The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week. This week’s top story reports on the decision of privacy regulators in six European countries to take action against Google.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
Europe: Google in sights of privacy regulators
Egypt: Blogger arrested for Twitter mention
Global Voices reports on widespread ridicule in the Egyptian Twittersphere after the public prosecutor issued an arrest warrant in the name of prominent blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, for being mentioned in a tweet by someone with the Twitter handle “Princess Joumana.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) gives further background to the story, stating those who issued the warrant “apparently thought the interaction on social media was a conspiracy involving a real princess,” and relating previous incidents of harassment suffered by the blogger.
Global Voices | EFF
Behind the news: Global “internet slowdown”
Widespread news reports that large–scale cyber–attacks rooted in a dispute between two internet firms were causing a global internet slowdown are given a skeptical treatment by Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle—egged on by the Guardian’s Heather Brooke, who labels the reports “shoddy.” Meanwhile, Richard A. Steenbergen, one of the technical operators at the heart of the story gives his take: “When 300 Gbps of new traffic suddenly shows up and all wants to go to one location, someone is going to have a bad day. But, having a bad day on the internet is nothing new.” Writing for Ars Technica, Peter Bright provides a history of the dispute which led to the attacks.
Report | Biddle | Brooke | Steenbergen | Bright
Big Oil’s Wikipedia Clean-up
This long piece for ZDNet by Violet Blue sifts through the edit histories of various articles about oil companies on Wikipedia to uncover weaknesses in the online encyclopedia’s community and their response to “well–meaning” corporate PR.
Governing Algorithms: A provocation
Ahead of NYU’s Governing Algorithms conference next month, Solon Barocas, Sophie Hood and Malte Ziewitz publish “39 provocations” they hope will help this gathering of scholars interrogate computation, automation, and control.
How an unregulated digital currency became a billion dollar market
Writing for TechCrunch, Rip Empson provides a beginner’s guide to BitCoin, the open source, peer-to-peer digital currency. Reuters’ Felix Salmon provides a more skeptical view of the currency, and explains the two sides to a coin that, unlike any other, is built not on trust but mistrust.
Empson | Salmon
Design thinking in Cape Town
MySociety developer Dave Whiteland gives an account of the process of applying “design thinking” to technological civic engagement projects, after watching developers meet with experts in the practice in order to create a new freedom of information platform for South Africa based on mySociety software.
Report: Nonprofit technology assistance
The Non-Profit Technology Network has released a report surveying seven organizations providing technical assistance to nonprofits, to find out the sorts of groups and issues they were working with. United States-only, and skewed against open source–focused and technology-neutral providers (as observed in a follow-up post by Michelle Murrain), the report nonetheless provides interesting data on how a sub-section of nonprofit tech gets done in the United States.
Report | Murrain
Behind the scenes of a massively collaborative journalistic investigation
The Nieman Journalism Lab reports on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ expose of offshore tax havens, and how work to expose tax evaders across 170 countries has led to “a major international collaboration that has to be one of the largest in journalism history.”
Data visualization: Drone strikes in Pakistan
This beautiful and horrifying set of data visualizations by Pitch Interactive powerfully relates the human impact of escalating drone strikes in Pakistan. The visualizations are based on data curated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Video: 21st Century Civics
In this keynote for Democratic Futures 2013, Ethan Zuckerman shares his current thinking on civic engagement in the 21st century. A blog post accompanies the talk, urging readers to “get beyond distinctions between politics and activism and think about agency—our goal is to help people bring about the change they want to see in the world.”
Talk (begins at 0:22:45) | Post
Audio: Making News
This half–hour radio show, the first in a three part series of programs about news journalism, interrogates the process of “news-making” itself, and examines how journalists decide which events and ideas get reported, and which remain on the fringes of public consciousness.