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 details how an Egyptian media collective has secured funds for its operations. You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
Egypt: Non–profit media collective secures crowd–funding
Mosireen, a nonprofit media collective in downtown Cairo “born out of the explosion of citizen media and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution” has used the crowd-funding platform IndieGoGo to secure $40,000 of funding from over 350 donors. The sum is a significant contribution to its $60,000/year running costs for providing workspaces, editing facilities and screenings for independent media producers. The money raised will be supplemented by membership fees from service users, collected on a pay-what-you-can basis.
Update on Information controls in Burma
The Open Net Initiative reports on recent tests it conducted into changes in Burma’s online content filtering system in Burma: “Independent and foreign news sites, oppositional political content, and sites with content relating to human rights and political reform—all previously blocked—have recently become accessible.” The development comes amid wider political and economic liberalization in the historically repressive state.
Flat World Knowledge to drop free access to textbooks
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the surprise decision of digital publisher Flat World Knowledge to withdraw free access to its textbooks. The company, which has been a key partner in the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, is yet to release an official statement about the decision (their offices were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy).
UK: Google and Microsoft go on wifi offensive
The Sunday Telegraph reports that Google and Microsoft have expressed interest in controlling parts of UK spectrum that are unused (so-called “white spaces”) “prompting speculation that they are planning to build free wifi internet capability into their mobile handsets.”
Mozilla Foundation to pay $1.5m tax settlement
Gigaom reports that the Mozilla Foundation—which develops the popular open source web browser Firefox—has agreed to pay $1.5 million in taxes to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The agreement concludes an audit opened in 2008 of Mozilla’s accounts, including the large percentage of revenue it gains from Google each year in exchange for favoring its search service in the Firefox browser. Mozilla’s directors had originally earmarked $15 million to resolve the issue, funds which they will now re-invest in the foundation’s work.
Africa: Top-Level Domain becomes object of bitter fight
IP Watch report on two companies battling for the right to control the registration of website domain names ending in “.africa” (as opposed to “.com,” “.co”uk,” “.org” etc). The international body tasked with assigning such rights, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has received reports that the African Union Task Force on the .africa domain, which has endorsed one of the company’s application to control it, suffers from conflict of interest issues.
Russia: blogging conference draws criticism
Global Voices reports from a LiveJournal– and RIA Novosti–sponsored blogging conference in Moscow, where regional bloggers reacted critically to an announcement from the Russian news agency that it would share its wire content with bloggers in exchange for “active participation and exclusive content.”
What Tunisia did right
This article in Foreign Policy magazine, which draws on an empirical study of democracies across the world and argues that legislatures vested with the power to truly hold their executives to account form the strongest democracies, should be of interest to anyone following developments in parliamentary transparency technology.
Scientific fraud is rife: it’s time to stand up for good science
This opinion piece in the Guardian argues that “the entire way that we go about funding, researching and publishing science is flawed” and calls for more openness.
Syria’s digital proxy war
This report on the Syrian uprising for the Atlantic contrasts Iran’s supply of surveillance equipment to the Assad regime with the United States’ attempts to set up alternative communication channels for opposition fighters: “The outcome of this proxy war will affect the lives of many Syrians and the credibility of the State Department’s efforts to promote digital freedom internationally.”
The Maker movement creates jobs
This short opinion piece calls for the U.S. government to subsidies hacker spaces.
Internet Governance Forum: Preview
IPWatch lists some of the main agenda items for this week’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan, including free expression, privacy and copyright and intellectual property online. Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) marks out the event as “a key opportunity for civil society organizations to promote open, decentralized, multi-stakeholder approaches to internet governance” in anticipation of the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next month, where critics fear the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which hosts the event, will attempt to expand the scope of its remit to include regulating the internet.
IPWatch | CDT
Audio: Future Perfect—The case for progress in a networked age
Nora Young interviews Steven Johnson about his book “Future Perfect: The case for progress in a networked age” for the Spark podcast. The book is a “provocatively utopian” exploration of the possibilities of what he calls “peer-to-peer politics.” Ethan Zuckerman’s review of an event in which Johnson is joined by Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig on the night before the U.S. election expands on these ideas.
Spark | Zuckerman