Monthly Archives: January 2011

Links for week ending 28 January 2011

Egypt severs internet connection amid growing unrest
As anti-government demonstrations continue across Egypt, the BBC report that much of the country’s internet has been cut off from the outside world. Web watchers Renesys report that “the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet”. Such a move would be unprecedented.
BBC | Renesys

Legal experts warn ACTA is not consistent with European law
Intellectual property law experts from the Max Planck Institute, together with scholars and experts from across Europe have signed an open declaration highlighting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement(ACTA)’s inconsistencies with European law. The signatories are requesting that EU institutions and national legislators withhold consent to the draconian intellectual property enforcement treaty until it has been made compatible with EU law.

Flat World Knowledge secures $15 million in series B funding
Flat World Knowledge, one of the largest commercial publishers of open educational resources in the world, has secured $15 million in series B funding from a group of investors which includes Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments and Bessemer Venture Partners.

UAE aims to create DNA database in 10-year project
Gulf News report that the United Arab Emirates plan to build a comprehensive forensic DNA database covering the country’s entire population over the next ten years.

Iran internet censorship targeting Tor
The Tor project report on new developments in Iranian cyber censorship that are making it harder for people inside Iran to access the Tor anonymisation network: “It appears that one of the five Iranian ISPs is experimenting in blocking censorship circumvention tools such as Tor, Freegate, Ultrasurf, and Hot Spot Shield”.

The inside story of how Facebook responded to the Tunisian hacks
This Atlantic feature provides in-depth detail of the former Tunisian government’s cyber-attacks against its own citizens in the early days of the recent revolution: “After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook’s security team realized something very, very bad was going on. The country’s Internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users’ login information when they went to sites like Facebook.”

A day in the life of a digital librarian
Dorothea Salo participates in the 6th biannual “Library Day in the Life” project, documenting a typical day’s work for a digital information professional. Anyone with “stale, stereotyped” ideas about librarians will find themselves surprised.

Map: National DNA Databases
The Council for Responsible Genetics have produced a map showing the countries around the world with operational and planned forensic DNA databases, in conjunction with a detailed country-by-country report on the issue published this week. They warn that “resources must be mobilized to establish strong standards and universal safeguards for this most invasive form of surveillance and profiling”.
Map | Report

Open grantmaking in practice, not just in principle
Outgoing director of the White House Open Government Initiative Beth Noveck points out the wider implications of last week’s $500m grant for open educational materials: “Since grants represent half of the federal budget this is important news with potentially powerful implications for changing the culture of grantmaking”.

Open Spectrum for development: policy brief
This policy brief produced by the Association for Progressive Communications details how spectrum use has developed over the past eighty years, examines current issues and management practices and makes the case for open spectrum.

Audio: Studio 360 episode on surveillance
An entertaining, up-to-date and accessible overview of surveillance and data privacy online and off, produced by US public radio show Studio 360. Includes segments on security cameras, social networks, smart phones, cookies and facial recognition technology.

Spotted! Me on Resonance 104.4 FM tonight, interviewing Evgeny Morozov

Image of radio studio Update: The interview is now available for download.

For the next three months, I’ll be filling in for Rebecca Watson, hosting one of my favourite radio shows, Little Atoms on Resonance 104.4FM. This evening at 7pm the first of my co-hosting efforts will be broadcast. You can listen online or download the podcast (I’ll update this post when that goes out, or subscribe via iTunes here) .

Little Atoms rocks. Ever since Neil Denny asked me to fill in for Rebecca at the end of last year, I’ve been really excited about this first show, interviewing author of The Net Delusion Evgeny Morozov. Evgeny is a sharp thinker with a great sense of humour, he writes brilliantly about all the issues I care about, and his accent (Evgeny was born in Belarus) is radio heaven. We pre-recorded the interview on Wednesday this week, ready to go live tonight. But all did not go to plan.

Picture the scene. It’s half an hour before the recording is due to start and I’m standing outside the gates to the Resonance studios. It’s cold. Nobody inside the studios is answering the doorbell. Perhaps, I think, nobody is inside the studios. I get a text from my co-host Padraig Reidy saying he’s running late – very late – thanks to a Tube fail on the Northern line. I may have to do this one on my own. It’s at this moment that Evgeny pulls up in a taxi with his publicist.

Evgeny MorozovIf I sound a little shaken at the beginning of the recording, then that’s my excuse. Of course it all worked out in the end, thanks partly to Annie the producer (thanks, Annie!) and mostly to Evgeny’s patience and kindness.

I’m not sure Evgeny would welcome me outing him as a thoroughly nice chap given his public image as the scourge of cyber-utopians. In the 30 minute interview, we discuss the flawed metaphors, shoddy evidence and general naivety that has contributed to the US State Department’s Internet Freedom agenda, the hypocrisy of that agenda as revealed by Wikileaks, and the danger that agenda poses to citizens of autocratic regimes everywhere. Go listen.

Image credits: Ross Murray@Flickr (radio studio) oso@Flickr (Evgeny)

Links for week ending 21 January 2011

US: New higher education initiative grants $500 million for OER
A new $2 billion initiative jointly announced this week by the United States’ Departments of Labor and Education will set aside $500 million for the creation of open educational resources at community colleges. Under the program, grantees “will be required to license to the public… all work created with the support of the grant … under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License”

Strasbourg rules libel lawsuit “success fees” violate free expression
Lawyers acting for claimants in privacy and libel cases should no longer be allowed to recover a “success fee” from defendants, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this week. NGOs including Index on Censorship and English PEN intervened in the case to express serious concern that the threat of disproportionate and costly libel cases was having a chilling effect on free expression.

Brazil’s new Minister of Culture to reverse reform process?
Concern is mounting among the access to knowledge community in Brazil that the country’s new Culture Minister, Ana de Hollanda, will reverse the direction of a five-year public consultation that could have led to vital copyright reforms. Last year, Consumers International rated Brazil as having one of the most restrictive copyright regimes in the world.

More details emerge about Stuxnet cyberwarfare attack
The New York Times report claims that a secret Israeli nuclear facility was used to test the Stuxnet worm. Stuxnet, a computer virus that targets industrial systems, was detected in 2010 and was speculated to have the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility as its ultimate target: “the operations [in Israel], as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian [nuclear] program.”

EU law not tough enough for online piracy, says Brussels
In a report evaluating the success of the EU’s 2004 Directive on Intellectual Property Rights, the European Commission have concluded that current laws are not strong enough to combat online copyright infringement, and that new powers to compel internet service providers to enforce copyright more proactively should now be considered.

Quelle Twitter revolution en Tunisie?
This French-language piece published by the collective Tunisian blog uses data to examine the significance of Twitter in the revolution in Tunisia, and posits four theories on the role Twitter played in events there.

Middle East: A Closer Look at Tunisia’s Uprising
This Global Voices round up of reactions to the Tunisian revolution from bloggers in the Middle East gives a broad overview of challenges yet to come.

OECD report: Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk
This clear-headed report produced by Ian Brown and Peter Sommer for the OECD concludes that “very few single cyber-related events have the capacity to cause a global shock”. Nevertheless “Governments… need to make detailed preparations to withstand and recover from a wide range of unwanted cyber events, both accidental and deliberate”.

What future does Facebook have?
This blog post by economist J. Bradford DeLong highlights a recent feature in the Financial Times magazine, showing how Facebook’s approach to helping people find the information they want on the web contrasts with that of Google and Wikipedia, and may ultimately lead to a narrowing of the information to which we are routinely exposed online.

Slavoj Žižek: Good manners in the age of WikiLeaks
In this essay for the London Review of Books, Slavoj Žižek deconstructs WikiLeaks’ true challenge to power, via Batman, Robin, and the Joker: “We shouldn’t forget that power comprises not only institutions and their rules, but also legitimate (‘normal’) ways of challenging it (an independent press, NGOs etc).”

Books: “Net Neutrality: Towards a Co-regulatory solution” by Christopher T. Marsden
Despite its rather dry title, this 2010 book remains one of the best out there to address the contentious debate surrounding regulating access to networks in the US and Europe. It is published by Bloomsbury Academic, an experimental commercial publishing venture run by former Information Program sub-Board member Frances Pinter that makes all of its titles available for free download under a Creative Commons licence.

Links for week ending 14 January 2011

EFF calls for immediate action to defend Tunisian activists against government cyber-attacks
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have pointed Tunisian citizens participating in ongoing demonstrations and protests to several tools intended to protect them from their own government’s attacks on login credentials. They report that Tunisian authorities are siphoning off the usernames and passwords of Tunisians logging in to Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, using a JavaScript-based attack. The EFF further call on the three US companies to take action to protect the privacy of their users “by alerting them of the potential compromise of their accounts”.

UK commits to libel reform
The UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced details of proposed reforms to defamation law in the UK. Commenting after his speech, Clegg paid tribute to the Libel Reform Campaign “who have led the debate on this issue for so long”. The UK law has become notorious for enabling “libel tourism”, with well-resourced plaintiffs from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Ukraine suing investigative journalists and organisations like Human Rights Watch and Global Witness.

India to spy on every net user in the country?
The Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) have asked internet service providers (ISPs) to retain records of their users’ online activity for six months. IB have also asked telecoms operators “to put in place a system that can uniquely identify any person using the internet across the country”.

Icelandic MP fights US demand for Twitter account details
The US Department of Justice has ordered Twitter to hand over account details of several people it believes are connected with Wikileaks. One of them, Birgitta Jonsdottir, is an Icelandic member of Parliament. Twitter fought to make the DoJ subpoenas public. It is widely speculated that other online media services have also been subject to similar orders, but have not publicised them.

State of Washington to offer online materials instead of textbooks
The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has begun a program to develop shareable, low-cost, online instructional materials for its community and technical colleges. This report in the Chronicle of Higher Education details the thinking behind the new “Open Course Library”, and hints at the efficiency it could eventually bring to higher education in America and across the world.

Experts advise Brussels to call for limited “preferential use” period on digitised public works
Experts in cultural preservation have advised the European Commission to limit to seven years the period of time companies like Google, who digitise works in the public domain, can exclude competing commercial uses of the resulting works: “During a period of preferential use, a public domain book, for instance, that was digitized by Google would be available only through a library’s Web site, through Google’s Web site, or through non-commercial Web sites for that seven-year period.”

“A Walled Wide Web for Nervous Autocrats”
Evgeny Morozov uses Russia’s recent decision to mandate the use of open source software for all its public institutions by 2015 as a platform to speculate on how global competition in software and internet services might clash with issues of national security in the future.

African Human Rights Case Law Analyser
The African Human Rights Case Law Analyser, launched jointly by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and HURIDOCS in November last year, provides easy access to primary case law, text and analysis of the decisions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The tool is available in English and French.

The Next Net
In light of recent developments around net neutrality and online censorship, Douglas Rushkoff makes the argument for redesigning the network from scratch: “I propose we abandon the Internet, or at least accept the fact that it has been surrendered to corporate control like pretty much everything else in Western society. It was bound to happen, and its flawed, centralized architecture made it ripe for conquest.”

Special Report: Music industry’s lavish lobby campaign
According to analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, the past decade has seen the music industry spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying US government officials at home and abroad for more restrictive copyright laws. In this special report, IP Watch detail the spending breakdown, and speculate as to its impact.

Will the real mobile impact please stand up?
Steve Song demands better research into the impact of mobile phones in Africa.

Audio: Amanda Cox on data visualisation
Amanda Cox creates interactive data visualisations for the New York Times. In this interview with CBC’s Spark radio show, she speaks about the challenges and rewards of telling stories through data.

Links for week ending 7 January 2011

Independent media sites in Belarus reportedly hijacked during election
Hal Roberts of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society details reports that BELPAK, the Belarusian national ISP, redirected visitors trying to access independent media sites to mirrors of those sites with subtly different content during last month’s election. Meanwhile, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter report on how Swedish firm Ericsson supplies surveillance equipment to Belarusian authorities.
Roberts | Dagens Nyheter

Venezuela passes new law drastically limiting internet freedoms
The Venezuelan National Assembly has approved changes to media and telecommunications law that will place burdens on internet service and digital media providers to restrict access to content and messages that “incite or promote hatred”, “foment citizens’ anxiety or alter public order”, “disrespect authorities”, “encourage assassination”, or “constitute war propaganda”, expanding existing broadcasting regulations to the internet. The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on President Hugo Chavez to veto the reforms.

FCC approves net neutrality rules for fixed line internet
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved new regulation aimed at preserving net neutrality on fixed line internet connections. The controversial rules have been criticised for setting different standards for fixed line and mobile operators.

How Wikileaks killed Spain’s anti-p2p law
Ars Technica report that a new law that would have made it easier for judicial authorities to shut down websites that link to copyright-infringing content has been rejected by the Spanish Parliament. The news comes after US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks and Spanish national newspaper El Pais revealed significant US pressure on the Spanish government to crack down on copyright infringement in Spain.

Turkmenistan clamps down on mobile and internet users
Amnesty International is calling on Turkmenistan’s telecommunications authority to immediately lift the operating licence suspension it has imposed on MTS, the Russian mobile operator and largest service provider in Turkmenistan. The licence was suspended on 21 December following reports that MTS was coming under pressure from authorities in Turkmenistan to share a greater proportion of its profits. The country’s only alternative provider, Altyn Asyr, is state-owned, and blocks access to independent news sites and the websites of opposition groups.

Hackers demonstrate cheap and easy way to intercept GSM mobile phone calls
Hackers at the 27th annual Chaos Computer Congress have demonstrated a low cost way to intercept phone calls and text messages sent over the majority of the world’s mobile networks. The news follows on from a presentation to the same conference the previous year, which showed how the encryption of the GSM mobile network standard could be cracked. The new hack is understood to be a direct response to GSM industry groups’ lacklustre reactions to the security flaw at that time.

“Internet blackout” protest at new Hungarian media law
La Quadrature du Net and the Pirate Bay are among those who promised to “black out” their websites on 5 January in protest against a new law passed in Hungary at the end of last year which, among other restrictive measures, requires bloggers to register with the government. Websites replaced their homepages with code provided by, transforming them into black screens containing a short, stark protest message.

Report: DDoS attacks against independent media and human rights sites
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society have released a 66-page report of their investigations into distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against independent media and human rights sites. The report includes an introduction to DDoS, a survey of current experiences with DDoS in nine countries including Russia, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Tunisia, and initial recommendations for organisations and funders on how to mitigate against such attacks.

Video: Hackers in the age of Chaos
The keynote lecture at the 27th annual Chaos Computer Congress was delivered by Dutch hacker and activist Rop Gonggrijp. Measured and thoughtful, it plots a way forward for a community which, in the wake of the Wikileaks controversy, has found itself very much in the international spotlight.
Video | Transcript

Civic hackers seek to find their feet in India
This feature article from India’s Centre for Internet and Society maps India’s nascent community of civic hackers, “programmer(s) driven by the urge to create applications that will allow fellow citizens to help themselves and further the democratic process.”

Opening up spectrum can prevent Kenya from running out
The Association for Progressive Communications present alternatives to Kenya’s current strategy for allocating spectrum that they argue could ensure greater access to affordable communications into the future.

Open Access 2010 in Review
Peter Suber presents a thorough and compelling review of open access milestones in 2010 for Open Access News.

Book: The Net Delusion
“The Net Delusion”, a book by Evgeny Morozov published this week, calls on policy-makers to reject cyber-utopianism in their quest to encourage democracy around the world. Reviewing the book, The Economist calls it provocative, enlightening and highly readable, while Adam Theirer accuses Morozov of over-playing his contrarian streak.
Economist | Theirer

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 43 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 68 posts. There were 8 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1mb.

The busiest day of the year was November 25th with 137 views. The most popular post that day was Social bibliographies and collaborative reading: you’re doing it wrong .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for becky hogge, aids visualisations, barefoot technologist, stewart brand monsanto, and what happened to ntk.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Social bibliographies and collaborative reading: you’re doing it wrong November 2010


About Becky Hogge June 2009


Data dot (dot, dot): the story of open government data May 2010


Stewart Brand January 2010


Portfolio July 2009