data, including location and health data. Some of the 15 organizations that signed included Amnesty International-USA, Access Now, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy, Common Sense Media, Consumer Federation of America, Free Press Action, Media Alliance, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Oakland Privacy, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US-PIRG). [17]

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic the U.S. government promised bailouts to the public, businesses, and individuals. Public Knowledge was one of 13 mostly liberal groups that proposed that Congress condition bailout packages on regulations to protect individuals’ privacy. A letter was sent to Congress stating that individuals should retain certain fundamental rights over the data collected from them during the crisis and whatever information is collected should be removed once the emergency has passed. [18]

Free Internet

Public Knowledge urged Congress to temporarily pay Internet Service Providers to provide all Americans free basic broadband during the Coronavirus pandemic. [19]

Funding

Public Knowledge receives funding from various areas, including charitable foundation grants and contributions, including through the group’s annual IP3 Awards. Grantors include the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the KahleAustin Foundation, Media Democracy Fund of the New Venture Fund, Nielsen, Porticus, Skowronski Family Foundation, the BGR Foundation, Google Community Grants Fund of Tides Foundation, and the Voqal Fund. [20]

Additional funding comes from Public Knowledge’s annual IP3 Awards event donations and sponsorship. [21] Since 2004, Public Knowledge has held its IP3 Awards annually, which honors people who have made significant contributions in the field over the past year, or during their career. The event focuses on three key areas: Intellectual Property, Information Policy, and Internet Protocol. [22]

Financials

Public Knowledge is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity. Public Knowledge reported $2,871,526 in expenditures and $2,153,552 in revenue in its 2018 fiscal year. [23] The organization reported 20 employees and 10 volunteers. [24] Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, earned $289,113 in total compensation in 2018. [25] Public Knowledge spent $29,916 on lobbying efforts. [26]

References

  1. Net Neutrality. Public Knowledge. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/net-neutrality/ ^
  2. Eggerton, John. “Public Knowledge: Digital Market Needs New Government Minder.” Multichannel News. March 10, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.multichannel.com/news/public-knowledge-digital-market-needs-new-government-minder ^
  3. Ford Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2017, Part XV Line 3 ^
  4. About. David Bollier Personal Website. Accessed April 2, 2020. http://www.bollier.org/about ^
  5. About. Gigi Sohn Personal Website. Accessed April 2, 2020. http://gigisohn.com/about/ ^
  6. Kang, Cecilia; Wakabayashi, Daisuke; Wingfield, Nick; and Isaac, Mike. “Tech Giants Quiet as Neutrality Protests Move Online.” New York Times. Page B2 N. ProQuest. December 13, 2017. Accessed April 3, 2020. ^
  7. Ludwig, Hayden. “Don’t Forget the Shadowy Special Interests Behind Net Neutrality.” Capital Research Center, October 4, 2018. https://capitalresearch.org/article/dont-forget-the-shadowy-special-interests-behind-net-neutrality/. ^
  8. Watson, Michael. “A Few ‘Laws’ of Influence and Politics.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, April 15, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/a-few-laws-of-influence-and-politics/. ^
  9. Annual Report. Public Knowledge. 2017. Accessed April 1, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PK_Annual_Report_2017.pdf ^
  10. “Watchdog’s Reversal Puts Political Cloud Over a Media Merger.” New York Times. Page B4 N. ProQuest. November 10, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2020. ^
  11. Eggerton, John. “Public Knowledge: Digital Market Needs New Government Minder.” Multichannel News. March 10, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.multichannel.com/news/public-knowledge-digital-market-needs-new-government-minder ^
  12. Stella, Shiva. “Public Knowledge President to Testify on AT&T/Time Warner Merger.” Press Release Public Knowledge. December 6, 2016. Accessed April 2, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/press-release/public-knowledge-president-to-testify-on-att-time-warner-merger/ ^
  13. Stella, Shiva. “Public Knowledge Disappointed by Ruling Permitting AT&T/Time Warner Mega-Merger to Proceed.” Press Release Public Knowledge. June 12, 2018. Accessed April 2, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/press-release/public-knowledge-disappointed-by-ruling-permitting-att-time-warner-mega-merger-to-proceed/ ^
  14. Stella, Shiva. “Public Knowledge Disappointed by DC Circuit Allowing AT&T/Time Warner Merger Decision to Stand.” Press Release Public Knowledge. February 26, 2019. https://www.publicknowledge.org/press-release/public-knowledge-disappointed-by-dc-circuit-allowing-att-time-warner-merger-decision-to-stand/ ^
  15. Clark, Drew. “Coronavirus Roundup: FCC Extends Rural Health Care Deadlines, Public Knowledge Tracks Misinformation, AEI on Regulation.” March 27, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2020/03/coronavirus-roundup-fcc-extends-rural-health-care-deadlines-public-knowledge-tracks-misinformation-aei-on-regulation/ ^
  16. Clark, Drew. “Coronavirus Roundup: FCC Extends Rural Health Care Deadlines, Public Knowledge Tracks Misinformation, AEI on Regulation.” March 27, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2020/03/coronavirus-roundup-fcc-extends-rural-health-care-deadlines-public-knowledge-tracks-misinformation-aei-on-regulation/ ^
  17. Datta, Anusuya. “Data Privacy Worries as Govts Collect Location Data to Track Coronavirus Spread.” Geospatial World. March 25, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/data-privacy-worries-as-govts-collect-location-data-to-track-coronavirus-spread/       ^
  18. Levine, Alexandra. “Tech World Begs Congress for Stronger Bailout Support.” Politico Morning Tech. March 23, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-tech/2020/03/23/tech-world-begs-congress-for-stronger-bailout-support-786309 ^
  19. Levine, Alexandra. “Tech World Begs Congress for Stronger Bailout Support.” Politico Morning Tech. March 23, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-tech/2020/03/23/tech-world-begs-congress-for-stronger-bailout-support-786309 ^
  20. Annual Report. Public Knowledge. 2017. Accessed April 1, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PK_Annual_Report_2017.pdf ^
  21. Annual Report. Public Knowledge. 2017. Accessed April 1, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PK_Annual_Report_2017.pdf ^
  22. “IP3 Awards.” Public Knowledge. Accessed April 2, 2020. https://www.publicknowledge.org/about-us/ip3-awards/ ^
  23. Public Knowledge, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Part I Line 18. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/522336690/11_2019_prefixes_47-54%2F522336690_201812_990_2019112216880706 ^
  24. Public Knowledge, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Part I Lines 5 and 6. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/522336690/11_2019_prefixes_47-54%2F522336690_201812_990_2019112216880706 ^
  25. Public Knowledge, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Part VII. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/522336690/11_2019_prefixes_47-54%2F522336690_201812_990_2019112216880706 ^
  26. Public Knowledge, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Schedule C, Part II-A. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/522336690/11_2019_prefixes_47-54%2F522336690_201812_990_2019112216880706 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Larry Lessig
    Former Board Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2002

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $5,629,518 $2,837,102 $5,010,054 $137,767 N $5,607,965 $32,485 $2,267 $514,427 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $3,133,213 $2,734,628 $2,202,528 $122,657 N $3,095,946 $31,814 $606 $480,054 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $2,105,881 $2,687,009 $1,819,987 $138,701 N $2,108,370 $30,000 $820 $467,067 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $4,064,859 $2,682,837 $2,361,398 $98,984 N $4,099,221 $0 $699 $240,294 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,645,912 $2,100,628 $961,159 $80,767 N $1,679,234 $0 $855 $200,728 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,981,881 $2,035,641 $1,419,603 $84,495 N $2,014,085 $0 $844 $224,694 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,962,772 $2,049,075 $1,513,843 $124,975 N $2,029,964 $0 $1,412 $207,579 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Public Knowledge

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