News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 9 June 2017

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 9 June 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: Citizen Lab, Data & Society, Karisma Foundation.

For breaking news stories, visit:

Colombia: Biologist cleared of criminal copyright charges 
The Right to Research Coalition reports that a Colombian court has cleared biologist Diego Gómez Hoyos of criminal charges of violating copyright by posting a scientist's 2006 thesis on amphibian taxonomy to the online platform Scribd to aid other students. The author sued in 2014, while Gómez was still a master's degree student. Nature reports that the prosecutor has appealed the decision to the Tribunal de Bogota. If found guilty, under Colombian copyright law Gómez could face up to eight years in prison and significant fines. Colombian copyright law was reformed in 2006 to meet the requirements of a free-trade deal with the United States. The Columbia human rights group Karisma Foundation had launched the Sharing Is Not a Crime campaign in support of Gomez when he was first charged.
Right to Research:

Russian hackers use "tainted leaks" to spread disinformation
At Wired, Andy Greenberg reports that a Citizen Lab study of leaked documents finds that Russian hackers altered documents within releases of hacked material in order to plant disinformation - "falsehoods in a forest of facts" - a technique Citizen Lab has dubbed "tainted leaks". Citizen Lab studied an extensive Russia-linked phishing and disinformation campaign with hundreds of targets in government, industry, military and civil society. Those targets include a large list of high profile individuals from at least 39 countries (including members of 28 governments), as well as the United Nations and NATO. Although there are many government, military, and industry targets, the Citizen Lab report provides further evidence of the often-overlooked targeting of civil society in cyber espionage campaigns.  Civil society -- including journalists, academics, opposition figures, and activists -- comprise the second largest group (21%) of targets, after government.
Citizen Lab:

IBM's Watson largely matches doctors' diagnoses
Pharmaphorum reports that IBM data shows that the company's Watson AI matches doctors' recommendations from 43% to 96% of the time. Studies in Bangkok, Bangalore, and Incheon, South Korea find varying rates of concordance for different types of cancer and treatment guidelines. The studies suggest that while Watson may be useful to speed up diagnosis it cannot yet improve upon doctors' decisions. The Bangkok Post reports on the state of efforts to deploy Watson and other AI systems in Thailand. The New York Times asks if China is outsmarting the US in AI.
Bangkok Post:
NY Times:

Peru: Ministry of the Interior's "Watchitaxi" app 
Access Now reports on the problems with Watchitaxi, an app released and promoted by the Peruvian Ministry of the Interior with the stated intention of improving security for people using taxis. Access Now praises the Ministry's good intentions, but finds numerous problems with the app: it is insufficiently transparent about how the Ministry will use and store the data it collects and it protects physical, but not cyber security. Access Now suggests that all government-endorsed apps should be open source and should be forced to respect fundamental human rights.
Access Now (Spanish):
English (Googls):

Uber adopts "route-based pricing"
Bloomberg reports that Uber has adopted a new pricing system that uses machine learning and its customer data to charge what it believes customers will pay. Called "route-based pricing", the system, in part intended to allay investors' fears that the company will never become profitable, has also increased the gap between what customers pay and what drivers earn. In 2012, Edward Hasbrouck discussed the issue of personalized pricing with respect to airlines: it is, he argues, opaque and filled with the potential for discriminatory practices. 

Africa: Summit calls for end to internet shutdowns
The fifth Africa Internet Summit in Nairobi, Kenya reports that six pan-African internet organizations - AFRINIC, AFTLD, AFNOG, AFREN, Africa CERT, and ISOC Africa - are calling on African governments to renounce the use of internet shutdowns as policy tool. This includes shutdowns of specific social media sites and apps. The organizations offer to work with governments to find better solutions that do not hurt citizens' fundamental rights while protecting the internet's stability, resilience, and openness. 
Africa Summit:

Norwegian Consumer Council requests project suggestions
The Norwegian Consumer Council asks visitors to suggest and/or vote for the product or service it should study next. In the past, it has found security vulnerabilities in the My Friend Cayla doll and conducted a staged reading of all the terms and conditions that apply to an iPhone and an average collection of apps. Suggestions to date include Google for Education, the Runkeeper app, and smart TVs.

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

How Twitter is being gamed to provide misinformation
In this article for the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo examines Twitter's role in turning raw political messaging and disinformation into cable-ready news. More people use Facebook and Google, but Twitter is where journalists meet and pick up stories. Twitter's armies of bots catalyze this process, and undermine confidence in everything we see online. The article cites Alice Marwick, author of Data & Society's recent report on online media manipulation. At TechCrunch, Jon Evans writes that "Facebook is broken", and says that when "engagement" is the metric content will inevitably be selected for the shocking and outrageous. 
NY Times:
Data & Society (PDF):

The internet's role in recruiting women and children to terrorism
In this blog posting at the VOX-Pol project, Carola García-Calvo discusses the role of the internet in radicalizing Spanish women. In García-Calvo's study of people arrested in Spain for activities related to terrorism, more than half of the women (55.6%) were radicalized purely online as opposed to only 30.8% of men; among men, mixed offline and online recruitment predominates (46.2%) versus 27.8% of women, with pure face-to-face recruitment accounting for 23.1% of men and 16.7% of women. Among online media, social media was used for 93.3%, followed by messenger applications (80%) and, finally, forums and blogs (20%). García-Calvo notes that a striking part of online recruitment is the influence exerted by people perceived to be women's peers. In a report, the Carter Center studies the recruitment methods used by Daesh to attract marginalized youth. A key aspect is including children in recruitment videos, showing them providing support as spies, members of sleeper cells, and even suicide bombers. The National Academy of Sciences has published a report summarizing a September 2016 workshop exploring countering extremism through public health practice.
Carter Center:

UK: Inside the Tories' social media campaign blitz
In this Buzzfeed article, Jim Waterson studies data obtained from the Who Tracks Me service and estimates that millions of people have seen narrowly targeted Facebook ads paid for by the UK's Conservative Party in a strategy similar to that used by the Trump campaign. Some are purely negative messages about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; others promote Conservative leader Theresa May. Because paid online advertising is hard to track, Buzzfeed argues that the strategy bypasses the UK's laws about campaign spending. The Intercept reports that it has independently authenticated a top-secret NSA report detailing a Russian cyber-attack on at least one US voting software supplier days before the 2016 election. In a video clip and live blog summary at ReCode, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg conduct a lengthy interview with Hillary Clinton. She discusses the election, the Republicans' $100 million data platform, the use of bots and narrowly targeted false messaging, ongoing Russian interference in US politics, fake news, and the role of misogyny in politics. Clinton warns that false messaging and propaganda are ongoing threats to democracy.

Using machine learning to sort two metric tons of Lego
In this blog posting, technical consultant Jacques Mattheij discusses a recent project, in which he bought two metric tons of Legos and used machine learning to build an automated system to sort them into more than 50 bins. Mattheij recounts the difficulties he encountered, explains the details of the neural network he created in Python, and provides video clips of the working system.

Seeking democratic online engagement
In this article at MIT Technology Review, Tom Simonite discusses, a company seeking to turn online interactions into a positive force for democracy via data visualizations and crowdsourcing. In Taiwan, the company's open source survey tool helped break a six-year stalemate over how to regulate online alcohol sales. In Denmark, the progressive political party Alternativet is piloting to give its members a more direct influence over party policy. Graham Smith, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, praises the results so far, but says many more tests are needed, particularly to see how stands up to efforts to subvert it.
Technology Review:


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.

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.

Workshop on the Economics of  Security
June 26-28
San Diego, California, US
The Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) is the leading forum for interdisciplinary scholarship on information security and privacy, combining expertise from the fields of economics, social science, business, law, policy, and computer science.

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.

Summit on Internet Freedom in Africa
September 27-29, 2017
Johannesburg, South Africa
This event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing the right to privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination, and the free flow of information online.

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 9 June 2017.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on June 10, 2017 9:48 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 May 2017 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 June 2017 is the next entry in this blog.

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