News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 14, 2021

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 14, 2021

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: Article 19.


Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Trump Suspension
Facebook's Oversight Board has ruled that the company was right to suspend former US president Donald Trump's account, but wrong to hand out an "indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension", Kari Paul reports at the Guardian. Critics complain that the board has failed to address any of the important issues. On an episode of Ben Wittes' and Kate Klonick's In Lieu of Fun, Eli Sugarman, content director for the Oversight Board, gives an inside view of the board's workings. At the Guardian, Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media, says the ruling shows the board can't consider the larger context and was designed to ignore Facebook's impact on the world. At BuzzFeed, Craig Silverman, Ryan Mac, and Jane Lytvynenko report that although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress that during the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection the company had made its service "inhospitable to those who might do harm", an internal report published a week later found the opposite. Facebook's emphasis on deleting fake accounts and inauthentic behavior prevented it from effectively stopping real people planning action. At BuzzFeed, Ryan Mac reports that for months after it banned violent extremist groups, Facebook's preference system went on allowing advertisers to target people interested in militias. At the recent Social Media Summit (video online), experts such as Rappler founder Maria Ressa, Fordham Assistant Professor Zephyr Teachout, Algorithms of Oppression author Safiya Noble, and MEP Marietje Schaake attempt to answer convenor Sinan Aral's desire for solutions.

India Censors Social Media Posts Critical of Covid Response
At the request of the Indian government, which is facing a catastrophic second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram removed about 100 posts critical of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for the resignation of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Karen Deep Singh and Paul Mozur report at the New York Times. At The Verge, Kim Lyons notes that under an Indian law enacted in February, Twitter employees could receive jail sentences for refusing to comply with restrictions on posting material the government considers defamatory or that could incite violence.

China and Russia Spread Covid Misinformation
Russia and China are behind efforts to spread malign and subversive information on covid using a wide variety of channels including social media, Miriam Matthews, Katya Migacheva, and Ryan Andrew Brown find in a new report from RAND, part of its Countering Truth Decay initiative. In its efforts, China sought to enhance its own reputation, while Russia aimed to destabilize the United States. Public health messaging needs to take account of the impact of these efforts.

Kenya, Uganda: Covid Surveillance Reduces Privacy Rights
Covid-related surveillance measures such as "track and trace" in Kenya and Uganda have reduced people's rights to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, and access to information, Article 19 finds in a new report. Article 19 recommend a review of all such measures and the introduction of oversight, safeguards, and a ban on biometric mass surveillance in public spaces.

TikTok Sued Over Children's Privacy
Acting on behalf of a 12-year-old girl, the former Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has filed a legal claim in the High Court of England and Wales against TikTok and parent company ByteDance for illegally collecting millions of children's private information in the UK and Europe and sharing it with unknown third parties for profit, Abrar Al-Heeti reports at CNN. The claim website explains that this is a representative action on behalf of children in the UK and Europe who have used the service since May 25, 2018, the day GDPR came into force and legalized such suits.

US Senator Amy Klobuchar Assesses US Antitrust Movements
In this article at Ars Technica, Steven Levy interviews Democratic US Senator for Minnesota Amy Klobuchar about her new book, Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. Klobuchar, who chaired the recent hearing on the power of Apple and Google and is co-sponsoring a law to limit the market power of big companies, has 44 recommendations for reform. In a second interview with Martin Pengelly for the Guardian, Kobuchar assesses the antitrust attitudes of the current Supreme Court.


China Releases Second Draft of Data Protection Law
In this article at Stanford University's Digi China,  Alexa Lee, Samm Sacks, Rogier Creemers, Mingli Shi, and Graham Webster find four new developments in the second draft of China's Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), which has been released for public comment and will be read alongside the second draft of the closely-related Data Security Law. PIPL is generally in alignment with the EU's GDPR; it establishes self-regulatory obligations and regulators for platforms, adds new penalties for providing data to foreign authorities without permission, creates a leading data privacy role for the Chinese state cybersecurity and information department, and addresses post-mortem privacy rights.

Understanding the Climate Technology Sector
In this blog posting, Evan Meagher discusses what he's learned from five years of work in the climate technology sector. Trust is crucial; neither capital, nor sales strategies, nor exit strategies work the same as in the traditional venture capital world; and policy and regulatory reform are larger sources of leverage than technology. The pace is slow, and the legacy is powerful.

Deplatforming Misogyny
In this report from Canada's Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, technology and human rights lawyer and researcher Cynthia Khoo examines the role of digital platforms in facilitating gender-based violence, abuse, and harassment (TFGBV) and discusses whether and how platforms should be held accountable. Building on the report, Democratic Expression recommends legislation to require platforms to act responsibly, create an enforcement regulator, set up a social media council and an e-tribunal to expedite dispute resolution, ensure platform transparency,  and devise a mechanism to remove content that poses imminent threat to a person. In a paper for Supreme Court Law Review, Hilary Young and Emily Laidlaw propose a revenge porn tort for Canada. In a video clip, Laidlaw, Khoo, and Molly Reynolds discuss technology-facilitated violence and how to hold platforms accountable.

Deepfake Geography
In this article at the University of Washington, Kim Eckart summarizes a new study of "deepfake geography", which uses AI to falsify satellite images. Assistant professor of geography Bo Zhao examines the algorithmic methods used to add non-existent landscape features to satellite images and calls for a system of geographic fact-checking.

Devil Strip Reimagines Local News
In this article at The Connector on Substack, Micah L. Sifry profiles Devil Strip, which is reimagining local news in Akron, Ohio and its role in civic renewal. A thousand-member cooperative with a nine-member governing board, the site focuses less on the attention-getting reporting common to commercial business models and more on building community.

Gates Divorce Shakes Up World of Philanthropy
In this article at the New York Times, Nicholas Kulish, Rebecca R. Ruiz and David Gelles examine the consequences for the philanthropic world of Bill and Melinda Gates' recently-announced divorce. Insiders say they had already carved out separate paths for their individual interests within their joint foundation, which has grown to play a significant role in global public health. The announcement comes at a time when the foundation also needs to find new trustees.


*** 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


TICTec 2021
March-May 2021
In lieu of its usual two-day annual conference, mySociety will instead host a series of short, energetic, and to-the-point online TICTeC "Show and Tell" presentations that will feature speakers from around the world talking about the impacts of digital tools intended to empower citizens.

Inbots Conference
May 18-20, 2021
Online from EU
This event from Inclusive Robotics for a Better Society invites and involves experts from academia, industry, policy makers and EC representatives to give talks and promote the acceptance of robotics in society. This event will serve to promote and disseminate activities and final results of the INBOTS project, as well as to prepare a future road map.

TILTing Perspectives
May 19-21, 2021
Online from 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.

Tackling Technology-Facilitated Violence
May 25-26, 2021
Online from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Osgoode Law School at York University and the eQuality Project at the University of Ottawa present a two-day conference centered on technology-facilitated violence. TFV poses significant public policy challenges. Social science evidence suggests that women and girls are disproportionately affected by TFV, undermining gender equality and women's full participation in society. This two-day event will bring together experienced and emerging scholars, legal practitioners, policymakers, and civil society organizations from around the world to share and create knowledge on TFV and the particular challenges it presents.

Privacy Law Scholars 2021
June 3-4, 2021
Online from 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.

June 7-11, 2021
AccessNow's tenth RightsCon will bring together business leaders, policy makers, general counsels, technologists, advocates, academics, government representatives, and journalists from around the world to tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and technology.

CPDP LatAm 2021
July 2021
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. The conference will especially focus on data protection at a time of social emergency - COVID-19, 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.

SOUPS 2021
August 8-10, 2021
Vancouver, BC, Canada
The 17th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human-computer interaction, security, and privacy. It will be colocated with USENIX 2021.

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 change-makers for talks on AI, augmented/virtual reality, blockchain, the future of work, impact, investing, robotics and more.

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

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).

Modern Law Review: Are We Owned?
October 8, 2021
Stirling, Scotland, UK
The Modern Law Review will present a one-day conference, "Are We Owned? A Multidisciplinary and Comparative Conversation on Intellectual Property in the Algorithmic Society". The conference will discuss the future of autonomy as the terms of service that apply to phones and computers become embedded in "smart" physical objects throughout our environment and within our bodies.

September 6-10, 2021
Online from Geneva, Switzerland
The Geneva Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication will focus on     scholarly publishing, digital research data, reproducibility and research integrity, diversity, inclusivity and collaboration, and the future of open science.

ALPSP Annual Conference
September 15-17, 2021
Online from UK
The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers' annual conference provides a friendly forum to share information, learn about new initiatives and engage in open discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing the scholarly publishing community. The main themes for 2021 are "Discoverability and Accessibility" and "The Great Reset: Scenario planning for life after COVID".

Open Education Global
September 27-October 1, 2021
Each day of the 2021 2021 conference program will have webinars comprised of five presentations and interactive asynchronous activities focused on that day's action area. Sessions may be in any of the six official languages of the United Nations - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, or Spanish.

October 8-9, 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.


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. Late-2020 events included discussions of regulating for algorithm accountability and "almost-future" AI.

Bace Cybersecurity Institute
Recent webinars sponsored by Bace Security include a "fireside" discussion with prominent women in security, security problems in online voting, methods for privacy-protecting digital contact tracing, advanced botnet researcher, and using marketing techniques to improve cybersecurity communication.

Benchmark Initiative
The Benchmark Initiative is running regular events on topics such as the use of location data to end the global sanitation crisis, 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.

The Communication and Media Institute (CAMRI) at London's University of Westminster hosts a series of online events presenting the work of sociologists, historians, economists, and activists studying online developments around the world. Spring 2021 offerings include a reassessment of the 2010 Arab Spring and studies of internal communication connections within the Global South, the changing role of public service media, decolonizing the curriculum, and using Facebook to reduce polarization.

Data & Society
Data & Society has moved its weekly Databites and Network Power Hours programs into online interactive formats. Its first event for 2021 examines digital technology and democratic theory.

The Research Group on Data, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Law & Society is presenting a series of discussions on topics such as robotics (Frank Pasquale, April 1), rights, technology, and society (Anne-Sophie Hulin, May 19), and justifiability and contestability of algorithmic decision systems (Daniel Le Métayer, June 1).

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 Chinese-US relations after the presidential election, and the future technology struggle.

Geneva Internet Platform
The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), a Swiss initiative run by DiploFoundation is organizing monthly briefings on internet governance, providing updates and news and projections of how they will influence future developments.

In Lieu of Fun
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St John's University School of Law who specializes in online speech and governance, and Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and co-founder and chief editor of Lawfare, hold a nightly discussion of current affairs, law, politics, and digital media with invited guests. Daily at 5pm Eastern Time.

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 anticipating future pandemics and a discussion of Michael Baxter's new book, Living in the Age of the Jerk. Event recordings are made available soon after meetings conclude.

Open Data Institute
The ODI's Friday lunchtime (London time) talks have moved online. These one-hour talks cover topics such as data ethics, social equity, trust, and converting weather into music.

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.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on May 19, 2021 12:00 PM.

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