Too much information – links for week ending 20 January 2012

Wikipedia leads web blackout to protest proposed US law
The Wikipedia community blocked access to the English version of Wikipedia on Wednesday this week, as part of a wider online protest against two draft laws being discussed in the United States to enforce intellectual property online. Google, Wired, Reddit, WordPress and many, many others joined the protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which both have the potential to usher in a new age of online censorship. Also this week, President Obama indicated he would veto SOPA, a move which drew sharp criticism from Rupert Murdoch.
Statement of Wikimedia Foundation | Gallery of protest pages | Obama v Murdoch | MIT Oped: The “Trojan Horse” of a controlling state?

Publishers speak out against Research Works Act
The Scientist magazine details emerging dissent from academic publishers including MIT Press, Rockefeller University Press, the University of California Press and the Pennsylvania State University Press, aimed at draft legislation – the Research Works Act – that could jeopardise public access to publicly-funded research. This week Nature Publishing Group (NPG) also spoke out against the bill, which is being supported by the American Association of Publishers.
The Scientist | NPG

US: Supreme Court rules against public domain
The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a 1994 law extending the term of copyright protection on foreign works, which took works that had entered the public domain and put them back under copyright protection. The case had been brought on free speech grounds by a coalition that included orchestra conductors, educators and performers. The ruling marks an unhappy ending to a ten-year campaign.

Europe: Leaked documents show Data Retention Directive in sorry state
European Digital Rights (EDRI) reports on a leaked document which “shows that the [European] Commission can neither prove necessity nor proportionality of the Data Retention Directive – but still wants to keep the it”. The legislation – brought forward in response to the London bombings of 2005, has been found unconstitutional, on privacy grounds, in several EU member states.

Our weirdness is free: the story of Anonymous
Triple Canopy publish an essay by Gabriella Coleman on the history of Anonymous, who have captured the attention of an incredible variety of admirers and skeptics “by unpredictably fusing conventional activism with transgression and tricksterism”.

Argentina: Mass surveillance as a state policy
Katitza Rodriguez warns of the threats to civil liberty posed by Argentina’s plan to expand its national identity database in this piece for Global Voices: “Argentinean law enforcement will have access to mass repositories of citizen information and be able to leverage existing facial recognition and fingerprint matching technologies in order to identify any citizen anywhere”.

The prospects of Facebook activism in Uzbekistan
Transitions Online’s East of Center blog identifies the potential social and political pressures that affect online participation in political discussion in Uzbekistan.

Study: Open Data Kenya
The World Bank has published its evaluation of the ongoing development of Open Data Kenya, “one of the first Open Data initiatives in Africa”.

Towards an internet free of censorship: Proposals for Latin America
The Centre for the Study of Free Expression and Access to Information at the University of Palermo has published a study of several laws proposed in Latin America to regulate the internet, examining the responsibility of intermediaries, the management of private data, content filtering, and situations of applicable jurisdiction.

Cracking open the scientific process
The New York Times publishes a long feature charting the evolution of the open science movement, and the threat posed to it by the Research Works Act.

Book Review: “The Digital Origins of Dictatorships and Democracy”
Evgeny Morozov praises Philip Howard’s nuanced and “meticulously-researched” approach to the effects of digital technology on dissent in Muslim countries, in this review for Perspectives on Politics of Howard’s new book “The Digital Origins of Dictatorships and Democracy”.

Interview: Professor Anita Allen
The Concurring Opinions blog interviews Professor Allen about her new book “Unpopular Privacy”, which poses the question “How can a society enthralled by technology-aided revelatory communication give privacy its ethical due?”

Video: “Network”
This short animation by graphic designer Michael Rigley eloquently articulates the role internet users are playing in creating a future of information distortion, control and surveillance.

Video: “The machine is us/ing us”
The optimism of this animation about the web and the role users play in creating it, made just five years ago by cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, stands in stark contrast to the pessimism expressed in “Network” (see above), even as it makes almost exactly the same point.

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