News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 May 2017

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 May 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: Open Rights Group.

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:

Austria: Court orders global removal of Facebook hate speech postings
Reuters reports that an Austrian court has ruled that Facebook must remove - globally - postings deemed as hate speech. The case was brought by the country's Green party over postings that insulted its leader. The ruling is one of a number of moves made by European legislators to curb hate speech and incitement to violence online. Last month, Germany's cabinet approved a plan to fine social networks up to €50 million if they fail to remove postings quickly. The Open Rights Group reports that in the UK the dissolution of Parliament was marked by the release of a partial report from the disbanding Home Affairs Select Committee that branded social media companies as irresponsible for not doing more to proactively remove extremist material.

UK: Global operation influenced the EU referendum vote
In the Observer, Carole Cadwalladr reports that the EU referendum was influenced by a shadowy global operation involving big data and billionaire friends of US President Donald Trump, and asks whether the upcoming British general election is safe from interference. At the heart of Cadwalladr's investigation is a Canadian web analytics company, AggregateIQ, which, invoices uploaded by the Electoral Commission show, was paid more by the Vote Leave campaign than any other company in any other campaign in the entire referendum. Cadwalladr concludes that Britain in 2017 looks increasingly like a "'managed democracy" leading the way into a "brave, new, increasingly undemocratic world".

China: New rules require licensing to use social media
Global Voices reports that China's State Council Information Office has released new regulations that increase restrictions on news reporting and require individuals to submit real identity information when subscribing to a news information service. Internet news services that use websites, apps, forums, blogs, microblogs, mobile public platforms such as WeChat, instant messaging, and livecasting are required to obtain permits from the Internet News Information Unit. Sources quoted in the story believe that the purpose of targeting readers is to stop anonymous comments on social media news threads. The regulation comes into effect in June 1. The US's ABC News reports that China is also building its own 300,000-entry online encyclopedia written by hand-picked scholars and experts, which the public will not be allowed to edit.
Global Voices:

Turkey: Government blocks Wikipedia under security law
Reuters reports that a Turkish court has rejected an appeal by Wikipedia against a government decision to block access to all language editions of the online encyclopedia. Earlier, Reuters had reported that the Turkish BTK telecommunications watchdog instituted the ban on April 29, citing a law allowing it to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security. The ban was originally detected by the Turkey Blocks monitoring site.
Reuters (court):
Reuters (ban):
Turkey Blocks:

France: Hackers try to orchestrate a win for National Front's Marine Le Pen
The Daily Beast reports that two days before the May 7 French presidential election someone dumped 9GB of emails and documents supposedly taken from the Emmanuel Macron campaign to 4Chan, from where they were republished by Wikileaks. With minimal time left before the 48-hour pre-election campaign blackout began, the Macron campaign issued a statement saying it had been hacked and that many of the leaked documents were fakes. Mounir Mahjoubi, the head of Macron's digital team, told The Daily Beat that part of Macron's campaign strategy was to sign on to the phishing pages and plant bogus and conflicting information. At BuzzFeed, Zeynep Tufecki defended the right to privacy of the people in the emails, and advised French reporters that they should not allow the dump to distract them from reporting on more important issues, both before and after the election. Rather allowing the hackers to lead the story by debunking - and thereby repeating - false stories, she says, aggressively report on the misinformation campaign itself, and dig into its origins. BuzzFeed reports that a crucial reason for the failure of attempts to use similar tactics to those of the US presidential election to orchestrate a win for Le Pen was that no one on 4Chan knew French. The National Front memes that poured onto Twitter were in English and ignored differences in French culture, so the French media didn't pick up the fake stories - and few in France use Facebook. An investigation published by Le Monde demonstrates that the dissemination of "MarconLeaks" was organized by the extreme right wing of the United States  - with astonishing detail.
Daily Beast:
Buzzfeed (Tufecki):
Buzzfeed (4Chan):
Le Monde:

Netherlands: Open access requirement blocks researchers from Oxford journals
The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that academics in Dutch universities have lost access to journals published by Oxford University Press after 18 months of talks about subscription prices failed to reach agreement. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has set a mandate to achieve 100% open access publishing by 2020. In mid-February, Science Magazine reported that Elsevier had restored access for German researchers after blocking them for more than a month; negotiations continued.

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

New antitrust rules for the data economy
In this article, The Economist argues that network effects mean that the rise of data as a more valuable resource than oil requires a new approach to antitrust rules. Rather than consider a company's overall size, regulatory authorities need to consider the extent of its data assets; this rule would have sounded the alarm over Facebook's acquisition of revenue-less WhatsApp. Second, regulators should redress the balance of power between online service providers and those who supply their data (that is, us). As part of this rule, greater transparency over the data held and the money it brings in would be helpful, as would governments opening up their own data and managing crucial parts of the data economy as public infrastructure (the article cites India's Aadhaar digital identity system as an example).

The lives of Google raters
In this article at Ars Technica, Annalee Newitz studies the working lives of Google's thousands of "raters", who test that the company's algorithms correctly deliver search results and personalization features. The recent withdrawal of advertisers who found their ads placed inside extremist YouTube videos led Google to announce it would use its raters' efforts to rectify the situation. The raters work from home for contractors such as Leapforce; meet only virtually, and are assigned tasks via the company's "Raterhub" at rates predetermined by Google. Raters must pass rigorous exams on the company's 160-page book of guidelines, and require frequent (often unpaid) retraining; their work is randomly spot-checked by bots. The ten raters who spoke to Newitz say the job is meaningful, integral to Google, and pays $13.50 to $17.40 an hour, comfortably above US minimum wage. On April 3, Newitz reports, LeapForce abruptly notified its raters that their hours per week would be limited to 26 as of June 1, a change that appears to be due to US law regarding healthcare benefits and opens up questions about who exactly employs them. The article concludes by quoting UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, who after five years of studying the lives of raters concludes that although Google likes to boast about its AI, "Actually, their AIs are people in the Philippines".
Ars Technica:

Profile of Richard Stallman
In this candid and lengthy profile of MacArthur award-winner and free software pioneer Richard Stallman at Psychology Today, Matthew Hutson discusses Stallman's unyielding philosophical objections to proprietary software and surveillance, along with the origins of the open source movement and Stallman's efforts to "save us from a software industry he considers predatory in ways we've yet to imagine".
Psychology Today:

YouTube economics
In this New York Times article, Sapna Maheshwari recounts the story of US ghost hunter Tim Wood, whose monthly $6,000 income from YouTube in 2016 has plummeted since major advertisers began pulling their ads to stop them from showing up on videos promoting hate speech and terrorism. Wood has failed to get useful help from YouTube product managers. Maheshwari notes that there are many such stories involving YouTube personalities with small but engaged audiences such as comedians, LGBTQ advocates, and political commentators - essentially injured in the crossfire between Google and its customers. In a video clip, EEVblog owner and Australian engineer David L. Jones explains in detail the finances of his YouTube channel and the mechanics of the statements he receives. Jones, who became a full-time YouTuber in 2011, uses his channel to teach electronics by tearing down and rebuilding various pieces of equipment. He makes approximately $40,000 a year from advertising on his channel, which he supplements with a Patreon page, blog, website, community forum, and online shop.
NY Times:
EEVblog (YouTube):

Facebook advertising and targeting depressed teens
The Guardian reports that The Australian has obtained an internal report produced by Facebook executives that outlines the company's data analytics capabilities to advertisers. According to The Australian, the document describes how the social network monitors posts and photos in real time and uses the gathered data to identify teenagers' moods. In a follow-up opinion piece, former Facebook executive Antonio Garcia-Martinez says that Facebook will never try to limit this kind of use of the company's data unless public uproar forces it to.
Guardian (report):
Guardian (Garcia-Martinez):

How discrimination against women killed the British computer industry
In this podcast from Data and Society, Marie Hicks, assistant professor of technology history at the Illinois Institute of Technology, discusses research from her new book, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press, 2017). Over the 30 years from the 1940s to the 1970s, she argues, structural discrimination against women destroyed Britain's global lead in electronic computing. She explains the mechanics of the "gender flip" that saw the early female-dominated computer industry turn predominantly male and says the story provides lessons for all post-industrial superpowers, including the US.
Data & Society:


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.

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".

#CivicTechFest 2017
September 10-16. 2017
Taipei, China
Asia's first-ever civic technology festival and conference, #CivicTechFest" will feature a series of forums, workshops, roundtables, conferences, and hackathons related to open data and open government.

Expanding from its annual conference in Florence in April, mySociety's annual conference, TICTeC, which focuses on the impacts of civic technology, will provide two days of sessions as part of #CivicTechFest.

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.

ORGcon 2017
November 4, 2017
London, UK
ORGCon is the UK's biggest digital rights conference. This year's theme is: The Digital Fightback.


Hear more from the Information Program!
If you want to hear more from the Information Program team each week, consider subscribing to our shared bookmarks on delicious using this RSS feed:

You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:

Hear less from the Information Program!
If you wish to unsubscribe from this weekly digest, please send an email with the subject line "Unsubscribe" to

This digest operates under the OSF privacy policy:

Additionally, it uses the URL shortening service, which operates under the following privacy policy:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Open Society Foundation, part of the Open Society Foundations, is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number 4571628) and a registered charity (charity number 1105069). Its registered office address is 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 May 2017.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on May 12, 2017 11:12 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 April 2017 was the previous entry in this blog.

Real headlines of 2022 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.