Too much information: links for week ending 1 June

Spying Trojan targets Iranian and Syrian web dissidents
Sophos’s Naked Security blog reports on the discovery, by a researcher at Canada’s Citizen Lab, of a fake version of a popular censorship evasion tool called Simurgh, used by Iranian and Syrian dissidents. The fake version includes malicious spyware that “keeps a log of your username, machine name, every window clicked and keystroke entered [and] attempts to submit these logs to some servers located in the United States, but registered to an entity that appears to be based in Saudi Arabia”.
Naked Security | Citizen Lab

China: Sina Weibo’s unveils new censorship system
The Wall Street Journal reports that the popular Chinese micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo has introduced a new system of warnings and account suspensions enforcing rules preventing the spread of “untrue” and “sensitive” information. The new regulations will also reward users who link their accounts to their official ID numbers or mobile phone numbers, and punish those who publicly expose other people’s private information.

Europe: Important votes pave way for ACTA rejection; negotiation documents leaked; Dutch reject treaty
In the latest developments surrounding the flawed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, La Quadrature du Net reports that three of the four committees of the European Parliament tasked with investigating the treaty have voted to adopt opinions in favour of a “no” vote its ratification in Europe. Earlier, European Digital Rights had published analysis of leaked negotiating documents dating back to 2008 that show that the European Commission have been making false claims while trying to encourage Parliament to vote in favour of ACTA later this Summer. Meanwhile, the Register reports that “the Netherlands Parliament has decided that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement can be interpreted in ways that are inimical to privacy and internet freedom, and that it therefore should not be signed”.
La Quadrature | EDRi | Register

Europe: Commissioner resolves to act on net neutrality
Following a report from EU regulators highlighting the scale of internet service provider interference with internet traffic in Europe, Commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced she will make recommendations to the EU on preserving net neutrality, ZDNet reports. However, digital rights group La Quadrature du Net fear the recommendations will not do enough to truly protect the open internet, and are pushing for legislative intervention.
ZDNet | La Quadrature

Nigeria: Government invests in IXPs
This report for Nigeria’s Punch newspaper details developments in government support for Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), which are “crucial for the development of the internet in any country”.

US: Google releases new copyright enforcement transparency report
The Electronic Frontier Foundation covers a new report released by Google last week detailing the number and nature of requests it has acted upon to block websites that allegedly infringe copyright from featuring in its search results.

Big picture: Flame and Cyberwar
A newly-discovered piece of malware called Flame, detected on hundreds of computers in the Middle East, has made front-page news this week. The virus, which Ars Technica describes as an “engineering marvel to behold”, has the ability to destroy data, monitor conversations through the computer’s internal microphone and even scan the contact lists of nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices like mobile phones. Some in the security community have released skeptical statements, criticising the media for equating the size of the malware with its impact or importance (Naked Security). A commentator for CNN points out that the origins of the Flame discovery – it was revealed by a security firm working for the International Telecommunications Union, a UN body widely believed to be attempting to secure itself a bigger role in internet governance – are significant. Talking Points Memo publishes the views of some experts that claims Flame represents a new level of cyberwar are ill-informed, reflecting general misunderstandings about cyberwar that were explored recently by Evgeny Morozov for Slate.
Ars Technica | Naked Security | CNN | TPM | Slate

“In Praise of ProPublica”
The Atlantic profile the twice Pulitzer prize-winning non-profit operation now in its fifth year.

Can an algorithm be wrong?
In this essay for new open access journal LIMN, Tarleton Gillespie examines the politics of algorithms used by Twitter and other online platforms: “the criteria that animate the Trends algorithm also presume a shape and character to the public they intend to measure, and in doing so, help to construct publics in that image.”

Science blogging in sub-Saharan Africa
Global Voices’ Lova Rakotomalala publishes a round-up of posts from the sub-Saharan blogosphere addressing the continuing desire for more engagement between scientists and citizens in Africa.

An open letter to Hillary Clinton on Internet Freedom
Sunil Abraham of India’s Centre for Internet and Society posts an open letter to the US Secretary of State based on a recent presentation made at the Internet at Liberty conference last week. His message: recognise the value of access to knowledge and privacy, and “protect the plural foundation of our networked society”.

How crowdsourcing is transforming the science of psychology
This short feature for the Economist details how behavioural researchers are using crowdsourcing platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in their research. Some classic experiments, once performed only on undergraduates in Western universities, turn out to have startlingly different results when they are run using a global pool of participants. “The ability to run experiments quickly, cheaply and globally promises to transform psychologists’ understanding of human behaviour”.

Electric Archaeology: reflections on losing a website
A “digital humanist” dissects the wreckage of a crowd-sourcing web project “annihilated” by technical failures, in this instructive blog post: “The hardest pill to swallow is when you know it’s your own damned fault”.

“Why TED is a massive, money-soaked orgy of self-congratulatory futurism”
Alex Pareene argues that the Technology, Education, Design conference franchise (TED) is just a “good video podcast with delusions of grandeur”, in this biting op-ed for Alternet.

Comments are closed.