Too much information: Links for week ending 9 March

Tajikistan: Government orders ISPs to block access to Facebook and others
The Moscow Times reports that authorities in Tajikistan have ordered internet service providers to prevent their users from accessing Facebook and two Russian-language sites that published an article critical of the country’s long-serving president: “Users who tried to access Facebook or the two websites, which published a story critical of President Emomali Rakhmon, were automatically redirected to the home page of their provider”.

Why Open Education Matters: new video competition launched
To celebrate Open Education Week this week, the US Department of Education, the Open Society Foundations and Creative Commons have launched a high profile video competition to highlight the potential of open educational resources (OER). The competition invites people to create a short video explaining the benefits of OER for teachers, students and schools in the US and globally. This week, the New York Times ran two features highlighting the growing role of OER in America’s schools and colleges, focussing on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which they call a “tool for democratising higher education”, as well as emerging responses to the challenge of online certification for students of such courses.
Video competition | MOOCs | Online certification

France: Twitter censors accounts unfavourable to Nicholas Sarkozy
Internet Without Borders reports that Twitter appears to have censored four accounts parodying French president Nicholas Sarkozy. Although Twitter cited its impersonation rules when contacting the owners of the suspended accounts, archives show the accounts did not break Twitter’s rules.

Mexico: Alarming new surveillance powers granted
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that “the Mexican legislature today adopted a surveillance legislation that will grant the police warrantless access to real time user location data”.

UN Human Rights Council rallies on right to internet freedom of expression
IP Watch publish a detailed report on a meeting of the human rights council dedicated to discussing the importance of maintaining citizens’ right to free expression online.

Call for support for reform to EU access to documents law
Access Info have issued a call to civil society groups to support their campaign to reform laws governing access to documents at the EU.

Prizes With an Eye Toward the Future
This feature in the New York Times charts the resurgence of interest in prize funds dedicated to stimulating innovation around specific science and technology problems: “The change has come in part because of a flood of new philanthropic money (a lot of it from the tech sector) wielded by people looking for different ways of doing things, and because of a growing impatience with the limitations of in-house research and development”. The article quotes a report from Knowledge Ecology International, who have been raising awareness about the greater role prize funds should play in medical research.

Surveillance Inc: How Western tech firms are helping Arab dictators
The Atlantic publishes an in-depth report on the sale of surveillance technology by Western companies to repressive regimes: “These companies seem fully aware of what they’re doing… but far less concerned about the implications”.

Race for the South Atlantic
Steve Song provides an update on the under-reported African connectivity revolution.

Interview: Elevating the Discourse
The Boston Review interview Robert C. Post about the ideas set forth in his new book “Democracy, Expertise, and Academic Freedom: A First Amendment Jurisprudence for the Modern State”.

Paper: The new ambiguity of “Open Government”
Harlan Yu and David G. Robinson analyse how recent interest in opening up government datasets, most notable in the international Open Government Partnership initiative launched last year, threaten older understandings of what open governments – and open societies – look like, to the detriment of campaigns for transparency and accountability. Miller McCune publish a useful summary of the paper.
Paper | Summary

Fixing online identity and reputation
ReadWriteWeb reports on a three-day workshop organised in San Francisco Bay to prototype a tool called, a “reputation filter” for the internet that aims to arrest the web’s journey towards becoming an “all-out popularity contest”, and turn it into a meritocracy instead.

Drawing by Numbers
The Tactical Technology Collective have launched a new website,, which provides resources for activists and data journalists with free advice, training and resources for creating beautiful and effective data visualisations to help in campaigning, advocacy, education and analysis.

The Body Counter
Foreign Policy magazine profile the work of human rights statistician Patrick Ball.

Syllabus: Digital Media and Privacy
Helen Nissenbaum is a Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication and Computer Science at New York University and an expert in privacy and privacy law. This syllabus from her 2010 course in Digital Media and Privacy includes readings from Bruno Latour, Karl Marx, David Brin, Richard A. Posner and Daniel Solove, as well as extracts from her own book, “Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life”.

Jenny Diski on Second Life
Jenny Diski’s wry 2007 takedown of the once-extremely-fashionable Second Life for The London Review of Books: “A virtual money-market currency and built-in obsolescence is a perfect world indeed”.

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