News Digest: Threats to Internet Freedoms from the World Conference on International Telecommunications

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 about threats to internet freedoms that could arise from the International Telecommunication Union’s closed-door “World Conference on International Telecommunications” in Dubai.

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

International Trades Union Congress enters fight for WCIT transparency

The ITUC general secretary, Sharan Burrow, has launched the “Stop the Net Grab” campaign to block the International Telecommunications Union's controversial World Conference on International Telecommunications (Dubai, December 3–14) from making decisions that may undermine internet freedoms. The ITUC is demanding that WCIT be opened up to global debate among all stakeholders or be replaced with a multi–stakeholder process.

EU and Canada to support WIPO Treaty for the Visually Impaired
As David Hammerstein from the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue reports, after years of pressure this week the EU announced to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright that it now had the mandate to “negotiate the conclusion of an instrument including a binding treaty” for the blind. Michael Geist has received confirmation that Canada will also endorse the Treaty. The US continues to remain silent.
Hammerstein| Geist

Anonymous declares war on Israel
Since it began aerial strikes on Gaza last week, the Israeli government is widely reported as saying it has been hit with a “third front” of more than 44 million retaliatory cyberattacks. The success rate of these attacks is disputed: the Israeli government calls them “largely unsuccessful,” while Anonymous claims to have taken down or defaced more than 650 Web sites, including the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bank of Israel databases.
Analysis | Report

Google reports sharp rise in removal and user data requests
EFF reports that Google's latest biannual transparency report shows that requests for both content removal and user data are rising noticeably. The countries making the most requests, in order, are the U.S., Germany, and Brazil; also noteworthy are Argentina, Turkey, and India.On average, Google says it complied with 65 percent of court orders and 47 percent of less formal requests.

Europe to create unitary patent
A working group of the Council of the European Union has agreed on a package that will create a single Europe–wide patent valid in 25 of the 27 member states (Italy and Spain are not participating). The European Patent Office will function as a one–stop shop; post–grant litigation will be conducted at a single court in Paris.

China: Leadership and censorship report
This Netizen report from Global Voices examines new and severe internet restrictions arriving alongside the new generation of Chinese leaders. Among the tactics: restrictions in access to specific sites and searches, disruptions of connections, and deletions of online political discussions.

18 visions for the future of scientific publishing
This editorial discusses an array of scientists' ideas for redesigning the peer review process, arguing that open evaluation is a vital second step alongside open access. All 18 papers agree that transparency is a key value.

Proposed ban on “killer robots”: fully autonomous weapons
In this jointly issued 50–page report, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic argue that governments should preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons on the basis that they will inevitably undermine legal and non–legal limitations on killing civilians.

U.S.: Beware the data–driven election campaign
In this New York Times op–ed, Zeynep Tufecki argues that Obama's technology and data–driven campaign ushers in a new, and much more expensive, era of manipulating voters and will likely finish off public campaign financing in the U.S.

Academic authors support Google book–scanning project
In this amicus curiae brief, Pamela Samuelson and David R. Hansen argue that class certification in the legal action against Google over its book–scanning project was improperly granted because commercial publishers and authors do not fairly represent the interests of academic authors, who want their work as openly accessible and widely consulted as possible.

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