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

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 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 views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect those of the Information Program or the Open Society Foundations.  Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Access Now, APC, EFF, Internetlab, PIJIP, Privacy International.


China Imposes New National Security Law on Hong Kong
The Chinese government has imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong that enshrines sweeping powers that critics say will suppress the city's traditional freedoms, Lily Kuo and Verna Yu report at the Guardian. The law, which criminalizes "endangering national security", applies to Hong Kong permanent residents, non-residents, and people outside Hong Kong who violate the law; it awards Hong Kong police powers to intercept communications, conduct covert surveillance, and request information from service providers and overseas political organizations and authorities. At the Guardian, Helen Davidson and Verna Yu report that a day after the law came into force Hong Kong police arrested more than 180 protesters, at least 30 of them for offenses under the new law such as illegal assembly, and pepper-sprayed dozens of observing journalists. The Hong Kong Free Press provides a full English translation of the law.

South African President Sends Copyright Bill Back to Parliament
Claiming constitutional concerns, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa returned to Parliament for further consideration for the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers' Protection Amendment Bill, Laura Kayali reports at Politico. The bills had been on his desk awaiting his signature for 15 months. The US has openly threatened South Africa with withdrawal of investment if the bills become law; former MEP Julia Reda has obtained dozens of internal European Commission documents that show that behind the scenes the EU has also opposed the legislation. At InfoJustice, Mike Palmedo publishes analyses of Ramaphosa's constitutional arguments from experts such as Sean Flynn (PIJIP), who argue that none of the dozen countries that have enacted similar exceptions have been challenged under international law and question Ramaphosa's timing if his concern really is constitutional issues.

Social Media Platforms Suspend Trump Supporters' Accounts
Citing "hateful content", Twitch has temporarily suspended Donald Trump's campaign account, Reddit deactivated the biggest pro-Trump subreddit, "The_Donald", and YouTube banned several prominent white supremacist accounts, Gilad Edelman reports at Wired. Edelman suggests the timing may be as much due to Trump's drop in the polls as to public protests. At the Guardian, Joan E. Greve adds that despite Trump's May Executive Order seeking to amend the theCommunications Decency Act's S230 liability shield, Snapchat says it will no longer promote Trump's posts on its Discover channel, and Facebook has taken down Trump campaign ads that included a Nazi-associated symbol. The Trump campaign is threfore experimenting with alternative platforms such as Twitter clone Parler that have "no-censorship" policies, but is finding they don't have the same reach. At the New York Times, Kevin Roose suggests the moves represent a step change that will make the unregulated web "more accountable, more self-aware, and less willfully naïve". At The New Yorker, Anna Wiener calls the debate over modifying S230 "outdated", surveys the platforms' efforts to self-regulate and experiment with different moderation strategies and models of platform governance, and considers alternative approaches such as algorithmic transparency or registration as public-benefit corporations.

India Bans 59 Chinese Apps
The Indian Ministry of Information Technology has banned 59 apps of Chinese origin including TikTok, WeChat, Shareit, and Baidu Map, Rahul Shrivastava reports at India Today. The government, which cited Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read in conjunction with provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, said the apps were engaged in activities that were prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and defense of India. At Wired, Varsha Bansal reports that the sudden shutdown has broken TikTok's Indian influencer base, leaving 1.2 million creators stranded with no audience and no income.

Brazilian Senate Passes "Fake News" Law
The Brazilian Senate has passed the fourth version of a bill that creates a self-regulatory regime for platforms with more than 2 million users to identify and limit the production and spread of online disinformation and defamatory content, Angelica Mari reports at ZDNet. The bill would require companies to ban accounts set up to spread false content, require bots to be clearly marked, and disclose details such as the amount spent and the source of material related to political campaigning. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has said he may veto the bill if it passes Congress. At Poynter, Harrison Mantas summarizes criticism and quotes Internetlab director Francisco Brito Cruz, who says the bill was hastily drafted without expert legal and technical input and that the bill's requirement that social media account holders provide an identity document and cellphone number will deprive many low-income Brazilians of access. At EFF, Veridiana Alimonti gives background on the bill and finds that the latest draft will strike down settled privacy and freedom of expression safeguards.

ECOWAS Court Rules Togo Internet Shutdown Was Illegal
In this blog posting, Access Now celebrates the ruling by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice that the Togolese government's action in ordering an internet shutdown during the country's 2017 protests was illegal. Access Now was one of eight organizations - the others included APC, Article 19, the Internet Freedom Foundation, and CIPESA - that filed amici curiae briefs in the lawsuit, which was brought by Amnesty International Togo and Media Defence on behalf of seven Togolese NGOs and a journalist.


Facial Recognition Supercharges Police Abuse
In this article at The Atlantic, Malkia Devich-Cyril discusses the role facial recognition plays in the brutal policing that has sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, for example helping Homeland Security and other police forces identify and arrest BLM protesters. Devich-Cyril says she has warned for a decade that facial recognition and biometrics would be used to "supercharge police abuses of power and worsen racial discrimination", and argues that facial recognition, like earlier forms of scientific racism, creates new threats while reproducing and supersizing racial inequality.

The Conversation Shows Potential for New Journalism Business Models
In this article at the Columbia Journalism Review, Anya Schiffrin examines the rising success of The Conversation, a non-profit project that pairs experienced journalists and editors with academics to produce freely accessible scholarly articles for a general audience. Since the pandemic began, submissions have tripled in some areas, and global visits have more than doubled. The Conversation's business model varies by region; in some areas it's funded by foundations and in others by universities, the state, and research institutions.

Pandemic-related Surveillance Could Become Permanent
In this article at the Guardian, Oliver Holmes, Justin McCurry, and Michael Safi cite digital experts who warn that the extensive surveillance measures introduced around the world to curb the pandemic are widening and becoming entrenched despite having been enacted as "temporary". Digital tracking is in use in 35 countries and half of the 28 or more countries in which contact tracing apps have been deployed use GPS location data and do not disclose how long users' data is stored. At Privacy International, staff provide analyses of trends from its coronavirus global response tracker.

Facebook Faces Advertising Boycott
In this article at Politico, Nancy Scola tells the inside story of the creation of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which sees numerous advertisers boycotting Facebook because of the company's "repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms". Leading the campaign, which has its roots in post-2016 election outrage, is a coalition of civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, Free Press, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In a statement, the campaign reports that at a meeting with its leaders Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered "the same old defense" but no new concrete plans, and provides recommendations. At Newsweek, Jason Murdock reports that Verizon has joined the boycott and collects comments from leading advertisers including Ben & Jerry's and Patagonia; he also notes that Facebook staff members are protesting the company's decision not to remove a post by US president Donald Trump during the Black Lives Matter protests that suggested the authorities could start shooting looters. At the Guardian, Carole Cadwalladr compares Facebook to North Korea because neither the US Congress nor the EU has been able to hold it to account; if the advertiser boycott also fails, she believes it will be a pivotal moment in its existential threat to democracy. At the Columbia Journalism Review, Jacob Silverman surveys journalists on the complexity and frustration of reporting on Facebook, and finds that the company operates with "the secrecy of an intelligence agency and the authority of a state government".

Finding What's "Good" in Technosociety
In this video clip, the Ada Lovelace Institute presents its panel on "What does 'good' look like in a technosociety?" from COGX 2020, featuring Thomas Hughes, former director of Article 19 and new director of Oversight Board Administration for Facebook, and Safiya Umoja Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression. Framing the discussion as one of ethics, Noble says, depoliticizes the way platforms are implicated in the real harms of their use as a global amplifier of hate and avoids deeper structural analysis.

How to Oppose the Link Tax
In this podcast episode, Michael Geist interviews former MEP Julia Reda about her experiences working on copyright reform in the EU and the battle over the "link tax" in order to help plan the appropriate response to similar proposals that Canada is expected to put into legislative proposals in the autumn. In countries like France and Germany, which have experimented with such a law, the result was that large publishers gave Google a free license and wasted precious resources on court cases, while smaller publishers were locked out.


*** In light of the coronavirus outbreak, please follow your organization's travel guidelines, and check links to events listed below regularly for participation restrictions and updates as to whether events will go ahead.***

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


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.

July 25-August 2, 2020
New York, NY, USA
As part of reimagining the convention as an online event, HOPE will expand to nine days filled with the normal number of talks. Ticket-buyers will have exclusive access to presenters to ask questions, participate in workshops, and interact with other attendees, and will also receive an exclusive conference T-shirt and badge. HOPE expects that some who would have trouble traveling to the US will now be able to attend. The program is still being finalized. HOPE expects to return as a physical conference in 2021.

July 28-August 18, 2020
In a series of multiple tracks over multiple weeks, the Responsible Data Summit will run a virtual convening space that brings together top thought leaders in the field of AI - innovative technologists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and advocates. The goal is to tackle the problem of  building a responsible data economy.

August 7-9, 2020
DEFCON is one of the oldest and largest continuously running hacker conventions.

Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security
August 9-11, 2020
The 16th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human computer interaction, security, and privacy. The program will include technical papers, workshops and tutorials, lightning talks, and a poster session.

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. They've drawn 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.


Ada Lovelace Institute
London's Ada Lovelace Institute, founded in 2019 to ensure the ethical use of AI, is running a series of events on the issues surrounding the use of technologies in response to the pandemic. The July 8 event considers the impact of rolling out a public health identity system.

Bace Security
Recent webinars sponsored by Bace Security include a "fireside" discussion of voting methods with Rebecca Mercuri, conducted the first security analysis of electronic voting in 2000, and security veteran Peter Neumann, and methods for privacy-protecting digital contact tracing with Arka Bala (ContextGrid) and serial entrepreneur and investor Aman Johan.

Benchmark Initiative
The Benchmark Initiative is running regular events on topics such as the safe use of location data in human migration; data, power, and the pandemic; and managing social distancing in public spaces.

Civic Hall
New York's Civic Hall has moved a number of events online. Coming up toward the end of May are events on designing stories to expose racial inequities and an interactive discussion of the new book by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need.

Data & Society
Data & Society has moved its weekly Databites and Network Power Hours programs into online interactive formats for the rest of 2020.
Network Power Hours:

EFF and its local counterparts in the Electronic Frontier Alliance are running numerous events on subjects such as technology education, open source, voting security, and content moderation.

Future in Review
Future in Review is running a series of online "FiReSide" events. Recent topics include China and the future technology struggle.

Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2020
May-June 2020
The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology's online alternative to its annual conference on emerging legal issues at the intersection of digital media, freedom of speech, and law includes live seminars (recorded and available for later playback) on content moderation and the coronavirus (April 15); a series on Chinese law, trade, and intellectual property (beginning April 22 and extending through May); and the right to repair (August 28).

London Futurists
The London Futurists group, led by former Psion and Symbian architect David Wood, is presenting near-weekly speaker-led events focusing on potential radical transformations of humanity and society. Upcoming topics include genetic engineering (May 16). Event recordings are made available soon after meetings conclude.

Open Data Institute
The ODI's Friday lunchtime talks have moved online. These one-hour talks cover topics such as data ethics, social equity, and trust.

Open Rights Group
The Open Rights Group and its local offshoots are running frequent online presentations and discussions of digital privacy, democracy, and data exploitation. Recent topics have included the launch of ORG's data and democracy report, a proposed law to ensure that contact tracing apps are surrounded with privacy-protecting safeguards, and the effect of the pandemic on democratic institutions.

Public Knowledge
Public Knowledge is running public web events on subjects such as algorithmic amplification of hate speech, the survival of local journalism, and how to protect privacy during a pandemic.

London's Royal United Services Institute is running frequent online events considering topics relating to international politics, terrorism, financial crime, policing, and warfare, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it will bring.

Singularity University
May, 2020
Singularity University has an ongoing series of events. July will see four discussions on the topic of the future of food, agriculture, food supply chains, and nutrition. Past topics have included the future of work and AI.

Transnational Institute
TNI's series of weekly COVID Capitalism webinars covers various aspects of transforming democracy, politics, and the economy for a fairer post-COVID world. June events include COVID-19 and incarceration (June 3); big tech, data, and human rights, a joint event with the Just Net Coalition (June 10); borders and migration (June 17); and the broken trade system (June 24).


CANCELED 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).

September 11-12, 2020
Chicago, Ilinois, USA
The 11th Chicago-based Thotcon hacking conference is a non-commercial event intended to combine a top-quality information security conference with a casual and social experience.

AI for Good
September 21-25, 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.

CANCELED EIFL General Assembly
September 24-26, 2020
Vilnius, Lithuania
The GA is EIFL's major annual knowledge-sharing and networking event for library professionals in developing and transition economy countries.

POSTPONED We Robot 2020
Awaiting update
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.

Big Tech and Antitrust Conference
October 3, 2020
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Yale Law School's Information Society Project and Thurman Arnold Project co-host a half-day conference to explore the role of antitrust and competition law in shaping the future of the digital economy. The conference will discuss the kinds of harms antitrust law needs to address in the digital age; the relationship between antitrust law and broader concerns such as privacy, innovation, and inequality; and policy recommendations, including changes in the interpretation of antitrust laws and doctrines, enforcement practices, and the institutional organization of agencies. We encourage submissions from all disciplines that contribute to related legal, economic, regulatory, or policy discussions.

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.

Privacy Law Forum
October 9, 2020
Palo Alto, CA
The program will be very similar to the one originally planned, covering all the hot issues in privacy and cybersecurity law. Registration remains open.

Web Summit
November 2-5, 2020
Lisbon, Portugal
At a time of great uncertainty for many industries and indeed, the world itself, 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?

Freedom not Fear
November 6-9, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
Freedom not Fear is supported by a broad alliance including political parties, professional associations, trade unions, and freedom activists and hopes to join forces with NGOs from all over the world in order to build a strong alliance to oppose the threat increasing surveillance poses to freedom of speech in a digitized world and privacy in the knowledge society.

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.

December 14-15, 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.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 27-29, 2021
Brussels, Belgium
As a world-leading multidisciplinary conference CPDP 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 2021, "Enforcing Rights in a Changing World", will gather academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry, and civil society from all over the world to offer an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends.

MozFest 2021
March 2021
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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.

Wikimania 2021
Bangkok, Thailand
Wikimania 2020, now Wikimania 2021, will be the 16th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

Privacy Law Scholars 2021
June 3-4, 2021 TBC
Washington, DC, USA
Privacy Law Scholars is a paper workshop intended to improve the quality of legal scholarship in the area of privacy. Participants submit works-in-progress for workshop discussions led by commenters on the papers.

Digitising Early Childhood
June 2021
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.

CPDP LatAm 2021
Postponed from June 23-25, 2020
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The first Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection Latin America will be held in conjunction with the first Latin American Privacy Law Scholars conference and MyData's first Latin American meeting. The theme will be "Data Protection in Latin America: Democracy, Innovation, and Regulation". The organizers hope it will be a unique opportunity to bring together varied and complementary perspectives on data protection and its impact on democracy, innovation, and regulation in Latin America.

August 5-8, 2021
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Def Con is one of the oldest and best-attended hacker conferences. Each year it attracts thousands of professional and amateur security researchers.

Singularity University Global Summit 2021
August 23-25, 2021
Los Angeles, California, USA
Global Summit 2021
Singularity University's premier annual gathering brings together 2,000 changemakers for talks on AI, augmented/virtual relity, blockchain, the future of work, impact, investing, robotics and more.

World Library and Information Congress 2021
August 2021
Rotterdam, Netherlands
WLIC is the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on July 19, 2020 8:36 PM.

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