News Digest: New Internet Surveillance Plan Goes Live in Russia

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 is the introduction of a new internet surveillance regime in Russia.

Russia: New internet surveillance plan goes live
The BBC reports that Russia’s internet blacklist law, passed in July, comes into effect this week. The law was passed in the name of protecting children from harmful content. In a special report for Wired, Agentura.ru co–founders Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan analyse the technology that sits behind the new law and the bad news it spells for political speech on the Russian net.
Report | Analysis

France: Google threatens media ban
Google has threatened to exclude French media sites from its search results if French legislators pass a law that would make search engines pay to display news extracts in their search results. The BBC, New York Times and PaidContent supply background to the story, detailing similar developments in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Brazil.
BBC | New York Times | PaidContent

US: Supreme Court considers challenge to warrantless wiretapping law
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports from a hearing at the US Supreme Court, which this week began considering whether to permit a legal challenge to laws enacted in 2008 that enable government agencies to surveil U.S. citizens without individual judicial warrant and grant retrospective immunity from prosecution to telecommunications firms who provided the U.S. government with information about their customers’ communications. The case sparked an editorial in the New York Times this week. Background to the case is provided by ACLU.
EFF | New York Times | ACLU

Spain: Right to Information group to pay costs for failed request
Freedominfo.org reports that Access Info Europe have been ordered by the Spanish Supreme Court to pay €3,000 to Spain’s Ministry of Justice to cover legal fees relating to a lengthy court case Access Info brought in 2007 to secure access to information about the Spanish government’s efforts to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption and the OECD Anti–Bribery Convention.

Bulgaria: Banks launch legal action against leaks website
Forbes reports on a legal case being brought against BalkanLeaks by four Bulgarian banks, following the whistle–blowing website’s publication of U.S. diplomatic cables supplied by WikiLeaks that allege money laundering and corrupt practices in the Bulgarian finance industry.

Silencing SMS: The anatomy of “mCurfews” in India
In this post for the LSE blog, Vibodh Parthasarathi and Arshad Amanullah from New Delhi’s Centre for Culture, Media and Governance place the reaction of the Indian public to their government’s recent attempts to curb ethnic violence by imposing restrictions on SMS messaging (so–called “mCurfews”) in multiple contexts: the country’s media landscape, its regulatory history and its SMS culture.

The end of geography?
This week the Economist published a special report on Technology and Geography. Highlights include “Open–air computers,” a feature on smart cities and the rendering of urban spaces into vast data factories, and “The new local,” an examination of how the physical and digital world are becoming increasingly intertwined.
Introduction | Open–air computers | The new local

Facebook: I want my friends back!
Richard Metzger of the Dangerous Minds blog exposes what he calls “The biggest bait and switch in history”: Facebook’s new policy to limit the number of people it updates on a business’s activity to 15 percent of the people who have agreed to receive such updates, unless that business engages with the new, and expensive, “Promoted Posts” Facebook service.

How a tax–dodging clampdown will aid open–government commitments
Eric Gutierrez of Christian Aid argues that the open government movement should engage with longstanding efforts to unearth the details of multinational tax–dodging and globalised tax evasion.

Case study of the Kenya Open Data Initiative
Rushda Majeed’s case study of the cultural and legislative changes that took place in Kenya, resulting in the country’s first Open Data Initiative.

Book: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit
This book is a practical guide to the tools and techniques for measuring impact online in the nonprofit sector. It promises: “using these tools will not only improve a nonprofit’s decision making process but will produce results–driven metrics for staff and stakeholders.”

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