News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 29, 2019

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 29, 2019

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: Communia, EDRi, mySociety, Open Rights Group.

The newly-launched Indela Fund has issued its first of at least three calls for proposals in English, Spanish, or Portuguese for digital rights projects in Latin America. Projects will be funded for up to US$75,000 over or up to 18 months. The fund seeks to reduce the barriers to funding and broaden the pool of applicants. It offers to cover the costs of professional support to assist grantees. The submission deadline is March 31.


European Parliament votes to adopt controversial copyright reform
The European Parliament has voted 348-274 to adopt the Copyright Directive, including Article 11 ("link tax") and Article 13 ("upload filter"), James Temperton reports at Wired. MEP refused, by just five votes, to consider any amendments. Member states now have two years to pass national legislation putting the directive into effect. Seconds after the vote, MEP Julia Reda tweeted to call it a "dark day for internet freedom". Communia provides an analysis of the directive's intense journey through the European legislative process, and calls the result "a lost opportunity for Europe".

AI research mines training data without permission
Facial recognition training datasets are made up of whatever images researchers can grab from public websites without permission, Olivia Solon reports at NBC News, calling the situation AI's "dirty little secret". In January, IBM released a set of nearly 1 million images taken from the photo hosting site Flickr that it had coded to describe the subjects' appearance. For minorities, the practice raises surveillance concerns. At his blog, Andres Guadamuz responds with a discussion of the copyright status of AI training data, whether IBM's use of these photographs violated their Creative Commons licenses, and the need for a data-mining exception.

EU regulators fine Google €1.5 billion for antitrust violations
On March 20, the EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, fined Google €1.5 billion for engaging in "illegal practices" to "cement its dominant market position" in search and advertising, Tony Romm reports at the Washington Post. At issue is Google's relationships with third-party websites via its "AdSense for Search" program, which in 2016 required Google's ads to receive prominent placement and prohibited participating sites from using other ad services. Vestager indicated that Google faces further antitrust scrutiny. The new fine brings the total that has been levied against Google to more than $9 billion; several past fines are still under appeal.

Africa risks spying to gain internet access
African countries are willing to trade the risk of spying for Chinese investment providing them with internet access, Amy Mackinnon reports at Foreign Policy. Huawei has built about 70% of the continent's 4G networks, and Chinese banks provide loans that are approved faster and with fewer conditions than from their Western competitors. "Everybody spies on Africa," says one journalism professor in Nigeria. In a long posting, Bright Simons uses Uber as an example to discuss the reasons why "leapfrogging" is not working in frontier markets.

Norwegian universities drop Elsevier subscriptions
Norwegian research institutions have joined the lengthening list of organizations that have declined to renew their agreements with Elsevier, Catherine Offord reports at The Scientist. The Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) said that although Elsevier offered to lower some of its costs for Norwegian institutions, who pay the company nearly €10 million a year, it refused to meet UNIT's requirements for open access. Researchers will still be able to publish in Elsevier journals, but will not have access to articles dated after 2018.

Russia tests out a disconnected, sovereign internet
Between the end of March 2019 and mid-April, Russia is planning to test whether it can disconnect electronically from the rest of the world while keeping the internet running for its own citizens, Charlotte Jee reports at MIT Technology Review. Although the technical challenge is "fiendishly difficult" and may cost as much as $304 million, the test is key to a "sovereign internet" law the Russian parliament appears likely to pass.

EU: Government sites filled with adtech trackers
A scan of 184,683 EU government webpages carried out by EDRi and Cookiebot in mid-March found that the government websites of 25 of the 28 EU member countries - missing only Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands - host undisclosed commercial adtech trackers, many based on third-party scripts, Rebecca Hill reports at The Register. Overall, the practice enables 112 companies to collect data on EU citizens' browsing habits. Google was present on 82% of the sites and accounted for three of the top five trackers (YouTube, DoubleClick, and Google). In addition, 52% of public health sites host commercial trackers even though these sites do not rely on advertising revenue. Separately, Hill reports that the advocate general to the Court of Justice of the European Union has issued an opinion that requiring someone to untick a pre-checked box does not count as valid freely-given consent to the use of cookies.


Facebook's News Feed algorithm change one year on
In this article at Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen discusses the impact of Facebook's year-old change to its News Feed algorithm to prioritize personal postings and "meaningful interactions" rather than publisher content. Based on a new report from the social media tracking company NewsWhip, Owen finds that the result has been to push up articles on divisive topics and politics. Engagement is much higher but much angrier, and the most-shared story of 2019 to date warns that a sex offender may be lurking near Waco, Texas.

Acceptable voting machines
In this blog posting at Freedom to Tinker, Andrew Appel specifies acceptable voting machines. Among his requirements: it must be possible to detect cheating, audit the results, and be robust enough to manage unexpectedly high turnouts. In a blog posting, the managers of the UK government's petitions site explain how they deal with similar issues of scaling and fraud when petitions, such as March 2019's "Revoke Article 50", attract a huge response as people from all over the UK try to sign it at once.

The new ecosystem of trust
In this paper at Nesta, Geoff Mulgan and Vincent Straub discuss data governance for public benefit and survey the landscape of options that's opening up, from legislative moves such as the General Data Protection Regulation to technology solutions such as personal data stores and public data trusts. No one model will suit all situations; the authors attempt to provide a framework for designing a family of new institutions.

Identifying the impact of Brexit on data flows
In this blog posting, technology policy specialist Monica Horten discusses what Brexit would mean for data flows and the regulatory burden businesses face. World Trade Organization rules can't help because they are more than 20 years old; in January 2019, 76 WTO members agreed to start talks on ecommerce, a process that will take years. At the Open Rights Group blog, Javier Ruiz outlines concerns about ongoing US-UK trade negotiations, in which the US wants unimpeded cross-border data flows, confidentiality for source code and algorithms, limited liability for online platforms, and no cross-border taxes on digital goods.

UK's Furman report recommends improving competition
In this article at Computer Weekly, Angelica Mari summarizes the Furman report, which recommends changes to the UK's competition policy and suggests that a code of conduct should be introduced for large technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The report also recommends giving the Competition and Markets Authority greater powers to block mergers and acquisitions and give people greater control over their own data. At TACD, Gene Kimmelman argues that antitrust action to break up the large technology companies, as some US politicians are demanding, is not enough to protect consumers on its own; also needed are additional accountability tools and enforcement practices.

Omidyar Network changes focus to civic empowerment
In this blog posting, Stacy Donohue presents the new strategy being adopted by funders at Omidyar Network spin-off Luminate, based on what they have learned over the last ten years by investing in civic technology organizations in 18 countries, including Code for America, mySociety, Nossas, and With trust in government in decline in many countries, technology itself is insufficient to effect sustained change. Without complementary real-world efforts, under-represented groups continue to be disempowered. And, because many governments are actively working to curtail civic space, civic technology is becoming increasingly politicized.


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

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.

International Privacy+Security Forum
April 3-5, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
Organized bylaw professors Daniel Solove and Paul Schwartz, the International Privacy+Security Forum brings together global leaders in privacy and security. The 2019 conference offers an opportunity to learn in detail about Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, and privacy and security in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere.

April 8-12, 2019
Geneva, Switzerland
The tenth World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum represents the world's largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. WSIS provides an opportunity to exchange information, create knowledge, and share best practices while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships and taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies. By following up on the outcomes of the UN General Assembly Overall Review of the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes (Res. A/70/125) and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Res. A/70/1), the WSIS Forum is constantly evolving and strengthening the alignment between the WSIS Action Lines and the United Nations' sustainable development goals. WSIS Forum continues to provide a platform for a "just and equal information society" for all WSIS stakeholders as set by the Geneva Plan of Action.

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.

Theorizing the Web
April 12-13
New York, NY, USA
Theorizing the Web is an inter- and non-disciplinary annual conference that brings together scholars, journalists, artists, activists, and technology practitioners to think conceptually and critically about the interrelationships between the web and society. We deeply value public engagement, and consider insights from academics, non-academics, and non-"tech theorists" alike to be equally valuable.

Global Privacy Summit 2019
May 2-3, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
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.

Creative Commons Summit
May 9-11, 2019
Lisbon, Portugal
The five tracks at the 2019 Creative Commons Summit will include Creators; Building the Commons; Ethics of Openness; Open Education, Open Science, and Open Access; Galleries; and Legal, Policy, and Copyright Reform.

TILTing Perspectives 2019
May 15-17, 2019
Tilburg, Netherlands
TILTing Perspectives 2019, "Regulating a world in transition", brings together for the sixth time researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and civil society at the intersection of law and regulation, technology, and society to share insights, exchange ideas and formulate, discuss and suggest answers to contemporary challenges related to technological innovation. The conference will include plenary sessions, parallel sessions, and panel discussions with invited speakers, as well as presentations from respondents to a call for papers.

Stockholm Internet Forum
May 16-17. 2019
Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) is a platform for advancing a free, open, and secure internet as a driver of development. The SIF 2019 theme is the shrinking online democratic space. Both online and offline, repressive measures against civil society have grown both in geographic spread and in the diversity of measures that are applied. Despite many worldwide similarities, the expression of threats to democracy and the phenomenon of "shrinking space" varies depending on the regional and national context, the level, and the target actors. Shrinking online space often has negative consequences for not only political rights, but also social and economic rights and development. SIF 2019 will offer an opportunity to explore the shrinking democratic space, share experiences, and identify effective responses.

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.

International Communication Association Conference
May 23-27, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
The International Communication Association Conference Washington, organized by the International Communication Association (ICA) will take place from 23rd May to the 27th May 2019 in Washington, USA. The conference will cover areas like Digital media and social change, information media and digital journalism, and entertainment media and culture..

GigaNet ICA Pre-conference
May 24, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
Organized by the Internet Governance Lab at the American University and the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) and co-sponsored by the ICA Communication Law and Policy and Communication and Technology divisions, this pre-conference aims to bring together ICA participants interested in questions of governance, GigaNet members from other disciplines, and the Washington, DC community of practitioners and policymakers. The goal is to provide a mutual learning process and exchange of ideas and challenges for the further development of internet governance research.

AI for Good Global Summit
May 28-31, 2019
Geneva, Switzerland
The AI for Good Global Summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on artificial intelligence. The summit is hosted each year in Geneva by the International Telecommunications Union in partnership with UN sister agencies, the XPRIZE Foundation, and ACM.

WEIS 2019
June 3-4, 2019
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
The Workshop on the Economics of Information Security is is the leading annual forum for interdisciplinary scholarship on information security and privacy, combining expertise from the fields of economics, social science, business, law, policy, and computer science.

19th TACD Public Forum
June 4, 2019
Washington, DC, US
The theme of Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue's 19th public forum will be consumer protection in the public sphere.

Data for Policy
June 11-12, 2019
London, UK
The fourth international Data for Policy conference has "Digital Trust and Personal Data" as its main theme. The conference will also welcome contributions in the broader data science for government and policy discussions. In particular, the organizers encourage submissions around the value and harm of using data in the public sector, deployment experience in government, "digital ethics" and "ethics engineering" concepts, personal data sharing frameworks and technologies, transparency in machine learning processes, analytics at source, and secure data transaction methodologies.

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.

July 13, 2019
London, UK
Themes for this year's shortly-to-be-announced ORGCon are digital privacy; free speech, censorship, and the role of algorithms; mass government surveillance; and data and democracy.

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.

Web Summit
November 4-7. 2019
Lisbon, Portugal
The Web Summit gathers the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers, and heads of state to ask a simple question: where to next? In 2018, speakers included Margrethe Vestager, Tim Berners-Lee, and Microsoft CEO Brad Smith.

IGF Global
November 25-29, 2019
Berlin, Germany
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was set up in 2006 as an open discussion platform of the United Nations for key legal, political, social and technical issues relating to the internet. IGF's multi-stakeholder model aims to ensure that all relevant societal groups are equally involved in preparations and implementation: governments, civil society, business, academia, international organizations, and the technical community. This is particularly of note in terms of representatives from developing and newly industrializing countries, which otherwise tend to be under-represented.

CPDP 2020
January 22-24, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
The 2020 edition of Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection has issued a call for panels in all areas related to technological privacy and data protection.

FAT* 2020
January 27-30, 2020
Barcelona, Spain
ACM FAT* is an annual conference dedicating to bringing together a diverse community to investigate and tackle issues in this emerging area. Topics of interest include the theory and practice of fair machine learning, measurement and auditing of deployed systems, users' experience of algorithms, and the ethical, moral, social, and policy implications of big data and ubiquitous intelligent systems.


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 March 29, 2019.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on March 29, 2019 1:48 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 15, 2019 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending April 12, 2019 is the next entry in this blog.

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