News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 July 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 July 2018


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: Benetech, Citizen Lab, La Quadrature du Net, Tactical Tech.






Wikimedia is looking for a senior public policy manager, who will be one of two such managers on the Public Policy team, based in the legal department, and will work closely with outside digital rights advocates and Wikimedia affiliates in the US and internationally. Wikimedia seeks candidates with successful track records in advocacy work around internet legal and policy issues.




DataKind is searching for a new Director of Global Community. DataKind brings together volunteers from around the world to use data science and AI in the service of humanity. The director of global community will be responsible for recruiting expert volunteer teams, working with charity partners to define their data science needs, and managing projects through to success.





For breaking news stories, visit:


EU fines Google €4.34 billion over anti-competitive Android licensing


At the Guardian, Jennifer Rankin reports that the EU has fined Google €4.34 billion over licensing terms that have constrained smartphone manufacturers using its Android operating system in order to drive revenues for its profitable search engine. Google has 90 days to remediate its practices. In a blog posting, the company says it will appeal and claims the EU's decision will harm consumers. Also at the Guardian, Samuel Gibbs finds that a number of analysts think the ruling is "too little, too late" because Google is now too firmly entrenched for others to be able to compete. In an editorial, the Guardian argues that the ruling opens up wider issues, still to be decided.

Guardian (fine):


Guardian (reactions):

Guardian (editorial):


Indian government threatens to sue WhatsApp over spread of fake news


At Vice, David Gilbert reports that the Indian government is threatening to sue WhatsApp over the viral spread of fake videos that have been linked to mob lynchings. The company has published new restrictions on forwarding messages, photos, and videos, and will test lowering the limit on simultaneous chats to five. Also at Vice, Gilbert and Zeenat Saberin report on several violent deaths due to WhatsApp rumors, including that of Sukanta Chakraborty, whose job as a "rumor buster" for the state of Tripura involved teaching local village residents to spot fake news. Analysts in India say there is reason to believe that prime minister Narandra Modi's BJP party is behind much of the fear-based fake news circulating on WhatsApp and other platforms.

Vice (lawsuit):

Vice (deaths):


Formally organized social media manipulation campaigns spread to 48 countries


A report from the Oxford Internet Institute finds that the number of countries with evidence of formally organized domestic social media manipulation campaigns has risen from 28 to 48 since 2017. The EU vs Disinfo site publishes its catalogue of  over 4,200 cases of debunked pro-Kremlin disinformation from more than 20 countries. In a report presented to the British House of Lords and published by the Constitution Society, Julianne Kerr Morrison, Ravi Naik, and Tactical Tech co-founder Stephanie Hankey argue that government should increase oversight of political campaigning, encourage spending transparency, and continue to engage with social media and digital advertising companies. Naked Security reports that the US Department of Justice has announced that under a new policy it will inform businesses, organizations, and individuals if they're being targeted by foreign operations with the goal of influencing US elections.


EU vs Disinfo:

Constitution Society:

Naked Security:


German police raid privacy protection association Zwiebelfreunde


La Quadrature du Net reports that on June 20 the German police searched the homes of several of the Zwiebelfreunde association's board members and seized all their computers and storage media, and went on to search the Augsburg hackerspace OpenLab2. The reported reason: Zwiebelfreunde collects donations for Riseup, which hosts the email address associated with a blog calling for anti-fascist protests in Augsburg, which the police consider a call for violent actions. LQDN believes that the real reason is that Zwiebelfreunde has long promoted the use of privacy-enhancing tools such as Tor.


Steve Bannon plans anti-Soros right-wing European revolution


At the Daily Beast, Nico Hines reports that Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's former White House chief advisor, is setting up a foundation in Europe called The Movement which he hopes will spark a right-wing revolution in Europe, starting with the May 2019 European Parliament elections. Bannon hopes his organization will ultimately rival George Soros's Open Society Foundation, and is laying the groundwork for an envisioned right-wing "supergroup" within the European Parliament.

Daily Beast:


US: Open government advocates fear the secrecy of private messaging


The Associated Press reports that private messaging apps are increasingly being used by government officials conducting public business, and that the use of these technologies is undermining open government laws and policies. Different states are taking different approaches: in Kansas the governor has banned the use of private accounts for any of his office's business, while in Kentucky and Arizona lawmakers have unsuccessfully proposed exempting all communications on personal phones from state open records laws. 


Social media giants launch Data Transfer Project for data portability


At the company's blog, Microsoft's vice-president for corporate standards announces that Microsoft, in conjunction with Facebook, Google, and Twitter, is launching the open source Data Transfer Project, intended to help users seamlessly and securely move their data between their services. At The Verge, Russell Brandom reports that most of the coding so far has been done by Google and Microsoft engineers and notes that Google claims the initiative is intended to give those who download their data the tools to make use of it.


The Verge:





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


Making machines play fair


In this video clip of a talk given as part of the Royal Society's year-long "You and AI" lecture series, Microsoft theoretical computer science Cynthia Dwork discusses the emerging scientific theory of how to build fairness into algorithmic systems. She considers many building blocks, from defining fairness and the different demands of individual and group fairness, to understanding scoring and financial incentives, and the use of randomness. Others in the lecture series include AI Now Institute director Kate Crawford speaking about machine learning and bias and DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis outlining the history of AI,


Royal Society:


Cambodia: Chinese espionage group TEMP.Periscope targets July 2018 elections


In this blog posting, the US security company FireEye reports the results of its investigation into the Chinese espionage group TEMP.Periscope. FireEye has found active compromises of multiple Cambodian entities related to the country's upcoming July 29 elections. TEMP.Periscope has been active since at least 2013, and previously targeted maritime-related targets, consulting services, and the high-tech industry, among others. FireEye expects the group to continue targeting these and other agencies and organizations. 



Blockchain's potential for social benefits


In this blog posting, Jim Fruchterman, head of Benetech, summarizes the July 6 TechCrunch conference on blockchain, which he attended in order to represent the social good sector at an event otherwise solely attended bytechnologists, investors, and entrepreneurs.  Fruchterman believes that blockchain technology could be especially useful in low-trust environments - for example, his team is working on a system for fingerprinting videos to help authenticate evidence collected during the Syrian conflict. In a video clip at TechCrunch, Fruchterman discusses the potential with reporter Megan Rose Dickey.




UN Special Rapporteur recommends


In this blog posting at Citizen Lab, Lex Bill notes that the draft report from the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović, draws on recommendations Citizen Lab made in its formal 2017 submission. Among its recommendations: states should legislate to prohibit emerging forms of online, gender-based violence, while internet intermediaries should commit to eradicating online gender-based violence and promote human rights and digital security. Citizen Lab commends the Special Rapporteur for recognizing the need to respect both the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and the rights of women and girls online.

Citizen Lab:



Dealing with Holocaust deniers: lessons from moderating AskHistorians


In this article at Slate, Johannes Breit, a volunteer moderator for the AskHistorians subreddit, discusses the core principles the moderators have had to adopt. The subreddit, which is one of the largest history forums on the internet, operates a strict ban on Holocaust denialism, including "just asking questions", which in their experience is intended to sow doubt rather than genuinely seek knowledge. Facebook's newly announced policy of removing posts for "advocating violence" won't work, Breit argues, calling Holocaust denial "a form of political agitation in the service of bigotry". They have concluded that denying these positions a platform is the only option.



US: The NSA's AT&T spy hubs


In this article at The Intercept, Ryan Gallagher reveals the extent of AT&T's status as a trusted partner in the US National Security Agency's surveillance program.  Monitoring the eight peering circuits at backbone facilities in Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and New York, says former AT&T technician Mark Klein, gives the NSA access to all the data that's interchanged between AT&T's network and those belonging to other companies that peer with it, such as Spring, Cogent, Level 3, Telia, Tata Communications, Telecom Italia, and Deutsche Telekom.

The Intercept:







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




August 9-12, 2018

Las Vegas, NV, USA

The heart of the DEF CON 26 theme is the concept of the counterfuture. The counterfuture is the open-source alternative to totalitarian dystopia; a world where we use tech and ingenuity for empowerment and connection rather than isolation and control.


Free and Open Communications on the Internet


FOCI brings together researchers and practitioners from technology, law, and policy who are working on means to study, detect, or circumvent practices that inhibit free and open communications on the Internet.


4VOX-Pol Third Biennial Conference


August 20-21, 2018

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The VOX-Pol Network of Excellence (NoE) is a European Union Framework Programme 7 (FP7)-funded academic research network focused on researching the prevalence, contours, functions, and impacts of Violent Online Political Extremism and responses to it.c


World Library and Information Congress


August 24-30, 2018

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The 84th edition of the World Library and Information Congress has the theme, "Transform Libraries, Transform Societies" with the additional tagline, "Reaching out to the hard to reach", which was chosen in recognition of the critical role played by libraries in the development of a nation, particularly in their ability to transform societies.


Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) co-design workshop


September 12 - 14, 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa

Co-hosted with Amnesty International, this workshop will develop innovative and collaborative approaches for using human rights data for impact, and agree on the next steps for HRMI's expansion of country and rights coverage.


SciELO 20 Years Conference


September 26-28, 2018

São Paulo, Brazil

In 2018, the SciELO Program will celebrate 20 years of operation, in full alignment with the advances of open science. The conference will address and debate the main political, methodological, and technological issues and trends that define today's state of the art in scholarly communication. These issues will also be shaping the future of the universal openness of scholarly publishing and its relationship with today's Open Access journals, in particular those of the SciELO Network.


Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest V


September 27-29

Washington, DC, US

The Global Congress is the main meeting of a global network of over 800 researchers, activists, and practitioners who work on the intersection of intellectual property and promotion of the public interest. The core goal is to promote evidence-based policy-making by fostering partnerships between academics and policy advocates from around the world.


Amsterdam Privacy Conference


October 5-9, 2018

Amsterdam, Netherlands

APC 2018 brings together researchers, practitioners, policy makers and professionals in the field of privacy to share insights, exchange ideas and formulate, discuss and answer the challenging privacy questions that lie ahead of us. The goal of the conference is to bring together academics, policy makers, journalists, and practitioners to promote active discussion on timely topics, and foster debate on privacy issues between participants from various backgrounds and perspectives.


International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners


October 22-26, 2018

Brussels, Belgium

The 40th version of this event will be hosted by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Giovanni Buttarelli and the chair of the Commission for Personal Data Protection of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ventsislav Karadjov. The conference is expected to focus on the recently launched international debate on the ethical dimension of data protection in the digital era. Accompanying conference events will also take place in Bulgaria.


Meeting of the Minds Summit 2018


November 27-29, 2018

Sacramento, CA, USA

The 12th annual Meeting of the Minds annual summit will spotlight tools and best practices working for smart city leaders across the globe. The event focuses on emerging and tested urban sustainability solutions which are scalable, replicable, and transferable for cities and regions. Discussions are rooted in a deep understanding of technology and equity as key drivers for smart cities.


Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing


November 28, 2018

Tromso, Norway

The Munin Conference is an annual conference on scholarly publishing and communication, primarily revolving around open access, open data and open science. The 2018 conference will be the thirteenth edition.


Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection 2019


January 30 - February 1, 2019

Brussels, Belgium

The 12th international CPDP conference is accepting submissions for panel and session proposals until June 21, 2018.


We Robot 2019


April 11-13, 2019

Miami, Florida, US

We Robot is an interdisciplinary conference on the legal and policy questions relating to robots. The increasing sophistication of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere - from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, and even to the battlefield - disrupts existing legal regimes and requires new thinking on policy issues. The conference fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate.


Global Privacy Summit 2019


May 2-3. 2019

Washington, DC

The annual conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Intended for anyone who works in privacy anywhere across the globs, whether they work in the public or private sector.


re:publica 2019


May 6-8, 2019

Berlin, Germany

The re:publica in Berlin is Europe's biggest conference on topics concerning digitization and society while also being one of the world's most exceptional festivals on digital culture. Since its beginnings in 2007 with 700 bloggers in attendance, it has grown into an international society conference. In 2017 it had 9,000 national and international participants from all areas of society.





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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on July 30, 2018 10:50 PM.

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