Links for week ending 18 March 2011

State Department may lose anti-censorship cash
Politico reports that legislators on both sides of the political divide in the United States are considering proposals to transfer a large part of the budget allocated to the State Department to support online censorship circumvention technology to another government entity, following the State Department’s slowness at spending the $50m in funds. US academics and practitioners including Ethan Zuckerman, Evgeny Morozov, Rebecca MacKinnon and staff from the Center for Democracy and Technology have written an open letter condemning the proposals.
Story | Letter

United Nations continues to undermine IGF
Kieren McCarthy reports for dot-nxt on why bureaucratic uncertainty surrounding the future of the UN’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) may mask more fundamental disagreements between China and the West on the scope and shape of the institution.

Burmese junta rules VoIP illegal
The Burmese military junta has issued an official instruction stating that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype are illegal under existing telecommunications legislation. The instruction states that use of VoIP services has caused a decline in revenue from official overseas calls through the state’s own communication services. The Irrawaddy reports that “overseas phone calls using the junta-run service are so expensive that the majority of people in Burma cannot afford to use them”.

Agency has valuable Japanese radiation monitoring data it can’t share
The Nature blog reports news that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO), an international agency that collects extensive data on radiation levels across the world, is unable to release that data to the wider public because it has no mandate to do so. By contrast, the agency has had a mandate to release hydroacoustic and seismic for the purposes of tsunami warnings ever since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

US proposals for secret “Son Of ACTA” treaty leaked
Techdirt reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a new secret trade agreement being pushed by the United States Trade Representative that contains many of the draconian intellectual property enforcement provisions of early drafts of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The report labels the new initiative “a sickening display of crony capitalism and regulatory capture at work”.

Turkish Blogspot blocking order revoked
Public Prosecutors in Turkey have revoked a blocking order on the popular blogging platform Blogspot that has been in place since January this year. The move follows several appeals lodged by both Google and Cyber-Rights Turkey.

European Court of Justice rejects stem-cell patents
The European Court of Justice has issued a preliminary opinion that procedures involving human embryonic stem cells are not patentable. The opinion follows a case presented to the court by the German Federal Supreme Court after it was asked to rule on a stem cell patent in a case brought by Greenpeace on ethical grounds.

A Legacy at Risk: How the new Ministry of Culture in Brazil reversed its digital agenda
Ronaldo Lemos, director of the Center for Technology and Society at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) School of Law in Rio de Janeiro, argues that Brazil’s new culture minister, Ana de Hollanda, is betraying the legacy of her predecessor, Gilberto Gil.

Report: Media Piracy in Emerging Economies
This major new report from the Social Science Research Council brings together expertise and hard data from around the world to expose the industry myth-making around digital copyright infringement that lies behind draconian enforcement legislation and protectionist trade agreements. Includes contributions from the Association for Progressive Communications and the Center for Technology and Society (FGV, Brazil).

Eight lessons from three years working on transparency
An essay by Owen Barder of AidInfo on the lessons he’s learned from three years working with major donors to open up data about international aid.

Anonymous no more
This Economist feature details how a combination of advances in behavioural tracking and browser vulnerabilities are serving to effectively de-anonymise the web.

oAfrica: Tracking ICT Progress
Online Africa is a new website dedicated to disseminating information relating to the African internet.

Interview: Yochai Benkler
This interview with Yochai Benkler summarises his forthcoming article on the legal case, or lack of one, the US government has against Wikileaks: “It is not, as a matter of law, sustainable to treat WikiLeaks or Assange any differently than the New York Times and its reporters”.

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