News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 11, 2019

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 11, 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: EDRi, EFF, Oxford Internet Institute.


UK and US sign mutual law enforcement data access agreement
The US attorney general, William Barr, and UK's Home Secretary, Priti Patel, have signed an agreement to allow law enforcement agencies to demand access to certain data directly from the other country's technology companies, bypassing the lengthy and cumbersome inter-government Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process, Julia Carrie Wong reports at the Guardian. At EFF, Katitza Rodriguez and Camille Fischer argue that the deal will "trample" cross-border privacy safeguards by enabling the countries to bypass each other's legal regime, and note that the enabling legislation is, in the US, the CLOUD Act, and, in the UK, the Investigatory Powers Act and the 2019 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act, all of which EFF opposed. Wong also reports that the US, UK, and Australia will pressure Facebook to create a backdoor in its encrypted messaging apps to allow governments direct access to the content of communications.

Russia begins installing isolationist internet option
Alexander Zharov, the head of Russia's federal communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has confirmed to the press that under the Russian Internet Law (RuNet) president Vladimir Putin signed into law earlier in 2019 equipment is being installed on the networks of the country's major telecom operators that will operate an alternative domain name system and steer traffic away from non-Russian servers, Zak Doffman reports at Forbes. "Combat" testing is expected to begin during the month of October. The "RuNet" network is supposed to be deployed only in cases where the system's integrity, stability, or security is "in danger".

UK: Police build secret database to combat radicalization
The UK's counter-terrorism police have been secretly sharing details of thousands of individuals referred to the government's anti-radicalization Prevent program via the National Police Prevent Case Management database, which is accessible to all police forces in all parts of the UK as well as the Home Office, Jamie Grierson reports at the Guardian. Prevent was intended to be a voluntary program that diverted people from terrorism before they commit a crime; individuals are not informed when they are added to the database. In 2017-2018, 7,318 people were referred to Prevent by public servants such as teachers, police, or doctors; 57% were age 20 or younger, and 2009 were under 16. Only 394 were deemed to need specialist support. Also at the Guardian, Nosheen Iqbal reports that the Prevent program, the Home Office, and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism have spent more than £9 million to quietly fund groups that run online platforms, workshops, and events aimed at young Muslims.

France: Google declines to pay publishers to link to news stories
Rather than pay licensing fees to French news organizations, Google will remove the previews accompanying links to news stories unless publishers actively request their inclusion, Timothy B. Lee reports at Ars Technica. In passing its transposition of the copyright directive enacted by the EU earlier this year, France hoped that Google would pay licensing fees. Instead, Google's move is expected to reduce traffic to news sites, exactly as happened when similar legislation was tried in Spain. Google notes that it derives no revenues from linking to news stories. At Politico, Laura Kayali reports that some press publishers have estimated that Facebook's and Google's market power in online advertising costs their sector €250-320 million per year.

China: Applicants for mobile phone numbers must pass facial recognition check
The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has announced that from December 1 signing up for mobile and data services will require a facial recognition identification test, Jane Li reports at Quartz. MIIT says the requirement, an expansion of the real name registration system China launched in 2013, is part of its efforts to control fraud and safeguard citizens in cyberspace; citizens will also not be allowed to pass their numbers on to others.

Singapore: "Fake news" law comes into effect
The new Singaporean Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill came into force on October 2, James Griffiths reports at CNN. Individuals may face fines of up to SGD50,000 ($36,000) or up to five years in prison, with those sanctions doubling if the alleged falsehood is posted using a fake or bot-controlled account. Companies may be fined up to SGD1 million ($735,000). Government ministers can decide whether to order takedown or an annotated correction, though they must explain why the alleged misinformation is false. Human Rights Watch Asia expects the law to be abused for political purposes. Other countries that have introduced or are considering similar legislation include Australia, the UK, and Fiji.


Wikipedia edit war erupts over Taiwan coverage
In this article at the BBC, Demos researcher Carl Miller, author of The Death of the Gods, finds that Wikipedia's coverage of Taiwan has become the forum for an edit war comprising 1,600 edits across 22 politically sensitive entries. Chinese officials and academics, Miller writes, are pursuing a campaign to systematically correct what they believe to be Wikipedia's anti-Chinese biases. The campaign is extending to personal attacks on Wikipedia editors.

Faculty value for outreach not reflected in promotion criteria
In this blog posting, Erin C. McKiernan, Juan Pablo Alperin, and Lesley A. Schimanski discuss their three years of research to find ways to reform academic review, promotion, and tenure (RPT), as many faculty cite concerns about these types of evaluations as important factors limiting their adoption of open access, open data, and open scholarship practices. Their work finds a mismatch between the language in RPT policy documents and what faculty actually value, such as readership and reach. This research was supported by the Open Society Foundations.

Manipulation of public opinion is a global problem
In this press release, Philip Howard and Samantha Bradshaw of the Oxford Internet Institute summarize their new report taking inventory of the use of algorithms, automation, and big data to shape public life and find that manipulation of public opinion is a global problem that has spread to 70 countries, 45 of them democracies. Seven countries - China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela - are the source of foreign influence operations, while 25 countries work with private companies or communications firms that offer "computational propaganda" as a service. Facebook remains the platform of choice for social media manipulation. At Buzzfeed News, Jeremy Singer-Vine and Kevin Collier find that 1.3 million comments to the US Federal Communications Commission website opposing network neutrality in 2017 were fakes posted by political operatives.

CJEU ruling opens door for upload filters
In this blog posting, Eleonora Rosati discusses the October 3 ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union that holds that an intermediary such as Facebook can be ordered to remove, worldwide, content that is identical and equivalent to content that has been found illegal. The case originated in Austria in 2018, when the politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek sought an injunction to force Facebook to remove disparaging statements made about her in a user's public comment. EDRi argues that the ruling opens the door for "upload filters" on all online content, damaging freedom of expression. In a blog posting, the legal firm Hunton Andrews Kurth analyzes the CJEU's decision in late September in Google v. CNIL that a country can require that platforms apply the right to dereferencing (the "right to be forgotten") worldwide, but should take into account a number of factors regarding the person, the offense, and the public interest.

New software license seeks to give developers control
In this article at Wired, Klint Finley discusses Coraline Ada Ehmke's proposed new "Hippocratic license", intended to give open source developers a way of exerting control over how their software is used. Tying the "do no harm" license to existing international human rights standards, she hopes, will reduce the uncertainty inherent in defining "harm". The license still needs to pass a legal review and there are compatibility issues to be solved.

TikTok becomes vector for Chinese foreign policy
In this Guardian article, Alex Hern finds from leaked documents detailing the moderation guidelines for the video-sharing app TikTok that the app's owner, ByteDance, is using it to advance Chinese foreign policy aims abroad. Among the types of content that are either deleted or marked so only the original poster can see them are criticisms of China's socialist system, controversial topics such as separatism, protests such as Tiananmen Square, and 20 "foreign leaders or sensitive figures". ByteDance says the version the Guardian saw was retired in May and that the current guidelines do not reference specific countries or issues. At FFWD, Chris Stokel-Walker expands on the story to discuss how foreign governments should respond.


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

October 21-27, 2019
London, UK
MozFest 2019 is the tenth anniversary gathering of educators, activists, technologists, researchers, artists, and young people dedicated to creating a better, healthier internet. This year's theme is "Healthy AI".

Biometrics Congress
October 28-30, 2019
London, UK
The Biometrics Institute Congress provides an independent platform where the international biometrics community can gather to conduct off-the-record discussion among the institute's multi-stakeholder community. In 2018, representatives from over 30 nations attended. This year's theme is making the world a safer place through the responsible and ethical use of biometrics in an era where laws and regulations are often unable to stay abreast of technology change and the business models based on it.

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.

18th Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society
November 11, 2019
London, UK
The goal of this workshop, held in conjunction with the ACM CCS conference, is to discuss and find solutions to the privacy problems that result from the transformation of society brought by the Information Revolution. One of the major implications of this technological shift has been a massive increase in the collection, sharing, and analysis of personal data. The workshop will include academia, government, and industry, as well as communities such as law and business, who will present novel research on all theoretical and practical aspects of electronic privacy, as well as experimental studies of fielded systems.

Tech Giants, Monopoly Power, and Public Discourse
November 14-15, 2019
New York, NY, USA
At this symposium, convened by the Knight First Amendment Institute, leading legal scholars, economists, and technologists will examine the extent and nature of the technology giants' ability to structure, shape, and distort public discourse, and consider whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to limit, expose, or counter this power. Speakers include Ellen P. Goodman, Lina Khan, Tim Wu, and Ethan Zuckerman.

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
Tromsø, 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 dedicated 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 opportunity for anyone seeking cross-disciplinary strategies and partnerships that deliver scalable, transferable, and equitable solutions to urban neighborhoods.

TICTeC 2020
March 24-25, 2020
Reykjavik, Iceland
mySociety created TICTeC to bridge the gap between civic tech and research - to bring two different communities together, to emphasize the importance of being able to demonstrate impact, and to share what those impacts are. Because Reykjavik's city Council has pioneered using digital tools to elicit feedback from citizens on council policies, expenditures, and projects, the 2020 conference will provide a special opportunity to learn from Iceland's extensive civic technology and civic engagement experience.

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.

Global Privacy Summit
April 7-8, 2020
Washington, DC, USA
Global Privacy Summit will gather more than 3,600 professionals from around the world for an outstanding program with a truly global focus.

re:publica 2020
May 6-8, 2020
Berlin, Germany
re:publica is Europe's largest internet and digital society conference. More than 19 500 participants from 80 countries came together to discuss current issues of digital society at the three-day festival. Participants represent a cross-section of (digital) society, which include professionals from economics, politics, business, hacker culture, NGOs, media, and marketing, as well as bloggers, activists, artists, and social media experts.

Creative Commons Global Summit
May 14-16, 2020
Lisbon, Portugal
The 2019 CC Summit gathered nearly 400 Creative Commoners from across the globe to attend over 130 sessions and seven keynotes. The Summit, comprising discussion, debate, workshops and planning, talks, and community building, is for anyone who's interested in the global movement for the commons as an activist, advocate, artist, librarian, educator, lawyer, or technologist.

Privacy Law Scholars
June 4-5, 2020
Washington, DC, USA
Organized jointly by BCLT and the George Washington University Law School, the Privacy Law Scholars Conference (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. PLSC brings together privacy law scholars, privacy scholars from other disciplines (economics, philosophy, political science, computer science), and practitioners (industry, legal, advocacy, and government).

Festival of AI and Emerging Technology
June 8-10, 2020
London, UK
CogX draws together speakers from industry, government, and academia to create "a space to learn, discover, and connect with the people and technologies that are shaping the future of humanity".

June 9-12, 2020
San José, Costa Rica
Each year, RightsCon, organized by AccessNow, gathers over 1,000 expert speakers from around the world.

Aspen Ideas Festival
June 27-July 3, 2020
Aspen  Colorado
Presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic, the Aspen Ideas Festival is a public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. Anyone may purchase a pass to attend.

WEIS 2020
June, 2020 (TBD)
Brussels, Belgium
The annual Workshop on the Economics of Information Security crosses the disciplines of economics, behavioural science, and computer security.

August 6-9, 2020
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
DEF CON is one of the oldest and largest continuously running hacker conventions.

August 2020
Bangkok, Thailand
Wikimania 2020 will be the 16th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

86th World Library and Information Congress
August 15-21, 2020
Dublin, Ireland
WLIC is the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).


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:

Hear less from the Information Program!

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 October 11, 2019.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on October 11, 2019 11:47 AM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending September 27, 2019 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 25, 2019 is the next entry in this blog.

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