News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 January 2017

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 January 2017
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: ADC, Creative Commons, Copyright for Creativity (C4C), Data and Society Institute, EDRi, EFF, IFLA, R3D, SPARC.


For breaking news stories, visit:

US officially withdraws from Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement
The BBC reports that, as expected, on his third day in office newly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing from the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deal had never been ratified by the US Congress. The BBC adds that the news is likely to be welcome in China, which was not included in the deal, and which saw TPP as an attempt by the US to dominate the region. The White House web page on trade deals says Trump is also committed to renegotiating the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been in place since 1994. EFF, which opposed TPP because of its intellectual property and other provisions, wrote the agreement's post-mortem in November, but noted the agreement may still cause the same problems EFF has warned against if it goes ahead without the US. Bloomberg reports that Canada hopes to salvage the agreement without the US. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told CNN that he hopes Trump will reconsider; signatories have until 2018 to ratify the agreement. 
BBC (China):
White House:

US: Appeals court rules US law doesn't au

The Washington Post reports that the Second Circuit federal appeals court has declined to overturn the lower court decision that US law cannot be used to compel Microsoft to hand over data stored on  its Irish servers. The Department of Justice may now try to appeal the case to the Supreme Court or push for legislation to support such extraterritorial data requests.
Washington Post:

EU considers legally designating robots "electronic persons"
The Law Street blog reports that the EU has issued a draft report, written by MEP Mady Delvaux (Socialist Workers Party-Luxembourg), that proposes designating robots as "electronic persons" for legal purposes, much as corporations have legal personhood. Electronic personhood would enable the allocation of liability. In the interim, the report views harmonised rules for self-driving cars as an urgent necessity, and favours an obligatory insurance scheme and fund to compensate victims of accidents. Delvaux and others are campaigning to create a new European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence. 
Law Street:
European Parliament:

China: Government bans unauthorized internet connections
SCMP reports that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has announced a requirement that all special cable and VPN services on the mainland require prior government approval. The move makes most VPN service providers effectively illegal. The Ministry claims the purpose is to "strengthen cyberspace information security management"; however, the net effect is to tighten the country's "Great Firewall" by banning services that allow users to bypass it. At BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow reports on a Harvard study analysing the Chinese government strategically distracts its population from political dissent by injecting nearly 450 million posts a year into social media.

Australia: Biometrics will replace paper passports
Gizmodo reports that Australia is implementing the Seamless Traveller biometric system for recognizing arriving international travelers to replace paper passports and other forms of identity documentation. The goal is to have 90% of arrivals passing through unmanned electronic stations, with humans intervening only in case of a technical issue or travel restriction. The system is budgeted for $94 million over five years. At the net.wars blog, Wendy M. Grossman recounts a presentation at the 2013 Biometrics conference by Accenture Ireland's Joe Flynn on how the streamlined "MAGICAL" airport of 2020 is supposed to work.

Bahrain: Government bans online newspaper publication
Global Voices reports that on January 16 the Bahraini government banned the country's only independent newspaper, al-Wasat, from "using electronic media tools". Besides its website, the paper has accounts followed by hundreds of thousands of people on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and also maintains a YouTube channel and an Instagram account. Activists speculate that the immediate cause of the ban may have been the paper's coverage of the January 15 execution of three men who had been convicted of killing three policemen in a 2014 bombing attack. The paper has been subject to similar bans in the past.
Global Voices:

Open access mandate blocks Gates-funded research from publication
Nature reports that scientists whose research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are unable to publish the results in leading journals including Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The reason is the Gates Foundation's open access policy, which requires the researchers it funds to open the resulting papers and underlying data sets immediately upon publication. Peter Suber predicts that the journals will ultimately compromise. Inside Higher Ed gives further background and compares the Gates policy with those of other foundations.
Inside Higher Ed:

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

Online advertising: bad for the news business
In this piece for the Verge, veteran journalist Walt Mossberg writes that the methods used to fund modern journalism - primarily advertising - simultaneously undermine trust in the news outlets. To advertisers, quality news is just a way to profile readers, whom they can then target with ads on cheaper sites. At Medium, Sean Blanda provides Exhibit A: Medium itself, which is struggling to break even like every other well-intentioned start-up aimed at providing a better system. Fake news is only one piece of the problem; the bigger issue is that people discover news via companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which do not make any more money by supporting good journalism. At the Guardian, Evgeny Morozov blames the advertising-supported business model, comparing the problem of getting rid of fake news to tackling climate change. At the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum recounts her experience as the focus of a smear campaign; the experience taught her how fake websites and fake news reinforce each other. IFEX argues that government regulation is a bigger threat than fake news. TechCrunch reports that a study conducted by social psychologists at Cambridge (UK), Yale, and George Mason (US) has found that using proactive warnings that pre-expose users to factual distortion in advance is an effective strategy for countering the spread of misinformation online. At the Data and Society blog, Danah Boyd considers whether part of the problem is US cultural norms which dictate teaching children that they can make good decisions if they do their own research and trust their gut instincts.
Washington Post:

Latin America, Europe: The ever-expanding national security state
In this article at the Guardian, John Dalhuisen summarizes Amnesty International's report, "Dangerously Disproportionate", which reviews the expanding national security state across Europe and concludes that the edifice of rights protection carefully constructed after the Second World War is being dismantled. The report's eight themes: states of emergency, principle of legality, right to privacy, freedom of expression, right to liberty, freedom of movement, stripping of nationality, and the prohibition on sending people to places where they risk torture. In a blog posting, EFF and its partners summarize their review of surveillance in Latin America in 2016. Among the highlights: Chile's highest court has authorized surveillance balloons; Argentina, over opposition from ADC, is creating a registry of users' mobile communication services; Paraguay's military is spying on journalists; Peru has spent $22 million on software to surveil communications from the Israeli company Verint; and Mexico is fighting a court case brought by R3D opposing data retention.
Amnesty International:

The privacy paradox
In this video clip, Benjamin Wittes discusses his and Emma Kohse's new paper on the "privacy paradox" at the Brookings Institution with Amie Stepanovich (Access Now) and Stewart Baker (Steptoe and Johnson). In their earlier paper, Wittes and Kohse challenged the assumption that privacy is an eroding value; instead, people may buy online to protect their privacy from specific people in their lives, such as neighbors and family members. Privacy scholars and activists, they hypothesized, focus on harms and generally fail to take these benefits into account. In this paper they tested the hypothesis using Google Surveys, which they admit is a crude measure. They found the platform challenging to adapt for their questions, as they had to find euphemisms for terms Google prohibits, such as pornography, vibrators, and condoms. The researchers found that the percentage of consumers who would rather buy sensitive personal items online is roughly double the number who do the same for general household items: these decisions are not solely driven by convenience.
Brookings (video):
Brookings (paper):

Adapting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
In this blog posting for the LSE Media Policy Project, LSE academic Sonia Livingstone edits the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to reflect today's digital world. Although it was adopted in 1989, Livingstone believes the Convention is not out of date. Her edited version is intended to remind policy makers that a third of internet users worldwide are under 18 and that children's rights merit our collective attention. Children should be empowered; for example, incoming laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation should include requirements to simplify terms and conditions for this younger audience.

Hungary, Ukraine: Working towards accountability and transparency
In this blog posting, The Engine Room discusses (and updates the progress of) its second replication sprint, which involves taking past successful projects and working with organizations facing similar challenges to develop immediately useful tools and complete end products developed to their specific needs. For this week's challenge, The Engine Room is working with Opora (based in Ukraine) and K-Monitor (Hungary), which are fighting for more transparency and accountability in their countries. Opora's project aims to increase citizens' influence on the government, beginning with creating a database for election donations from 2014 onwards. K-Monitor, which maintains the biggest news database on corruption cases in Hungary, wants to make the assets and incomes of decision-makers transparent and comparable over time.
Engine Room:

Copyright Week
On these pages, EFF provides links to myriad organizations celebrating Copyright Week, including Creative Commons, Copyright for Creativity (C4C), IFLA, SPARC, EDRi, New Media Rights, Public Knowledge, the Authors Alliance, and the American Library Association. Each of the linked pages discusses an aspect of copyright such as: the public domain, digital rights management, copyright reform, the use of copyright law for censorship, and transparency. Intellectual Property Watch surveys the year ahead for IP law in the US.
IP Watch:


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

When: February 4 - 5
Where: Brussels, Belgium
FOSSDEM is a two-day event organised by volunteers to promote the widespread use of free and open source software. A free and non-commercial event organised by the community for the community, the goal is to provide free and open source software developers and communities a place to meet to get in touch with other developers and projects, and be informed about the latest developments in the open source and free software worlds.

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.

Open Education Global 2017
March 8-10, 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

This year marks several important milestones in Open Education, including the 15-year anniversary of the term "Open Educational Resources" and the five-year anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration. For those who remember the start of the movement, this conference will provide the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on these and other achievements, reconnect with colleagues and friends, and learn about new ideas and initiatives.

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.

Personal Democracy Forum 2017
April 6-7
Gdansk, Poland
The 5th edition of Personal Democracy Forum will serve as a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences for people using new technologies to work for civic participation and transparency in public life in Central and Eastern Europe.

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

2017 IFLA International News Media Conference
April 27-28, 2017
Reykjavik, Iceland
This conference will examine issues and challenges in collecting and preserving the news and making it available to users. Do access and preservation have different prerequisites? In addition, the conference will explore how news media is used and transformed by researchers and the public. Can we recognize variable user needs? Do we offer the most suitable APIs?

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.

MetLib 2017
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The 2017 programme theme is "Partnerships: Creating a new vision for libraries". Among the subthemes will be discussions of how and why to use, form, and manage partnerships, management tools, and best practices.

4th Africa Library Summit and 2nd AfLIA conference
May 14-20, 2017
Yaounde, Cameroon
Moved from Ethiopia to the site of the second bidder due to safety concerns, this conference co-locates the fourth Africa Library Sumit and the second African Library and Information Associations and Institutions conference.

Citizen Science Conference 2017
May 17-20, 2017
St Paul, Minnesota
The biennial citizen science conference brings together a diverse group of researchers, practitioners, community organizations, and participants.

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.

Next Library Festival 2017
June 11-14, 2017
Aarhus, Denmark
Next Library 2017 will offer a "patchwork" of co-learning, co-creative, participatory, engaging, pluralistic and interactive meetings, and lots of parallel sessions, keynote speakers, wildcard sessions, demos/exhibitions, gaming, Networking Dinner Party, Get2Gether, Social un-conferences, alternative events and surprises.

CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication
June 21-23, 2017
Geneva, Switzerland
The organizers of the biennial CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication - OAI10 - include representatives from the Open Society Foundations, SPARC, PloS, CERN, UCL, and other academic institutions..

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.

Summer courses on privacy and international copyright laws
July 3-7, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands
These courses, run by the Institute for Information Law, are intensive post-graduate courses aimed to help professionals stay abreast of changing rules. The first, on privacy law and policy, focuses on recent developments in EU and US privacy law relating to the internet and online media. The second, on international copyright law, comprises nine seminars, each focused on one specific copyright issue.

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".

Privacy + Security Forum
October 4-6, 2017
Washington, DC
The conference breaks down the silos of security and privacy by bringing together leaders from both fields.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on January 30, 2017 5:54 PM.

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