Wendy M. Grossman: October 2020 Archives

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 9, 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: IFLA, Wikimedia Foundation.


US President Donald Trump Is Largest Driver of Online Misinformation
A Cornell study finds that US president Donald Trump is the single biggest driver of the "infodemic" of misinformation about the coronavirus, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland report at the New York Times. Most frequently linked to Trump was "miracle cures", including his promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments. At the Guardian, Dan Sabbagh reports that the UK's chief of defence staff has warned that Russia is spreading disinformation about coronavirus vaccines in order to destabilize countries around the world. At The Verge, Adi Robertson summarizes a working paper led by Yochai Benkler at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center that finds that the traditional media are the main vector in the campaign mounted by Trump and the Republican Party to spread rumors associating mail-in ballots with voter fraud, though social media is an amplifier. At the Anchorage Daily News, Isaac Stanley-Becker reports that a pro-Trump youth group pays teens to post troll farm-like messages claiming that mail-in ballots will lead to electoral fraud, that coronavirus numbers were artificially inflated, and "Don't trust Dr. Fauci". In a video clip for CNN, Donie O'Sullivan finds it impossible to dissuade supporters at a Trump rally from believing the false content they see on their Facebook feeds. Finally, Kris Holt reports at Engadget that a group of 25 experts including Roger McNamee and Carole Cadwalladr has formed the Real Facebook Oversight Board as a real-time response to "counter the spin Facebook is putting out".

US House Judiciary Committee Democrats Issue Antitrust Report
In a 449-page report, the Democrats on the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee have laid out a detailed case, compiled over 16 months, that Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have become monopolies whose "gatekeeper power" must be restricted and regulated, Shannon Bond reports at NPR. The report recommends strengthening antitrust laws in order to restore competition in the digital economy. The report, which has not yet been endorsed by any of the committee's Republican members, will be subject a vote when Congress returns post-election.

Russian Draft Law Would Criminalize Web Address Cryptographic Protocols
Russia's Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media (Minkomksvyaz) has published a draft law that would criminalize the use of the cryptographic protocols TLS, ESNI, DNS over HTTPS, and DNS over TLS, all of which encrypt the website addresses users visit, Justin Sherman reports at Slate. The law cites the need to enforce information control laws as justification. At Them, Matt Baume reports that a new report from the Russian LGBT network claims that administrators are forcing Russian teachers to check the personal social networking pages of students aged ten to 17 for violations of the 2013 law banning the spread of information on "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors.

Open Access Both Helps and Harms African Scientific Publishing
Open access is both a solution and a problem for African scientific publishing, Juliet Nabyonga-Orem, James Avoka Asaman, Thomas Nyirenda, and Seye Abimbola write at the British Medical Journal. Open access fees are often beyond the financial reach of African scientists, further marginalizing an already under-represented group. In the interests of greater parity, support for fees must be built into research grants, capacity to pay should be considered in designing discounts and waiver policies, and African journals should be archived in frequently searched electronic databases. At Vice, Maddie Bender interviews the authors to add context. An IFLA analysis proposes ten principles for the African Continental free trade agreement to ensure access to information for African development.

China Blocks Wikimedia Foundation from WIPO Observer Status
China has blocked the Wikimedia Foundation's application for observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization, the foundation reports on its blog. In a last-minute objection, China claimed Wikimedia's application was incomplete and suggested that the foundation's Taiwan chapter was politically active. The application will be reconsidered at a WIPO meeting in 2021.

Facebook Suspends Environmental Accounts
A week after launching an initiative it claimed would counter misinformation about climate science on its platform, Facebook has suspended hundreds of accounts linked to indigenous, climate, social justice, and environmental groups including Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote, and Rainforest Action Network, Oliver Milman reports at the Guardian. The suspended people and groups were all involved in a May 2019 Facebook event that targeted the US investment firm KKR & Company, which is backing British Columbia's Coastal GasLink pipeline.


Egypt: Data Protection or Data Control?
In this blog posting at Access Now, Marwa Fatafta asks whether Egypt's new data protection law, which comes into effect on October 15, offers data protection or data control. While the law offers protections similar to European data protection laws, it has also carved out exemptions for the Central Bank of Egypt and the national security authorities, which have used the 2018 cybercrime law to escalate online censorship. The law also fails to provide for independent oversight, as the board it creates will be appointed by the Minister of ICT and must include representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internet, and the intelligence services. At Al Jazeera, Fatafta offers examples of how the cybercrime law has been used.

Virtual We Robot
On this page, the organizers of this year's We Robot conference have posted  discussions of the papers on robots, law, and policy that made up this year's virtual event. Of particular interest are "Beyond 'In the Loop,'", on designing meaningful human control in hybrid robot-human systems;. tThe panel session on legal liability and accountability, and "People, Packets, and Fairness", which foresees a future of intermediary control over mobility. At the net.wars blog, Wendy M. Grossman provides an overview of the event.

Open Sharing of Scientific Research Should Stay
In this blog posting at the LSE, representatives of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories  argue that the rapid publication and sharing of scientific research that COVID-19 has brought should remain permanent after the pandemic ends. We can, they say, shift our resources towards open, community-based infrastructures and services while integrating peer review and evaluation services.

The Hidden Costs of Streaming Music
In this book review at The New Yorker, Alex Ross  surveys the hidden costs of streaming music as outlined in Kyle Devine's recent book, Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music. In 2010, streaming and downloading music generated 40 million more kilos of greenhouse gas emissions than all music formats combined in 2000. Other overlooked costs include the exploitative labor regimes that produce smartphone and computer components, the drop in royalties for working musicians, the energy demands of servers, and the mass surveillance that powers the streams' advertising and recommendation engines, all part of the "industrial reality" Devine finds behind the internet's seemingly effortless delivery.

Data Justice and COVID-19
In this video clip at the Ada Lovelace Institute, Vidushi Marda (Article 19), Karen Yeung (University of Birmingham), and Linnet Taylor (University of Tilburg) introduce the book Data Justice and COVID-19, which is available for free download. The book includes 38 essays from global authors on topics such as pandemic governance, privacy and contact tracing, and reining in humanitarian technology, along with reports from countries on every continent.

The Social Dilemma
In this blog posting at LibrarianShipwreck, Z.M.L. argues that Jeff Orlowski's new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, is just as manipulative as the technology the film's Silicon Valley insiders confess to having created because even the (all-white) critics fail to consider dislodging the status quo. Z.M.L. goes on to list numerous other commentators offering deeper and more diverse perspectives. In a posting at the Technollama blog, Andres Guademuz complains that the film treats the internet as a purely American medium and says it's time to decolonize the internet in the interests of adopting values that matter to the rest of the world.


*** 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 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 (https://vimeo.com/user40391998/videos).

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.
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.

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.


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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About this Archive

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

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