News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending January 10, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending January 10, 2020

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 next issue of this digest will be published on the second Thursday of January 2020. The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect those of the Information Program or the OSF.  Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.


Cambridge Analytica Files Show Worldwide Electoral Manipulation
An anonymous Twitter account, @HindsightFiles, has posted the first tranches of an expected 100,000 files sourced from ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser, Carole Cadwalladr reports at the Guardian. The tens of thousands of files so far released provide links to elections in Malaysia, Kenya, and Brazil, and suggest that Cambridge Analytica was working for a political party in Ukraine in 2017. The former head of the UK's MI6 Russian intelligence, Christopher Steele, tells the Guardian the fact that bad actors have not been punished in any country means the prospects for manipulation of the 2020 US presidential election are even worse. At the Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports that the US military is exploring options for information warfare tactics to use against Russian officials and oligarchs if they seek to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

South Africa: Copyright Bill Attracts Review of US Trade Benefits
The Office of the US Trade Representative will review South Africa's eligibility for Generalized System of Preferences benefits following a petition from the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which opposes the copyright bill that has been awaiting the South African president's signature for eight months, law professors Sean Flynn and Jonathan Band report at InfoJustice. The US trade program gives developing countries extra tariff reductions. Among the Alliance's complaints are a provision for fair use, the right to use excerpts in education, and protections for local creators.

France: Tax Authorities May Trawl Personal Social Media Accounts
The French Constitutional Court has ruled that customs and tax authorities will be allowed to review individuals' social media profiles, posts, and photographs to look for tax avoidance, the BBC reports. After protests from the data protection regulator CNIL and human rights groups, the court added some limitations: social media content that is password-protected is off-limits, and authorities may only use information individuals divulge about themselves. The BBC also reports that Google will pay France almost €1 billion in back taxes and fines to end a four-year investigation.

EU: Enforcement Fails General Data Protection Regulation
A year and a half after the EU's General Data Protection Regulation came into force, a lack of enforcement and regulators' failure to cooperate across borders on investigations lead critics to doubt that the law will be able to rein in the big technology companies, Nicholas Vinocur reports at Politico. Helen Dixon, the Irish data protection regulator, dissents, saying investigations under a complex, untested law take time. At Reuters, Ricardo Bito reports that Brazil's Ministry of Justice has fined Facebook BRL6.6 million ($1.6 million) for improperly sharing user data with the app "thisisyourdigitallife".

Lawsuits Seek to Block California's Gig Economy Employment bill
Uber and Postmates are suing the state of California to stop Assembly Bill 5, which provides employment protections to gig-economy workers, from taking effect, Joel Rosenblatt and Ellen Huet report at Bloomberg. The companies argue that the bill is unconstitutional because its list of exemptions - truck drivers, commercial fishermen, travel agents, direct salespeople, and grant writers - is ill-defined and unpredictable. At the Sacramento Bee, Sophia Rollag reports that freelance journalists are suing the state over their inclusion in the bill, which requires publications to class anyone producing more than 35 articles or photos for them as an employee. In December, Vox Media CEO John Ness announced in SBNation that the company would end its contracts with California-based freelancers but encouraged them to apply for newly-created part-time and full-time posts.

TikTok Issues First Transparency Report
TikTok's first transparency report shows that the company received 298 legal requests for information from 28 countries, and 26 requests to remove or restrict content from nine countries, Zoe Schiff reports at The Verge. India led the requests for information (107) followed by the US (79); India also led on requests for content blocking (11). No requests came from China, where TikTok is not available despite its ownership by a Chinese company, ByteDance. TikTok took down 85% of content reported for copyright infringement. At Wired, Louise Matsakis notes the report's omissions, such as the potential for China to influence content by shaping moderation rules and the implementation of community guidelines. At NetzPolitik, Markus Reuter and Chris Köver find that TikTok's moderators systematically suppress content by disadvantaging it in search results or keeping it out of the algorithmic feed users see when they log in. At the Guardian, Lily Kuo reports that 17-year-old Feroza Aziz's videos were blocked after she used a make-up tutorial to highlight Beijing's treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. Finally, at TechCrunch, Josh Constine reports that ByteDance, which also owns the China-only Douyin video apps, has built technology allowing users to create their own deepfakes, though the feature has not (yet) been released.


India Leads the World's Democracies in Internet Shutdowns
In this article at the BBC, Shadab Nazmi highlights India's world-leading number of internet shutdowns; 2019 through mid-December saw 96 of these, largely in response to protests against India's new citizenship law, which forces Muslims to prove their right to remain in the country. The Internet Shutdown Tracker portal, run by the Software Freedom Law Center, shows that the longest shutdown is in Kashmir - 153 days and continuing. Other notable shutdowns in 2019 included Assam, some districts in West Bengal, and even parts of the capital city, Delhi. At BuzzFeed, Pranav Dixit gives details of the Delhi shutdown, in which police ordered all major carriers to stop all "voice, SMS, and internet" services.

"Pink Slime" Websites Masquerade as Local News
A network of hundreds of partisan websites are masquerading as local news outlets and disseminating algorithmically-generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories in order to manipulate US public opinion, the Columbia Journalism Review reports. Media discoveries of about 200 of these sites sparked an investigation by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Journalism School, which traces the networks back to conservative businessman Brian Timpone, whose company became known in 2012 for low-cost automated generation of stories with faked bylines and quotes (dubbed "pink slime"); the sites are coopting the empty space left by the closure of many genuine local newspapers.

Scholars Begin Fightback Against Predatory Publishing
In this article at Nature, 43 leading scholars from ten countries take a first step toward combating predatory publishing by agreeing a definition of the term. Among the characteristics they included are: false or misleading information such as fake impact factors; lack of transparency; aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation; and deviation from best editorial and publication practices.

Oncologist Debunks DeepMind's AI Breast Cancer Screening Accuracy Claim
In this Twitter thread, Vinay Prasad, an oncologist and associate professor, explains the problems with Google DeepMind's widely-reported claim to have developed a deep neural network that can read mammograms more accurately than radiologists. The goal of cancer screening, Prasad writes, is to find treatable cancers; Google's research measured the AI's detection of biopsy-proven cancers. A proper study will be expensive and require years to conduct.

Price-Fixing Lawsuit Strangled Ebooks
In this video clip, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow highlights TheSoul Publishing, a Cyprus-based Russian entertainment company that commands the third-largest audience on YouTube, after Disney and Warner, yet only began its activities in 2015. Many of the videos published on channels such as Bright Side and 5-Minute Crafts are odd, and become counter-factual when they stray into commentary on the US and Russia; they are, however, highly popular money-makers. At Lawfare, Lisa Kaplan provides the background reporting Maddow drew upon; including screenshots from videos that have since being removed. TheSoul is also active on Facebook, where data collection and targeted advertising may be more important motivations.

CEOs Urge Companies to Embrace Wider Social Values
In this Medium posting, Ross LaJeunesse, former head of international relations at Google, explains that he left the company after 11 years because he realized that it would never embrace human rights or work to change its bullying workplace culture. At Harvard Business Review, Mara Zepeda and Jennifer Brandel discuss a recent statement issued by leading CEOs that pushes companies to stop focusing on maximizing shareholder returns as their sole corporate purpose. Zepeda and Brandel suggest that startups need alternatives to venture capital funding; new founders should learn from Zebras Unite, a movement made up of companies that prioritize mutualism, shared prosperity, and social good, and believe there should be more public/private collaborations. In a working paper, Stanford Law professsors Mark Lemley and Andrew McCreary suggest ways for the technology industry to replace exit strategies with the goal of building enduring independent companies.


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CPDP 2020
January 22-24, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
The 2020 edition of Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection continues the tradition of  offering 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.

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.

March 5-6, 2020
Amsterdam, Netherlands
From automating simple tasks to predicting efficiencies, AI has much to offer business. Yet we have also been warned: AI will reinforce biases, hide important decisions, and deplete employment. Are we headed to a smarter workplace, or a dumber future? AI@Work will go beyond siloed debate: computer scientists, ethicists, academics, policy makers, and business leaders will come together to share ambitions, experiences, concerns, and visions.

AI Summit 2020
March 16-17
Brussels, Belgium
Politico's AI Summit returns to Brussels to tackle key questions about the future of AI global regulation and the technology's implementation. The conference will consider whether and how AI development should be limited, different cultural interpretations of "trustworthy", and the challenges of implementing a cross-border and coordinated European approach to AI.

ECogS 2020
March 23-26, 2020
Okinawa, Japan
The International Conference on Embodied Cognitive Science (ECogS) will bring together approaches that are theoretically and methodologically diverse yet united in their commitment to an alternative orientation, one in which embodied interaction plays the primary organizing role of life, mind, and consciousness.

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.

Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2020
April 23-25, 2020
Gdańsk, Poland
The eighth PDF CEE is organized by the ePaństwo Foundation together with the City of Gdańsk and the European Solidarity Centre and will be followed by the fourth edition of the Festival of Civic Tech for Democracy. The 2020 conference is inspired by the 21 Demands proposed in 1980 by strikers in the Gdańsk Shipyard, and is expected to attract around 500 democracy activists, civic tech enthusiasts, media, business and academic representatives, public administration officials, opinion makers, influencers, cultural activists, digital media specialists and activists to debate human and digital rights, transparency of governments, cybersecurity, civic technologies and countering disinformation.

AI for Good
May 4-8, 2020
Geneva, Switzerland
The AI for Good Global Summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on AI. The Summit is hosted each year in Geneva by the International Telecommunications Union in partnership with sibling UN agencies, the XPRIZE Foundation, and ACM.

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.

Digitising Early Childhood
June 11-12, 2010
Milan, Italy
Contemporary children and their parents are inventing what it is to have a digital childhood, and in doing so are introducing families, schools and policy makers to new ways of thinking, doing and being. This conference discusses and expands research trajectories through these uncertainties and aims to build bridges across the different disciplines and strands of research in this area. It will forge a new way forward and consolidate the base of what we already know, revealing what we have yet to investigate and address, and what important insights are emerging that must be taken seriously.

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security
June 15-16, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
The annual workshop on the economics of information security is a cross-disciplinary event to develop more effective approaches to information security.

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.

FTC PrivacyCon
July 21, 2020
Washington, DC
The US Federal Trade Commission's fifth annual PrivacyCon, which is free and open to the public, will focus in particular on the privacy of health data collected, stored, and transmitted by mobile apps.

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

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

Netroots Nation
August 13-15, 2020
Denver, Colorado, USA
For more than a decade, Netroots Nation, which began as a convention for the most active members of the DailyKos community, has hosted the largest annual conference for progressives and other organizers and advocacy groups, drawing thousands of attendees from around the country and beyond, to develop their work around topics such as sharing data, developing technology talent, and managing digital campaigns.

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).

MozFest 2020
October, 2020
Location TBD
MozFest programs and events are co-created by a group of dynamic, vibrant and varied community collaborators, all working towards one goal: the opportunity for everyone to live a healthy online life.

Future in Review
October 6-9, 2020
La Jolla, CA, USA
Future in Review 2019 is a global conference on the intersection of technology and the economy, offering new partnerships, projects, and plans, and the opportunity to analyze and create the future of technology, economics, pure science, the environment, genomics, education, and more.

International Open Data Conference
November 18-20, 2020
Nairobi, Kenya
The sixth edition of IODC will be hosted by the government of Kenya with support from the OD4D Network, IDRC, and the World Bank. The conference program will be co-created with the community via an open call for proposals to ensure a diverse agenda of interactive sessions, workshops, and ancillary events. A special focus will be placed on building bridges with the broader data community, exploring how to bring the power of the newest technologies to some of the world's oldest problems, and creating new models for collaboration in order to drive social and economic value from open data in Africa and around the world.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on January 12, 2020 4:57 PM.

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