News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 10, 2019

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 10, 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: Bits of Freedom, Digital Rights Ireland, Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, EFF, Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and Wikimedia Deutschland.


EDRi seeks Head of Policy and interim Executive Director
European Digital Rights (EDRi) is looking for a new Head of Policy to provide strategic leadership to the EDRi Policy Team and design policy and advocacy strategies in line with the organization's strategic objectives and in consultation with its member network. EDRi is also looking for an interim Executive Director to cover its current Executive Director's maternity leave (six months from mid-July 2019 to mid-January 2020).


Russian law enables internet isolation
Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed into law an "internet sovereignty" bill that mandates internet filtering, calls for the creation of a national domain name system, and requires all internet traffic to be routed over domestic servers, Amrita Khalid reports at Engadget. The goal is to keep Russia online if it is ever disconnected from the wider internet by a cyber attack.

China finances data center, smart city, and surveillance in Kenya
Kenya's Konza Technology City project will include a data center, smart city, and surveillance project, all funded with Chinese state-backed discounted concessional loans and built by Huawei, which has also signed an MoU with Pakistan to build a data center on similar terms, Sebastian Moss reports at DCD.  At Bloomberg, Alex Webb argues that Britain's decision to defy US advice and allow the telecoms industry to use Huawei equipment in building 5G networks is an artifact of the country's Brexit-related need not to alienate China as a trading partner. In Ecuador, the New York Times reports, Beijing has spent billions since 2011 to build the country's surveillance system, now copied in 17 other countries including Zimbabwe, UAE, and Uzbekistan.

NGOs demand improved EU network neutrality rules
A large group of NGOs including EDRi, Digital Rights Ireland, Digitale Gesellschaft, Bits of Freedom, Open Rights Group, and Wikimedia Deutschland has written an open letter to the European Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to point out omissions in their recent study of the network neutrality rules adopted in 2015. These include new barriers to market entry and a lack of harmonization among national regulators.

Sri Lanka blocks social networks after terrorist attacks
A day after the Easter terrorist attacks that killed nearly 300 people, the Sri Lanka government blocked social networks including Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Viber, NetBlocks reports. At the New York Times, Kara Swisher notes that her first reaction to the news - "Good" - shocked her as a long-time freedom of speech advocate. At Gizmodo, Patrick Howell O'Neill points out that this is not a simple story of failing social media; instead, Facebook is so deeply intertwined with Southeast Asian economy, society, and polities that it can't be easily turned off - and it was the only medium available for democratic pushback against the failed October 2018 coup.

Internet health is under threat
Openness is under attack, access is still a fundamental challenge for inclusion, investing in web literacy is urgently needed, and too much of the internet is dominated by just eight American and Chinese companies, the Mozilla Foundation reports in the 2019 Internet Health Report. The report asks three questions: how do we demand that AI put human needs above all others; what promising efforts are afoot to remedy targeted advertising and personal data collection; and how can city governments and civil society work together?

McGraw-Hill and Cengage announce merger plans
McGraw-Hill and Cengage, two of the US's three biggest textbook publishers, have announced plans to merge in early 2020, Goldie Blumenstyk reports at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Federal antitrust regulators are expected to scrutinize the plan and may require one or both companies to divest some assets. The loss of competition may result in higher prices for the companies' subscription programs.


Facebook's role in Brexit - and the threat to democracy
In this TED talk, Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr recounts the results of a year's investigation into Facebook and pleads with the "gods of Silicon Valley" to act to restore democracy in the face of illegal cash spent by hidden figures to spread lies across the internet in the service of social disruption. Saying "we must do better in future" is not enough to restore free and fair elections. At Politico, Mark Scott reports that with the European elections two weeks away Facebook's political transparency tools are being circumvented by political groups in Hungary and Spain, and that the company has yet to announce any successes at preventing digital campaigns that intend to mislead voters. At Wired, Matt Burgess finds that no amount of encryption can change Facebook's fundamental privacy-busting dependence on advertising.

5G brings new potential for surveillance and insecurity
In this article for The New Yorker, Sue Halpern considers the cyber attacks and surveillance that the totally-connected 5G network may bring us. The vastly increased speed and vastly reduced latency coupled with the spread of the Internet of Things will open many more opportunities for disruption - but carriers are building new services on top of the vulnerable existing infrastructure and rolling them out as fast as they can. The market leader is Huawei, which is subject to a Chinese law requiring companies to cooperate with the country's state intelligence agencies.

Correcting misperceptions about China's Social Credit
In this article at Logic, Shazeda Ahmed seeks to set the record straight about the Chinese social credit system. Although it is still capable of causing harm and the Chinese government does maintain a sophisticated and pervasive surveillance system, she says social credit is "a broad policy project for encouraging individuals, business, legal institutions, and government to be more trustworthy that uses both incentives and deterrents to guide behavior.  Much criticism, she writes, is Westerners projecting fear of their own governments' surveillance onto Chinese society.

NGOs overlook the needs of refugee men
In this article at Bright, Marta Vidal profiles the efforts of several non-profits in Jordan seeking to reverse the way humanitarian NGOs often overlook the needs of refugee men due to gender stereotyping that sees them as less vulnerable than women and children. Many accordingly have less access to humanitarian services, despite the loss of identity and autonomy associated with being unable to work.

Poverty changes privacy
In this article at the New York Times, Mary Madden explores the many ways in which poor people experience privacy differently, from unfair targeting by law enforcement and higher levels of surveillance to cascading and far more damaging consequences of identity fraud or biased recruitment algorithms. The poor are both far more vulnerable and far less able to afford protections. EFF's Spot the Surveillance VR app is intended to help communities identify the spying technologies deployed by police.

Tesla-obsessed Twitter swarm creates new form of crowd-sourcing
In this article at the Los Angeles Times, Russ Mitchell documents the crowd-sourced social media research swarm that investigates Tesla via the Twitter hashtag $TslaQ. Singly and collectively, this group of hard-core believers that Tesla is financially unsustainable have flown over parking lots to check the number and age of cars awaiting sale, track Tesla-loaded ships, study customer complaints, and chart the financials Tesla publishes in far more detail than any investment advisor has ever been able to do.


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

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.

22nd International Conference on Electronic Publishing
June 2-4, 2019
Marseille, France
In 2019, the Electronic Publishing conference will take as an inspirational starting point the concept of bibliodiversity, a term coined by Chilean publishers in the 1990s. The forum will revisit its definition and explore what it means today, five years after the 2014 adoption by 400 publishers from 45 countries of the International Declaration of Independent Publishers to Promote and Strengthen Bibliodiversity Together. This year's conference aims to bring together the inquiring minds of the academic, professional, and publishing industries to explore the ever-evolving nature of knowledge transmission within human societies.

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.

Africa Data Protection and Privacy Conference
June 24-28, 2019
Accra, Ghana
The first Africa Data Protection and Privacy Conference, convened by the Network of African Data Protection Authorities and Ghana Data Protection Commission, will bring together established authorities in Africa and their Global North counterparts for thought leadership, insight, best practice, high level strategic content, and networking, providing a critical platform for promoting Africa's drive for data protection and privacy laws in Africa.

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 ORGCon are digital privacy; free speech, censorship, and the role of algorithms; mass government surveillance; and data and democracy.

August 8-11, 2018
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
DEF CON is one of the oldest continuously running hacker conventions, and also one of the largest. The DEF CON 27 theme, in a way, responds to '1983' with new questions. What does it look like when we make the better choice? What kind of world do we hack together in the sunniest timeline? How does our real best-case scenario compare to the future we've been dreaming of for generations?

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.

Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing
November 27-29, 2019
Tromso, Norway
The Munin Conference is an annual conference on scholarly publishing and communication, primarily revolving around open access, open data and open science.

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.

Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit
February 19-21, 2020
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Attending the Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit is an outstanding opportunity for anyone seeking cross-disciplinary strategies and partnerships that deliver scalable, transferable, and equitable solutions to urban neighborhoods.

We Robot 2020
April 2-4, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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 those who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on May 10, 2019 1:26 PM.

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