News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending September 11, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending September 11, 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: None.


FBI Discovers Fake Russian News Operation
The Russian Internet Research Agency, which interfered in the 2016 US election, created the fake left-wing news outlet PeaceData and recruited genuine but unwitting freelance journalists to write stories for it as part of an influence operation, Julia Carrie Wong reports at the Guardian. In a study, the network analysis company Graphika found that the network used AI-generated profile pictures and maintained a presence across Facebook, which found 13 accounts, two pages, and 14,000 followers, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which removed five associated accounts. Between February and August 2020 the site published more than 500 articles in English and 200 in Arabic: some original, many copied from elsewhere. At the Guardian, duped freelancer Jack Delaney describes how he was targeted and used. Underpaid workers, he concludes, are easily exploited.

Brazil Passes Data Protection Act
After a long delay, the Brazilian Senate suddenly and unexpectedly passed the General Data Protection Law, which will come into force by September 16, 2020 unless vetoed by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Alonza Martinez reports at Forbes. The new law will apply to all companies who offer goods and services in Brazil, or collect or process the data of Brazilian residents, including companies that have no physical presence in the country.

Amazon Flex Drivers Trick Work Assignment App
In an attempt to game the app that decides who gets work, Amazon Flex drivers are hanging phones on a tree near the Chicago station where deliveries originate for Amazon and its Whole Foods subsidiary, Spencer Soper reports at Bloomberg. The drivers believe the gambit raises the likelihood of getting an assignment by making their location appear closer; in some cases it masks inability to meet company requirements for contractors. In a Twitter thread, Cory Doctorow says the drivers develop these "folk theories" because they lack good information about how the system actually works, and that despite their official status as "independent contractors" in reality they have no independence. At NPR, Bobby Allyn reports that in August, a California judge ordered Uber and Lyft to consider all their drivers employees under a state law passed in 2019.

UK Information Commissioner Publishes Age-Appropriate Design Code
The UK's Age-Appropriate Design Code came into force on September 2, the Information Commissioner's Office announces on its website. Companies have a year to bring their sites and services into compliance with the code's 15 standards, which apply to any site or digital service that is likely to be accessed by a British child. A blog posting at the 5Rights Foundation explains the thinking behind the code and the privacy protection it's supposed to provide to children. At TechCrunch, Natasha Lomas summarizes the code.

US Court Rules NSA Bulk Data Collection Program Was Illegal
A US federal appeals court ruled on September 2 that the National Security Agency's now-defunct program of warrantless bulk data collection was against the law, Raphael Satter reports for Reuters. The ruling specifically credited Edward Snowden for exposing the program in 2013.

Digital Technologies Enable Belarusian Protests
Digital technologies are playing an important enabling role in the protests in Belarus despite the government's having shut down internet and telephone connections, Gregory Asmolov writes at Open Democracy. A key element in these technologies' effectiveness is the way new information made available by these technologies shifts motivations and, even with opposition leaders jailed or exiled, inspires "connective action", in which joint actions are organized without the need for any formal organization or party.


The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa
In this article at SCRIPTed, Abeba Birhane examines the impact of US corporate algorithmic colonialism across Africa. Western-developed AI is unfit for African problems, focuses on data rather than people's needs, and leaves the continent dependent on Western software and infrastructure rather than helping it develop local products.

Facebook's Indian Bias
In this article for Time magazine, Billy Perrigo explores the question of whether Facebook has displayed bias in favor of BJP, India's ruling party. The service has been used to spread hate speech and misinformation that have been blamed for helping to incite attacks on minority groups in India. Facebook has commissioned an independent report on its human rights impact in India, but activists believe Facebook is reluctant to police posts by BJP members because it doesn't want to offend the government of its largest market (328 million Indians use Facebook, and 400 million use subsidiary WhatsApp). At Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen asks if Facebook can be trusted to do any better at removing US election misinformation than it has at removing vaccine misinformation. Facebook itself raised the question by saying that in the week leading up to Election Day it will bar political advertising and block posts intended to dissuade people from voting, among other moves.

China Proposes New Internet Governance
In this article at the Journal of Cyber Policy, Stacie Hoffman, Dominique Lazanski, and Emily Taylor consider China's proposals for new technical standards that they believe could fragment the Internet and change today's multistakeholder governance into a multilateral model managed by the International Telecommunications Union. While China calls its new model "decentralized", it would in fact result in top-down centralization. In a 2012 article for New Scientist, when the multistakeholder model was still being formed, Wendy M. Grossman discusses the history of opposition to putting the ITU in charge of the internet.

Violent Technologies
In this article at Logic, Sarah T. Hamid explains the work of the Carceral Tech Resistance Network, a coalition of organizers who campaign against the design of and experimentation with technologies by police, prisons, border enforcement, and commercial partnerships, which over decades have made policing deadlier and less accountable. Among the technologies she discusses are predictive policing, CCTV, biometrics, AI, and risk profiling algorithms. The focus on identifying these technologies with surveillance, she argues, undermines CTRN's view of them as a form of violence requiring more profound change than simply making them less intrusive.

Digital Rights and Privacy in Nigeria
In this paper from the Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke describes the state of digital rights and privacy in Nigeria, where 126 million people use the internet and the information and communication sector's contribution to GDP (13.8%) surpasses that of oil and gas (8.8%). Adegoke concludes with recommendations to pass the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, repeal the Cybercrime Act 2015, educate the public on privacy issues, create an independent data protection institution, and enforce the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation.

The Dark Money Behind British Politics
In this video clip, Peter Geoghegan discusses his new book, Democracy on Leave: How Dark Money, Lobbying, and Data Are Destroying British Politics, with Open Democracy editor-in-chief Mary Fitzgerald. He began with a question he was never able to fully answer - why was the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party buying pro-Brexit ads in a free local Sunderland newspaper the day before the referendum? His quest led him through a twisty maze of think tanks whose funding sources are influencing British politics behind the scenes.


*** 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


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.

MOVED ONLINE We Robot 2020
Date TBC
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.

TOCTec Seminars
mySociety is running a series of events between September and November on open data (September 22), digitising parliaments (October 20), and the climate crisis (November, day TBC).

October 19-25, 2020
The theme of this year's Open Access Week is "Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion". Building on our discussions in 2018 ("Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge") and 2019 ("Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge"), 2020 marks the third consecutive year the theme for International Open Access Week will focus on the urgent need for action on equity and inclusion, underscoring the urgency of continuing to center this work.


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 considered 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. All events are posted on Vimeo soon after they conclude (

Civic Hall
New York's Civic Hall has moved a number of events online. Recent events include a session 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
The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology's online seminars on emerging legal issues at the intersection of digital media, freedom of speech, and law include AI, privacy law, technology law as a vehicle for anti-racism, and a look ahead to the next telecommunications act.

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
Singularity University's upcoming events include reimagining primary education and a series of executive programs aimed at various countries.


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.

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.

CANCELED 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.

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.

POSTPONED International Open Data Conference
New date TBC
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 2-4, 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?

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.

May 14-15, 2021
Chicago, Illinois, 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.

TILTing Perspectives
May 19-21, 2021
Tilburg, the Netherlands
TILTing perspectives 2021 brings together, for the seventh 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.

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 reality, 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 September 11, 2020 1:17 PM.

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