Monthly Archives: December 2011

Too much information: Links for week ending 16 December 2011

Brazil: leaked copyright reform draft bill shows latest thinking
Pedro Paranaguá of the Fundação Getulio Vargas gives a detailed analysis for IP Watch of the latest draft of Brazil’s copyright reform bill. Though there is much to praise in the text, provisions for intermediary liability and anti-circumvention measures are cause for concern.

US: Wikipedians consider protest against SOPA
Wikipedians are considering whether to launch a protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Although the original draft bill was revised this week, according to Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel Geoff Brigham, the proposed legislation “continues to suffer from the same structural pitfalls, including its focus on blocking entire international sites based on US-based allegations of specific infringement”. In October this year, editors of Italian Wikipedia blocked access to the site in protest against draft legislation.

100 million Europeans don’t use the internet, 350 million Indians have never heard of it
Thanks to Evgeny Morozov for flagging these two reports indicating the extent of the digital divide.
EU | India

EU: Parliament looks at risks of outsourcing policing of internet
IP Watch report on a seminar held last week in the European Parliament on the slide from self-regulation to private policing of online content. European Digital Rights have produced a video report summary the seminar, which is also available to watch in full.
IP Watch report | Video summary | Full seminar

Russia: Vladimir Putin’s cyber-warriors
Following massive cyber-attacks against independent media during recent elections in Russia, Andrei Soldatov analyses the power of the Russian security services to control dissent on the web in this essay for Foreign Affairs magazine.

Paper: Recording Everything – Digital storage as an enabler of authoritarian governments
The Brookings Institute have published a new paper arguing that “the coming era of ubiquitous surveillance in authoritarian countries has important consequences for American foreign policy”.

Book: Learning, freedom and the web
The Mozilla Foundation have published a book on how the ideas of the open source movement can help foster learning, written by Anya Kamenetz and the participants of the 2010 Mozilla festival: “Part exhibition catalog, part manifesto, this is a concise, fun-to-read introduction to what Mozilla is doing to support learners everywhere”.

Audio: David Weinberger on LibraryCloud and ShelfLife
The Spark Podcast speaks to David Weinberger about two projects to come out of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, which Weinberger co-directs. Both projects focus on meta-data and “how it impacts the ways we find and navigate knowledge”.

Video: Ethan Zuckerman on the impact of social media on Africa
Russell Southwood speaks to Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman about the impact of social media in Africa, in a detailed interview which covers the strength and influence of Sub-Saharan African bloggers, the student protests in Gabon, and the response of governments in the region to the power of social media.

Too much information: links for week ending 9 December 2011

Russia: Massive DDoS attacks against independent websites on election day
Global Voices present a timeline of a “massive DDoS attack against most of the digital platforms seeking to provide independent coverage of the elections” in Russia, as well as detailing the arrest and detention of several key independent media figures.

WIPO session makes positive steps forward for limitations and exceptions to copyright
The 23rd session of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 23) ended last week. Work on a Treaty for the Visually Impaired continued, with discussions focussed on the details of the text. Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) reports the conclusions of SCCR 23 to “agree and finalize a proposal on an international instrument” at SCCR 24. Meanwhile, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) welcome progress to create a new treaty to benefit libraries, archives and their users.

Central Asia: Internet freedom worsens
The Telegraph details a new report produced by a consortium of human rights groups that has found that internet freedom in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is amongst the worst in the world, with the situation in Kazakhstan also deteriorating rapidly. Security and trade relationships with the US and EU mean “Western powers have become more and more reluctant to apply pressure on Central Asian states”.

India: Investigation shows chilling effect of new online takedown rules
Legally India details a leaked report resulting from an undercover investigation led by the Centre for Internet and Society in India. A researcher for the centre sent “fraudulent” takedown notices to seven internet intermediaries, with six of the targets complying with the requests to remove material from the web despite the notices containing no evidence that the specified material violated provisions made under India’s new Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules: “The only response that was rejected outright was a facetious takedown request to a shopping portal that an ad for baby’s diapers ‘harmed minors’ by potentially causing babies’ rashes”.

UK: Government signals commitment for public access to publicly funded research
The UK government has signalled its commitment to public access to publicly funded research in a new strategy on scientific innovation and research published this week. They have commissioned an independent working group of academics and publishers to review the availability of published research, and to develop action plans for making this freely available. THe group will report in 2012.

Websense joins Global Network Initiative
The Global Network Initiative, a group of companies, civil society organisations investors and academics established to help protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the technology sector, has announced that Websense will become its fifth company member, joining Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Evoca. The web filtering company “has a strict policy against selling to governments or internet service providers that engage in government-mandated censorship, except in the case of prohibiting minors from accessing pornography and prohibiting child pornography”.

How online learning companies bought America’s schools
This in-depth investigation for The Nation details the intense lobbying in the US education sector that is converting the K-12 education system into a “cash cow for Wall Street”.

Citizen Scientists
The Wall Street Journal details the rise of citizen science, focussing on a new project called “That’s My Data!”, which aims to “facilitate the flow of patients’ detailed genetic data to researchers in exchange for open access to the results for those who contributed samples”. Sharon Terry, who is helping to run “That’s My Data”, is a leader of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, an organisation established by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).

Hacktivists lend a hand in the Arab Spring
The Washington Post have published a short feature about a member of the cluster of internet activists known as Telecomix, and their work providing remote technical assistance to activists in the Middle East

“Same old song”
Joe Karganis takes a wry look at the evidence, past and present, put forward by the recording industry of the harm new technologies do to the music business in this post for the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies blog.

Audio/Video: Luis von Ahn
The Spark podcast speaks to Luis von Ahn, about his new project, Duolingo. Von Ahn invents “systems that combine humans and computers to solve large-scale problems”, and is responsible for the CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA spam prevention systems . Duolingo aims to help you “learn a language while translating the web”, and claims that “if one million people would use Duolingo to learn, the entirety of English Wikipedia could be translated to Spanish in just eighty hours”. Von Ahn has also presented his project at TED.
Spark | TED

Too much information: links for week ending 2 December 2011

“Big Brother Incorporated”: project to track surveillance manufacturers launched
Privacy International (PI) and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) launched a comprehensive database of companies that sell surveillance products this week. Big Brother Incorporated includes information about the types of equipment and software manufactured by each company, links to key company information, as well as promotional material about the products published by WikiLeaks. The launch prompted major international television and newspaper coverage of the issues behind the export of Western surveillance technology to repressive regimes.
Big Brother Incorporated | PI press release | WikiLeaks | Bloomberg Interview | Washington Post | The Hindu

Important victory for open internet at ECJ
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a proposed measure ordering an internet service provider to install a filtering and blocking system in order to protect intellectual property rights was in breach of European law. The case – SABAM vs Scarlet – originated in Belgium. European Digital Rights (EDRi) have provided detailed FAQs about the ruling, stating: “this result is hugely important, as it protects the openness of the internet”.

Global Chokepoints project launched
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) this week announced the launch of a new initiative – the Global Censorship Chokepoints Project – to document how copyright enforcement is being used to censor online free expression in countries around the world.

Sri Lanka: Government blocks critical news websites
Reporters Without Borders reports that four leading Sri Lankan news websites have been blocked from access by citizens inside Sri Lanka since 6 November, just a day after the government announced that news websites with “any content relating to Sri Lanka” needed to register with the country’s media and information ministry.

Russia: the FSB will see you now
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan report for on the dubious role the FSB is playing in piloting biometric identification schemes in Russia.

Thailand: Government asks Facebook to remove “unlawful” content
The Next Web reports that the government of Thailand has contacted Facebook with a request to remove more than 10,000 of its pages deemed in breach of the country’s “lese majeste laws”, which proscribe criticism of the Thai royal family. The government has also warned Thai citizens that they should not comment on or use the Facebook “like” button to endorse messages that are in breach of this law.

Ghana: new report highlights uncontrollable flow of e-waste
Make IT fair have released a new report highlighting the local health and environmental consequences of processing the over 600 container-loads of scrap electronics that arrive in Ghana each month.

Why we chose Open Science
In this opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal, the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science (and co-founder of Microsoft) explains why “open” is the right path for them: “our mission was to spark breakthroughs, and we didn’t want to exclude underfunded neuroscientists who just might be the ones to make the next leap”.

The personal computer is dead
Jonathan Zittrain describes how “tethered appliances” are usurping programmable computers as the consumer choice for information consumption, and warns of a future of closed information systems that will result.

The #freemona perfect storm: dissent and the networked public sphere
Zeynep Tufekci draws lessons from the Twitter campaign launched to secure the release of Egyptian dissident Mona El Tahawy after her arrest and detention by Egyptian authorities last week.

Issue spotlight: Trade agreements, health and developing countries
A new issue paper published by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) finds that after countries ratify trade agreements with the US and the EU they often face pressure to implement even stronger intellectual property provisions, with developing countries failing to take advantage of flexibilities available to them to secure access to medicines. Meanwhile, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz argues in The Lancet that provisions in trade agreements are adversely affecting health and, further, that the orthodoxy that equates strong-IP protection with innovation in medicines needs to be questioned.
ICTSD | Lancet (pdf)

Audio: The life scientific
In this in-depth interview with the BBC, Sir John Sulston, UK lead of the human genome project, makes a strong case against patenting genetic information.

Barefoot in your (Christmas) stocking

TL;DR If you enjoyed reading a free version of my book, why not buy a print version for one of your friends for Christmas?

Apparently, Ian McEwan once said that promoting a book can feel like being an employee of your former self. I know how he feels. The last few months have seen me lecturing students, addressing anarchists and pitching up with a stove and kettle on the main thoroughfare of the Chaos Communications Camp offering free tea to anyone who wanted a conversation, all in the name of spreading the word about Barefoot into Cyberspace. Well, I’m done. Apart from anything else, if I don’t stop sometime, I won’t find the time to write my next book.

I’m not saying it hasn’t been fun. I’m really pleased with the feedback I’ve received, and with the fact that even though self-publishing is still the equivalent of leprosy to the mainstream media, I got positive reviews in two national newspapers. I’m also fairly pleased with the audience the book has reached so far. As of now, roughly 500 Kindle and print copies of the book have been sold. And the free versions of the book about which I have data show access by around 8,500 readers.

But taking a look at those last two sets of figures gives me an idea for one last marketing opportunity. Here goes: if you enjoyed a free copy of Barefoot into Cyberspace, why not consider buying the print version for your friends this Christmas.

Julian Assange as the Mad Hatter

Just one of the superb illustrations in the paid-for version of Barefoot into Cyberspace

A lot of people have said that this book is a fun, accessible introduction to geek issues for non-geeks. One lady even wrote to me thanking me for helping her understand her husband better (I’m not kidding). You probably have some non-geek friends. So why not buy them this book? and are both guaranteeing to ship the book by Christmas if you order now. You can also order the book from your local bookshop.

That is all.

Barefoot into Cyberspace – figures for October

Below are the figures for how many people read/bought Barefoot into Cyberspace in August, September and October. I’m providing them for people who are interested in the nuts and bolts of a book project undertaken outside of the world of mainstream publishing and with a Creative Commons element. I intend to provide these figures on a month-by-month basis.

Aug Sept Oct TOTALS
html 3,619 608 261 4,488
pdf 2,337 719 373 3,429
ePub 520 20 53 593
Kindle 177 39 17 233
Direct 70 24 12 106
POD 54 62 14 130
TOTAL 6,777 1,452 702 8,979

Some explanation:

  • The last two days of July are incorporated in the figures for August
  • html stats are number of views as reported by WordPress
  • pdf stats are number of reads as reported by Scribd
  • ePub stats are kindly provided by Terence Eden
  • Direct stats are the number of print copies I have sold directly at speaking events
  • POD are the number of print-on-demand copies reported by Lightning Source, the print-on-demand partner for the book.
  • Kindle stats are provided by the Kindle direct publishing platform at