News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 October 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 October 2018

The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published on 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.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: EFF.


US: Political campaign apps bypass social media platform restrictions
The American midterm elections are seeing the rise of conservative political apps designed to bypass the increasing restrictions on mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, report Natasha Singer and Nicholas Confessore at the New York Times. Many of these apps are developed by the Republican polling company WPA Intelligence and uCampaign, a DC start-up with connections to AggregateIQ, the small Canadian firm linked to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Apps such as that of the National Rifle Association allow users to collect points, send campaign messages, and participate in other activities.

Saudi trolls harass Twitter critics and suppress dissent
A Saudi troll farm mobilizes a small army to harass critics on Twitter, Katie Benner, Mark Mazzetti, Ben Hubbard and Mike Isaac report at the New York Times. Recruiting on Twitter, the kingdom's troll farm offers salaries of about $3,000 a month. Calling themselves the "Electronic Bees", these operatives send memes, report critical postings as "sensitive" so Twitter will mute them, and seek to distract users from dissent. Former Twitter engineer Ali Alzabarah may have been a mole; he now works with the Saudi government. Among the troll farm's targets was the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who likened the experience to "sustained gunfire online". Separately, Kara Swisher reports that Silicon Valley chief executives from companies such as Salesforce and 23andMe are increasingly considering hiring chief ethics officers. Besides the other complex problems they face, companies like Tesla, Magic Leap, WeWork, and Slack have received huge direct or indirect investments from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

California passes open access law
The state of California has passed a law requiring that all peer-reviewed, state-funded scientific research must be made available to the public within a year after publication, Elliot Harmon reports at EFF. EFF recommended passing a stronger law requiring same-day open publication. A similar US federal law has been stuck in Congress for the last five years.

The growth of ancestry sites threatens to expose anyone's identity
A study published this week in Science suggests that DNA samples uploaded to ancestry websites by distant relatives can be cross-referenced to identify individuals, Ed Cara reports at Gizmodo. The study, which was inspired by the identification of the Golden State Killer via genealogy databases, estimates that once 2% of the population is in a database it becomes theoretically possible to identify anyone by tracing their distant relatives.

Microsoft open-sources its entire 60,000-patent portfolio
Microsoft has agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to all 60,000 patents in its portfolio to all other members of the Open invention Network (OIN), the open-source patent consortium it has recently joined, reports Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet. OIN's more than 2,540 members include Google, IBM, and Red Hat. Microsoft's patents include many relating to Android and the Linux kernel, as well as newer technologies such as HyperLedger.

As the growth in internet access slows, women and the rural poor remain excluded
New data shows that the worldwide growth of internet access has slowed from 19% in 2007 to 6% in 2017, leaving women and the rural poor a majority of the 3.8 billion who are excluded, the South China Morning Post reports based on an analysis of United National data that will be published next month by the Web Foundation. The UN Sustainable Development goal was affordable internet access for all by 2020; instead, it will be May 2019 before even half the world is online. As government services become increasingly digital those without access will become increasingly marginalized.


The prospect of three internets
In this article, the New York Times Editorial Board suggests that the internet may soon be split into three pieces by conflicting laws and regulations: US, China, and Europe. Data localization laws, data protection laws, technologically enforced censorship, the dependence on privately-owned infrastructure, and, especially, the lack of international cooperation all play a role in making the internet susceptible to splintering.

Why China may welcome Google's censored search engine
In this article at the South China Morning Post, Bai Tongdong suggests that Americans opposed to Google's Dragonfly project to create a search engine acceptable to Chinese authorities might want to ask the opinions of Chinese people. Google's absence has allowed the growth of indigenous Chinese search engine Baidu, which Tongdong calls "frustrating", lacks tools like Google Books, and has commercialized its search results, leading to the proliferation of scams and gamed results that in some healthcare cases have cost people their lives, "A morally compromised Google is still better than Baidu," he writes.

Wikipedia seeks knowledge equity
In this blog posting at the Oxford Internet Institute, Mark Graham and Martin Dittus examine the uneven geography of Wikipedia. Among their findings: Africa has 15% the number of articles that Europe does; Antarctica has more articles written about it than most countries in Africa and many in Latin America and Asia; and only 5% of articles written about Africa are written by local contributors. Wikipedia has formally committed to a strategy to counteract these inequalities, close the representation gap, and counteract systemic bias.

The Gates Foundation provides a lesson in change management
In this article at Nonprofit Quarterly, Martin Levine derives lessons from the recent state court ruling that found that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had mishandled hiring a new chief data officer. The position was created with insufficient agreement on what problem it was intended to solve, and the organization gave the new CDO, Todd Pierce, insufficient support to implement the level of organizational and cultural change he sought to implement. The court ordered the foundation to pay Pierce, who was fired after 17 months, nearly $5 million in lost salary, stock awards, and stock options. Mismanaging change is expensive - but change is nonetheless essential. At Inside Philanthropy, David Callahan argues that the reason the gains of modern liberalism are at risk is that where conservative funders have invested in ideas, institutions, and people over the long term to create fundamental change, liberal foundations have continued to try to solve problems one at a time while avoiding ideology.

Australian authors' groups oppose fair use
In this posting at BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow highlights the alliance between publishers and authors opposing Australia's proposed formalization of fair use. He points to the Author's Interest project, led by Australian copyright scholar Rebecca Giblin, which documents the divergence between authors' interests and those of their publishers. In the UK, she writes, professional writers' earnings dropped 42% in real terms between 2005 and 2017, the proposition able to make living solely from writing work dropped from 40% to 13.7% - while publishers' profits have risen.

Archivists could play important role in countering deepfakes threat
In this article at Gizmodo, Melanie Ehrenkranz suggests that archivists could be an important check on the potential for deepfakes - realistic fake videos - because they have centuries of experience dealing with forgeries and fakes and determining authenticity and provenance. At the Internet Archive, an important guiding principle is to keep many copies, and use robust techniques to ensure that the material libraries hold has not been changed. It's also crucial to document past errors and deceptions.


If you would like your event listed in this mail, email

Web Summit
November 5-8, 2018
Lisbon, Portugal
Web Summit began as a simple idea in 2010: to connect the technology community with all industries, both old and new. Since then, Web Summit has grown to become the largest technology conference in the world - it is expecting more than 59,000 entrepreneurs, investors, media, and others from 170 countries this year and will present more than 1,200 speakers.

Meeting of the Minds Summit 2018
November 27-29, 2018
Sacramento, CA, USA
The 12th annual Meeting of the Minds 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.

Digital Society Conference 2018
December 10-11, 2018
Berlin, Germany
The Digital Society Conference 2018 - Empowering ecosystems will cover new developments in security and privacy, digital politics, and industrial strategies. A particular focus will be the reality of the rise of AI - its societal implications, how to understand and harness the battle for AI dominance. The conference will also take a closer look at platforms - their role, their power, how to build them and how and when to control them.

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
One of the world's leading privacy conferences, CPDP is a multi-disciplinary event that offers the cutting edge in legal, regulatory, academic, and technological development in privacy and data protection. Within an atmosphere of independence and mutual respect, CPDP gathers academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry and civil society from all over the world in Brussels, offering them an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends.

Future of Health Privacy Summit 2019
January 28-29, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
The 8th International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy will feature keynote speakers Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, President of the French data protection regulator, CNIL, and the former chair of the EU Article 29 Working Party during the time when it was responsible for developing the General Data Protection Regulation, and Don Rucker, the US National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. This year's summit will focus on the impact that GDPR and the Cambridge Analytica scandal will have on health care and technology around the world.

FAT* 2019
January 29-31, 2019
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The second annual ACM FAT* Conference 2019 brings together researchers and practitioners interested in fairness, accountability, and transparency in socio-technical systems. ACM FAT* 2019 builds on the success of the inaugural 2018 conference, which was held in New York. The 2019 conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

TicTec 2019
March 19-20, 2019
Paris, France
TiCTeC 2019 will bring together individuals from academic and applied backgrounds as well as businesses, public authorities, NGOs, funders and education institutions to discuss ideas, present research and build a network of individuals interested in the civic technology landscape.

Internet Freedom Festival 2019
April 1-5, 2019
Valencia, Spain
The Internet Freedom Festival is one of the largest, most diverse, and most inclusive unconferences in the world. Every year, 1000+ activists, journalists, technologists and human rights defenders from over 100 countries gather for a week of sharing and learning. Made by the community for the community, the IFF is known for creating a positive and inclusive environment for hands-on, multidisciplinary collaboration. As an example of this, women make up 50% of participants and presenters, while every year some of the most affected communities get assistance to participate through IFF's well-known Diversity and Inclusion Fund.

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 globe, 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.

Privacy Law Scholars 2019
May 23-24, 2019
Berkeley, California, USA
Organized jointly by BCLT and the George Washington University Law School, PLSC assembles a wide array of privacy law scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss current issues and foster greater connections between academia and practice.

RightsCon 2019
June 11-14, 2019
Tunis, Tunisia
RightsCon Tunis will continue to be a space for civil society, technologists, businesses, startups, public servants, and lawyers to connect, collaborate, build strategies, draft declarations, and move forward real-world change. Whether in provocative plenaries, intimate roundtables, informal meetings, or the lively Community Village, RightsCon Tunis will help shape the future of human rights in the digital age.

LIBER 2019
June 26-28, 2019
Dublin, Ireland
The LIBER Conference 2019 will be held in collaboration with CONUL, the Consortium of National and University Libraries for the island of Ireland. The conference brings library directors and their staff together for three days of networking and collaboration. The goal of the conference is to identify the most pressing needs for research libraries, and to share information and ideas for addressing those needs.

85th World Library and Information Congress
August 24-30, 2019
Athens, Greece
The theme of IFLA's 2019 conference, "Libraries: dialogue for change", invites the library and information science international community to discuss, re-examine, re-think and re-interpret the role of libraries as promoters of change. In an era of rapid changes in the socio-economic-technological sphere, libraries ought to define their role as information providers, promoters of reading, settlers for the community they serve, key players in innovation, and leading actors for changes in society. A constant, open dialectic relationship between libraries and society will lead to well-informed citizens facilitating progress and development, implementing the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and leading to prosperity in all fields of the democratic society.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on October 27, 2018 7:34 PM.

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