Links for week ending 11 March 2011

US and UK governments linked to national DNA database in UAE
The Council for Responsible Genetics and GeneWatch UK have uncovered links between the UK and US governments and plans in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to develop a universal national DNA database. “A universal DNA database would allow the Emirates to track every citizen and identify their relatives: a frightening prospect for dissidents and women” said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK.

More Facebook activists face arrest report arrests of activists using Facebook to plan protest activities or share messages of solidarity on Facebook in Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. The reports highlight issues around Facebook’s contentious ongoing policy against user pseudonyms on the site.

China pledges to step up administration of internet
Reports submitted to the National People’s Congress in China this week indicate Chinese authorities’ intention to step up regulation of the internet in order to keep pace with technological developments. Enhanced investment in fiber optic broadband was also announced.

Obama administration joins critics of ICANN
The United States Commerce Department has “put ICANN on notice”, according to this report in the Washington Post, for failing to respond to concerns about its practice being voiced by the international community. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the US-based non-profit organisation responsible for regulating the assignment of domain names across the web, and was created with the help of the US government in 1998.

Zim mobile provider cuts off unregistered users
Zimbabwe’s News Day report that the country’s three mobile phone operators began disconnecting tens of thousands of their customers this week, after a deadline passed mandating them to register their SIM cards. Mandatory SIM card registration is widely perceived as a policy used by governments to facilitate surveillance of their citizens, and has also been proposed in, among other places, Nigeria, the Philippines and Mozambique.

Libya withdraws from internet
Internet monitoring firms are reporting that internet traffic flows in and out of Libya appear to have been completely severed. The London Internet Exchange reports: “Because all of Libya’s international traffic flows through a single, state-run provider, the authorities were able to put the internet in ‘warm standby mode’ rather than shutting it down completely. Compare this with Egypt, where the Mubarak regime had to grapple with five independent ISPs with international connectivity.”

Facebook and Twitter opt not to sign free speech pact
This New York Times article calls out Facebook and Twitter for refusing to sign up to the Global Network Initiative, and discusses the initiative’s future: “the recent Middle East uprisings have highlighted the crucial role technology can play in the world’s most closed societies, which leaders of the initiative say makes their efforts even more important”.

A Declaration of Cyber-War
This Vanity Fair feature tracks the story of Stuxnet, a computer virus that targeted industrial systems and that is speculated to have had the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility as its ultimate target: “Stuxnet is the Hiroshima of cyber-war… We have crossed a threshold, and there is no turning back.”

The internet’s unholy marriage to capitalism
This long essay by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W McChesney for the Monthly Review charts the internet’s transformation from military-funded research project through anti-commercial hippy utopia to engine of global capitalism.

Economist debate: Internet democracy
At the end of February, the Economist hosted a lively online debate between John Palfrey and Evgeny Morozov around the motion “This house believes that the internet is not inherently a force for democracy”.
This new website created by the UK Media Standards Trust allows users to identify “churanlism”, news articles published as journalism which are essentially just rehashes of corporate, government and other third party press releases.

Visualisation: African Undersea Cables
Steve Song provides a visual history of the development of undersea cables to serve the African continent.

Infographic: Social media equivalents in China
This inforgraphic displays the Chinese equivalents of the rest of the English-speaking web’s most popular social media services.

Net neutrality: review of Tim Wu and Barbara van Schewick
Evgeny Morozov reviews two new works which address net neutrality for the Boston Review.

Interview: David Hammerstein of TACD
Knowledge Ecology International interview former member of the European Parliament David Hammerstein about his work on behalf of the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) advocating at the World Intellectual Property Organisation for better access to reading materials for the visually impaired.

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