Category Archives: Link Digest

Too much information: links for week ending 14 September 2012

Coalition unite around goal to make Open Access the norm by 2022
A coalition of scientists, foundations, libraries, universities and advocates this week issued a detailed set of recommendations with the aim of making it the norm for access to scholarly research material to be free and available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, in every field and every country, by 2022. The announcement comes ten years after the Budapest Open Access Initiative first defined Open Access, beginning a movement that has already significantly transformed the academic landscape.
Announcement | Recommendations | Coalition

UK: Government controlling exports of surveillance tools
Privacy International reports that further to questions they posed the UK government earlier in the year, they have received notification that a surveillance product originating in the UK and suspected to be used to target activists in Egypt, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Dubai, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Qatar is now the subject of export controls: “We welcome the government’s decision to start controlling exports of FinSpy, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, without swift further action to bring other unethical British companies under the export licensing regime, it’s just a sticking plaster on a bullet wound”.

Latin America and the Caribbean news roundup
Global Voices Advocacy produce news roundup “The Netizen Report” each week covering developments in human rights and technology across the globe. Last week they published the first in a series of occasional regional updates from Latin America and the Caribbean, including news of developments in legislative moves towards an internet bill of rights in Brazil, and a grassroots campaign in Chile “with the goal of empowering citizens by giving them tools to enjoy, without fear, freedom of expression online”.

Belarus: Journalists and cyber–dissidents hounded in run–up to election
Reporters Without Borders catalogues the harassment of opposition media taking place ahead of upcoming Parliamentary elections in Belarus. Targets include moderators of pro–opposition groups on the Russian social network VKontake. The authorities also succeeded in hacking two online discussion groups with a total of 52,000 members, obtaining the identities of administrators.

US: New law supporting OER passed
The Creative Commons blog reports on a new law passed in California that will allow state community colleges to integrate open education resources (OER) into their core curricula, creating and enabling access to high quality course materials and textbooks.

Apple moves one step closer to location–based camera disabling
The PetaPixel blog reports on their discovery of a patent filed by Apple on technology to allow the remote disabling of camera functionality based on a mobile phone’s location: “If this type of technology became widely adopted and baked into cameras, photography could be prevented by simply setting a “geofence” around a particular location, whether it’s a movie theatre, celebrity hangout spot [or] protest site”.

World Wide Web Foundation release first “web index”
The Worldwide Web Foundation has released its first “Web Index” report, a “multi–dimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations”. Sweden tops the list of 61 countries surveyed. And, as First Post reports, India lags 13 places behind China. The methodology of the ranking looked at three parameters: “web readiness”, “web use” and “the impact of the web”.
Web Index | First Post report

Call for Proposals: ICT for democracy and freedom of expression
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has issued a call for proposals inviting civil society groups to apply for funding for initiatives where information communications technology is being used to support democracy and freedom of expression. The deadline for submissions is 18 October 2012.

Understanding digital civics
Ethan Zuckerman publishes the transcript of a lecture he delivered last month, which examines the internet’s role in changing modes of civic engagement. In the course of the lecture he interrogates four “born digital” movements: Tea Party, Occupy, Anonymous and WikiLeaks.

Lies, damned lies, and open data
In this feature for Slate, David Eaves describes how the battleground for government transparency will shift from open government data towards the role of evidence in public policy–making.

Report: Threats to freedom of expression online in Vietnam
The Open Net Initiative has published a new report into online censorship in Vietnam. It outlines new legal restrictions on speech being proposed in the country, and reports on the results of recent in–country testing to document and analyze state–level filtering.

Too much information: links for week ending 7 September 2012

India: Government to hold talks with stakeholders on Internet censorship
Following its recent response to growing ethnic unrest, which included the blocking of websites and network–level restrictions on mass SMS, the Indian government “has agreed to initiate dialogue on internet censorship with mega internet companies, social media giants such as Google and Facebook, members of civil society, technical community, media, ISPs and legal experts”, the Hindu reports. The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) provides detailed analysis of the blocks that took place, their legality, and the increasing national debate surrounding the government’s decision to act as it did.
The Hindu | CIS

Czech Republic: Extortionists suspected of using covert mobile surveillance tech
Slate reports on revelations from a senior police chief in the Czech Republic that unauthorized use of “IMSI catchers”—sophisticated computer hardware that collects information about mobile phones and their users and can track and intercept phones and calls—has been detected “across the country”. The police suspect the hardware may be being used for corporate espionage or criminal extortion. “The use of the technology by police — let alone criminals — is controversial”.

Apple rejects app that tracks US drone strikes
Wired reports on the Apple App Store’s decision to reject an app that can notify users each time a US drone strike occurs. The app, which draws its content from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ongoing project to map America’s increasing use of drones for targeted assassinations, was rejected on the basis that its content is “objectionable and crude”. As Alex Madrigal writes in the Atlantic, the move highlights how Apple’s control of the smartphone market threatens the free flow of information.
Wired | Atlantic

Donations rise for WikiLeaks to post Trans–Pacific Partnership text
IP Watch reports that nearly $25,000 has been collected to hand over to WikiLeaks if it leaks the text of the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a controversial and secretive multilateral treaty currently under negotiation that is thought to contain provisions that threaten privacy and free speech online and reduce access to medicines in the developing world.

Kenya: Blogger in court over airline safety post
Kenya’s Daily Nations reports on the case of blogger and journalist Dennis Itumbi, who has been charged with intercepting data without consent and publishing depraving electronic material, after he revealed emails between executives at Jetlink airlines that raised serious safety concerns.

You, robot?
The Economist reports on the RoboLaw project, a research project launched earlier this year to consider the legal and ethical issues raised by developments in robotics: “Is a prosthetic legally part of your body? When is it appropriate to amputate a limb and replace it with a robotic one? What are the legal rights of a person with ‘locked in’ syndrome who communicates via a brain–computer interface? Do brain implants and body-enhancement devices require changes to the definition of disability?”

New from CDT: ITU Resource Centre
Ahead of a controversial meeting of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this December, where new proposals that have an impact on who governs the internet are scheduled to be discussed, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) have launched its ITU resource center, aimed at providing documents, analysis and calls to action for advocates and activists.

Report: An overview of the patent trolls debate
The US Congressional Research Center have produced a new study on so–called “patent trolls”, companies whose business model “focuses not on developing or commercializing patented inventions but on buying and asserting patents” The report details the various factors that have led to their ascendance and the cost they pose to innovation.

A knight in digital armor
The Economist profiles security researcher Chris Soghoian: “With a series of… exploits that have exposed security flaws and privacy violations, he has demonstrated his ability to hack the media with just as much facility as he manipulates computers”.

I am Barack Obama, Ask Me Anything
In the run–up to the US election, President Barack Obama has ventured into the influential online community Reddit, participating in what is known there as an “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”), where community members submit and vote on questions which are then answered (or ignored) by a prominent or interesting figure. The resulting discussion is as interesting for the questions the President ignored as for the answers he did give.


Too much information: Links for week ending 31 August

Spyware that can take over smartphones detected
Bloomberg reports on the discovery made by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab of spyware capable of infecting a range of smartphones including Android and iPhone systems: “The program can secretly turn on a device’s microphone, track its location and monitor e-mails, text messages and voice calls”. The spyware is thought to be consistent with a surveillance product – FinSpy Mobile – marketed by UK-based company Gamma International. It was discovered in samples provided to Citizen Lab by members of the security and activist community following revelations earlier this year that another tool in Gamma’s Finfisher surveillance suite had been used to target human rights activists in Bahrain. “The findings… illustrate how the largely unregulated trade in offensive hacking tools is transforming surveillance.”
Bloomberg | Citizen Lab

Switzerland: Police demand compulsory DNA tests for asylum seekers
The Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative reports on demands being made by the Swiss police that all asylum seekers submit to DNA testing, so that their details can be logged in a forensic DNA database: “The idea has received widespread support after police statistics for the first six months of 2012 showed a 77 per cent increase in the number of crimes committed by asylum seekers”.

Russia: Foreign Intelligence Agency seeks propaganda software
Australia’s IT News reports on details disclosed by the Russian-language newspaper Kommersant of three secret tenders thought to be issued by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, SVR, for software to monitor social networks and automatically spread information across them. The company reported as winning the contract have denied taking part in the bid.

Rwanda: Government tightens stranglehold on privacy and free expression
Privacy International report on a draft law currently making its way through the Rwandan legislative system that would sanction the widespread monitoring of email and telephone communications: “In the name of ‘public security’ Rwandan police and security forces will be able to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and activists who criticize or oppose the Kagame regime”.

EIFL announce winners of Public Library Innovation Program awards
Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) have announced four winners of its Public Library Innovation Program award which recognizes “innovative services that use ICT to improve lives and livelihoods”. The winners – public libraries from Uganda, Nepal, Serbia and Chile who instigated a range of projects focused on financial literacy and economic welfare – each receive $1,500.

American law is patent nonsense
In the wake of a US court decision against Samsung for violating patents Apple holds on its iPhone and iPad, Sebastian Mallaby makes a strong case against technology patents in this piece for the Financial Times (registration required). Business Insider detail in pictures the patents the court ruled were infringed by Samsung.
FT | Business Insider

The privacy of UK citizen’s medical health records is being sold off
Professor Ross Anderson of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) details worrying plans for UK citizens’ health data to be made available to medical researchers – including those working for large drug companies – arguing that warnings from computer scientists that the security of personal records cannot be guaranteed through anonymization procedures are being willfully ignored.

Opening access to research
Peter Suber offers an accessible introduction to Open Access and the arguments in favor of public access to publicly-funded research, while Peter Webster details the various aspects of humanities scholarship that means it lags behind the sciences in take up of the Open Access way of doing things.
Suber | Webster

Report: Chile’s notice and takedown system for copyright protection – an alternative approach
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has released a short report on the Chilean system of notice and takedown available to copyright holders who believe their work is being infringed online, which differs from other systems, notably the US, in requiring a court order to legitimize a takedown request.

Bibliography: History of cybernetics
A bibliography curated by University of Pennsylvania historian Peter Sachs Collopy, detailing major English-language materials that chart the history of cybernetics, the “science of ‘control and communication in the animal and the machine’ which flourished from World War II into the 1970s”.

Too much Information: Links for week ending 24 August

India: Hundreds of websites blocked for inciting hate and panic
The Washington Post reports that the Indian government blocked more than 250 websites accused of inciting racial hatred this week, amid fears of escalating violence between opposing ethnic and religious factions in the country. Authorities have also barred the sending of text messages to more than five people at once.

Pakistan: Government suspends mobile services in major cities on Eid
Global Voices reports that the government of Pakistan ordered mobile phone services in four major cities—Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Quetta—to be suspended last weekend during the festival of Eid-ul-Futr “to prevent terrorist attacks.”

US: Further developments in gene patent case
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a U.S. Court of Appeals decision to partially reverse elements of a ruling by a lower court against patentability of two human genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The American Civil Liberties Union, who brought the original case, have called the decision a setback and “devastating… for a women’s health.” The case will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Knowledge Ecology International provide further analysis of the decision.
Report | Analysis

China: Microblogging services disrupted during Gu Kailai trial
The BBC reports that users of Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform, suffered a disrupted service during the trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of a former high profile member of the Chinese Communist party, accused, and later convicted, of the murder of a British businessman.

Spotlight: digital security
Two takes on personal and institutional digital security, one from Danny O’Brien of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the other from Benetech’s Patrick Ball, one of the creators of human rights database tool Martus. Each piece highlights the security complications that relying on third-party hosted services can bring about for individuals at risk.
O’Brien | Ball

“Keeping your site alive”: New guide to surviving DDoS attacks
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have released a new guide for journalists, bloggers and activists under threat from digital censorship in the form of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The guide, which is accompanied by a video produced by the Tactical Technology Collective, concentrates on two strategies: backing up the content of your website and mirroring it across the web.

Safety on the line: Exposing the myth of mobile communication security
This new report from Freedom House examines the security of multiple mobile technologies, including operating systems, network security and application security. It focusses on 12 countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Does copyright matter?
Author Tim Parks imagines a world without copyright in this blog post for the New York Review of Books. “Copyright keeps the writer in the polis, and indeed it is remarkable how little creative writing today is truly revolutionary, in the sense of seeking a profoundly different model of a society. Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps it is limiting. Perhaps good things are inevitably limiting.”

Audio: Unlocking research
The Radio Berkman podcast interviews Peter Suber about his new book on Open Access publishing.

Video: Can democracy exist without trust?
Ivan Krastev’s talk at this year’s TED Global bemoans the erosion of people’s trust in the tools of democracy: “Democracy is the only game in town. The problem is [when] people start to believe that it is not a game worth playing.”

Too much information: Links for week ending 17 August

Google to downgrade search rankings of copyright-infringing sites
The LINX Public Affairs blog reports on Google’s announcement that it will alter its search results so that websites which its data on takedown notices shows are frequently accused of copyright infringement will appear further down the results: “critics have raised concerns about the implications of such ‘voluntary best practices’ for competition and the rule of law”.

Nepal: Government websites compromised by malicious code
Websense reports that two websites run by the government of Nepal have been compromised by the insertion of malicious code that attempts to install covert backdoors on the computer systems of site visitors. In the course of their investigations, Websense found links between this attack and other recent attacks on Amnesty International and the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies.

Amazon ends crowdfunding payment support for ebook site
paidContent reports that Amazon has removed its support for processing crowdfunded payments from eBook site, effectively halting the latter’s efforts to raise money to release books under Creative Commons licenses. A spokesperson for Amazon cited regulatory issues around providing money services as the reason for the move.

Malaysia: Blackout protest against internet censorship legislation 
Global Voices reports on an online blackout protest staged by citizens in Malaysia this week against two recent legal amendments that deal with content on the internet deemed illicit or harmful.

African civil society groups call for online free expression guarantees
A consortium of Africa-focused civil society groups including the Association for Progress Communications (APC) have concluded a two-day workshop in Nairobi with a formal statement that, among other things, calls for African states to promote affordable access to the internet, and  use their positions on the UN Human Rights Council to affirm free expression rights online.

Leaked proposals could alter fair use rules
Ars Technica reports on leaked proposals put forward by the United States in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty negotiation process that could narrow the scope of fair use exceptions to copyright law.

Brazil: Vote on internet bill of rights delayed
The Daily Dot reports that a parliamentary vote on Brazil’s landmark internet bill of rights the “Marco Civil”, scheduled to take place last week, has been delayed. Officials gave no reason for the delay.

How terrorists (really) encrypt
This detailed presentation from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell includes extensive evidence from anti-terror cases about how terrorists conceal their communications with one another: “The spectre of terrorism networks hiding behind unbreakable encryption has been a war cry for security agencies, supporting their claim for [action against cryptography] for 20 years”.

The sounds that precede a shot rang out
In this blog post for the London Review of Books, Evgeny Morozov details how sensor data, citizen-led surveillance and historical data converge in the technology touted by the latest victim of WikiLeaks, TrapWire Inc, and asks how far our appetite for automated crime detection will go.

Open Access: will global developments inspire the US?
This feature in the Chronicle for Higher Education charts policy developments supporting public access to publicly-funded research in Europe and asks whether they will spur the Obama administration to respond positively to pressure to enact similar policies in the US.

Social networking and ethics
The open-access Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has published a new entry on Social Networking and Ethics, including a section on “Democracy, Freedom and Social Networking Services in the Public Sphere”.

The risks and rewards of a health data commons
O’Reilly Tech Radar interview John Wilbanks, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and director of the Consent to Research Project (as well as former leader of Creative Commons’ Science Commons project) about a future in which people might be able to donate their health data to science the way they donate their organs today.

Video: The Cynefin Framework 
This short video demonstrates a framework for making decisions that takes the basic context of any problem or issue (simple, complicated, complex, chaotic) as a starting point for deciding how to tackle it. Of particular interest is the way the framework is able to explain the contrasting approaches to problems employed by bureaucrats, experts and politicians, based on the domains in which they routinely operate.

Too muck information: Links for week ending 10 August 2012

Brazil: Crucial week for internet “Bill of Rights”
Global Voices Advocacy reports on the “Marco Civil da Internet”, Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights, which is set to be voted on by Brazilian lawmakers this week. The law establishes a clear set of rights and responsibilities for internet users, with important provisions on net neutrality and the protected role of internet intermediaries like ISPs. “Rather than framing digital policy as a matter of criminal violations [Marco Civil] puts forth a clear set of rights for users and aims to balance these with the interests of online companies and law enforcement.”

US: Victory over proposed Cyber-spying law
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that legislators in the US have rejected a proposed law that would have given companies new rights to monitor private communications and pass data about them to the government. The development follows a grassroots internet campaign against the proposed law.

Nigeria: Senate President calls for social media censorship
Global Voices details the Nigerian blogosphere’s reaction to calls from David Mark, the President of Nigeria’s Senate, to clamp down on social media, in order to prevent it being used by people to “demean their leaders”.

France: Three strikes law risks “death by a thousand cuts”
Time World reports on the Socialist government recently elected in France and their approach to a controversial law, passed by the last administration, designed to reduce levels of online copyright infringement by threatening those accused of infringement with being cut off from the internet. The French Culture Minister has indicated she believes the law is disproportionate and is set to slash funding to the agency that administrates it. However, the left’s reliance on political support from the creative industries may stop it from repealing the law outright.

The United Nations and the internet
Writing for Foreign Policy, Rebecca MacKinnon charts the history of attempts by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union to wrest control of the internet from a US-centric multi-stakeholder process that is not without its own flaws, and details the movements emerging to ensure future internet governance bodies can protect citizens from the convergent interests of repressive governments and monopolistic telcos.

The Naked and the TED
In this long and scalding review for the New Republic, Evgeny Morozov dismantles several recent pamphlets published by TED Books, the publishing arm of the Technology Education Design conference franchise or, as he calls it, “insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering”.

An Olympics fantasy Deputy Editor David Hayes picks apart the messages that have been spun from events – cultural and political, as well as sporting – surrounding the Olympic Games in London, exposing as he does so that failings of modern mass media.

Journalism, hype and security
In this strongly worded blog post, OSF fellow Chris Soghoian takes aim at journalists who hype new security tools without adequately checking whether they live up to the claims of their creators. Wired, one of the outlets named and shamed in the piece, respond in a forceful post that accuses Soghoian of arrogance and entreats him to recognize that no tool can be completely secure.
Soghoian | Wired

Is the academic publishing industry on the verge of disruption?
This long feature for US News charts developments in Open Access publishing in the US.

Audio: Behind the scenes of the internet
BBC Radio 4 are serializing Andrew Blum’s book “Tubes: Behind the scenes of the internet” all this week. The book charts the author’s quest to document the physical infrastructure that powers cyberspace.

Too much information: Links for week ending 3 August 2012

Advocates call out EU/US stalling on right to read for visually impaired
IP Watch and the Hindu report on the outcome of the 24th meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), where proposals to standardize exceptions to copyright law in order to enable much greater access to reading materials for the visually impaired were discussed. Although progress towards an international treaty establishing the policy remain “on course”, access to knowledge advocates including Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) and Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) expressed disappointment at what they saw as stalling tactics from the EU and US delegations.
IP Watch report | The Hindu | KEI | TACD

Israel: High Court judges express concerns over “harmful” biometric database
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on a heated debate taking place in Israel over whether the government should move forward with its creation of a  biometric database containing digital fingerprints and facial photographs of Israeli citizens.

UK: Twitter “caught out” in journalist ban
The Independent reports on a story involving one of their own journalists, Guy Adams, whose Twitter account was suspended after he tweeted the publicly-available email address of an NBC television executive, encouraging his followers to complain to the executive about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics opening ceremony. Twitter have since reinstated the account, but not before the story caused outrage among Twitter users, and suspicion that Twitter’s actions may have been motivated by its commercial relationship with NBC.
Report | Op-ed

Peru: Online crime bill harms privacy and free expression
The EFF reports on a proposed law in Peru that it says would criminalize legitimate security research, as well as compromise citizens’ privacy: “the Peruvian Congress should postpone voting on the bill, and hold an open and democratic debate”.

Spain: security researchers reveal iris scanners can be tricked
The BBC reports on news that researchers in Spain have successfully recreated the image of an iris from information about real irises stored in security databases: “While researchers have been able to create realistic iris images for some time, it is thought that this is the first instance where the fake image can be generated from the iris code of a real person – a method which could be used to steal someone’s identity”.

Mobile participatory budgeting helps raise tax revenues in Congo
This long report for O’Reilly Tech Radar analyses the positive outcomes from a technology-mediated participatory governance project convened by the World Bank in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Social Impact Games: Do They Work?
The Knight Foundation publishes evaluation reports of two projects it funded – Macon Money and Battlestorm – that used gameplay to achieve a social impact.

Digital Freedom of Expression in Uzbekistan
This paper, produced by the New America Foundation, makes policy recommendations aimed at strengthening freedom of expression in Uzbekistan, including “encouraging circumvention efforts, developing safe spaces for online discourse, and translating, copying, and preserving Uzbek online media”.

Surveillance briefing: Bahrain
This briefing, produced by Privacy International, “provides an overview of privacy and surveillance laws, policies and practices in Bahrain”.

Infographic: Timelines of technology adoption
The Atlantic’s Alex Madrigal analyses two graphs showing how quickly technologies from radio to mobile phones have been adopted in the United States.

Video: Privacy tricks for activist web developers
EFF web developer Micah Lee’s presentation from the Hackers on Planet Earth 9 conference held in New York City earlier this month. Highly technical, it includes expert advice on how to avoid the tricks major platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter employ to harvest data from users of your website by employing some tricks of your own, and should be required viewing for web developers working on activist websites.

Too much information: links for week ending 27 July 2012

EU: Research funders signal support for open access publishing
In another win for public access to publicly-funded research, Nature reports on a new policy recommendation by the European Commission that all research emerging from its €80 billion Horizon 2020 research funding pot should either be published open access or deposited in the Commission’s open access repository OpenAIRE six months from publication. European Commission vice-President Neelie Kroes has endorsed the policy, while the Guardian reports a 2% drop in the value of academic publisher Reed-Elsevier’s stock following on from the announcement. The Economist places events in the context of wider developments in academic publishing. Meanwhile, Nature also reports that Research Councils UK, which represents seven UK research funding organizations with a total annual research budget of £2.8 billion, have announced that from next April any papers emerging from work they fund must be made free to access within six months of publication. An infographic, produced by Nature, shows existing trends in open access publishing across disciplines in the UK.
Nature (EU) | Neelie Kroes | Guardian | Economist | Nature (UK) | Infographic

UK: Privacy International threatens legal action against government
Privacy International has written to the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable asking why the government has been unable to halt the export of British-made surveillance technology to repressive regimes. The groups says that if Cable does not respond within 21 days, they “will file for judicial review and if appropriate seek an urgent injunction preventing British companies from maintaining and updating systems already previously sold to repressive regimes, and stopping any new exports in their tracks”.

Tajikistan: Government to create web monitoring agency
Global Voices details an announcement made by the government of Tajikistan that it will create a new agency to monitor online publications for “insulting” and “slanderous” content.

US: Nearly 2 million quit Facebook
The Register reports that nearly 2 million US Facebook users have quit the social networking site in the past 6 months, with user numbers in Europe also dropping. The news has continued the slide in Facebook’s share value.

Iceland: Court orders Valitor to process WikiLeaks donations
Bloomberg report that an Icelandic court have ordered payment processing intermediary Valitor hf, the Icelandic partner of Visa and Mastercard, to process donations to WikiLeaks or face fines of over $6,000 a day. The company has indicated it will appeal the ruling.

UK: US pursuing a middleman in copyright infringement case
The New York Times’ reports on the extradition proceedings against UK citizen Richard O’Dwyer being brought by the US on criminal charges of copyright infringement. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has taken up the Briton’s cause.

Stepping out of the system
This feature for the BBC details a new project by Frontline SMS founder Ken Banks called Means of Exchange: “a ‘toolbox’ of web-based and mobile apps that will make it easier for people to engage in things like bartering, swapping and alternative currencies”.

The moral cases for – and against – drones
A short piece for the New York Times outlines the ethical arguments being marshaled in favor of drone use by the US military. John Kaags and Sarah Keeps take issue with the piece in the same paper’s opinion section, arguing that “expediency is not necessarily a virtue”.
For | Against

The threat of secret surveillance orders
The New York Times details a new paper produced by a US judge that investigates the nature of surveillance orders being generated in US courts and highlights the need to reform the law in order to prevent the trend in orders so secret “they might as well be “written in invisible ink”.

The challenges facing Wikipedia
The Washington Post profiles Wikipedia on the occasion of its annual Wikimania conference, highlighting struggles to encourage new members into its community of editors, and soul-searching about its increasing role as an advocate for online freedoms.

The Dark Matter around Open Data
David Eaves’ keynote at the recent World Bank/ International Open Government Data Conference urges delegates to move on from discussing the technicalities of open data and concentrate instead on scalability and impact.

Too much information: Links for week ending 13 July 2012

Russia: Web blackout in protest at censorship law
The New York Times details online protests that took place on the Russian web this week, against a law that would grant the Russian government new powers to censor online content. Wikipedia blocked access to its Russian-language site, while the Russian search engine Yandex, the Russian blogging platform Live Journal and the Russian social networking site VKontakte also joined the protests.

US: mobile phone operators responded to millions of requests for users’ data from law enforcement in 2011
The New York Times reports on revelations that in 2011 mobile phone operators in the United States responded to 1.3 million requests for user data for law enforcement agencies, such as user location or text message content. “The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified”.

Countries express concern over South African secrecy law
This short report for TechPresident details concerns raised by Sweden, the Czech Republic, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the US over South Africa’s proposed new state secrecy law, observing that the law is seemingly incompatible with commitments South Africa has made as part of its membership of the Open Government Partnership.

mySociety release MapIt Global
mySociety have released a new piece of software that relates points on a map to administrative boundaries around the world. The release represents a huge time-saving for organizations like mySociety who want to build websites that help people engage with their local, regional and national governments (so-called “civic hackers”): “As a general user this sort of thing might seem a bit obscure, but you’ve probably indirectly used such a service many times”.

“Leader of 99%” new villain in popular computer game
Game Ranx reports that the next edition of popular military-themed first-person shooter game “Call of Duty” will have as its arch-villain a character called Raul Menendez, whom the game-makers describe as an “idolized Messiah of the 99%” and whom the reporters describe as “a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo”.

DeadUshahidi, a self-styled “Ushahidi cemetery”, is a map of maps created using the Ushahidi platform that have since fallen into disuse. The project was started ostensibly to help people make more considered decisions when thinking about deploying crowd-mapping technology themselves. Former Ushahidi staffer Patrick Meier reacts broadly positively to its creation in a post on his iRevolution blog, while David Eaves of TechPresident weighs in with his thoughts.
DeadUshahidi | iRevolution | TechPresident

Are open educational resources the key to global economic growth?
This short op-ed written by UNESCO’s former assistant director-general for education and the US ambassador to UNESCO explains UNESCO’s recent commitment to Open Educational Resources in economic terms: “As policymakers struggle to apply traditional fiscal and monetary tools to mend world markets restrained by weak purchasing power, accelerated learning based on OERs could do more to stimulate global economic demand and growth than all the world’s tax holidays combined”.

Your e-Book is reading you
This Wall Street Journal feature examines the privacy implications of the move to digital reading, and details the “arms race among digital start-ups seeking to cash in on the massive pool of data collected by e-reading devices”.

Putting transparency into practice in Slovakia: What we can learn
In this interview for the blog, Gabriel Šípoš from Transparency International Slovakia explains why it’s a great time to be a transparency activist and provides tips on gaining the most from transparency projects.

Watching how China censors
This short feature for the Wall Street Journal details a social media observatory project in the US that tracks how China’s social media is being censored, and asks whether such software could help predict China’s policy moves.

Future of journalism: “Transfer of Value”
This essay for the Monday Note explores the tricks used by new players in online news to overtake their traditional rivals, detailing in one section the Huffington Post’s use of search engine optimization algorithms to re-write the headlines of pieces originally published by traditional media, and gain the lion’s share of the readership.

In defence of Open Data
John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation responds to criticisms recently leveled at the open data movement by pointing out that transparency is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for empowered knowledge: “We also know that disclosure’s effectiveness needs an informed public in order to succeed”.

The New Inquiry: Game of Drones
This special edition of the New Inquiry features a selection of essays on drones, examining their use in assassinations, and in border policing, and drawing on the history of computing to predict their future.

Audio: Remembering Elinor Ostrom
This Radio Berkman podcast is dedicated to discussion of the work of recently deceased Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, whose economic research into common pool resources challenged the idea of the “tragedy of the commons”. Featuring contributions from Benjamin Mako Hill, Judith Donath, Mayo Fuster Morell and Oliver Goodenough.

Too much information: links for week ending 6 July 2012

European Parliament rejects ACTA
Members of the European Parliament have voted by a huge majority to reject the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secretive treaty that threatened to take intellectual property enforcement measures beyond internationally established norms. As European Digital Rights (EDRi) and La Quadrature du Net report, the vote follows citizen protests against the treaty of an unprecedented scale. In a blog post entitled “The Impossible becomes possible”, Michael Geist provides background and analysis: “ACTA is not yet dead – it may still eke out the necessary six ratifications in a year or two for it to take effect – but it is badly damaged and will seemingly never achieve the goals of its supporters as a model for other countries to adopt and to emerge as a new global standard for IP enforcement”.
EDRi | La Quadrature du Net | Geist

UK: Mass of government data on public services to be published
The Guardian reports on the UK government’s announcement that it will publish hundreds of data sets that can be shared and reused by the public about the performance of public services. In related news, the United States’ Sunlight Foundation has have released a set of guidelines for such government-mandated open data policies.
Government announcement | Sunlight Foundation Guidelines

US: Federal judge deals blow to patent wranglers
Judge Richard Posner has thrown out a case in which Apple and Google had accused each other of infringing software patents contained in their mobile phone technologies. Writing about the decision in the Guardian, technology columnist John Naughton calls the move “striking a blow for common sense in what [has] become a madhouse”.
Report | Naughton

“Declaration of Internet Freedom” launched
The Register reports on the launch of the “Declaration of Internet Freedom”, a short statement of principles aimed at preserving a free and open internet, which has been launched by a group of organizations and individuals to time with the anniversary this week of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776: “So far, its main goal seems to be to open a public dialogue on the issues.”
Report | Declaration

World Bank wins SPARC innovator award
The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) have named the World Bank a “SPARC Innovator” in recognition of the institution’s commitment to Open Access, most recently demonstrated in a new Open Access policy covering all its research outputs: “When an organization as large as the World Bank wholeheartedly embraces openness, many hope the impact will not just be a ripple but a wave”.

Seeing Like a Geek
In this essay for Crooked Timber, open data skeptic Tom Slee warns that the rise of open data will trigger a concurrent rise in the market for complementary data services, a market that will be characterized by “a few, big firms, each with significant market power”. The piece forms part of a series of essays on open data being published by Crooked Timber in the coming weeks.
Slee | Series

3D printing and social change
This paper for First Monday by Matt Ratto and Robert Ree charts the history of 3D printing, looking at its position in the industrial process as well as in hacker subculture, and argues that more sustained attention should be paid to the ways in which 3D printing is entering into creative environments.

Creative Commons licensing in the world of philanthropy
Andrew Blanco blogs about his project to produce best practice guidelines for grant-makers wishing to encourage their grantees to use Creative Commons licenses.

Reports from the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2012
The Global Voices Summit, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brought together bloggers, activists and technologists from around the world to take part in conversations and workshops about the rise of online citizen media. Reports and videos from the summit have been collected on its blog.