Monthly Archives: November 2012

Too much information: Links for week ending 9 November

Burma: Online information controls “drastically reduced”
The Open Net Initiative reports on recent tests it conducted into changes in Burma’s online content filtering system in Burma: “Independent and foreign news sites, oppositional political content, and sites with content relating to human rights and political reform—all previously blocked—have recently become accessible.” The development comes amid wider political and economic liberalization in the historically repressive state.

Egypt: Non–profit media collective secures crowd–funding
Mosireen, a non–profit media collective in Downtown Cairo “born out of the explosion of citizen media and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution” has used the crowd–funding platform IndieGoGo to secure $40,000 of funding from over 350 donors. The sum is a significant contribution to its $60,000/year running costs for providing workspaces, editing facilities and screenings for independent media producers. The money raised will be supplemented by membership fees from service users, collected on a pay–what–you–can basis.

Flat World Knowledge to drop free access to textbooks
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the surprise decision of digital publisher Flat World Knowledge to withdraw free access to its textbooks. The company, which has been a key partner in the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, is yet to release an official statement about the decision (their offices were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy).

UK: Google and Microsoft go on wifi offensive
The Sunday Telegraph reports that Google and Microsoft have expressed interest in controlling parts of UK spectrum that are unused (so–called “white spaces”) “prompting speculation that they are planning to build free wifi internet capability into their mobile handsets.”

Mozilla Foundation to pay $1.5m tax settlement
Gigaom reports that the Mozilla Foundation—which develops the popular open source web browser Firefox—has agreed to pay $1.5m in taxes to the US Internal Revenue Service. The agreement concludes an audit opened in 2008 of Mozilla’s accounts, including the large percentage of revenue it gains from Google each year in exchange for favoring its search service in the Firefox browser. Mozilla’s directors had originally earmarked $15m to resolve the issue, funds which they will now re–invest in the foundation’s work.

Africa: Top–Level Domain becomes object of bitter fight
IP Watch report on two companies battling for the right to control the registration of website domain names ending in “.africa” (as opposed to “.com,” “,” “.org” etc). The international body tasked with assigning such rights, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has received reports that the African Union Task Force on the .africa domain, which has endorsed one of the company’s application to control it, suffers from conflict of interest issues.

Russia: blogging conference draws criticism
Global Voices reports from a LiveJournal– and RIA Novosti–sponsored blogging conference in Moscow, where regional bloggers reacted critically to an announcement from the Russian news agency that it would share its wire content with bloggers in exchange for “active participation and exclusive content.”

What Tunisia did right
This article in Foreign Policy magazine, which draws on an empirical study of democracies across the world and argues that legislatures vested with the power to truly hold their executives to account form the strongest democracies, should be of interest to anyone following developments in parliamentary transparency technology.

Scientific fraud is rife: it’s time to stand up for good science
This opinion piece in the Guardian argues that “the entire way that we go about funding, researching and publishing science is flawed” and calls for more openness.

Syria’s digital proxy war
This report on the Syrian uprising for the Atlantic contrasts Iran’s supply of surveillance equipment to the Assad regime with the United States’ attempts to set–up alternative communication channels for opposition fighters: “The outcome of this proxy war will affect the lives of many Syrians and the credibility of the State Department’s efforts to promote digital freedom internationally.”

The Maker movement creates jobs
This short opinion piece calls for the US government to subsidize hacker spaces.

Internet Governance Forum: Preview
IPWatch lists some of the main agenda items for this week’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan, including free expression, privacy and copyright and intellectual property online. Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) marks out the event as “a key opportunity for civil society organizations to promote open, decentralized, multi–stakeholder approaches to internet governance” in anticipation of the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next month, where critics fear the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which hosts the  event, will attempt to expand the scope of its remit to include regulating the internet.
IPWatch | CDT

Audio: Future Perfect—The case for progress in a networked age
Nora Young interviews Steven Johnson about his book “Future Perfect: The case for progress in a networked age” for the Spark podcast. The book is a “provocatively utopian” exploration of the possibilities of what he calls “peer–to–peer politics.” Ethan Zuckerman’s review of an event in which Johnson is joined by Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig on the night before the US election expands on these ideas.
Spark | Zuckerman

Too much information: Links for week ending 2 November

Russia: New internet surveillance plan goes live
The BBC reports that Russia’s internet blacklist law, passed in July, comes into effect this week. The law was passed in the name of protecting children from harmful content. In a special report for Wired, co–founders Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan analyse the technology that sits behind the new law and the bad news it spells for political speech on the Russian net.
Report | Analysis

France: Google threatens media ban
Google has threatened to exclude French media sites from its search results if French legislators pass a law that would make search engines pay to display news extracts in their search results. The BBC, New York Times and PaidContent supply background to the story, detailing similar developments in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Brazil.
BBC | New York Times | PaidContent

US: Supreme Court considers challenge to warrantless wiretapping law
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports from a hearing at the US Supreme Court, which this week began considering whether to permit a legal challenge to laws enacted in 2008 that enable government agencies to surveil US citizens without individual judicial warrant and grant retrospective immunity from prosecution to telecommunications firms who provided the US government with information about their customers’ communications. The case sparked an editorial in the New York Times this week. Background to the case is provided by ACLU.
EFF | New York Times | ACLU

Spain: Right to Information group to pay costs for failed request reports that Access Info Europe have been ordered by the Spanish Supreme Court to pay €3,000 to Spain’s Ministry of Justice to cover legal fees relating to a lengthy court case Access Info brought in 2007 to secure access to information about the Spanish government’s efforts to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption and the OECD Anti–Bribery Convention.

Bulgaria: Banks launch legal action against leaks website
Forbes reports on a legal case being brought against BalkanLeaks by four Bulgarian banks, following the whistle–blowing website’s publication of US diplomatic cables supplied by WikiLeaks that allege money laundering and corrupt practices in the Bulgarian finance industry.

Silencing SMS: The anatomy of “mCurfews” in India
In this post for the LSE blog, Vibodh Parthasarathi and Arshad Amanullah from New Delhi’s Centre for Culture, Media and Governance place the reaction of the Indian public to their government’s recent attempts to curb ethnic violence by imposing restrictions on SMS messaging (so–called “mCurfews”) in multiple contexts: the country’s media landscape, its regulatory history and its SMS culture.

The end of geography?
This week the Economist published a special report on Technology and Geography. Highlights include “Open–air computers,” a feature on smart cities and the rendering of urban spaces into vast data factories, and “The new local,” an examination of how the physical and digital world are becoming increasingly intertwined.
Introduction | Open–air computers | The new local

Facebook: I want my friends back!
Richard Metzger of the Dangerous Minds blog exposes what he calls “The biggest bait and switch in history”: Facebook’s new policy to limit the number of people it updates on a business’s activity to 15% of the people who have agreed to receive such updates, unless that business engages with the new, and expensive, “Promoted Posts” Facebook service.

How a tax–dodging clampdown will aid open–government commitments
Eric Gutierrez of Christian Aid argues that the open government movement should engage with longstanding efforts to unearth the details of multinational tax–dodging and globalised tax evasion.

Case study of the Kenya Open Data Initiative
Rushda Majeed’s case study of the cultural and legislative changes that took place in Kenya, resulting in the country’s first Open Data Initiative.

Book: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit
This book is a practical guide to the tools and techniques for measuring impact online in the nonprofit sector. It promises: “using these tools will not only improve a nonprofit’s decision making process but will produce results–driven metrics for staff and stakeholders.”