News Digest: ACTA “Called Back From the Dead”

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 describes draft legislation to the Canadian Parliament designed to comply with the controversial ACTA, which was rejected last year.

You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.

ACTA “called back from the dead”
Michael Geist blogs about the introduction at the end of last week of draft legislation to the Canadian Parliament designed to comply with the controversial Anti–Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), warning of “a new U.S.–led effort to revive the discredited treaty.” ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament last year following a grassroots campaign against it driven by the various threats its provisions pose to privacy and free expression online.

Russia: Google sues authorities over video ban
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google–owned YouTube has brought a case in a Moscow court against a Russian consumer protection agency after it blacklisted a video under new internet censorship laws brought into effect in Russia at the end of last year. The case has been brought, according to a Google statement, because the company “[did] not believe that the goal of the law was to limit access to videos that are clearly intended to entertain viewers.”

U.S.: Bradley Manning takes full responsibility for government leaks
The Wired Threat Level blog reports on the statement made by Bradley Manning to a military tribunal last week in which he took full responsibility for providing classified material to WikiLeaks. In the statement, which lasted over an hour, Manning described his pseudonymous online exchanges with a representative of WikiLeaks thought to be either Julian Assange or Daniel Domscheit–Berg, but made it clear that no pressure was put on him to hand over the documents—a detail that will be significant in any case the U.S. is considering bringing against WikiLeaks itself. The New York Times provides more details for the story.
Wired | NY Times

Iceland: internet filters considered
The Telegraph reports that politicians in Iceland are considering legislation to introduce internet filters, in the name of stopping Icelanders from viewing pornography: “ A law forbidding the printing and distribution of pornography is already in force in Iceland but it has yet to be updated to cover the internet.” The news is surprising given the Icelandic Parliament's previous stand on internet freedom.

The openness of Open Access
This essay by Creative Commons founding board member Michael W.
Carroll in the New England Journal of Medicine stresses the importance to the open access movement of using licences which permit the re–appropriation and reuse of research. The essay is timely in the context of current debates among U.S. lawmakers on the provisions of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a bill aimed at promoting public access to publicly–funded research.

Reflections on Aaron Swartz
Journalist Quinn Norton writes in the Atlantic about her personal relationship with Aaron Swartz, the digital rights activist who committed suicide earlier this year, and about how it felt to be caught up in the federal investigation against him that is thought to have contributed to his death. Meanwhile, in the New Republic, Noam Scheiber paints a picture of Swartz as an autodidact too young to bear the burdens placed on him by his talent and ambitions for the world. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Ludlow argues that the actions which led to his federal investigation were in fact “an attempt to help rectify a harm that began long ago.” And in the New Yorker, Larissa MacFarquhar uses fragments from Swartz's blog and FBI case files to create a reconstructed psychodrama of the civic hacker's life.
Atlantic | New Republic | Chronicle of Higher Ed | New Yorker

China's internet censors for sale
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien blogs about China's “dark PR” agencies which use the infrastructure that the Chinese authorities have built for political censorship to bribe internet censors to delete unfavourable commentary on Chinese forums and microblogging sites, on behalf of private companies: “This is just one of the many reasons why EFF stands so firmly against government censorship of the internet in all its forms.”

Can they patent your genes?
This essay in the New York Review is an excellent introduction to the momentous issues at stake in the ongoing U.S. legal action surrounding patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with breast cancer.

More from “To Save Everything, Click Here”
Evgeny Morozov's new book on the follies of “technological solutionism” continues to receive attention in the press: this week Morozov picks up the book's themes in essays for Slate and the New York Times, warning that “Silicon Valley's technophilic gurus and futurists have embarked on a quest to develop the ultimate patch to the nasty bugs of humanity.”
Slate | NY Times

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