Russian Web Blackout in Protest at Censorship Law
By Becky Hogge
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 following this week. This week’s top story covers the online protests that have swept the Russian web in response to a law granting new censorship powers to the government.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
The New York Times details online protests that took place on the Russian web this week, against a law that would grant the Russian government new powers to censor online content. Wikipedia blocked access to its Russian-language site, while the Russian search engine Yandex, the Russian blogging platform Live Journal and the Russian social networking site VKontakte also joined the protests.
US: mobile phone operators responded to millions of requests for users' data from law enforcement in 2011
The New York Times reports on revelations that in 2011 mobile phone operators in the United States responded to 1.3 million requests for user data for law enforcement agencies, such as user location or text message content. "The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified."
Countries express concern over South African secrecy law
This short report for TechPresident details concerns raised by Sweden, the Czech Republic, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the US over South Africa's proposed new state secrecy law, observing that the law is seemingly incompatible with commitments South Africa has made as part of its membership of the Open Government Partnership.
mySociety release MapIt Global
mySociety have released a new piece of software that relates points on a map to administrative boundaries around the world. The release represents a huge time-saving for organizations like mySociety who want to build websites that help people engage with their local, regional and national governments (so-called "civic hackers"): "As a general user this sort of thing might seem a bit obscure, but you’ve probably indirectly used such a service many times".
"Leader of 99%" new villain in popular computer game
Game Ranx reports that the next edition of popular military-themed first-person shooter game "Call of Duty" will have as its arch-villain a character called Raul Menendez, whom the game-makers describe as an "idolized Messiah of the 99%" and whom the reporters describe as "a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo."
DeadUshahidi, a self-styled "Ushahidi cemetery", is a map of maps created using the Ushahidi platform that have since fallen into disuse. The project was started ostensibly to help people make more considered decisions when thinking about deploying crowd-mapping technology themselves. Former Ushahidi staffer Patrick Meier reacts broadly positively to its creation in a post on his iRevolution blog, while David Eaves of TechPresident weighs in with his thoughts.
DeadUshahidi | iRevolution | TechPresident
Are open educational resources the key to global economic growth?
This short op-ed written by UNESCO's former assistant director-general for education and the US ambassador to UNESCO explains UNESCO's recent commitment to Open Educational Resources in economic terms: "As policymakers struggle to apply traditional fiscal and monetary tools to mend world markets restrained by weak purchasing power, accelerated learning based on OERs could do more to stimulate global economic demand and growth than all the world's tax holidays combined."
Your e-Book is reading you
This Wall Street Journal feature examines the privacy implications of the move to digital reading, and details the "arms race among digital start-ups seeking to cash in on the massive pool of data collected by e-reading devices."
Putting transparency into practice in Slovakia: What we can learn
In this interview for the soros.org blog, Gabriel Šípoš from Transparency International Slovakia explains why it’s a great time to be a transparency activist and provides tips on gaining the most from transparency projects.
Watching how China censors
This short feature for the Wall Street Journal details a social media observatory project in the US that tracks how China's social media is being censored, and asks whether such software could help predict China's policy moves.
Future of journalism: "Transfer of Value"
This essay for the Monday Note explores the tricks used by new players in online news to overtake their traditional rivals, detailing in one section the Huffington Post's use of search engine optimization algorithms to re-write the headlines of pieces originally published by traditional media, and gain the lion's share of the readership.
In defence of Open Data
John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation responds to criticisms recently leveled at the open data movement by pointing out that transparency is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for empowered knowledge: "We also know that disclosure’s effectiveness needs an informed public in order to succeed."
The New Inquiry: Game of Drones
This special edition of the New Inquiry features a selection of essays on drones, examining their use in assassinations, and in border policing, and drawing on the history of computing to predict their future.
Audio: Remembering Elinor Ostrom
This Radio Berkman podcast is dedicated to discussion of the work of recently deceased Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, whose economic research into common pool resources challenged the idea of the "tragedy of the commons". It features contributions from Benjamin Mako Hill, Judith Donath, Mayo Fuster Morell and Oliver Goodenough.
What was the best news story you read last week about technology, information and open society? Tell us about it below in the comments section.
Becky Hogge is a consultant for the Information Program at the Open Society Foundations.