News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 November 2018

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 November 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: EDRi; Privacy International.


EDRi seeks senior policy adviser
European Digital Rights (EDRi) is looking for a talented and dedicated Senior Policy Adviser to join EDRi's team in Brussels. This is a unique opportunity to be part of a growing and well-respected NGO that is making a real difference in the defense and promotion of online rights and freedoms in Europe and beyond. The deadline to apply for this full-time, permanent position is 2 December 2018.


US: Under fire, Facebook hired opposition research firm
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were confronted with evidence of Russian activity intended to disrupt the 2016 US presidential election, they passed on the responsibility and the blame to subordinates such as security chief Alex Stamos, the New York Times reports. Stamos reports that Facebook hired Defenders, a Republican opposition research firm that specializes in applying political campaign techniques to corporate PR, to attack and discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to George Soros. Open Society Foundations president Patrick Gaspard has responded, calling out Facebook for not only failing to monitor hate and misinformation, but for actively promoting it. Separately, the BBC reports that false information circulating on Facebook is leading to killings in Nigeria's already-inflamed Plateau State.

EU: Journalists are under threat in western democracies
Journalists are under threat in many places they were formerly thought to be safe, finds a new report from Index on Censorship. Across the EU, journalists are being intimidated, harassed, assaulted, jailed, or killed, while political figures threaten and humiliate them, and governments spy on them. Italy had the most verified physical assaults, with 83.

India: WhatsApp struggles to control fake news
Research from the BBC World Service links Hindu nationalism and the falling cost of mobile services to a series of murders and growing anti-Muslim sentiment it says is fueled by messages shared on WhatsApp. Jim Waterson reports at the Guardian that WhatsApp poses two particular problems: information received from friends seems inherently more trustworthy, and encryption makes messages difficult to track. At the New York Times, Cristina Tardáguila, Fabrício Benevenuto, and Pablo Ortellado, based on their own research, find that WhatsApp is poisoning Brazilian politics.

Venezuela: Chinese telco ZTE helps build citizen monitoring system
The Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE is helping Venezuela roll out a "fatherland" smart ID card, which the government is increasingly linking to health and other social programs most Venezuelans rely on, Angus Berwick reports for Reuters. ZTE's role is to build the centralized database that will hold comprehensive data collected on citizens via the fatherland card and create a linked mobile payment system. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio suggests that through the project China is "exporting its authoritarianism".

Losing bidders reveal their bids to land Amazon's second U.S. headquarters
Following Amazon's announcement that it would divide its second headquarters between New York City and Washington, DC and build a distribution hub in Nashville, losing bidders began disclosing the incentives they offered the company. Among the offers, Julia Carrie Wong reports at the Guardian, were $4.6 billion in financial assistance (Philadelphia), an exclusive airport lounge (Atlanta), and a downtown corporate hangar (Dallas).

Kenya: M-Pesa mobile money expands globally
A deal with Western Union will enable M-Pesa subscribers in ten nations across Africa, Europe, and Asia to transfer funds to and from bank accounts across the world, Abdi Latif Dahir reports at Quartz. The service, which Safaricom set up in 2007 to allow Kenyans to send each other small amounts of money via mobile phone text messages, has vastly expanded financial inclusion.


French president Emmanuel Macron issues Paris Call for Trust and Stability of Cyberspace
In this blog posting, Access Now explains why despite reservations it is endorsing the multi-stakeholder Paris Call for Trust and Stability of Cyberspace, which was launched by French president Emmanuel Macron at the Internet Governance Forum. Among Access Now's concerns: how cooperation in solving crimes and law enforcement protocols will be defined, and the failure to address government hacking. Access Now also notes that in conflict with the Paris Call, nine EU member states - Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, and the UK - are attempting to block proposals to curb the export of surveillance technologies to abusive regimes, citing work by Privacy International that shows the extent of these exports.

Scientists oppose Australian anti-transparency security legislation
In this open letter to the Australian Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, an international group of security experts critiques the pending Telecommunications Assistance and Access Bill 2018, which includes secrecy provisions that "could thwart efforts to implement new technical transparency systems necessary to the ongoing security of the Internet".

Deepfakes researchers study detection and authentication
In this lengthy article at the New Yorker, Joshua Rothman studies advances in digital imagery such as deepfakes and synthetic images, as well as improvements in authentication. At the Guardian, Oscar Schwartz discusses a Belgian case in which a faked video of US president Donald Trump caused outrage and discusses detection efforts. At Nieman Labs, the Wall Street Journal's Francesco Marconi outlines the paper's project to train reporters to identify images that have been altered using AI, complete with worked examples.

Why doctors hate their computers - but patients benefit
In this article at the New Yorker, Atul Gawande, himself a physician, studies doctors' increasing loathing of their computers, which have greatly enlarged their administrative burden, are increasing burnout, and make them feel powerless. For patients, however, the systems are beginning to improve outcomes by giving them better information and enabling physicians to identify those who need more help.

China: Social Credit system is less Orwellian than we think - for now
In this article at Foreign Policy, Jamie Horsley dispels myths about China's Social Credit Score, which is less Orwellian than critics claim. While China is intensively collecting information on its citizens and Social Credit raises many serious concerns, the country is not yet assigning a single score that determines all aspects of every citizen's life. The essence of the system, Horsley writes, is legal compliance: meeting contractual commitments and social and economic obligations.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Responsible Tech 2019
January 31, 2019
London, UK
Doteveryone and other world-leading experts, practitioners, policymakers, funders and tech leaders will convene to consider how to respond to the "techlash" of 2018, and make 2019 the year the industry comes together to build a more positive future where responsible technology is the new normal.

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.

The Web That Was
June 19-21, 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
As the first generation of web users ages, the early web has become simply another object of nostalgia. The third biennial Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials (RESAW) conference will rethink our relationship to the web's past and the past web, and consider how to reconstruct and re-evaluate its history. The conference will host a lecture-performance by Geert Lovink and guests on the history and preservation of Amsterdam's early internet culture.

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.

August 14-18, 2019
Stockholm, Sweden
Wikimania 2019 will be the 15th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

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.


This list is now managed by MailChimp.

Hear more from the Information Program!
If you have been forwarded this email by a friend and wish to subscribe to this fortnightly digest, please visit: You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:

Our mailing address is:
Open Society Foundations, 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP, United Kingdom

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 November 2018.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on November 23, 2018 5:52 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 9 November 2018 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 14 December 2018 is the next entry in this blog.

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