News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 25 November 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 25 November 2016

The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, aims to update colleagues in the Open Society Foundations and friends further afield about the news, opinions and events the Program team have been watching this fortnight. The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect those of the Information Program or the OSF. Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Our staff, advisers and major grantees tweet at Current and former grantees featured in this issue: EFF, Open Rights Group.

For breaking news stories, visit:

US confirms end of Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement
The Guardian reports that the White House has confirmed the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as Congressional leaders have indicated they will not pass the trade deal before President Obama leaves office; president-elect Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the deal during the election campaign. EFF assesses the damage in other countries: New Zealand has now passed the implementing legislation required to ratify TPP, including an extension to copyright to author's life plus 70 years. In Japan, the ratifying bill has passed the lower house. Finally, the remaining countries, led by Mexico and Japan, may decide to conclude the agreement without the US.

UK: Parliament passes the Investigatory Powers bill
ZDNet reports that the Investigatory Powers bill - also knows as the "Snooper's Charter" - has passed both houses of Parliament and now merely awaits Royal Assent to become law. The law will require internet service providers to store every customer's real-time top-level web history for up to a year; force companies to decrypt data on demand; and allow intelligence agencies to hack into all computer hardware ("bulk equipment interference"). Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock has called the bill "the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy". At its blog, ORG cites chapter five of its 2015 report to remind readers that Donald Trump's incoming US administration is likely to have access to all this data, given the close relationship between the NSA and GCHQ. However, the Guardian reports that Germany fears Britain's EU departure plans may cause it to pull out of an EU intelligence-sharing program intended to combat terrorism and promote security. Computer Weekly notes that opposing organizations include the National Union of Journalists and that the legal challenge mounted by the MPs Tom Watson and David Davis (now withdrawn) against the bill's predecessor, the Data Protection and Investigatory Powers Act, is still pending in the European Court of Justice.

Cameroon: Government launches campaign against social media
Global Voices reports that the government of Cameroon has launched a campaign against social media; the government-controlled Cameroon Tribune has called social media "a threat to peace and a secret instrument of manipulation". After a recent train derailment, pictures and videos of the accident were being posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms while the government was still denying the accident had taken place.
Global Voices:

Russian hackers target US political NGOs and think tanks
Security journalist Brian Krebs reports that according to a report from the DC-based cyber incident response firm Volexity, shortly after Donald Trump became the presumptive US president-elect, the Russian "The Dukes" hacker gang launched a series of targeted phishing campaigns against American political think tanks and NGOs. The Dukes is best known for hacking into computer networks at the US Democratic National Committee. Volexity provides the details of the five waves of attacks so far but notes they are ongoing; the firm believes the hackers are working to gain long-term access to the networks of the groups they're targeting.

Facebook gears up to fight fake news
The Guardian reports that a week after denying that fake news could influence voters - and a few days after the German Justice Minister indicates that he believes Facebook should be regulated like a media company - Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced initiatives to tackle the dissemination of misinformation on his company's platform. A Buzzfeed analysis found that fake election news stories outperformed real news on Facebook. Buzzfeed also reports that teens in the Balkans are duping Trump supporters with fake news. At Medium, ethnographer Christine Xu compares the state of fake news and propaganda in the US and China, where the media are so distrusted that misinformation is easily spread via family and friends. Monday Note editor Frederic Filloux analyses the way the mainstream media's changed business model helped drive Donald Trump to the presidency. The New York Times reports that meanwhile Facebook has been developing software to enable a third party to suppress posts in individuals' news feeds in specific geographic areas; the initiative is believed to be intended to give the company access to the Chinese market. The Verge reports that Facebook has acquired Crowdtangle, a software company whose products were being used by journalists to track the spread of fake news, and also that a list of "fake news sites" compiled by Massachusetts journalism professor Melissa Zimdar, rapidly publicized by major news organizations, included many satire and parody websites, as well as Private Eye's own site and, reports IB Times, Breitbart.
Buzzfeed (outperformance):
Buzzfeed (Macedonia):
Monday Note:
NY Times:

Regulating smart cars
In this blog posting at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Joseph Jerome discusses how smart cars should be regulated. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is charged with regulating motor vehicle safety, but privacy and cyber security lie outside its realm of experience and expertise, and it has sent mixed signals about whether it reviews these as safety issues. Also potentially involved are the Federal Trade Commission, whose consumer protection mandate includes privacy, and the Federal Communications Commission, which has the power to regulate technologies, such as broadband, that it designates as telecommunications services. Jerome hopes the three will collaborate effectively.

For more features and analysis selected by the Program team, visit:

Code programmers are ashamed of writing
In this Medium, Bill Sourour discusses code he remains ashamed of having written and urges other programmers to think about the effects of their code before they write it. The post has set off myriad confessions from programmers about the unethical and illegal things they've been asked to do, which Business Insider summarizes. Many argue that ethics should be included in computer science and programming courses. Sourour was originally inspired to write his post by the video of Bob Martin's talk "The Future of Programming".
YouTube (Martin):

Internet freedom under pressure
In this report, Freedom House studies the state of app and social media crackdowns worldwide. In the interests of blocking access, 15 governments worldwide have shut down the entire internet or mobile network. Among the key findings for 2016: for the sixth consecutive year internet freedom has declined; 67% of internet users live in countries which censor criticism of the government, military, or ruling family; 38 countries (27%) have made arrests based on social media postings; secure, speedy apps like WhatsApp are increasingly the target of government action. The worst-scoring countries for internet freedom are China, Iran, Syria, and Ethiopia. Online Censorship's report covering April to November 2016 finds increasing numbers of complaints about politically-motivated censorship, much of it pertaining to the US election.
Freedom House:
Online Censorship (PDF):

Liberia: Lessons from the attack that may not have happened
In this blog posting, Access Now discusses the recent reports that the entire country of Liberia was taken offline by a botnet attack. Security researchers, officials, and Access Now's local partners all have reported no effective decline in connectivity. However, given that connectivity to Liberia and many other countries on the West coast of Africa is primarily supplied by a single submarine cable, Access Now argues that much greater attention needs to be paid to resilience and that we need to make it harder to shut down the internet. Steve Song discusses the costs of data connections in Africa, noting that it costs more to get data from Africa's interior countries to the coast than it does the rest of the way to Europe.
Access Now:

Ethics all the way down
In this TED talk video, Zeynep Tufecki argues that machine intelligence can fail in ways that humans won't predict and that therefore we can't outsource our decisions to machines: "It's ethics all the way down." In a podcast discussion at O'Reilly Radar, data scientist Hilary Mason makes similar points while discussing current research projects at her company Fast Forward Labs and the barriers to adopting AI.

Children's rights and data protection
In this blog posting at the LSE Media Policy Project, Ghent professor Eva Lievens discusses the impact of the new General Data Protection Regulation on children's rights. Among her concerns are the provisions requiring parental consent for children under 16; treating children over that age as adults with respect to data processing; and the omission of age-related concerns from the many other articles in the regulation. Ghent will begin a four-year research project to evaluate this law critically and monitor its implementation on children, and Lievens urges other researchers to help provide an in-depth, evidence-based understanding of how children's right to privacy and data protection should be protected.


To see more events recommended by the Information Program team, visit: If you would like your event listed in this mail, email

Digital Democracy workshop
November 27, 2016
London, England
The Digital Democracy afternoon workshop, a collaboration of Cybersalon and the Digital Liberties Register, will explore digital deliberation and how to design online participatory processes that work for and empower everyone.

Latin America in a Glimpse
December 5, 2016
Guadalajara, Mexico
Derechos Digitales, IFEX-ALC, and Coding Rights (Brazil) will present a summary of the most important trends of the past year in digital rights in Latin America. The roundtable discussions are intended to help the international community to connect and better understand the reality of human rights on the internet in Latin America. Main topics will be digital surveillance and the right to be forgotten.

Internet Governance Forum
December 6-9, 2016 (TBC)
Guadalajara, Mexico
With the UN's renewal in December 2015, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) consolidates itself as a platform to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there is no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors. At their annual meeting delegates discuss, exchange information and share good practices with each other.

Open Government Partnership Summit
December 7-9, 2016
Paris, France
Representatives from governments, academia, civil society and international organizations will gather to share their experiences and best practices and push forward the open government global agenda in light of the great challenges of the modern world. As a forum for sharing best practices, OGP provides a unique platform that brings together, stimulates and expands the community of state reformers worldwide.

Privacy Camp
January 24, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
Co-organised by EDRi, Privacy Salon, USL-B, and VUB-LSTS, the fifth annual Privacy Camp brings together civil society, policy makers, and academia to discuss existing and looming problems for human rights in the digital environment.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 25-27, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
The tenth CPDP's main theme is artificial intelligence. The conference is accepting proposals for panels in April (from academic consortia, research projects, think tanks, and other research organisations) and May (from individuals wishing to present academic research papers).

Internet Freedom Festival
March 6-10, 2017
Valencia, Spain
The Internet Freedom Festival gathers the community keeping the Internet open and uncensored for a week of free-form multidisciplinary collaboration intended to help groups achieve their goals. Attendance is free and open to the public.

Rightscon 2017
March 29-31, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
RightsCon will tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of technology and human rights. Session proposals are being accepted until November 25, 2016.

We Robot
March 31-April 1, 2017
New Haven, Connecticut
The sixth annual We Robot will be held at Yale Law School and will focus on the coming legal and policy conflicts as robots and AI become part of daily life.

TICTeC 2017
April 25-26, 2017
Florence, Italy
This will be the third mySociety conference on the impacts of civic technology.

Creative Commons Global Summit
April 28-30, 2017
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This event will gather a global community of technologists, academics, activists, creatives, and legal experts to work together on the expansion and growth of the commons, open knowledge, and free culture for all.

IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
The 38th annual meeting will present developments in computer security and electronic privacy, and for bringing together researchers and practitioners in the field.

Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
Co-hosted with the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, ConPro will explore computer science topics with an impact on consumers. This workshop has a strong security and privacy slant, with an overall focus on ways in which computer science can prevent, detect, or address the potential for technology to deceive or unfairly harm consumers.

Open Repositories 2017
June 26-30, 2017
Brisbane, Australia
The annual Open Repositories Conference brings together users and developers of open digital repository platforms from higher education, government, galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The Conference provides an interactive forum for delegates from around the world to come together and explore the global challenges and opportunities facing libraries and the broader scholarly information landscape.

IFLA World Libraries and Information Congress
August 19-25, 2017
Wroclaw, Poland
The theme of the 83rd annual IFLA congress will be "Achieving a healthy future together: diverse and emerging roles for health information professionals".


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on November 26, 2016 10:33 AM.

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