Links for this week

Here are the links from this week’s Information Program mailout, a weekly update of interesting information policy stories and features I help to compile.

Afghanistan begins internet censorship
Following the announcement in March of its intention to filter websites pertaining to alcohol, gambling and sex, this week saw reports that Afghanistan is now blocking several websites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Gmail. Under the Taliban, the internet was completely banned in 2001 because it was said to contain “obscene, immoral and anti-Islamic material.”

ACTA negotiations resume
Negotiations around the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) resumed in Lucerne, Switzerland this week, amid vocal criticism from academics and civil society groups. Last week the American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property released a petition whose signatories included 90 intellectual property professors, warning negotiators that the treaty – which aims to establish a global regime for intellectual property enforcement – threatened the public interest.

Wellcome Trust launches “largest genome sequencing project ever undertaken”
The Wellcome Trust has launched a project to decode the genomes of 10,000 people in the UK. The three-year study aims to make a major contribution to scientists’ understanding of genetics. 4,000 individuals who have already been the subject of intense study will have their genomes fully sequenced, and genetic information will be gathered on clinicians’ recommendations from a further 6,000 people with extreme obesity, neurodevelopmental disease and other conditions.

US government release new privacy and identity initiatives
As part of its transparency and open government program, the United States Office of Management and Budget has launched three major initiatives that could combine to radically change online identity and privacy across the internet. The initiatives cover the government’s use of third party websites, a national strategy for verifying online identity and a policy on web cookies and the handling of personal data by website administrators.

YouTube court case developments good news for safe harbour
The US Federal Court has thrown out two of the central claims in media company Viacom’s ongoing court case against YouTube for copyright infringement. This development will strengthen the legal safe harbour enjoyed by internet intermediaries that allow many user-generated content sites to operate as they do.

Giving civil society a voice in South African telecoms regulation
Steve Song makes the case for using Universal Service funds to pay for civil society participation in South African telecommunications regulation fora, noting that “very often nobody is representing the public interest in these consultations”.

Is it possible to build a Silicon Valley in Russia?
Esther Dyson offers her advice to Dmitry Medvedev following his visit to Silicon Valley: “Think of the project as a garden rather than a construction site.”

One nation, online
This Boston Globe feature charts the global movement for recognising internet access as a civil right.

Are internet populists blind to facts?
Evgeny Morozov attacks Clay Shirky’s latest book, “Cognitive Surplus”: “Yes, a wired future might look good for democracy if some of the social functions currently performed by traditional media are taken up by new Internet projects. But that outcome needs to be demonstrated—perhaps constructively aimed at—rather than assumed.”

The human genome: past and future
The New York Times asks why ten years after the completion of the first draft of the Human Genome Project its application to drug development is still a work in progress, while the Economist reports on why China may lead the way in genetic research in the future, and where that might take the field as a whole.

Two cool map-based data visualisations
Technology Review plots global broadband penetration, while the Open Net Initiative demonstrate a brief history of YouTube censorship around the world.

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