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 focuses on a decision by Google to alter the way it calculates its search results.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
Google to downgrade search rankings of copyright-infringing sites
The LINX Public Affairs blog reports on Google’s announcement that it will alter its search results so that websites which its data on takedown notices shows are frequently accused of copyright infringement will appear further down the results: “critics have raised concerns about the implications of such ‘voluntary best practices’ for competition and the rule of law.”
Nepal: Government websites compromised by malicious code
Websense reports that two websites run by the government of Nepal have been compromised by the insertion of malicious code that attempts to install covert backdoors on the computer systems of site visitors. In the course of their investigations, Websense found links between this attack and other recent attacks on Amnesty International and the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies.
Amazon ends crowdfunding payment support for ebook site
paidContent reports that Amazon has removed its support for processing crowdfunded payments from eBook site Unglue.it, effectively halting the latter’s efforts to raise money to release books under Creative Commons licenses. A spokesperson for Amazon cited regulatory issues around providing money services as the reason for the move.
Malaysia: Blackout protest against internet censorship legislation
Global Voices reports on an online blackout protest staged by citizens in Malaysia this week against two recent legal amendments that deal with content on the internet deemed illicit or harmful.
African civil society groups call for online free expression guarantees
A consortium of Africa-focused civil society groups including the Association for Progress Communications (APC) have concluded a two-day workshop in Nairobi with a formal statement that, among other things, calls for African states to promote affordable access to the internet, and use their positions on the UN Human Rights Council to affirm free expression rights online.
Leaked proposals could alter fair use rules
Ars Technica reports on leaked proposals put forward by the United States in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty negotiation process that could narrow the scope of fair use exceptions to copyright law.
Brazil: Vote on internet bill of rights delayed
The Daily Dot reports that a parliamentary vote on Brazil’s landmark internet bill of rights the “Marco Civil,” scheduled to take place last week, has been delayed. Officials gave no reason for the delay.
How terrorists (really) encrypt
This detailed presentation from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell includes extensive evidence from anti-terror cases about how terrorists conceal their communications with one another: “The spectre of terrorism networks hiding behind unbreakable encryption has been a war cry for security agencies, supporting their claim for [action against cryptography] for 20 years.”
The sounds that precede a shot rang out
In this blog post for the London Review of Books, Evgeny Morozov details how sensor data, citizen-led surveillance and historical data converge in the technology touted by the latest victim of WikiLeaks, TrapWire Inc, and asks how far our appetite for automated crime detection will go.
Open Access: will global developments inspire the US?
This feature in the Chronicle for Higher Education charts policy developments supporting public access to publicly-funded research in Europe and asks whether they will spur the Obama administration to respond positively to pressure to enact similar policies in the United States.
Social networking and ethics
The open-access Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has published a new entry on Social Networking and Ethics, including a section on “Democracy, Freedom, and Social Networking Services in the Public Sphere.”
The risks and rewards of a health data commons
O’Reilly Tech Radar interview John Wilbanks, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and director of the Consent to Research Project (as well as former leader of Creative Commons’ Science Commons project) about a future in which people might be able to donate their health data to science the way they donate their organs today.
Video: The Cynefin Framework
This short video demonstrates a framework for making decisions that takes the basic context of any problem or issue (simple, complicated, complex, chaotic) as a starting point for deciding how to tackle it. Of particular interest is the way the framework is able to explain the contrasting approaches to problems employed by bureaucrats, experts and politicians, based on the domains in which they routinely operate.