Wendy M. Grossman: June 2020 Archives

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 12, 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: Data & Society, EDRi, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Engine Room, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property of American University's Washington School of Law.


Hangzhou Plans to Expand Health App
The Chinese city of Hangzhou, the first to launch a health-tracking app as part of its coronavirus response, is planning to make a more comprehensive version of the app a permanent "firewall to enhance people's health and immunity", Helen Davidson reports at the Guardian. The plan is to integrate the data with more health indicators to develop individual index rankings. Today, the app offers a QR color code to indicate each person's virus status and determines where the individual is allowed to travel; the future version would score each person out of 100 based on medical records, test results, levels of activity, and lifestyle choices such as smoking.

Australian Court Holds Media Companies Liable for Third-Party Facebook Comments
The New South Wales court Supreme Court ruled that media companies are responsible for defamatory comments made on their Facebook pages, Agence France Presse reports at Straits Times. Lawyers for the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, and Sky News argued that media companies could not be expected to filter the thousands of comments posted on their Facebook pages, and called the ruling a"real and present danger to journalism". At The Conversation, law lecturer Michael Douglas discusses the case, noting that publishers may have alternatives for escaping liability and that the case can still be appealed.

US Book Publishers Sue Internet Archive over Open Library
Four of the largest US book publishers are suing the Internet Archive over its Open Library project, which for ten years has operated under a concept the Archive calls "controlled digital lending", Timothy B. Lee reports at Ars Technica. In response to the closure of physical libraries, the Archive lifted a key restriction: the requirement to wait on a list until a book is "returned" before borrowing it. The change has led publishers to call the Archive's self-dubbed National Emergency Library "willful digital piracy on an industrial scale. At the National Writers Union, Edward Hasbrouck explains that the focus on whole ebooks is too limited; the Open Library design interferes with many other opportunities for authors to exploit and profit from their own work. The more important harms, he writes (and explains in a video clip) are clickstream diversion and undermining of revenues from digital rights.

UK Calls for Ten-Country 5G Club
The UK government is pushing the US to form a club of ten countries - the G7 nations plus Australia, South Korea, and India - to develop its own 5G technology and reduce their dependence on China's Huawei, Dmitry Zaks reports at Asia Times. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed officials to develop plans to cut Huawei out of Britain's broadband network by 2023; in the meantime, the Chinese company is allowed to build up to 35% of the network's infrastructure.

Blind SA Brings Case to Force President to Sign Copyright Law
Blind SA has applied to the South African Constitutional Court to accuse the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, of having failed in his constitutional duty by not signing the Copyright Amendment Bill into law, Linda Daniels reports at the Daily Maverick. The bill was referred to Ramaphosa for signature in March 2019. When signed, it will provide a copyright exception that would allow works to be transformed into accessible formats; no provision for disabilities exists in the country's 1978 Copyright Act.

French Court Rules Surveillance Drones Illegal
The highest French administrative court, the Conseil d'√Čtat, has ruled it illegal for drones equipped with cameras to fly low enough to monitor and capture images of people in the street who may or may not respect the lockdown rules, La Quadrature du Net reports at EDRi. The action was part of LQDN's Technopolice campaign, which will continue to highlight and combat the deployment of new police technologies without the necessary legal safeguards; many other devices are still being used without a legal framework.


Helping Civil Society Organizations Adapt to New Vulnerabilities
In this blog posting, the Engine Room offers support and guidelines for civil society organizations who are being forced to rethink their objectives, goals, and working practices quickly in the face of government restrictions and new social norms. In this "digital emergency", adopting new methods for interactions and advocacy may make activists more vulnerable to exploitation and traceability.

Scientific Journal Calls for End of Peer Review
In this blog posting, former neuroscience researcher Alex Dance critiques an article from the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science that proposes getting rid of journal-mediated prepublication peer review, removing journals' role as gatekeepers but retaining their role as curators. Worse than the journals' 35% profit margin in journal subscriptions, Dance writes, is the stranglehold on young scientists' careers exerted by the fact that promotions and prestige depend on publication.

Trump Administration Mulls Open Access Future
In this article at Science Magazine, Jeffrey Brainard speculates whether the Trump administration will act to establish a mandate requiring every scholarly article produced with US government funding be made immediately free to all. The deadline for public comments on a request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Police on ways to expand public access was May 6.

Facebook Employees Protest Zuckerberg Refusal to Curb Trump Postings
In this article for the New York Times, Kara Swisher discusses Mark Zuckerberg's absolute power and the walkout by some Facebook employees after he refused to take down inflammatory postings by US president Donald Trump referencing the widespread protests following the murder of George Floyd. Separately, the Guardian reports that more than 140 scientists funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have sent the Facebook CEO an open letter arguing that he should not be letting Trump use the site to spread misinformation and incendiary statements. The Center for Countering Digital Hate has compiled a page comparing the promises the technology giants have made with respect to removing coronavirus misinformation.

Cuba's Web Blocking Policy Is "Incoherent"
In this forensic report, the Qurium Media Foundation finds that Cuba's website blocking policy is "incoherent" due to lack of procedures and technical expertise, even though the Cuban government is well-known for blocking critical content. Both the alternative news site CubaNet and the LGBT rights portal Tremenda Nota were most recently blocked in February 2019, when the government published a Decree-Law prohibiting the dissemination on the internet of "information contrary to the social interest, morals, good customs, and the integrity of persons".

Amazon's "Merchandising Placement" Pushes Out Competitors' Products
In this article at Pro Publica, Renee Dudley documents the new Amazon strategy of placing its own-label products in the top row of "sponsored" products that appears above search results, elbowing out competitors' listings, sacrificing short-term revenue from those slots in favor of building up its private brands for the future. Critics argue that the move is a clear antitrust violation and contradicts Amazon's long-held claim to always put the customer first; Amazon calls it "merchandising placement" rather than advertising and says it's a normal part of retail.


*** 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 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.

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


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.

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.
Databites: https://datasociety.net/library/design-justice/
Network Power Hours: https://datasociety.net/library/community-and-accessibility-online/

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.

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 online presentations and discussions of digital privacy, democracy, and data exploitation. Recent topics have included a proposed law to ensure that contact tracing apps are surrounded with privacy-protecting safeguards, the effect of the pandemic on democratic institutions, and the NHS deal with Palantir.

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
next:Work is a four-week series of digital events on the changing jobs, careers, and workforce of the future.

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).


POSTPONED TO December 14-15, 2020 WEIS
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.

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.

CANCELED 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.

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.

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, IL, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Wendy M. Grossman in June 2020.

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