Monthly Archives: June 2011

Too much information: week ending 24 June 2011

Brazil introduces OER into federal legislation and adopts local government policy
Creative Commons reports on two new developments in Brazil around open educational resources. Thanks to sustained advocacy from OER-Brazil, legislation is being debated in Brazil that would require government-funded educational resources to be made open. Meanwhile, the municipality of São Paulo’s Department of Education has mandated that all the educational content it funds should be released under a Creative Commons licence.

United States faces legal challenges to domain name seizures
The Open Net Initiative reports that “Puerto 80 Projects, owner of one of Spain’s most popular websites, is suing the United States government for seizing their domains, rojadirecta.com and rojadirecta.org”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology have filed an amicus brief arguing that the seizures amount to prior restraint on speech.
ONI report | Amicus brief

French government plans to extend internet censorship
La Quadrature du Net reacts to reports of a draft executive order put forward by the French Government which would several of its ministries the power to arbitrarily censor any content or service on the internet.

Turkey continues to push for restraints on internet
Voice of Amwerica summarises developments in the Turkish government’s bid for increased control of the internet.

Knight Foundation announces winners of 2011 News Challenge, plus funding for Center for Civic Media
Sixteen winners of the 2011 Knight News Challenge were annouced this week, including the Open Knowledge Foundation, Ushahidi’s Swiftriver social media parsing web application and UK-based data lab ScraperWiki. In parallel, the foundation has announced over $3m of support for MIT’s Center for Civic Media (formerly the Center for Future Civic Media) over three years. The rebranded Center will be led by Ethan Zuckerman.
News Challenge winners | Interview with Ethan Zuckerman about his new role

Information imperialism?
Adam Fish points at the dark side of US State Department funding for “Internet Freedom” projects in other countries.

Book: The Long History of New Media: Technology, historiography, and contextualizing newness
This new collection of essays takes the long view on “new” media, arguing that “the new in new media must be understood to be historically constructed… with an eye on the future, or more correctly, an eye on what we think the future will be.”

EIFL 2010 annual report
The annual report of the activities of the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) project in 2010 celebrates the role the organisation played in getting libraries’ copyright concerns on the agenda at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and in negotiating over $175 million of savings on commercial e-resources for libraries in its network, which stretches over 45 countries.

The state of e-Government in Latin America
The Information Civica blog has published an English translation of Juan Arellano’s comprehensive profile of e-government initiatives in Latin America.

Fair use best practices: the Israeli experience
This paper describes the authors’ experience building a coalition of scholars in Israel to decipher and defend fair use provisions in the context of education and research. The website openeducation.org.il provides a summary of the paper, and a copy of the best practice guidelines the scholars developed for teachers and researchers making use of fair use provisions in Israeli copyright law.
Paper | Summary | Guidelines

Audio: Through a Web Darkly
Participants including Ben Hammersley and Evgeny Morozov discuss how the web spreads ignorance and conspiracy, and examines ways in which an open society can mitigate these effects at this event co-sponsored by OSF.

Too much information: week ending 17 June

President of Poland declares support for building open government
Poland looks set to fast track its way to open government, as reports emerged this week that the President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, has declared his support for a policy to open up public sector data at a rapid pace. In May, the Polish Prime Minister announced “all information funded from public sources should be available as public property, free for everyone to use as they wish”. The work of Koalicja Otwartej Edukacji (“Coalition for Open Education”) has been vital in pushing forward this agenda.
Presidential support | Prime Ministerial announcement

WIPO’s leader calls for “positive agenda”
The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, has raised concerns among intellectual property reformers by calling for what he dubbed a “positive agenda” for future work at the UN institution, IP Watch reports. Such an agenda could move WIPO away from discussions about mandatory limitations and exceptions to copyright law which, for example, facilitate access to knowledge for disadvantaged groups.

ECLAC launches regional broadband observatory
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has launched a regional broadband observatory with the aim of lowering costs and increasing access in the region.

Turkey: 32 suspected “Anonymous” members arrested
The Open Net Initiative reports: “The Turkish government has arrested 32 hackers for their suspected involvement in a series of recent attacks against government sites launched by the online activist group Anonymous”. The attacks were motivated by government plans to implement nationwide filtering of the internet.

WSJ and Al-Jazeera lure whistleblowers with false promises of anonymity
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) present a legal analysis of WikiLeaks “copycats” launched earlier this year by Al Jazeera and the Wall Street Journal, warning users not to fall for “false promises of anonymity offered by these sites”. The detailed analysis follows earlier reports that the sites security measures were technically unsound.

Netherlands first European nation to adopt net neutrality
The Dutch Parliament have voted to adopt a new telecommunications law that mandates net neutrality principles. The Register reports: “The law will force ISPs and telecom operators to ensure access to all types of content, services or applications available on the network”.

EU ministers seek to ban creation of ‘hacking tools’
Computerworld reports on a recent meeting of EU Justice Ministers to discuss proposals put forward by the European Commission to combat cyberattacks, stating that “in addition to approving the Commission’s text, the ministers extended the draft to include ‘the production and making available of tools for committing offenses'”. Where such laws have been enacted in member states – in particular the UK and Germany – they have been met with fierce criticism, centred mainly on the fact most of the tools the laws seek to ban have legitimate and crucial uses in computer security work.

US: Hacking blitz drives cyberinsurance demand
Reuters reports that demand for insurance by US companies seeking to cover the costs of cyberattacks is soaring: “companies [are trying] to protect themselves against civil suits and the potential for fines by governments and regulators, but also [seeking] help paying for mundane costs like ‘sorry letters’ to customers”.

Kenya: Finance Minister uses social media to prepare budget
Global Voices reports on the Kenyan finance minister’s use of Facebook, Scribd and Google Docs to solicit public opinion on what to include in the country’s budget.

Russia: 6 month suspended sentence for forum comment
Global Voices reports on the 6-month suspended sentence handed down to former government employee and blogger Yuri Yegorov for what the court ruled were libellous comments he posted online detailing corruption in the office of the Tatarstan ombudsman: “additionally, the court ruled to destroy Yegorov’s laptop ‘as a weapon of crime'”.

Of goats and headaches
The Economist exposes the workings of the academic journal industry in this short feature.

Working paper: Social media, human rights and political change
This working paper provides a good overview of current critiques of the role of social media in political change, with a focus on the Arab Spring.

Book: The internet of elsewhere
This new book by Cyrus Farivar exposes US readers to internet cultures in Estonia, Iran, South Korea and Senegal, arguing that those who see the ‘net uniquely through a US lens miss crucial developments elsewhere.

Book review: The filter bubble
Evgeny Morozov reviews Eli Pariser’s new book “The Filter Bubble”, which he concludes “deserves praise for drawing attention to the growing power of information intermediaries whose rules, protocols, filters and motivations are not always visible.”

Video: Interview with Rufus Pollock on Open Spending
Breaking Tech interview Open Knowledge Foundation co-founder Rufus Pollock about his work to build a platform to track government spending across the world.

Too much information: week ending 10 June

UN rejects copyright enforcement approach in new report on free expression
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, has this week published a report warning governments they should refrain from restricting the flow of information on the internet, and not hold intermediaries such as internet service providers liable for content which travels across their wires. The report singled out measures designed to enforce copyright that would disconnect users from the internet, labelling them a violation of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Report (via Article 19) | Analysis (via the Center for Democracy and Technology)

Egypt used Western tools to intercept Skype
Memos uncovered following raids of the Egyptian state security agency earlier this year show the agency was intercepting calls made using Skype before the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The wall Street Journal reports that Skype “is the communications tool of choice for dissidents around the world because its powerful encryption technology evades traditional wiretaps”, while going on to highlight “a cottage industry of US and other companies” designing tools to either block or eavesdrop on Skype conversations.

Kazakhstan: Google redirects users away from google.kz
Citing concerns over network efficiency, “but also about user privacy and free expression”, Google announced this week that it will redirect all users of its Kazakh search service google.kz to google.com. The news follows an order issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information in Kazakhstan that requires all .kz domain names to operate on servers located inside Kazakhstan.

Microsoft ready to cooperate with FSB over Skype?
Following its acquisition of the internet telephony company last month, conflicting reports have emerged this week over the extent to which Microsoft intends to cooperate with Russian state security and hand over details about the software’s functionality. This Bloomberg report repeats claims in the Russian business press that Microsoft may disclose Skype’s source code to the FSB, but has no plans to make Skype’s encryption codes available: “The FSB… won’t be able to listen to individual Skype calls with only the source codes, though the data may help it hack the service”.

Nigeria: internet and mobile shutdown during presidential inauguration
The Open Net Initiative reports that: “internet and mobile networks were inaccessible for 12 hours in Abuja during President Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration on Sunday, May 29”.

YouTube introduces Creative Commons support
YouTube has begun offering its users the option to license their videos using a Creative Commons licence which allows third parties to remix and share their work. In conjunction with the new policy, YouTube has launched a Creative Commons video library containing 10,000 CC-licensed videos from organisations including C-SPAN and Al Jazeera, and a special CC-only search functionality.

A click away from the KGB: internet revolution in Belarus?
Belarus Digest publishes an up-to-date overview of online censorship and surveillance practice in Belarus which explains why, despite levels of internet penetration comparable to Egypt and Tunisia, Belarus is unlikely to experience its own internet revolution soon.

Digital mappers plot the future of “maptivism”
A helpful summary by Nancy Scola on the current and future use of mapping in activism with highlights from Russia, Japan, Haiti, and the Philippines.

When social networks become tools of oppression
In this column for Bloomberg, Jilian York highlights the dangers to cyber-activists in repressive regimes posed by using commercial social networking platforms, and identifies steps both companies and governments can take to mitigate against them.

Report: the case of the Syrian Electronic Army
This new report from the Open Net Initiative studies the rise of pro-government computer hackers the Syrian Electronic Army, who actively target political opposition and Western websites.

Book Review: Information in search of meaning
This multi-book review for the Australian takes in recent books by Evgeny Morozov, James Gleick, Timothy Wu and others to try and make sense of current thinking on the future of technology and society.

Evgeny Morozov guest edits the Browser
Evgeny picks his favourite technology-related articles of the week for The Browser, including insights into industrial espionage, a progress report from the Library of Congress on its project to archive the world’s tweets, and a provocative essay from Dissent magazine that argues the transparency agenda is being undermined by data fetishism.

Video: What the internet is hiding from you
The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal discusses how social media is distorting our consumption of news and culture with Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble”.

Too much information: week ending 3 June

US: Georgia state copyright case puts educational fair use on trial
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on an ongoing legal case between academic publishers and Georgia State University that could define the limits of educational fair use in the digital age.

Egypt fines Mubarak for internet and phone disruption
Ousted president Hosni Mubarak and two other former Egyptian officials have been fined $90m by an Egyptian court for their role in cutting off communications services during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year.

Iran plans its own private internet
The Wall Street Journal reports: “Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship, a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world”.

Internet charges in Tanzania still too high despite new submarine cables
Balancing Act Africa reports that charges for internet access are failing to meet user expectations: “Seacom, which was the first submarine cable to arrive at the Dar es Salaam shores in July 2009, says bandwidth wholesale prices have fallen but retailers were still charging relatively high prices to access Internet”

The eG8 inside and out
The New York Times reports from last week’s eG8 forum of technology leaders and policy makers in Paris with the news that a shift is underway in how internet companies submit to regulation from the state. Meanwhile, ReadWriteWeb reports on an impromptu press conference held by concerned civil society actors including la Quadrature du Net’s Jérémie Zimmermann and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig outside the venue.
Inside the eG8 | Outside the eG8

Crowds not so wise after all
This short piece in the Wall Street Journal reports on a recent Swiss study that investigates whether our increasing connectedness is detrimental to our collective intelligence. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, the study suggests, “it doesn’t take much for the smart group to become a dumb herd”.

Research: Social privacy” in networked publics – teens’ attitudes, practices, and strategies
This working paper by youth and social network expert danah boyd dispels the widespread myth that American teenagers don’t care about privacy.

Book: Peer to peer and the music industry
Matthew David’s new book, “Peer to Peer and the Music Industry: the criminalisation of sharing” takes an interdisciplinary approach to the rise of illicit filesharing, unpacking its economic, sociological and philosophical aspects.

Podcast: Econtalk on BitCoin
This podcast serves as a useful and accessible introduction to the BitCoin distributed digital currency, its likely uses, and its potential impact.

Visualisation: Wikipedia edits on a random day
These maps created by Erik Zachte show the provenance and prevalence of Wikipedia edits across various language editions.