News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 April 2017

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 April 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.

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Master's Degree program in fundamental rights, technopolitics, and digital culture
The Barcelona-based Universitat Pompeu Fabra has announced that pre-enrollment has opened for a Master's Degree course in fundamental rights, technopolitics, and digital culture, taught in Spanish and organized by the multidisiciplinary artist and activist Simona Levi and the non-profit activist platform Xnet. The goal is to train active agents to work with new models of strategic action, versatile actors who can bring into being new forms of organisation and initiatives, who are able to work with them and lead sectors that transform, and are in the process of being transformed.

For breaking news stories, visit:

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announces plan to fight fake news
The Guardian reports that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching a new online publication, Wikitribune, "news by the people and for the people". The site will rely on collaboration between professional journalists, who will be paid by raising money through a crowdfunding campaign, and citizen volunteers. Journalists will be expected to share full transcripts, audio, and video of interviews; community contributors will provide extra material and fact-checking. Wales notes that fake news has had little-to-no impact on the Wikipedia community. The site goes live on April 25 and is free to access.

India adopts British Internet Watch Foundation blocklist
Sputnik News reports that the Indian government has asked the nation's ISPs to adopt the UK Internet Watch Foundation's blocklist of sites hosting child abuse images. Indian ISPs, like their British counterparts, will have to pay a fee to access the list. After the Supreme Court directed ISPs to address pornography, especially child pornography, India banned about 850 websites in 2015. The hotline India set up in September 2016 received 426 public complaints over the course of six months. According to its website, the IWF provides international reporting portals for a number of other countries that lack their own, including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Uganda.
Sputnik News:

AI beats humans at poker
The BBC reports that an AI program called Lengpudashi has beaten a team of six human poker players led by amateur champion Yue Du at Texas Hold'em in an exhibition match staged in Hainan, China. The human "Team Dragon" was composed of engineers, computer scientists, and investors, who relied on game theory and their knowledge of machine intelligence. Lengpudashi and its predecessor, Libratus, was written by Carnegie-Mellon computer science professor Tuomas Sandholm and PhD student Noam Brown and runs on a supercomputer in Pittsburgh. In January, Libratus beat four of the world's best poker professionals in a 20-day game. Poker, unlike Go or chess, is an "imperfect information game" in which success depends on strategy and the ability to both bluff and spot others bluffing.

Global South calls on Tim Berners-Lee to stop digital colonialism
Telesur reports that the Just Net Coalition, a network of internet accessibility activists from the Global South formed in New Delhi, India, in 2014, has sent an open letter to Tim Berners-Lee, asking him to stop accepting Encrypted Media Extensions, which they say is being installed without users' consent and blocks people in the Global South from accessing the same internet features available to those in North America and Europe. In addition, EME blocks those using open source multimedia software, which is used by most users in most Global South countries. The group also wants Berners-Lee to stop corporate interests from privatizing the internet by coopting the W3C. The letter remains open for endorsements until April 27.
Just Net Coalition:
Open letter (PDF):

US: Trump administration endorses arresting Julian Assange
The Guardian reports that US attorney general Jeff Sessions has said that the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is now a "priority". Bringing charges could lead to an extradition request; however British authorities believe the UK has a prior legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden under the European arrest warrant. The Independent reports that US President Donald Trump has called arresting Assange "OK with me". Gizmodo notes earlier Trump statements: he called Wikileaks "disgraceful" in 2010 but publicly proclaimed at a rally in October 2016 that "I love Wikileaks". In the Guardian Trevor Timm argues that prosecuting Wikileaks would endanger the future of US journalism because every newspaper has at some point published classified information and the US administration would be unlikely to stop with prosecuting Assange. At her Emptywheel blog, Marcy Wheeler reviews the coverage and suggests that the Department of Justice wants to cut away at the First Amendment.
Guardian (arrest):
Guardian (journalism):

Burger King ad targets Google Home devices
The Guardian reports that Burger King ran a 15-second TV ad that featured a man in a Burger King uniform leaning forward and saying, "OK, Google. What is the Whopper burger", intending that Google Home devices would begin reading out Wikipedia's Whopper entry. A few hours after the ad launched, the devices ceased responding. Australia's News Channel 9 reports that it took annoyed human users less time than that to begin editing the Wikipedia page to redefine the Whopper as being made of cyanide, toenail clippings, and rat meat.
Channel 9:

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US: Political polarization is not about social media
In this article at Vox, Ezra Klein discusses a new study released through the National Bureau of Economic Research that finds that social media is not the primary cause of increased political polarization in American politics. Using data from the American National Election Survey, researchers Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow, and Jesse Shapiro compared young voters, 80% of whom used social media in 2012, and older voters, only 20% of whom did the same, and found that the voters' age correlated with polarization in eight of nine different tests. When the researchers constructed panels based on internet access, they found the same pattern: that polarization is increasing fastest among those who use the internet the least. The researchers suggest more important factors are increasing income inequality and non-digital media such as cable TV and talk radio.

African smart cities: Nairobi and Cape Town
In this article at How We Made It in Africa, Otavio Veras reports on the state of development of smart city projects in Africa's two most advanced cities, Nairobi (Kenya) and Cape Town (South Africa). Nairobi has elected to replicate the steps Singapore followed, and, beginning with the mobile payment system M-Pesa, the choice has driven ICT progress throughout the country. In Cape Town, the government established a four-pillar project to reach smart city status: digital infrastructure, digital inclusion, e-government, and digital economy. The city has implemented remote utilities meter reading, integrated its public safety services, installed a system for predicting fire incidents, deployed public wifi hotspots, and established Taxify, an Uber-like platform that offers passengers and drivers better support. All collected data is publicly available through the city's open data portal website.
How We Made It in Africa:

Study raises privacy concerns about smartphone sensors
At Popular Science, Rob Verger reports that computer scientists at Newcastle University have been able to create malware that uses the sensors in smartphones that detect the orientation, tilt, and speed of movement to identify the user's PIN 74% of the time on the first try and 94% of the time on the third try. The study's lead author, Maryam Mehrnezhad, says that when not properly secured sensors embedded in anything from smartphones to streetlamps can reveal "basically everything about you". Fueled by concerns about the W3C's interest in defining a specification for a general Sensor API, researcher Lukasz Olejnik has been pointing out the privacy risks of making sensor data available for some time; his website features example analyses of the inferences that can be drawn from the output of sensors that measure ambient light and proximity.
Popular Science:
Sensor Privacy:

Racial and gender bias in language processing algorithms
The Guardian reports that a study has found that "word embedding", a tool used to improve the accuracy of natural language processing applications such as Google Translate, displays striking gender and racial biases matching those found in the results of implicit association tests on UK and US humans. Lead researcher Sandra Wachter suggests that the results of the study could be used to address and counter the bias in historical data rather than be seen as a threat. In a panel discussion shared online, O'Reilly Media editor Andy Oram, Ifeoma Ajunwa, Geoff A. Cohen, and Ben Green discuss algorithms as "the new boogie men in social control and institutional discrimination" and suggest how to fix them.
Wachter (ACM, PDF):
Oram (Libreplanet):
Oran (Slideshare):

How Google Books got lost
In this posting at Backchannel, former Salon editor Scott Rosenberg asks what happened to Google Books. Created as the company's first "moonshot", the project scanned 25 million books before copyright law blocked public access. The lawsuits, the rise of other more exciting ventures, and the loss of the sense that scanning more books would change the world have jointly caused progress to stall. Rosenberg concludes by imagining a future in which the database becomes available to machines to read.

The voice-activated threat to minority languages
In this article at Mashable, Maria Gallucci discusses an Associated Press report that the Icelandic language is at risk of dying out, in part because voice-activated devices force Icelanders to use English. GPS devices struggle with Icelandic road names and voice-driven digital assistants have yet to be ported into the language. The Ministry of Education estimates it would cost about 1 billion Icelandic krona ($8.8 million) to create an open access database to assist developers. Other minority languages under similar threat include Irish Gaelic, Latvian, Maltese, and Lithuanian.


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

Robots Exhibition
February 8 - September 13
London, UK
The Science Museum's 2017 robots exhibition includes robotic artifacts over five centuries, from a 16th century mechanized monk to the latest research developments. Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival
March 6-June 18
London, UK; Chicago Illinois; Toronto, Canada; New York, NY
The 16 human rights documentaries included in this peripatetic festival highlight individuals and groups exhibiting courageous resilience in challenging times. Among the human rights topics represented are the integrity of the press; the experience of refugees seeking safety; and factory workers protesting chemical harms from their work in the Chinese electronics industry. Nicholas de Pencier's BLACK CODE, based on Ronald Deibert's book of the same name, follows members of Toronto-based Citizen Lab as they document civil society activism in Tibet, Syria, Brazil, and Pakistan.

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.

IFLA MetLib 2017
April 30-May 5, 2017
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The 2017 program 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.

Transform Africa Summit 2017
May 12-12, 2017
Kigali, Rwanda
ICT experts from across Africa and beyond will convene to discuss the transformation of Africa using the power of technology. The forum will include side events such as the Smart Women Summit and the Africa Smart Cities forum, which is backed by 11 African countries.

May 13, 2017
London, UK
OpenTech 2017 is an informal, low cost, one-day conference on slightly different approaches to technology, experience and democracy. Talks by people who work on things that matter guarantee a day of thoughtful talks leading to conversations with friends.

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.

Transparency Camp
May 22, 2017
Phoenix, Arizona
The Sunlight Foundation and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, Galvanize, and the Arizona Institute for Digital Progress are teaming up to present Tcamp 2017, an un-conference that will bring together the government, developer and journalist communities to discuss and solve problems relating to making government data open and accessible to the public.

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.

Privacy Law Scholars
June 1-2
Berkeley, California
The tenth annual Privacy Law Scholars workshop will assemble a wide array of privacy law scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss papers in progress. Scholars from many disciplines, including psychology, economics, sociology, philosophy, political science, computer science, and mathematics also participate.

Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2017
June 8-9, 2017
New York, NY
The theme is PDF17 is "What We Do Now". Attendees will get connected, get inspired, learn with today's new and veteran organizers alike, and discover how what we do now can make all the difference.

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.

Future Perfect
Jun 16, 2017
New York, NY
Data & Society Research Institute's Speculative Fiction Reading Group will host Future Perfect, a conference exploring the use, significance, and discontents of speculative design, narrative, and world-building in technology, policy, and culture. Participation is limited. Those interested in attending this Conference should apply by May 12, and may either 1) propose work to be exhibited and/or presented, or 2) describe how their work makes them a relevant discussant/participant.

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..

Data Power 2017
June 22-23, 2017
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The Data Power 2017 conference asks: how can we reclaim some form of data-based power and autonomy, and advance data-based technological citizenship, while living in regimes of data power? Confirmed speakers include Helen Nissenbaum, Frank Pasquale, Stefania Milan, and Paul N. Edwards.

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.

AI Now Symposium
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
July 10, 2017
The second annual symposium of the AI Now Initiative, led by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker, will be held at the MIT Media Lab. AI Now works across disciplines to understand the social impact of AI.

Citizen Lab Summer Institute
July 12-14
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This year's conference is organized around five research streams: Network Interference and Freedom of Expression Online, Surveillance and Counter Surveillance, Security and Privacy of Apps, Corporate Transparency and Public Accountability, and a special session on Information Controls and Armed Conflict.

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.

Mozfest 2017
October 27-29, 2017
London, UK
The world's leading festival for the open internet movement will feature influential thinkers from around the world to build, debate, and explore the future of a healthy internet.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on April 30, 2017 12:53 PM.

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