Current Berkman People and Projects

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

February 01, 2015

Bruce Schneier
Friday Squid Blogging: Giggling Squid Restaurant

Giggling Squid is a Thai restaurant chain in the UK.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 08:46 PM

Friday Squid Blogging: Large Squid Washes up on Greek Beach

No mention of the species, but the photo is a depressing one.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 08:37 PM

My Conversation with Edward Snowden

Today, as part of a Harvard computer science symposium, I had a public conversation with Edward Snowden. The topics were largely technical, ranging from cryptography to hacking to surveillance to what to do now.

Here's the video.

EDITED TO ADD (1/24): News article.

EDITED TO ADD (1/30): Another news article.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 05:51 PM

Operating a Fake Bank

Here's a story of a fake bank in China -- a real bank, not an online bank -- that stole $32m from depositors over a year. Pro tip: real banks never offer 2%/week interest.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 04:12 PM

Co3 Systems Is Expanding into Europe

This was supposed to be a secret until the middle of February, but we've been found out.

We already have European customers; this is our European office.

And, by the way, we're hiring, primarily in the Boston area.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 01:24 PM

Canada Spies on Internet Downloads

Another story from the Snowden documents:

According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada's equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as "CSEC" until a recent name change.)


CSE finds some 350 "interesting" downloads each month, the presentation notes, a number that amounts to less than 0.0001 per cent of the total collected data.

The agency stores details about downloads and uploads to and from 102 different popular file-sharing websites, according to the 2012 document, which describes the collected records as "free file upload," or FFU, "events."

EDITED TO ADD (1/30): News article.

EDITED TO ADD (2/1): More news articles.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 12:31 PM

The IDEA Encryption Algorithm with a 128-bit Block Length

Here's an IDEA-variant with a 128-bit block length. While I think it's a great idea to bring IDEA up to a modern block length, the paper has none of the cryptanalysis behind it that IDEA had. If nothing else, I would have expected more than eight rounds. If anyone wants to practice differential and linear cryptanalysis, here's a new target for you.

by Bruce Schneier at February 01, 2015 05:25 AM

January 31, 2015

David Weinberger
Sympathy over empathy

We used to have an obligation to at least try to be sympathetic. Now that’s ratcheted up to having to be empathetic. We should lower the bar.

Sympathy means feeling bad for someone while empathy means actually feeling the same feelings.

If that’s what those words still mean, empathy is more than we usually need and is less than we can often accomplish.

You’re hungry? I can be sympathetic about your hunger, but I can’t feel your hunger.

There are child soldiers? I can perhaps understand some of the situation that lets such a thing happen, and I can be shocked and sad that it does, but I don’t think I can feel what those children feel.

You have been sexually assaulted? I can be deeply sympathetic and supportive, but I don’t think I can actually feel what you felt or even what you are feeling now. For example, if you are now overwhelming anxious about being in some ordinary situations — walking to your car, entering an unlit room — you will have all my sympathy and support, but I will not experience the trembling you feel in your knees or the tension expressed by your shallow breaths.

Empathy is hard. It often takes the magic of an artist to get us to feel what a character is feeling. (Q: If I am feeling what a non-existent character is feeling, is that even empathy?)

Empathy is hard. Empathy is rare. Empathy is often exactly what is not required: If you are afraid, you probably don’t need another frightened person. You need someone sympathetic who can help you deal with your fears.

Sympathy is getting a bad rap, as if it means just patting someone on the shoulder and saying “There there.” That’s not what sympathy ever was. Sympathy means you are affected by another person’s feelings, not that you feel those very feelings. If I am sad and worried that you are so depressed, I am affected by your feelings, but I am not myself depressed.

Empathy can be a pure mirror of someone else’s feelings. But sympathy requires more than just feeling. If I see you crying, to be sympathetic I have to know something about you and especially about what has caused you to cry. Are you crying because you’ve been hurt? Because you broke up with someone you loved? Because you just saw a sad movie? Because you didn’t get into a school or onto a particular team? Because you’re sympathizing with someone else? In order to sympathize more fully, I need to know.

That is, in sympathy you turn not just to feelings but to the world. You see what the sufferer sees from her/his point of view, or as close to that point of view as you can. What you see is not a matter of indifference to you. You are moved by what is moving the other. How you are moved is different in type and extent — you are not fearful in the face of the other’s fears, you are not as wracked by grief as is the mourner — but you are moved.

Sympathy lets the world matter to you as it matters to someone else. In sympathy, the mattering culminates from heart, mind, and caring about the other. It is perhaps the best thing we do.

Most importantly, through sympathy are we moved to helpful action, whether that is indeed a pat on the shoulder or requires a far larger commitment. Sympathy does that to us. For us.

Empathy can get in the way of the supportive action that sympathy demands. If a friend is heartbroken because a relationship is ended,you may bring to bear a different view of the world and hold out other feelings as possibilities. Hope perhaps. A different perspective. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s. The gap in feelings between you and your friend enables the sympathetic action your friend needs.

If our aim is to act in the world to try to reduce pain, fear, and sadness, then asking for empathy is often to ask for too much. Sympathy more than suffices.

by davidw at January 31, 2015 11:00 PM

Bruce Schneier
Police Using Radar that Sees Through Walls

In the latest example of a military technology that has secretly been used by the police, we have radar guns that can see through walls.

by Bruce Schneier at January 31, 2015 09:23 AM

Subconscious Keys

I missed this paper when it was first published in 2012:

"Neuroscience Meets Cryptography: Designing Crypto Primitives Secure Against Rubber Hose Attacks"

Abstract: Cryptographic systems often rely on the secrecy of cryptographic keys given to users. Many schemes, however, cannot resist coercion attacks where the user is forcibly asked by an attacker to reveal the key. These attacks, known as rubber hose cryptanalysis, are often the easiest way to defeat cryptography. We present a defense against coercion attacks using the concept of implicit learning from cognitive psychology. Implicit learning refers to learning of patterns without any conscious knowledge of the learned pattern. We use a carefully crafted computer game to plant a secret password in the participant's brain without the participant having any conscious knowledge of the trained password. While the planted secret can be used for authentication, the participant cannot be coerced into revealing it since he or she has no conscious knowledge of it. We performed a number of user studies using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to verify that participants can successfully re-authenticate over time and that they are unable to reconstruct or even recognize short fragments of the planted secret.

by Bruce Schneier at January 31, 2015 08:02 AM

January 30, 2015

Berkman Center front page
Berkman Community Newcomers: Rebecca Weintraub



Meet Rebecca Weintraub, Berkman fellow and faculty director of the Global Health Delivery Project.

Thumbnail Image: 

This post is part of a series featuring interviews with some of the fascinating individuals who joined our community for the 2014-2015 year. Conducted by our 2014 summer interns (affectionately known as "Berkterns"), these snapshots aim to showcase the diverse backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments of our dynamic 2014-2015 community.

Q&A with Rebecca Weintraub

Berkman fellow and faculty director of the Global Health Delivery Project
interviewed in summer 2014 by Berktern Melinda Sebastian

What drew your interest to the Berkman Fellowship at Harvard?

At the Global Health Delivery Project we have been building a piece of software for 5 years with no formal training and no expertise, so we did a search for community Internet and society, and Berkman came up. We realized that before we embark on designing the next set of features, we needed to find advisors. I was very compelled by watching Ethan Zuckerman’s talks, particularly his discussion on bridge professionals. I identified the early adopters in our community of 13,000 global health professionals, who participate with us on GHD online, who truly are bridge professionals in their 180 countries. I hope to discuss with the Berkman community how best to incentivize and stimulate these global health professionals.

The Global Health Delivery  Project is a “professional virtual community” with many partnerships. What does that look like in practice for MDs around the world?

The Global Health Delivery Project sits between Harvard Medical School, Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Business School. All 3 institutions have helped us seed GHDonline, which is our platform for over 100 professional virtual communities. The 13,000 members are also architects, engineers, nurses, policy makers, vendors, physicians, and midwives. It’s all stakeholders who are participating in their health care delivery system. There’s no cost to be there, and in our public communities we have 3 moderators in each community, many of whom are Harvard affiliated faculty. Some are now in other countries, where they help guide and discuss our professional virtual communities.

You emphasize patient values at the Global Health Delivery Project. What factors influence patient values, and why would they be different globally?

First, there is a long-standing discussion, and this is probably for another time, of how to define values. Our group adopts Michael Porter’s definition that value is the health outcome, per unit of cost. We then extrapolated and built a framework where we looked at four principles of value-based health care delivery. These are for both the patient level, a patient who now has a new medical condition, and for thinking about preventative medicine. For example, If we think about a sub-population that has a set of risk factors and you’re trying to design your delivery system to generate value for populations, you hope that you prevent operative complications.

The 4 principles of the value-based healthcare delivery framework are:

  1. Designing your program, and choosing an activity set along a value chain. The value chain is literally the map and configuration of the set of activities.

  2. Those value chains should be layered on top of each other, and through that you see what is needed. It may be the number of hospital units, healthcare workforce, or power, electricity, and water that is shared through the health system to ensure that you are providing the configuration of care you’ve designed for that medical condition.

  3. Value-based healthcare systems incorporate their context and their ecosystem in the design of their program, as well as determinants of health such as why people either maintain themselves as healthy or how they actually understand their own illness in their contexts.

  4. The values generated in this system are designed and tested to stimulate economic development. Principally, this has been discussed in the health economics literature as the idea that ensuring a healthier population will lead to a more robust economy.

We’re also trying to show that the way you invest in your healthcare infrastructure can lead to improvement in employment choices for healthier patients. For example, it can actually place healthcare as the number one employer. In a city like Boston, it also actually leads to increased purchasing of local vendors, including food, supplies, or alternative services. A health care infrastructure also invests in key pieces of a robust commercial economy such as electricity, power, and the Internet. We’ve written cases that exemplify those three. Our case study shows what these principles look like in the 30+ enterprises, for-profits, and non-profits that we’ve written about. In many ways our case body is the retrospective study of value-based health care delivery.

Is there anything else that you are working on the coming year that you would like to highlight here for the Berkman audience?

I am thrilled to join the Berkman community. For one, seek advice on how to analyze the content that we have on the Global Health Delivery Project and to figure out a set of incentives and to maintain and improve our participation. Secondly, we had a call to dig through that participation on a private virtual community to learn how it could be deemed continuing medical education or continuing professional development. Thirdly, we have a significant number of lurkers on the site who ask us to think through ways in which we could be highlighting new innovations and new ways of thinking to serve. For example, how to serve not only a minister of health but also the US market as well. This is a process of ideation and innovation that happens virtually, and thinking about  how to maintain the stimulation that’s occurring already within the virtual community.

Where do you see yourself, or the organization in 10 years if you had a dream world?

I would like there to be a universal badge for managers of health care delivery. Many of my colleagues and my students come from different professional backgrounds. They might have gone to nursing school, or physical therapy. They’re anthropologists, they’re economists, and many of them become managers of a system. And in a manner similar to what is provided for architects and engineers for lead accreditations, I think there is a huge advantage for us creating an international digital badge. Then, you could know that a specific person has the following qualifications, an understanding of finance, HR, supply chain, logistics, so that they can then manage any system.

by ctian at January 30, 2015 07:31 PM

Bruce Schneier
When Thinking Machines Break the Law

Last year, two Swiss artists programmed a Random Botnot Shopper, which every week would spend $100 in bitcoin to buy a random item from an anonymous Internet black market...all for an art project on display in Switzerland. It was a clever concept, except there was a problem. Most of the stuff the bot purchased was benign­ -- fake Diesel jeans, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, a stash can, a pair of Nike trainers -- but it also purchased ten ecstasy tablets and a fake Hungarian passport.

What do we do when a machine breaks the law? Traditionally, we hold the person controlling the machine responsible. People commit the crimes; the guns, lockpicks, or computer viruses are merely their tools. But as machines become more autonomous, the link between machine and controller becomes more tenuous.

Who is responsible if an autonomous military drone accidentally kills a crowd of civilians? Is it the military officer who keyed in the mission, the programmers of the enemy detection software that misidentified the people, or the programmers of the software that made the actual kill decision? What if those programmers had no idea that their software was being used for military purposes? And what if the drone can improve its algorithms by modifying its own software based on what the entire fleet of drones learns on earlier missions?

Maybe our courts can decide where the culpability lies, but that's only because while current drones may be autonomous, they're not very smart. As drones get smarter, their links to the humans that originally built them become more tenuous.

What if there are no programmers, and the drones program themselves? What if they are both smart and autonomous, and make strategic as well as tactical decisions on targets? What if one of the drones decides, based on whatever means it has at its disposal, that it no longer maintains allegiance to the country that built it and goes rogue?

Our society has many approaches, using both informal social rules and more formal laws, for dealing with people who won't follow the rules of society. We have informal mechanisms for small infractions, and a complex legal system for larger ones. If you are obnoxious at a party I throw, I won't invite you back. Do it regularly, and you'll be shamed and ostracized from the group. If you steal some of my stuff, I might report you to the police. Steal from a bank, and you'll almost certainly go to jail for a long time. A lot of this might seem more ad hoc than situation-specific, but we humans have spent millennia working this all out. Security is both political and social, but it's also psychological. Door locks, for example, only work because our social and legal prohibitions on theft keep the overwhelming majority of us honest. That's how we live peacefully together at a scale unimaginable for any other species on the planet.

How does any of this work when the perpetrator is a machine with whatever passes for free will? Machines probably won't have any concept of shame or praise. They won't refrain from doing something because of what other machines might think. They won't follow laws simply because it's the right thing to do, nor will they have a natural deference to authority. When they're caught stealing, how can they be punished? What does it mean to fine a machine? Does it make any sense at all to incarcerate it? And unless they are deliberately programmed with a self-preservation function, threatening them with execution will have no meaningful effect.

We are already talking about programming morality into thinking machines, and we can imagine programming other human tendencies into our machines, but we're certainly going to get it wrong. No matter how much we try to avoid it, we're going to have machines that break the law.

This, in turn, will break our legal system. Fundamentally, our legal system doesn't prevent crime. Its effectiveness is based on arresting and convicting criminals after the fact, and their punishment providing a deterrent to others. This completely fails if there's no punishment that makes sense.

We already experienced a small example of this after 9/11, which was when most of us first started thinking about suicide terrorists and how post-facto security was irrelevant to them. That was just one change in motivation, and look at how those actions affected the way we think about security. Our laws will have the same problem with thinking machines, along with related problems we can't even imagine yet. The social and legal systems that have dealt so effectively with human rulebreakers of all sorts will fail in unexpected ways in the face of thinking machines.

A machine that thinks won't always think in the ways we want it to. And we're not ready for the ramifications of that.

This essay previously appeared on as one of the answers to the 2015 Edge Question: "What do you think about machines that think?"

EDITED TO ADD: The Random Botnet Shopper is "under arrest."

by Bruce Schneier at January 30, 2015 07:06 PM

Zeitfunk is coming…

Zeit-what? That’s right. We’re tallying up the numbers, licenses and listens for our annual Zeitfunk Awards. For the uninitiated, check out Zeitfunks past.

We’re doing things a little differently this year and will be announcing our nominees next week, with winners being announced February 9.

Who was the most licensed producer in 2014? Or the most listened-to show?

Stay tuned to find out if you’re a nominee!

The post Zeitfunk is coming… appeared first on PRX.

by Audrey at January 30, 2015 03:11 PM

Bruce Schneier
Basaaly Moalin: The One "Terrorist" Caught by Section 215 Surveillance

Remember back in 2013 when the then-director of the NSA Keith Alexander claimed that Section 215 bulk telephone metadata surveillance stopped "fifty-four different terrorist-related activities"? Remember when that number was backtracked several times, until all that was left was a single Somali taxi driver who was convicted of sending some money back home? This is the story of Basaaly Moalin.

by Bruce Schneier at January 30, 2015 03:08 PM

Carrie James on Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap [AUDIO]
Fresh from a party, a teen posts a photo on Facebook of a friend drinking a beer. A college student repurposes an article from Wikipedia for a paper. A group of players in a multiplayer online game routinely cheat new players by selling them worthless virtual accessories for high prices. How do youth, and the […]

by Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School ( at January 30, 2015 02:16 PM

Bruce Schneier
Accountability as a Security System

At a CATO surveillance event last month, Ben Wittes talked about inherent presidential powers of surveillance with this hypothetical: "What should Congress have to say about the rules when Barack Obama wants to know what Vladimir Putin is talking about?" His answer was basically that Congress should have no say: "I think most people, going back to my Vladimir Putin question, would say that is actually an area of inherent presidential authority." Edward Snowden, a surprise remote participant at the event, said the opposite, although using the courts in general rather than specifically Congress as his example. "...there is no court in the world -- well, at least, no court outside Russia -- who would not go, 'This man is an agent of the foreign government. I mean, he's the head of the government.' Of course, they will say, 'this guy has access to some kind of foreign intelligence value. We'll sign the warrant for him.'"

There's a principle here worth discussing at length. I'm not talking about the legal principle, as in what kind of court should oversee US intelligence collection. I'm not even talking about the constitutional principle, as in what are the US president's inherent powers. I am talking about the philosophical principle: what sorts of secret unaccountable actions do we want individuals to be able to take on behalf of their country?

Put that way, I think the answer is obvious: as little as possible.

I am not a lawyer or a political scientist. I am a security technologist. And to me, the separation of powers and the checks and balances written into the US constitution are a security system. The more Barack Obama can do by himself in secret, the more power he has -- and the more dangerous that is to all of us. By limiting the actions individuals and groups can take on their own, and forcing differing institutions to approve the actions of each other, the system reduces the ability for those in power to abuse their power. It holds them accountable.

We have enshrined the principle of different groups overseeing each other in many of our social and political systems. The courts issue warrants, limiting police power. Independent audit companies verify corporate balance sheets, limiting corporate power. And the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of government get to have their say in our laws. Sometimes accountability takes the form of prior approval, and sometimes it takes the form of ex post facto review. It's all inefficient, of course, but it's an inefficiency we accept because it makes us all safer.

While this is a fine guiding principle, it quickly falls apart in the practicalities of running a modern government. It's just not possible to run a country where every action is subject to review and approval. The complexity of society, and the speed with which some decisions have to be made, can require unilateral actions. So we make allowances. Congress passes broad laws, and agencies turn them into detailed rules and procedures. The president is the commander in chief of the entire US military when it comes time to fight wars. Policeman have a lot of discretion on their own on the beat. And we only get to vote elected officials in and out of office every two, four, or six years.

The thing is, we can do better today. I've often said that the modern constitutional democracy is the best form of government mid-18th-century technology could produce. Because both communications and travel were difficult and expensive, it made sense for geographically proximate groups of people to choose one representative to go all the way over there and act for them over a long block of time.

Neither of these two limitations is true today. Travel is both cheap and easy, and communications are so cheap and easy as to be virtually free. Video conferencing and telepresence allow people to communicate without traveling. Surely if we were to design a democratic government today, we would come up with better institutions than the ones we are stuck with because of history.

And we can come up with more granular systems of checks and balances. So, yes, I think we would have a better government if a court had to approve all surveillance actions by the president, including those against Vladimir Putin. And today it might be possible to have a court do just that. Wittes argues that making some of these changes is impossible, given the current US constitution. He may be right, but that doesn't mean they're not good ideas.

Of course, the devil is always in the details. Efficiency is still a powerful counterargument. The FBI has procedures for temporarily bypassing prior approval processes if speed is essential. And granularity can still be a problem. Every bullet fired by the US military can't be subject to judicial approval or even a military court, even though every bullet fired by a US policeman is -- at least in theory -- subject to judicial review. And while every domestic surveillance decision made by the police and the NSA is (also in theory) subject to judicial approval, it's hard to know whether this can work for international NSA surveillance decisions until we try.

We are all better off now that many of the NSA's surveillance programs have been made public and are being debated in Congress and in the media -- although I had hoped for more congressional action -- and many of the FISA Court's formerly secret decisions on surveillance are being made public. But we still have a long way to go, and it shouldn't take someone like Snowden to force at least some openness to happen.

This essay previously appeared on, where Ben Wittes responded.

by Bruce Schneier at January 30, 2015 01:17 AM

January 29, 2015

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Reverse AGT Workshops

The Reverse AGT Workshop welcomes local economists at the interface of computer science and economics. The workshops present areas of economic study for an algorithmic game theory (AGT) audience.


February 2014: " Competition in Selection Markets"

Location: Maxwell Dworkin 119
2:00pm - 5:00pm

by kmavon at January 29, 2015 09:14 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Faculty Ryan Adams is co-hosting "Talking Machines," ML podcast
January 29, 2015

CRCS Faculty Ryan Adams is now co-hosting a podcast, Talking Machines. This podcast features conversations on machine learning, with scientists such as Hanna Wallach, Kevin Murphy, Max Welling, Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, and Yann LeCun.

by kmavon at January 29, 2015 03:14 PM

Justin Reich
Rebooting MOOC Research
My thoughts on how we could better take advantage of research opportunities from massive open online courses to advance the science of learning.

by Justin Reich at January 29, 2015 03:09 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Raf Frongillo presents at GTP 2014
December 16, 2014

CRCS Fellow Raf Frongillo gave a talk at GTP 2014: Fifth Workshop on Game-Theoretic Probability and Related Topics, in Guanajuato, Mexico. 

by kmavon at January 29, 2015 03:05 PM

Justin Reich
Qualitative Formative Assessment Toolkit: Middle School Math
Reshan Richards, the director of education technology at Montclair Kimberley Academy in New Jersey and the co-creator of the Explain Everything screencasting app, guest blogs on qualitative formative assessment.

by Justin Reich at January 29, 2015 03:04 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Fellow Jasper Snoek submitted two journal papers in technology and aging
December 30, 2014

CRCS Fellow Jasper Snoek submitted two journal papers in the realm of technology and aging with collaborators at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and University of Toronto.

by kmavon at January 29, 2015 03:03 PM

Fellow Babis' 2 accepted papers at WWW2015
January 29, 2015

CRCS Fellow Babis Tsourakakis had two single-author papers accepted at WWW 2015, the premiere venue on the World Wide Web. This year, there were 929 paper submissions and 131 paper acceptances. Both papers will be presented on the track "Social Networks and Graph Analysis".

The first paper is titled as "Provably Fast Inference of Latent Features from Networks" and the second paper as "The k-clique Densest Subgraph Problem". 

by kmavon at January 29, 2015 02:57 PM

January 28, 2015

Bruce Schneier
US Law Enforcement Also Conducting Mass Telephone Surveillance

Late last year, in a criminal case involving export violations, the US government disclosed a mysterious database of telephone call records that it had queried in the case.

The defendant argued that the database was the NSA's, and that the query was unconditional and the evidence should be suppressed. The government said that the database was not the NSA's. As part of the back and forth, the judge ordered the government to explain the call records database.

Someone from the Drug Enforcement Agency did that last week. Apparently, there's another bulk telephone metadata collection program and a "federal law enforcement database" authorized as part of a federal drug trafficking statute:

This database [redacted] consisted of telecommunications metadata obtained from United Stated telecommunications service providers pursuant to administrative subpoenas served up on the service providers under the provisions of 21 U.S.C. 876. This metadata related to international telephone calls originating in the United States and calling [redacted] designated foreign countries, one of which was Iran, that were determined to have a demonstrated nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities.

The program began in the 1990s and was "suspended" in September 2013.

News article. Slashdot thread. Hacker News thread.

EDITED TO ADD (1/19): Another article.

by Bruce Schneier at January 28, 2015 10:35 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Hartline Jason
Visiting Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Professor of Economics, Northwestern University
Hartline Jason

by kmavon at January 28, 2015 04:42 PM

Berkman Center front page
Upcoming Events: Innovating in the Open (1/29); Development in the Digital Age (2/3); Open Gov in India (2/10)



A preview of our upcoming events and recently archived digital media

Upcoming Events / Digital Media
January 28, 2015
special event

Innovating in the Open

Thursday, January 29, 3:30PM ET, Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, Room 1010. Presented by the Cyberlaw Clinic, Berkman Center, Harvard Innovation Lab, HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic, and the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative


Join Matt Tucker, Harvard Business School Digital Initiative, Emily Broad Leib, HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic, Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, New York University Stern School of Business and Jeff Warren, Public Lab for a conversation about open approaches to innovation. Hosted and moderated by Christopher Bavitz, HLS Clinical Professor of Law and Managing Director, Cyberlaw Clinic.

Efforts to innovate and promote innovation often proceed in black boxes, out of concern for intellectual property protection and first-mover advantage. An alternative model, however, prioritizes engagement with users, consumers, competitors, and the general public throughout the creative process. Devotees of this more open approach to innovation view the risks of early disclosure as outweighed by the benefits of drawing on the wisdom of the crowd. The Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society is pleased to present this panel discussion, featuring speakers from the HBS Digital Initiative, NYU’s Stern School of Business, and Public Lab, on the topic of open innovation and how it can be used to improve development of everything from consumer products and services to software code to policy proposals. Panelists will address the topic from theoretical and practical perspectives, and cover ways to get involved in open innovation at Harvard, including the Deans’ Food System Challenge.

more information on our website>

berkman luncheon series

Development in the Digital Age: The role of online platforms & payments in enabling entrepreneurship in emerging markets

Tuesday, February 3, **12:00pm ET** (please note new start time), Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, Room 2004. This event will be webcast live.


The Internet is democratizing access to the global marketplace for millions of people around the world. Thanks to online platforms, payment systems and logistics services, companies, nonprofits and individuals can embark on global journeys like never before. Join representatives from the Global Innovation Forum, eBay and Etsy to explore the opportunities for economic development that the Internet unlocks, and the specific challenges that global entrepreneurs and micromultinationals in developing countries face.

Usman Ahmed is Policy Counsel for eBay Inc. His work covers a variety of global Internet issues including international trade, intellectual property policy, and financial services. Jake Colvin is Executive Director of the Global Innovation Forum @ NFTC. Through GIF, Jake works with startup, business, education and nonprofit leaders to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with participating in the global marketplace in the digital age, and to assess the effect of public policies on international trade and innovation. Althea Erickson is director of public policy at Etsy, the marketplace for creative people to buy and sell unique goods. Althea leads Etsy’s government relations and advocacy efforts, focusing on educating and advising policymakers on the issues that micro-entrepreneurs and creative businesses face. She is also responsible for developing and advancing Etsy’s position on issues ranging from t axes and regulation, to open Internet and free trade, to IP and privacy policies. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

berkman luncheon series

Can the State use information technology to police itself? A study of open governance in Andhra Pradesh, India

Tuesday, February 10, **12:00pm ET** (please note new start time), Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor. This event will be webcast live.


This talk examines the attempted use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to eliminate corruption within a bureaucracy in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. In this initiative, the senior bureaucrats built a digital network to curb corruption at the “last mile.” By increasing the visibility and by controlling the “micro-practices” of the work done by lower-level bureaucrats, this digital system allowed higher-level bureaucrats to exercise more control remotely, bypassing the existing “chain of command” form of control and reducing corruption. Ideally, the system was imagined to centralize power through technology in order to eliminate powers of discretion at the lower-levels of the bureaucracy. What my fieldwork revealed, however, was a constant struggle to control the digital system: the lower-level bureaucrats found creative ways to thwart the intentions of the higher-level bureaucrats. Agency was not removed from local politics; instead it was constantly renegotiated through efforts by local politicians and local bureaucrats on the one side and higher-level administrators on the other to control the technological instruments of surveillance. The struggle over surveillance is not the "Scottian" state against citizen but contestation within a divided state. ICT did reduce corruption and created a more “Weberian” bureaucracy but only up to a point. Local actors managed to defend their power and some of their ability to extract rents in the last mile. The struggle continues, on the new digital terrain.

Rajesh Veeraraghavan is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Information, UC Berkeley, and a research fellow at the Transparency and Accountability Initiative at the Open Society Foundation. Rajesh questions the widespread belief that information technology can be used to "solve" either development or governance "problems," both by engaging in activism involving technological interventions and by using empirical methods to critically examine claims about the impact of ICT in governance. He studies how information and communication technology (ICT) is used in practice to regulate economic, social and political relationships. RSVP Required. more information on our website>


Bruce Schneier Interviews Edward Snowden


Bruce Schneier, Harvard Berkman Center Fellow, talks with Edward Snowden about government surveillance and the effectiveness of privacy tools like encryption to an audience at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This conversation kicks off the annual symposium on the future of computation in science and engineering hosted by the IACS- Harvard's Institute for Applied Computational Science. video/audio on YouTube>

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by ashar at January 28, 2015 02:58 PM

Amanda Palmer
a poem inspired by an article inspired by a tweet.

wrote a poem today, inspired not only by the lush graffiti and wondrous sites of johannesburg (which are pretty glorious indeed), but by a small twitter storm i unwittingly waltzed into. nothing inspires like a good twitter kerfuffle.
i wrote this poem over an ethiopian meal in maboneng.

On Reading the Tweet from the Girl Proclaiming She’s Getting Her Dresden Dolls Tattoos Covered Up
Due to an Article I Tweeted a Link to About the Dark Sides of Online Political Correctness

as above; so below
thick-skinned deep; thin-skinned shallow
as with ink; so with outrage
it bites deep, that needle
it digs, it commits
bares it’s fangs to the fickle

i love you; i loved you
Winona Forever
i mean, i had feelings, one time,
at some level.

it’s not what you think
(i mean, it is, but it’s Not, too.)
fuck it. pour shots.
(that’s one thing i’ll commit to.)

so you’ve made a commitment.
a commitment to what?
to love…
or to anger?
to a thing you once felt?

is it a flag?
a reminder?
to whom?
to me?

to yourself?

love eats deeper than fear.

it seeps layers below.

and the scars that it carves
are not visible now

but you’ll feel them
they’ll tickle
a phantom reminder
of the protests
that made you you,
not another.

it’s your right
to be angry.

it’s your right
to remove me.

it’s your right
to march forth and
with pride
de-tattoo me.

but it’s also my right
to embrace you, and tightly;
while you exercise loudly
your right
to not love me.

and as hate lingers thick
like a black cloud above you
pile ink upon ink

I’m still there

i’m still there

and still love you.

(you could laser me off, i suppose, but I’d linger.
i’d prefer being subsumed by a comparable singer.)


the original article, by jonathan chait in new york magazine:
“not a very PC thing to say”

a few great follow up-reads to the original article….

julian sanchez
“chait speech” – a great in-depther look at the problems…

jessica valenti
‘PC culture’ isn’t about your freedom of speech. It’s about our freedom to be offended


john hodgman’s brilliant tweet-response:

and a mild cover-up suggestion for…

although regina’s head would have to be huge…

off to the joburg house party: the famed very last of 25 house parties, the official end of the kickstarter.

see some of you there. i hope you brought rusks.


by admin at January 28, 2015 01:44 PM

Joseph Reagle
Wikipedia and GamerGate

There's been a lot of press about the forthcoming Arbitration Committee decision on the conduct of editors on the GamerGate article. For instance, today The Verge reports that Wikipedia denies 'purging' feminist editors over Gamergate debate.

Reading the many articles and blog posts (especially Mark Bernstein's -- though you should appreciate he is banned) I'm reminded of how I began Good Faith Collaboration with the plan of Stormfront (white supremacists) to influence Wikipedia back in 2005. What the racists failed to in 2005, the misogynists managed in 2015.

The two lessons I drew from the "neo-Nazi attack" a decade ago was that it was useful for Jimmy Wales to be able to step in and say he'd intervene because WP's process was not good at resisting such coordinated efforts. In general, I'm a supporter of the open community with benevolent dictator model (what I call "authorial leadership") for this reason. However, in this case I've heard mixed messages about Wales' response. (He was originally uninformed but he then tried to constructively challenge pro-GamerGaters to write their own article?). In any case, he has ceded his power to act unilaterally and couldn't do much of anything anyway.

The second lesson of 2005 was that even Stormfront counseled its members to be polite and abide by WP's norms. That was novel then, but manipulators and haters can be very good at this today. For instance, some colleagues were recently discussing "Sea-Lioning", which I likened to as a type of derailing and a sibling of concern trolling. This is now part of what I call a "trollplex" in the Reading the Comments. Sadly, I see no easy solution for online life in general and Wikipedia in particular. That said, I don't think it's the end of the world quite yet: the article's lede is still good -- though I haven't been able to track all the changes in the rest of the very long article.

by Joseph Reagle at January 28, 2015 05:00 AM

Bruce Schneier
New NSA Documents on Offensive Cyberoperations

Appelbaum, Poitras, and others have another NSA article with an enormous Snowden document dump on Der Spiegel, giving details on a variety of offensive NSA cyberoperations to infiltrate and exploit networks around the world. There's a lot here: 199 pages. (Here they are in one compressed archive.)

Paired with the 666 pages released in conjunction with the December 28 Spiegel article (compressed archive here) on NSA cryptanalytic capabilities, we've seen a huge amount of Snowden documents in the past few weeks. According to one tally, it runs 3,560 pages in all.

Hacker News thread. Slashdot thread.

EDITED TO ADD (1/19): In related news, the New York Times is reporting that the NSA has infiltrated North Korea's networks, and provided evidence to blame the country for the Sony hacks.

EDITED TO ADD (1/19): Also related, the Guardian has an article based on the Snowden documents that GCHQ has been spying on journalists. Another article.

by Bruce Schneier at January 28, 2015 01:12 AM

Ethan Zuckerman
Global Voices at 10: Food for Thought

I spent last week in Cebu, the second largest city in The Philippines, with three hundred journalists, activists and media scholars from more than sixty countries. The occasion was the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit, a biennial conference on the state of citizen media, blogging, journalism and activism. This summit coincided with the tenth anniversary of Global Voices, the citizen media website and community Rebecca MacKinnon and I helped to found in late 2004.

We’ve held the conference six times, and it’s always been an excuse to gather core members of the Global Voices community for planning, training and building solidarity. More than 800 staff and volunteers run Global Voices, and since we have no home office, headquarters or physical presence, the conference provides a physicality and presence that’s sorely lacking in most of our interactions. Since the Summit began as an excuse for holding our internal meeting, it’s always a wonderful party and family reunion, but it’s not always been the most thoughtfully programmed event. (I’m allowed to say that because I helped program some of those conferences.)

This year’s incarnation (which I had absolutely nothing to do with planning!) reset expectations about what the Citizen Media Summit could be. It was two packed days of panels, workshops and discussions, tackling some of the most interesting a challenging problems facing online writing and activism: threats to the open internet, social media and protests movements, trolling and online abuse, intermediary censorship. I found myself blogging and tweeting frenetically, trying to capture the conversations I was hearing in panels and the halls, soaking up as much news, information and perspective as I could from friends from around the world.

We’ve got drones now! Watch out, world!

Global Voices editors and authors will be processing notes from the sessions into articles over the next few days, but I decided to use my flights from tropical Cebu into a northeastern blizzard to reflect on some of the key insights I got from the Global Voices community, the amazing Filipino netizens who hosted us and our guests from around the world.

Social media is moving into closed, private channels
Global Voices started as a project that rounded up blog posts from around the world, when possible organizing them into themed stories illustrating an aspect of the social media conversation in a country or region. Over time, we began offering citizen media perspectives on breaking news through the eyes of publicly readable citizen media: blogs, tweets, videos and public Facebook posts.

I’m starting to wonder whether we’re going to be able to keep operating this way in the future. Increasingly, citizen media is private, or semi-public, which raises really interesting questions about how we use it in our journalism. For example, in China, many political discussions shifted from Weibo (which is primarily public) when the company began verifying the identities of users. Many of those discussions moved to WeChat, where groups with hundreds or thousands of members feel like listservs or bulletin boards.

Is it ethical and fair to source stories from these semi-public spaces? There’s probably no general answer – it’s likely to be something that needs to be answered on a case-by-base basis. If the answer is that something can only be published if everyone on the list agrees, it’s going to make it very difficult to continue doing this work, and we’re likely to lose some of the ability to report on important conversations that haven’t reached broadcast media. If we don’t handle these questions carefully, we’re going to alienate the people we’re hoping to work with an amplify.

Whether conversations in these spaces are treated as public or private speech will be deeply important for journalism as more conversations move from explicitly public social media spaces into these complex semi-public spaces.

Platforms matter: Many of our conversations with activists suggested that the organizational work of activism has shifted from public-facing tools like Twitter and Facebook into mostly private tools like WhatsApp. When revolutionaries start planning social movement on WhatsApp, the architecture and policies of the platform become matters of intense importance. WhatsApp’s designers likely didn’t anticipate their app being used to coordinate revolutions, and once the tool is used that way in repressive environments, it raises questions of whether the platform is sufficiently careful in protecting its users. One answer is for activists to move to more secure platforms, like TextSecure. I’ve long argued, though, that most activism happens on the most accessible platforms, so it’s not easy to talk activists off from WhatsApp. That makes efforts like Moxie Marlinspike’s successful campaign to get WhatsApp to use end to end encryption incredibly important.

Platforms also matter because they control what speech is possible. Rebecca MacKinnon’s “Consent of the Networked” has been the key text for people to understand the problems of intermediary censorship, and in a session she ran on her new project, Ranking Digital Rights, Jillian York of the EFF explained that she sees community moderation policies as functionally controlling what sort of speech is possible on Facebook. Jill now worries more about corporate controls on speech than government controls, citing instances where Facebook has taken down pro-Palestinian speech that had been incorrectly flagged as supporting terrorism, while allowing far more inflammatory pro-Israel speech. The simple fact that Facebook took down the “We Are Khaled Said” Facebook group – which it later celebrated for helping organize the Tahrir Square protests – shows that the platform often gets speech issues wrong, with potentially serious consequences.

For some members of the Global Voices community, the failure to remove hate speech from these platforms is as disturbing as the potential of these platforms to be censored. Thant Sin from Myanmar described the ferocious climate of Burmese-language Facebook threads, where violent threats against religious groups, particularly the Muslim Rohingya, are alarmingly common. When he worked with other Myanmarese Facebook users to detect and report these threads, they were unsuccessful, for the basic reason that Facebook’s moderators could not read Burmese.

When I tweeted this, Elissa Shevinsky – CEO of Glimpse, a messaging app startup – asked why Facebook doesn’t simply hire Burmese speakers to address this issue. The answer is simple and unfortunate: the abuse team at any social media company is viewed as a cost center, and is inevitably under-resourced. Facebook and other companies rely on “flagging” by community members to identify content that should be further investigated or removed. (Kate Crawford and Tarleton Gillespie wrote a wonderful paper titled “What is a Flag For?” which explores the limitations of flags as a way of controlling and commenting on online speech – it’s a must-read for people interested in this topic.) When flagged content is in an unfamiliar language, Facebook has two bad alternatives: they can leave it (potentially ignoring hate speech) or block it (potentially censoring political speech.) Perhaps Facebook shouldn’t expand into markets where they cannot adequately monitor their content… but it’s hard to demand that a company develop robust mechanisms for abuse in a language before they have users in that language.

Jillian and colleagues at are now documenting the content Facebook and others block as a way of mapping the space of allowable speech online. I’m fascinated by this idea, and wonder whether the method Crawford and Gillespie use in their paper – flagging content to see how platforms respond – might work for Jillian. (Perhaps putting more offensive speech into the world to see how platforms respond isn’t a net positive for the world – there may be enough anger and hate online that simply documenting it well is enough.)

Images, not words I’m a wordy guy, as anyone who’s fought through one of my blogposts knows. But one of my big takeaways from this conference was the power and prominence of images as a form of political speech. Georgia Popplewell organized a massive session titled “The Revolution Will Be Illustrated”, where 13 Global Voices community members introduced us to work by cartoonists, illustrators and designers from their countries.

Many of the artists featured were traditional cartoonists, like Crisis Valero of Spain or Mexican-American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz. But a few were graphic designers like Filipino activist Pixel Offensive, or Global Voices’s own Kevin Rothrock. Pixel Offensive produces simple, eye-catching graphics using images of Filipino politicians recontextualized, captioned and otherwise remixed. PXO’s work has a distinct color signature – yellow and black – which are the colors of the Aquino government. It’s a visual hijacking of the Presidential brand. PXO’s work isn’t as artistically skillful as that of an artist like Alcaraz, but that may well be part of the message: visual activism should be open to everyone who has something to say.

Kevin Rothrock clearly got that message. Co-editor of RuNet Echo, Global Voices’s opinionated and often controversial section focused on the Russian internet, Rothrock enjoys making trouble online, taunting the trolls who respond to his coverage. His posts for Global Voices are usually accompanied with satirical collages, where Vladimir Putin is remixed into every conceivable internet meme. Not every collage works for me, but some are hilarious, and it’s easy to imagine them spreading virally online.

What I most appreciated about Rothrock’s talk was that he encouraged the bloggers and writers in the audience to adopt his simple collage techniques for their own work, offering tricks of the trade. (Logos work well, as they’re designed to work in lots of different contexts, and Vladimir Putin shirtless, on horseback, makes any scene better.) Much as activists have learned to speak in short, tweetable statements to get their message to spread online, it may be time for activists and journalists to learn how to craft fast-spreading visual memes in the hopes of reaching broader audiences.

Representation, if not revolution In the wake of the Occupy movement, Indignados, Gezi and other recent popular protests, it’s reasonable to ask whether protest movements are more powerful for expressing dissent than they are in making fundamental changes to systems of power. Listening to panelists speak about protests in Mexico, Syria, Ukraine and Hong Kong, I thought of Zeynep Tufekçi’s idea that digital tools have made it easier to bring people out into the streets, but may have made the groups assembled with those tools weaker and more brittle. (Because it’s so easy to bring 50,000 people to a protest, Tufekçi argues, organizers have to do a lot less work ahead of time and end up having less influence and social capital with those protesters than they did in earlier years. When the protest ends and it’s time to try and influence governance, those movements have a hard time moving into power.)

One of the major messages from the conference was the idea that protest movements are increasingly focused on their own media representation. Tetyana Bohdanova, a Global Voices author from Ukraine, explained that Euromaidan protesters watched media reactions to their movement with increasing dismay, as credulous journalists adopted simplistic narratives. We tend to think of protesters as developing simple, sharp, propagandistic messages to motivate their followers. Instead, Bohdanova suggests that Euromaidan protesters were often in the odd position of fighting for subtlety and nuance, explaining the concept of “a revolution of dignity” to the press, who wanted to see the protest as a simple battle between Russia and the EU.

My colleague Sasha Costanza-Chock argues that making media is a fundamental part of making protest movements, and stories from the Citizen Media Summit seem to support that contention. From Ukraine to Gaza, activists are tweeting in English to try and influence portrayals of their movements. Understanding social media as a channel for mobilization – the most common narrative about technology and protest – gives us only a partial picture. For activists and protesters, media is at least as important once people are in the streets, to report what’s happened, to document abuses and to represent the movement to the world.

Crisis response is a driver for social media use.
The Philippines is hit by an average of twenty typhoons a year, including massive storms like Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6300 people. Isolde Amante and other Filipino colleagues explained that citizen media has become a primary source of information in these crises, that newspapers are far more likely to hear about these events via social media than via radio or other broadcast channels.

There have been lots of stories celebrating the power of social media to assist with crisis response – how Ushahidi was used to assist recovery efforts in Port au Prince after the Haitian earthquake, for instance. But these accounts usually describe social media contributions as an epiphenomenon. Conversations in the Philippines suggest that we might expect social media to take a lead role in breaking the news of disasters and, possibly, in coordinating responses.

Social Media is about taking sides.
That phrase comes from Phil Howard’s forthcoming book “Pax Technica”, and it struck me as helpful in processing the conversations we had at Global Voices. We’ve always considered Global Voices to be a journalistic project – we’ve asked our authors to cover conversations taking place in their national online spheres in a way that’s balanced and fair, even if we reject classical notions of journalistic objectivity. But it’s also clear that many of the folks involved with Global Voices are passionate advocates for various causes: for freedom of speech online, for their nation to be represented differently in international media, for political causes.

Increasingly, I feel like Global Voices is a platform for “advocacy journalism” in the best sense of the term: much of it advocates for change in the world and features the people fighting to make those changes. And Phil’s description of social media as being about taking sides seems right to me. Those sides aren’t explicitly political – people using social media for hurricane relief are taking sides against a natural disaster and for the benefit of the victims. But the line between asking for friends and followers to pay attention to you and trying to harness that attention for change is a blurry one, and much of what works in social media presumes a position of advocacy.

For me, Global Voices summits are always a joyful time, a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. This one was also wonderful food for thought, and I can’t wait to continue these conversations with the community over the next two years until we see each other in person again.

by Ethan at January 28, 2015 12:15 AM

January 27, 2015

A pile of VRooMy links
Eventbrite – Edit VRM Day 2015a Monday,  6 April at the Computer History Museum, leading into the next three days of IIW, at the same place. Free.
Internet Identity Workshop, aka IIW. Where we’ll have lots of productive VRM sessions. Tuesday to Thursday, 7-9 April. It’s the 20th of these, or the XXth. Should be a good one.
How VRM works Dave nails a primary use case: intentcasting.
What’s wrong with surge pricing? Dave mentions VRM in the midst
nodeStorage now! One of Dave’s great new hacks.
Decentralized Law and the Blockchain For those who like both subjects.
EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass SurveillanceWe needed one, and now we’ve got it.
Meaningful Consent Project  A Call for Participation in #MCDE15, the second Workshop on Meaningful Consent in the Digital Economy.  Happening 23-24 February 2015, in Southampton, UK. I’ll be speaking there.
VRM Development Work – Project VRM The list of work grows longer. So does the range. For example…
Welcomer Simplify applications by giving individuals access to their own online data | Welcomer
A Short History of Welcomer FrameworkOriginal and cool, in Canberra, Oz.
Index | Tapit Another Ozzie original
FillIt | And another.
Authentic Vision VRM with an IoT solution, in Austria.
@EVRYTHNG) | Twitter VRM in the UK.
Handle: To-Dos + Email + Calendar on the App Store on iTunes A  personal tool on which VRM solutions can be built
Cebit: VW-Chef Martin Winterkorn warnt vor Auto als "Datenkrake" – SPIEGEL ONLINE A landmark statement from a car maker.  In German, but translating it ain’t hard. It’s 2015 now.
Hey, BMW, It’s My Data, Too Making sure that BMW’s angle is a VRM one.
Legal Markdown A legal hack. Worthy.
Decentralized Law and the BlockchainFor those who care about both.

by Doc Searls at January 27, 2015 09:58 PM

Bruce Schneier
My Superpower

For its "Top Influencers in Security You Should Be Following in 2015" blog post, TripWire asked me: "If you could have one infosec-related superpower, what would it be?" I answered:

Most superpowers are pretty lame: super strength, super speed, super sight, super stretchiness.

Teleportation would probably be the most useful given my schedule, but for subverting security systems, you can't beat invisibility. You can bypass almost every physical security measure with invisibility, and when you trip an alarm -- say, a motion sensor -- the guards that respond will conclude that you're a false alarm.

Oh, you want an "infosec" superpower. Hmmm. The ability to detect the origin of packets? The ability to bypass firewalls without a sound? The ability to mimic anyone's biometric? Those are all too techy for me. Maybe the ability to translate my thoughts into articles and books without going through the tedious process of writing. But then, what would I do on long airplane flights? So maybe I need teleportation after all.

by Bruce Schneier at January 27, 2015 02:39 AM

Jeffrey Schnapp
Aphorisms on the 21st century museum

Last week, I had the honor of being one of the keynote speakers at an event, held at the Triennale di Milano on January 23, which marked the conclusion of an ambitious four-year EU research project on the theme of European Museums in the Age of Migrations. (That’s our age, in case you are wondering.)

The project in question is described as follows on the project website:

MeLa* European Museums in an age of migrations is a four-year Research Project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, which aims to delineate new approaches for museums in relation with the conditions posed by the migrations of people, cultures, ideas, information and knowledge in the global world. It aims moreover to evaluate how much these changes can interfere with the organization, communication strategies physical structures and the architecture of the exhibition places. Its main objectives are to advance knowledge in the field and to support museum communities, practitioners, experts and policymakers in developing new missions and forms of museums “an age of migrations.”

At the behest of the organizers, my presentation was framed by some reflections on my own practice as a scholar-theorist-thinker, curator, designer, and technologist involved with various types of museums. These initial remarks were followed by a more extended presentation of the slide deck of aphorisms that I’m sharing below. They are divided into eight overlapping nodes. Some reflect immediate experiences in the U.S. and Italy. Some fall under the rubric of emerging thoughts. Some are provocations intended to plant seeds for experimentation and further thought. Though they don’t always overtly emphasize the primacy of face-to-face experiences with physical objects, they are anchored in the conviction that they remain fundamental. The question is how to intensify, expand, enhance, and democratize them, whether from a sensorial or curatorial standpoint.

Feel free to share, critique, rework; a pdf version of the file may be accessed here. (If you do cite or publish them, however, I’d appreciate your referencing the source.)











by jeffrey at January 27, 2015 02:34 AM

danah boyd
Baby Boaz

Boaz Lotan Boyd saw the blizzard coming and knew it was time for him to enter this world. At 4PM on Monday, January 26, a little ball of fuzzy cuteness let out a yelp and announced his presence at a healthy 6 pounds 14 ounces. We are now snuggling in the hospital as the world outside gets blanketed with snow.

I’ll be on parental leave for a bit, but I don’t know exactly what that means. What I do know is that I will prioritize existing collaborations and my amazing team at Data & Society. Please be patient as my family bonds and we get our bearings. Time is the hardest resource to manufacture so please understand that I will probably not be particularly responsive for a while.

by zephoria at January 27, 2015 12:24 AM

January 26, 2015

Berkman Center front page
Berkman Community Newcomers: Max Schorr



Meet Max Schorr, a Berkman affiliate researching social action and mindfulness in the digital age.

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This post is part of a series featuring interviews with some of the fascinating individuals who joined our community for the 2014-2015 year. Conducted by our 2014 summer interns (affectionately known as "Berkterns"), these snapshots aim to showcase the diverse backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments of our dynamic 2014-2015 community.

Profile of Max Schorr

Berkman affiliate and cofounder of GOOD
interviewed in summer 2014 by Berktern Jeremy Merkel

Max Schorr is best known for carrying out his vision through co-founding GOOD, a new media company for "pragmatic idealists" geared towards “creating dialogue around things that matter.” A soldier on the front lines of social action in the digital age, he arrives at the Berkman Center planning to harness the potential of online media to address today’s collective action problems.

I spoke with Max from a nature campus in Los Angeles, where he stayed on behalf of InsightLA, a nonprofit meditation initiative where he serves as a board member. While an urban mindfulness center and nature campus in Los Angeles may sound as unusual as the combination of meditation and technology, Max thrives on creating new media projects at the intersection of local and global, individual and community, top down and bottom up, fun and serious, pragmatic and idealistic, online and offline. As the Internet continues to fundamentally change our global landscape, he believes the quality of our attention and real world interactions remain as much a priority as ever.

Max's entrepreneurial endeavors have repeatedly found success. Upon completion of the Aspen Institute’s First Movers Fellowship, Max launched GOOD/Corps, a consulting venture aimed at helping companies engineer social impact initiatives. With clients such as Google, Starbucks, and PepsiCo, Max has demonstrated that business success can align with social impact. In the future, he will work to build on this framework and problem-solving approach to innovate in the spheres of health, education, and environmental consciousness.

Max is excited about the opportunity to explore mindfulness and social action in the digital age while at the Berkman Center.

by ctian at January 26, 2015 07:12 PM

Berkman Buzz: January 26, 2015



Municipal broadband, Facebook use and academic performance, the rise of the native podcast and more... in this week's Buzz.

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The Berkman Buzz is a weekly collection of work and conversations from around the Berkman community.
The Berkman Center is now accepting applications for our 2015 summer internship program. Learn more!

The Network of Centers releases new report on multistakeholder governance

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This project explores existing multistakeholder governance groups with the goal of informing the future evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem. The research effort represents a globally coordinated, independent academic research pilot project by the Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers (NoC) consisting of twelve case studies and a synthesis paper. The case studies examine a geographically and topically diverse set of local, national, and international governance models, components, and mechanisms from within and outside of the sphere of Internet governance. Key findings from these cases are summarized in a synthesis paper, which aims to deepen our understanding of the formation, operation, and critical success factors of governance groups and even challenge conventional thinking.

From the report, "Multistakeholder as Governance Groups: Observations from Case Studies"
About the Network of Centers | @Network_Centers

Rob Faris outlines the municipal broadband landscape

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No one disputes the importance of affordable access to high-speed internet for economic growth in the 21st century.

The United States has seen consistent and rapid growth in its broadband infrastructure since the internet became popular in the 1990s, offering more households and businesses connectivity at faster speeds. However, rather than leading the world, the United States is drifting towards mediocrity. Compared to the global leaders, consumers in the US pay higher prices, average connectivity speeds are in the middle of the pack and household penetration rates are far from the top.

From his essay on The Conversation, "Municipal broadband offers hope for lagging US internet"
About Rob

Rey Junco explores the link between Facebook use and academic performance

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In the current study, I surveyed over 1,600 college students and examined the time they spent on Facebook by splitting that time into two categories: 1) Time spent multitasking (i.e., task switching) with Facebook while studying and 2) "Regular" time spent on Facebook. Based on previous research, my hypothesis was that multitasking would drive the negative relationships seen between Facebook use and grades but that "regular" Facebook use would not. I also examined students at different class ranks (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) to see if there were any differences that might be attributed to academic maturation.

From his blog post, "New Paper: Student class standing, Facebook use, and academic performance"
About Rey | @reyjunco

Ethan Zuckerman analyzes media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre


Consider two tragic events that took place last week.

A small cell of Islamic terrorists attacked cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and shoppers in a Paris supermarket, killing 17 people and sparking international outcry, solidarity and support.

The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie trended globally, and world leaders took to the streets to march in support of Parisian resilience.

In northern Nigeria, meanwhile, an army of Islamic extremists razed the village of Baga, killing as many as 2,000 people - mostly women and children who were unable to flee the attacks.

Later in the week, the same army - Boko Haram - introduced a horrific new weapon of war in the nearby city of Maiduguri. They strapped explosives to the body of a ten year old girl and sent her into the city's main poultry market. The girl was stopped by guards and a metal detector at the market's entrance, but the bomb detonated and killed at least 19.

There has been no global hashtag campaign or march for the victims of these most recent Boko Haram massacres.

From his piece on The Conversation, "Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre: a study in contrasts"
About Ethan | @ethanz

Leora Kornfeld charts the rise of the native podcast


I love that so many podcasts defy categorization. They aren't exactly journalism or even entertainment in the way broadcasting has long defined entertainmen...with genres and formats, timed and packaged and built around segments that move briskly from one shiny object (or audio equivalent) to the next. And what's more, the people tend to talk like, well, real people, and what would have once been considered bungles or outtakes are just left in...the coughs, the mistakes, the mispronunciations. It's about the content, not the slickness of the production, or the dulcet tones or ego of the announcer, and in this way it has opened up an entirely new universe of possibilities.

But why is podcasting breaking through now?

From her post "2015: The year podcasts took over the podcast charts"
About Leora | @LK617

Bruce Schneier argues against saving everything

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One of the social trends of the computerization of our business and social communications tools is the loss of the ephemeral. Things we used to say in person or on the phone we now say in e-mail, by text message, or on social networking platforms. Memos we used to read and then throw away now remain in our digital archives. Big data initiatives mean that we're saving everything we can about our customers on the remote chance that it might be useful later.

Everything is now digital, and storage is cheap—why not save it all?

From his Ars Technica piece, " The importance of deleting old stuff—another lesson from the Sony attack"
About Bruce | @schneierblog

Susan Crawford weighs in on Obama's community fiber announcement

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I want you to remember President Obama as he appeared Wednesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was loose, lanky, delighted; he was on his game. This was his FDR moment.

When FDR came into office 90 percent of farmers didn't have electricity, even though kids in New York City were playing with electric toys. The private electrical utilities had the market sewn up and they had no particular reason to expand service or charge reasonable prices. Remember that great photograph of FDR with his cigarette tipped upwards in a long holder? He took on those special interests, and that same confidence came shining through President Obama today.

From her piece,"Barack Obama: The FDR of Internet Access"
About Susan | @scrawford

Primavera De Filippi examines the potential of wireless community networks

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In this paper, we focus on an ongoing-though too often neglected-phenomenon of decentralization in telecommunications networks: we show how the current revival of grassroots community networks can counterbalance the erosion of autonomy of Internet users that results from current telecom policies. As opposed to more larger and centralized network infrastructures owned and managed by powerful third parties (such as the state or large, highly capitalized Internet Service Providers (ISPs)), grassroots community networks are deployed by the community and for the community at the local or regional level. Rather than being driven by profits, they focus on the actual needs of the needs of its participants. They also experiment with novel models of distributed governance relying on cooperation and sharing among a community of peers (from a dozen to tens of thousands participants), and that are reminiscent of commons-based peer production schemes (Benkler 2006).

From her paper, "Expanding the Internet Commons: the Subversive Potential of Wireless Community Networks"
About Primavera

Yemen's Uncertainty

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Yemen, often described as a “failed state“ or “on the brink” has become a country without a President and a government. Not only are observers, but also Yemenis living inside the country perplexed by the latest dramatic developments unfolding in Yemen which resulted in the swift takeover of the capital Sanaa, by the Houthi militia, and subsequently the state media, the Presidential Palace and residence, the Prime Minister's residence, blockading government buildings and taking over a military installation, ultimately resulting in the resignation of the Prime Minister, Cabinet and President on Thursday, January 20th.

From Noon Arabia's Global Voices article, "Yemen's Uncertainty"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

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by gweber at January 26, 2015 06:48 PM

What to Listen to During Snowmageddon 2015
Imagevia Shutterstock.Image via Shutterstock.

If you’re in the Northeast then you’re (hopefully) aware of what is about to go down, weather-wise. It just started snowing here in Cambridge and it’s pretty light…FOR NOW.

In anticipation of being trapped in our houses, we’ve put together a playlist of stories for the snowbound.

Some of the stories celebrate snow while others celebrate…Hawaii. We’ve got entertaining listens as well as meditative ones. Some new Radiotopia episodes as well as the classic Joe Strummer’s London Calling which we highly recommend for cabin fever.

Grab a hot toddy and enjoy the full playlist here.

The post What to Listen to During Snowmageddon 2015 appeared first on PRX.

by Audrey at January 26, 2015 06:06 PM

January 25, 2015

David Weinberger
[2b2k]’s updates: A new rhetorical form for journalism? is working hard to take the Web down a notch — the notch where, say, an announcement by NASA that they’ve discovered a possibly habitable planet in another galaxy gets the headline “Scientists find another Earth…and you won’t believe what it’s going to do to the value of your home!”

Jason Calacanis, the founder of the site, and someone I hadn’t talked with since the glory days of blogging, emphasized the site’s commitment to the “atomic unit” of journalism, a particular type of summary that he calls an “update.” It’s not often you get a new rhetorical form, especially for something as important as journalism. But does it work? Does it serve a role we need or want?

It’s an interesting exercise: If you had the opportunity to design a new rhetorical form that will fit news onto a mobile device — that’s where people will read most of their news, Jason is convinced — and will do the best job possible of conveying information without sensationalizing it, what would you come up with? Something longer than a tweet, or a headline crawling under Wolf Blitzer? Full sentences? Definitely free of clickbait. But would you use bullet points?would the headline try to summarize or capture interest? Would you have a headline at all? has its answer to the question, and it follows the form quite rigorously. An “update” — a name I find misleading since there may not be an original story it’s updating — starts with a sentence of 12-15 words in boldface that express the basic news. That’s followed by another sentence or two telling you what you most need to know next. There’s a relevant graphic element, but no headline, so there’s no need to try to flag the reader’s interest in just a few screaming words.


Screencapture of an update

An update also contains a link to the original article — the actual source article, not one that another site has aggregated — the author’s name, and the name of the person who curated the article. And tags: embedded as links in the article, and one at the bottom if needed. This seems to me to be the Minimum Right Stuff to include.Updates are written by the fifty people around the world has hired for $12/hour.

So, how does this human-crafted rhetorical form hold up against the snippets Google News algorithmically derives and features under its headlines?

Here’s Google’s report on what is the top story at as I write this:

Yemen’s President, Cabinet resign
Yemen’s President resigned Thursday night shortly after his Prime Minister and the Cabinet stepped down — seismic changes in the country’s political scene that come just one day after the government and Houthi rebels struck a …


A report from close to Yemen’s prime minister says the government has offered its resignation. There is no word yet on whether the president will accept the resignation. Houthi rebels still hold the capital, and the president is still a virtual prisoner in his home.’s seems obviously preferable. Google (which is summarizing a post at in this case) squanders most of its space simply telling us that it’s a big deal. tells us four things, which is three more than Google’s summary.

Another example, this time for the second article at (for which you have to do an explicit search at Google News). Google News:

Pentagon Scolds Air Force for Wasting Nearly $9 Billion on 
Drones are expensive. Aircraft like General Atomics’s MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper cost millions of dollars piece, while the cost of …

A memo from the Pentagon says the U.S. Air Force’s investment in drones is extravagant. The memo suggests that the Air Force is wasting as much as $8.8 billion in maintaining 46 Reaper drones. The memo says the Air Force has not justified the expanding drone fleet. hands down. Plus, the Google News snippet comes from Gizmodo, which seems to have based its post heavily on an article in The Guardian. links its update directly to The Guardian. There’s nothing wrong with what Gizmodo has done; it’s explicit about its use of info from The Guardian and adds its own commentary and links. But I’d rather have Google News snip directly from the source.

One more example, the third item at Google News:

AirAsia flight QZ8501: black box reveals final moments
The cockpit voice recorder from AirAsia flight QZ8501 has revealed that “screaming alarms” warned the pilots of immediate danger before the …

Divers find six bodies from AirAsia flight QZ8501 but are unable to enter the fuselage. It is believed the majority of victims will be found there. Indonesia’s Rear Admiral Widodo says the wreckage will be lifted to the surface Friday. So far, 59 bodies have been found.

The score is 3:0 in favor of as far as I’m concerned.

Now, that’s not to say that is a superior news service. Google News covers many more items at this point, and refreshes more often. In fact, in the time it took me to copy and paste these examples, Google News had a posted a fresher story about the events in Yemen. Also, Google News lets you browse among many newspapers’ coverage of the same event. (Jason responds that gets posts up in 2-7 mins after an event hits the Web, and it immediately posts submitted links even before a human has written an update for it.)

But when it comes to the actual content the two services provide,’s human-crafted text does the job of educating us quickly far better. Google News doesn’t even try that hard; it aims at giving us enough that we can see if we’re interested enough to click on the link and read the whole story.

Then there is the broader difference in what we’d like such services to do. Google News is a form of headline news. If we only read the Google News page without clicking into any stories, we’ll have very thin knowledge of what’s going on. In fact, it couldn’t get any thinner. With, if we just read the boldfaced first sentences, we’ll come out knowing more than if we read the Google News headlines. We do want to be sure that people understand that three sentences are never the whole story. Unless the first sentence contains the word “Kardashian,” of course.

I don’t know if can scale the way it needs to in order to survive; Jason is very focused on that now. Also, I don’t have confidence yet that is giving me a reliable overview of the moments’ news — and, no, I don’t know what a “reliable overview” means or how to recognize one. But I do like the update as a rhetorical form. And since Jason says that will have an API, perhaps it can survive at least as a service feeding other news sites … maybe even Google News if Google could overcome its bias in favor of the algorithmic.

In any case, the update form has created seems to me to be a worthwhile addition to the rhetoric of journalism.

by davidw at January 25, 2015 04:16 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Global Voices Summit: Do We Feed the Trolls?

Five days with Global Voices leaves me feeling pretty good about the state of the world, and the shape of the internet. But the ‘net is not always a friendly place. Our post-lunch session on the closing day of our conference is “Do We Feed the Trolls?”, hosted by the estimable Jillian York, of Global Voices and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, a celebrated Filipina momblogger. In 2006, she started blogging as a mother who had lost a child. In 2009, she founded, a leading Filipino citizen media site. She’s now an empty nester after years as a fulltime homemaker. Her motivation for writing online is making a difference in her children’s lives, but by making the world a better place.

She tells us, “I don’t feed the trolls – the trolls feed me.” Years ago, she interviewed a Filipina who accused her UK boyfriend for fraud – she continues to be harrassed online by him. She called out a showbiz celebrity on child abuse and remains engaged with his supporters online. Now, in writing about the cutting of pine trees in front of a big shopping mall, she’s facing a new wave of trolling.

The trolls Noemi encounters include people motivated by their own opinions and interests, but also by bots that respond to keywords, trolls hired to do “black operations”, and the bored individual seeking attention. She shows a slide with the names she’s called: slacktivist, brandbasher, mom-blocker.

Kevin Rothrock offers advice on the fine art of troll-feeding

How do you ignore a troll? Do your own SEO to ensure that you’re more visible than what the trolls are saying – put your name out in the medium where they are attacking you. Use your allies as troll-slayers – let them fight your battles. When people get really awful, she blocks or bans them. She prefers not to engage in arguments, but ultimately, she believes the best goal is to show troll stupidity.

Showing a slide titled “Keep Calm and Call the Cyber Police”, she tells us about a story when she began getting death threats for accusing a politician of child abuse. The Philippines have a law against death threats, so she felt empowered to bring law enforcement into the equation.

“Trolls feed me,” she says. Often they give me ideas for stories to cover. And they give me more twitter followers (Check her out at @momblogger.) If you’re being trolled, perhaps this is an added benefit. She suggests that you should also listen to the trolls – you don’t want to be caught in your own filter bubble, your own private internet. Sometimes trolling is intelligent commentary wrapped in bombast.

Arzu Geybullayeva notes that her trolls have a different agenda. They accuse her of being a secret agent, of being a traitor, or they simply sexually harass her.

She does, in fact, speak several languages, and she notes that it’s odd to think that there are people in the world who actually believe she is an agent for Armenia, Azerbaijan’s historical enemy. She is highly critical of Azerbaijan, which leads people to see her as a secret Armenian. Since she also writes for an Armenian newspaper in Turkey, that’s further fuel for their beliefs. Others see her as an agent for secret Western powers.

In truth, Arzu focuses on building peace and understanding in the Caucuses. But this work has now made her a major figure for troll attacks online. She wishes she felt as warmly about her trolls as Noemi does, but the attacks have often been quite personal and scary.

Lina Attalah, who writes for a number of Egyptian publications, notes that trolling is often similar across different cultures – she, too, finds herself often accused of being a secret agent. In Egypt, she notes that politics has been reduced to a simple binary: the military or the Muslim Brotherhood. If you choose a third, independent path, you become a magnet for trolling.

Her newspaper covered the massacre of a Muslim Brotherhood campsite by the police. They were one of very few papers to cover the atrocity. She is very clear that she and her paper are not pro-Brotherhood, but they felt this grave abuse of rights was critical. Once they documented the massacre, the trolls came out in force.

“There is very little logic when it comes to trollers’ responses.” The same people called them Hamas supporters and Israeli spies. Trolling isn’t just an online phenomenon, she says – it is fed by the political context in which it grows.

“I don’t like responding because I don’t have energy for it,” Attalah says. Furthermore, you don’t ever want to defend your nuanced position in the face of this simplistic binary. Not being responsive to trolls is critical to maintaining their independence as a media outlet.

Kevin Rothrock, co-editor of Global Voices’ RuNet Echo, is introduced as one of our most frequent troll targets. Rothrock notes that as a man, he’s not subject to the weird sexual aggression women experience online. As someone reporting on Russia from the US, he’s not directly at risk as he would be on the ground. “I can talk about trolling as a business or an art, because I’m very far outside it.” He notes that some people at Global Voices are writing out of expertise or interest, not knowledge on the ground – when they get trolled, it’s a different, more distant, experience.

When reporting on Russia, Kevin says, I get it on both sides. RuNet Echo is funded by Open Society Foundation, Kevin is based in Washington, DC, and these facts lead trolls to believe he’s a State Department propagandist. But his reporting also tears apart many of the cherished myths of the Russian opposition. When you draw attention to this tensions, the Russian left often criticizes him as a traitor to their work.

“Do I feed the trolls? I interview them!” RuNet Echo has interviewed pro-Kremlin trolls. He worries that this may be making them stronger, but they’re a key piece of the Russian online ecosystem. When you’re writing from afar, though, trolling can be intellectually stimulating and interesting – Kevin says he gets his best troll responses when he’s waiting in line in the supermarket. It’s a form of mental exercise.

York notes that Kevin’s very first statement was about gender. Jill notes that while she usually works at a distance, she often does feel threatened by people locally who respond to her online. She asks the panel whether this sense of threat is more about gender or locality.

Arzu believes that trolling is a response to outspokenness. Threatening you with rape and sexual violence is a way of using the intimidating power of a patriarchal society. Women in Azerbaijan often do feel intimidated by male power and violence. Issues like reconcilliation, which she works on, seem to particularly trigger the trolls. But her commitment to the work keeps her going in the face of these threats.

“Being a women gives trolls more ideas”, explains Attalah. Her male colleagues get similarly attacked, but the attacks on them are not sexual and are less personal. Arzu notes that the attacks that are most disturbing don’t target her, but her mother.

Noting that Global Voices contributors are frequently targeted by government trolls, she asks the panel whether they feel targeted by governments. For Noemi, the similarity of language used by some of her trolls suggests a coordinated, anti-left campaign that is likely to have government support. Rothrock notes that the Russian government certainly sponsors and pays pro-Kremlin trolls – there’s well established research on troll factories and troll farms. These are likely owners of small PR firms who ideologically support Putin. These people interest Rothrock, because he appreciates the authenticity of their views, even if he worries that their attacks are damaging the online space for civil society. Attalah notes that researchers are investigating “electronic armies” of trollers as a different group from individual users.

York notes that when she wrote a story about Azerbaijan she got a wave of responses telling her how wonderful and beautiful the country was. Arzu notes that Azerbaijan is a country that’s happy to construct a Potemkin reality, including hosting its own version of an international Olympics. It’s not a surprise that the government would mobilize an army to respond to online criticism.

Trolling implies little, unempowered individuals complaining, but York worries most about trolling that “punches down”, with powerful individuals threatening weaker actors. Arzu notes that trolling really began to scare her when a noted television presenter, who knows her father personally, began denouncing her on air.

York holds a straw poll, asking the audience whether or not we should feed the trolls. A significant group supports feeding the trolls, a minority believes we never should, and many are undecided. Attalah, Arzu and Noemi note that they’ve got too much to do as writers and activists to feed the trolls.

As for Rothrock: “Feed them ’til they choke on it.”

Jeremy Clarke wonders if anyone has ever converted a troll, changing their view? Rothrock notes that by engaging with trolls, he’s sometimes able to get involved with more civil, productive discussions. Some of these trolls are quite smart, and he appreciates what he’s learned from them. York notes that the opposite has happened to her – she’s had an acquaintance turn into a troll.

A questioner notes that she writes online about sexuality, and routinely is attacked with sexual language directed at her and at her mother. She simply retweets these attacks and lets her reporters respond. One troll was so persistent, he attacked everything she wrote. As an experiment, she simply tweeted a visit to Starbucks – he attacked that as well. Finally, so frustrated, she asked the troll if he had the balls to meet her in person. She set a date and a time, and showed up at a café her friends own – the troll never showed up, and also stopped attacking her.

Gershom Ndhlovu, a Global Voices volunteer from Zambia, tells us that the new Zambian government bought 600 computers and gave them out to party cadres, and paid for data plans for those supporters. If you wrote anything about the government on Facebook, these guys would attack you in response. Troll armies are real and can be powerful.

Kevin Rennie from Australia notes that trolls try to dominate hashtag conversations. He wonders how this can be combatted. Rothrock notes that it’s easy to flood a hashtag. Instead, you need to rely on more closed conversations, which rely on individual thought leaders. He does note that it’s dangerous to assume that anyone who’s angry or disruptive online is part of an organized movement. It’s dangerous to dismiss genuine constituencies that disagree with your point of view. In Russia, Putin has enormous support. When people destroy a hashtag, it’s not always a bot army – it may be legitimate dissent.

Thant Sin from Myanmar notes that the internet in his country is utterly filled with religious and racist hate speech. Posts can be followed with hundreds of comments with hate speech. The experience is one of an ongoing battle on the comments on Facebook. He explains that we believe that these commenters are being encouraged by the government, but that this is unproven. His personal response is to ignore these angry threads.

A questioner addresses his question to “the male CIA agent”, and asks how he would respond to trolls speaking to him in the real world. Rothrock notes that he’d be a very different person online if he were engaged from Russia rather than from the US. He suspects he would be far more careful and would watch what he says, which would mean he’d have a very different online experience.

Filip Stojanovski references a case in Macedonia where a government news portal is run by anonymous people. It’s a trolling infrastructure supported by two hundred thousand Euros in government advertising. One popular tactic is identifying people in photos of protests, which Amira Al-Hussaini notes is popular in Bahrain. He wonders if it would be ethical for us to develop an index of trolls, at least of government trolls? Rothrock notes that he and his RuNet Echo co-editor are in a database as “pathological Rusaphobes”. York notes that some trolls have been immortalized in the Encyclopedia Dramatica. Noemi notes that she doesn’t want to give any more visibility to these trolls and wouldn’t want to immortalize them this way – they would probably enjoy them. Arzu maintains her own personal folder.

Janice from, a progressive media outlet in the Philippines, notes that her outlet is “red tagged”, accused of being associated with terrorist groups in the Philippines. “Bulaplap” is a term meaning “unearth”, but also has sexual connotations. The Arroyo government created a mirror site of Bulaplap that contained pornographic images, suggesting that the media site was really about pornography. She wonders whether those of us who control our own blogs should censor trolling comments.

Attalah tells us that the commenting policy on her newspaper has been not to censor anything. At this point, though, they are reconsidering in the case of hate speech and threats of sexual violence. Arzu closes with the observation: “Trolls are trolls. Don’t let them stop the work we’re doing.”

by Ethan at January 25, 2015 07:00 AM

Global Voices Summit: Online Crisis Reporting

Many of the panels at the Global Voices summit offer a global perspective on difficult reporting challenges. “When the Stakes Are High and the Story Ever Changing: Online Crisis Reporting” Moderator Lauren Finch explains that these look like simple stories to handle: they erupt, a professional or citizen reporter offers their take, and we repeat as necessary. But that’s becoming harder and harder.

Governments routinely go into propaganda overdrive, and we need to unpack what’s real, what’s imagined and aspirational. A flood of citizen generated media means we can illustrate a crisis more thoroughly, but it also means we have an ongoing challenge to verify. People in a crisis are often going through trauma, which demands compassion and caution in coverage. And all these factors take place under an intense time crunch. Our panel features professional and citizen journalists who’ve taken on crisis reporting around the globe.

Mohamed Nanabhay, former head of online at Al Jazeera English and Global Voices board member, remembers the Egyptian revolution as an event that taught him lessons about crisis reporting. On January 25, 2011, Al Jazeera was ready to roll out a massive story: The Palestine Papers, a massive document leak that offered an inside look into the Israel/Palestine negotiations. Al Jazeera had spent months on the story, producing documentaries, online features and the whole organization was ready to break the story.

In this case, Jazeera had lousy timing. Their stringer in Cairo let them know that protests were taking place in Tahrir Square, but the newsroom dismissed the reports: there’s always a protest in Egypt. Al Jazeera is not exactly short on Egypt experts, but they were initially blind to the significance of the protest. For Mohamed, he began to understand what Jazeera needed to do by monitoring Twitter. People on Twitter were taking the revolution very seriously, connecting it to the revolution in Tunisia, and wondering why Jazeera wasn’t reporting it, speculating a Doha-based conspiracy to support Mubarak.

Al Jazeera had one small story about the protest and was working to direct web viewers to the Palestine Papers story, but that little story was getting massive attention. So the newsroom, led by Twitter and by activists demanding coverage, directed by their traffic statistics, decided to deploy multiple journalists and take on the story in a serious way.

Isolde Amante is a print reporter based in Cebu. In the 23 years she’s worked, last year featured a stretch of 23 days that were more challenging than any others she’d ever experienced. On October 15, 2013, a magnitude 7.2 quake struck in Bohol, killing over 200 people. On November 5, 2013, a tornado destroyed 70 houses. And on November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan impacted near Cebu. It was the worst storm ever to hit the Philippines and killed 6300.

Given the other big stories, Amante says that her paper had fewer than 5 reporters available to cover the story. They disabled their beat system and simply covered whatever they could as fast and as properly as they could.

Haiyan is not the only typhoon to have struck Cebu – locals remember Typhoon Mike from 1990. But in comparison with past crises, social media transformed how journalists covered this typhoon. When the tornado broke a few days earlier, her newsroom heard about it not via radio, but via Twitter. Someone tweeted a report and a photo directly to the newspaper.

Social media has also made it possible to cover ongoing efforts to rebuild from the typhoon. When CNN and the BBC stopped reporting on the crisis, the Cebu papers continued, featuring stories on survivors and rebuilding, often using data delivered to them online.

News organizations are also able to be more proactive in the days of digital media. Weather information in the Philippines tends to be limited to storms within the nation’s borders. Cebu newspapers now rely on Japanese weather info and on the twitter streams of meteorologists who warn of typhoons reaching the island.

The demand for information has also become more urgent as the audience for news is changing. There are 10 million Filipinos based abroad who wanted to know what was going on in the wake of the typhoon. As a result, the most popular feature on the Cebu Sun Star’s website was a list of the missing. News organizations now see themselves serving both local and global audiences simultaneously.

Finally, social media has helped mobilize community support. Amante notes that 56% of post-typhoon aid came from the local private sector, while only 8% came from local governments. The newspapers did their part, printing lists of rural communities that had not received aid, repeating until those communities got their fair share.

She notes that the Philippines seems to be getting better at crisis response. Typhoon Hagupit was a stronger storm than Haiyan, but there were fewer casualties. “Maybe we’re making progress.”

Joey Ayoub writes about Palestine and about Lebanon. He notes he’s wearing a Palestinian keffiyah given to him from a friend from Haifa, halfway between Beruit, where he lives, and Gaza, which he often covers.

In the last Gaza conflict, over the course of 50 days, over 2000 Palestinians were killed. 78% were civilians. Joey notes that 77 families were wiped out entirely. Gaza is a very small territory, extremely poor and 45% of the population is less than 14 years old. A six year old Gazan, he explains, has experienced three major wars, or using the term he prefers, massacres.

Despite the fact that Gaza is closed, it’s easy to cover via social media. “Gazans tweet in English because they know that the only thing that can stop this hell is the West.” He features some of the tweets from Gaza that helped illustrate the most recent war, pointing to Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who lives and works in Gaza. 13 of 16 Gazan hospitals were destroyed in the war, which meant that children needed to be taken to Egypt for emergency surgeries. Joey shows a picture of a child’s passport photo. The child is wearing a oxygen mask as the passport was an emergency one and the photo was taken of the child in the hospital.

Social media also allows for counternarratives. Ben Cohen, an online activist, posted a tweet that went viral, a photo of himself with Gazan children. It had the ironic title: “Selfie with greatest threat to Israel”. When the Times of Israel republished an oped from an American newspaper titled “When Genocide is Permissible”, online activists demanded its takedown, and documented its presence on this major Israeli news site before it was removed.

Chloe Lai is a long-time Hong Kong journalist, who after 15 years with commercial papers is now running a small website, an online magazine promoting sustainable development. She also writes for InMediaHK, which she describes as working a similar model to Global Voices, using citizen voices to document current events.

She suggests that Occupy Central in Hong Kong should challenge the narrative of Hong Kong media as open and free. Apple Daily, the sole pro-democracy newspaper, has been firebombed twice, once at their offices, once at the publisher’s home. The paper’s printing plant was surrounded by pro-China protesters to prevent the paper from distributing their papers. Online attacks rendered the paper’s website inaccessible, so for a short period of time, Apple Daily was only able to distribute news via Facebook and other social media.

Direct attempts to intimidate journalists are complemented by incidents of self-censorship. Lai shows us a video of a protester being carried off by police officers into a dark corner, then kicked and beaten by six police officers. It was shot at 3am during a night of the protests, and aired at 6am on Hong Kong’s most popular TV station with a voiceover explaining the context for the video. The head of the newsroom called the office at 6:35am and demanded that the newsroom edit it to remove the voice over.

The video, with voiceover, went viral, and reporters wrote an open letter to the newsroom chief protesting the decision. All the people who wrote the letter were brough to a meeting where the newsroom chief justified his decision, explaining “You are not the worm in the police officer’s body – how can you be sure what happened?” He ordered the newsroom to stop talking about a “dark corner” where the incident took place and demanded that they allow the audience to form their own opinions.

A reporter recorded the meeting, shared it and it, too went viral. Even when mainstream press are self censoring, social media channels are making it harder for stories to be silenced.

by Ethan at January 25, 2015 04:03 AM

Howard French on the media’s coverage of Boko Haram massacres

Foreign correspondent, journalism professor and author Howard French recently weighed in on the debate about media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the massacres in Baga with a memorable stream of tweets. French has a deep understanding of Africa in the news, as a former professor in Côte d’Ivoire and the author of two must-read books about Africa, A Continent for the Taking and China’s Second Continent, about Chinese expansion in Africa.

French was reacting in part to a New York Times Public Editor note from Margaret Sullivan on the New York Times’s coverage of the two stories. He
references a Glenda Gordon article that notes the real problem: it’s not that we failed to value the deaths of those killed by Boko Haram, but that we did not value their lives.

Here’s French’s “Twitter Essay”:

by Ethan at January 25, 2015 01:33 AM

January 24, 2015

Bruce Schneier
Common Risks in America: Cars and Guns

I have long said that driving a car is the most dangerous thing regularly do in our lives. Turns out deaths due to automobiles are declining, while deaths due to firearms are on the rise:

Guns and cars have long been among the leading causes of non-medical deaths in the U.S. By 2015, firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

While motor-vehicle deaths dropped 22 percent from 2005 to 2010, gun fatalities are rising again after a low point in 2000, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shooting deaths in 2015 will probably rise to almost 33,000, and those related to autos will decline to about 32,000, based on the 10-year average trend.

There's also this story.

by Bruce Schneier at January 24, 2015 10:03 PM

Reveal Launches as Monthly Investigative Series

Reveal with CIR_PRX

For only the second time in its history, PRX is launching a new home-grown show today.

That show is Reveal and, like The Moth Radio Hour, it is designed in many ways to move the public radio landscape forward.

With our amazing partners at The Center for Investigative Reporting and various editorial collaborators (stations, investigative centers like the Center for Public Integrity, Bloomberg News and others…), Reveal does something public radio has not been able to do until now: deliver a regular investigative reporting program for public radio.

Risky? Yes. Needed? Now more than ever. And listeners and stations now it as news hungry audiences flock to original stories with meaning and depth.

We’re building a staff on top of the considerable reporting resources at CIR. Welcome Kevin Sullivan, fresh from Here and Now, as the executive producer.

Check out the video CIR did to intro the show.

The program, at last count, will air monthly on 200 stations. Reveal goes weekly in July.

Don’t forget to also subscribe to get the episodes via the Reveal podcast.

Listen. Send feedback. And join us on the next breakthrough program for public radio wherever you might listen.


CIR and PRX Launch Reveal as Nation’s First Monthly Public Radio Series Devoted to Investigative Journalism

Emeryville, Calif. – “Reveal,” the nation’s first public radio show and podcast devoted to investigative reporting, will begin airing on public radio stations nationwide in monthly episodes starting Jan. 24, marking a significant expansion of the show conceived and produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

The hour-long “Reveal” show will feature investigations and storytelling from CIR’s own newsroom and from media partners around the world. PRX’s commitment to “Reveal” builds on its success in creating and distributing “The Moth Radio Hour,” one of the most successful launches in public radio history.

“Reveal” is hosted by Al Letson, creator of the award-winning public radio series “State of the Re:Union.”

“CIR is committed to creating the opportunity for investigative reporting to find its voice for a new generation of fans and communities while continuing to deliver the high-impact journalism that has helped define, challenge and preserve our democracy,” said Joaquin Alvarado, CEO of The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The January “Reveal” episode will feature investigative stories about poorly regulated day care centers, online currency trading, scientific integrity at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the surrogate baby industry. Reporters and freelance writers from CIR, Bloomberg Markets and The Center for Public Integrity contributed to the episode.

The series will air on nearly 200 public radio stations nationwide, including WNYC, KCRW (Los Angeles), WBEZ (Chicago), KQED (San Francisco), and WAMU (Washington D.C.)

CIR and PRX have produced three “Reveal” program pilots since September 2013. The first pilot won a George Foster Peabody Award, one of broadcasting’s highest honors, for CIR’s story about how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs feeds prescription opiate addictions. The pilot episodes featured investigations by CIR, WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio, The Center for Public Integrity, St. Louis Public Radio, The Hollywood Reporter and others.

“Public radio listeners are hungry for meaningful journalism. ‘Reveal’ brings high-quality investigative stories from around the country to audiences nationwide,” said Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX.

Significant funding for “Reveal” comes from The Reva and David Logan Foundation, which last year awarded CIR a three-year grant of $3 million for “Reveal,” citing its founders’ commitment to investigative journalism as the “guardian of the public interest.” The Ford Foundation awarded CIR a two-year grant of $500,000 for the show and its accompanying podcast. In awarding the grant, the foundation noted CIR’s commitment to multiplatform journalism, helping other newsrooms localize deeply researched investigative reporting on “Reveal” and engaging the public in seeking solutions to the issues raised by its reports.

About The Center For Investigative Reporting
The Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation’s first independent, multiplatform investigative reporting organization. Devoted to holding powerful interests accountable to the public trust, CIR creatively employs cutting-edge technology and innovative storytelling to reveal injustice, spark change at all levels of society and influence public dialogue on critical issues. CIR produces high-impact reporting across print, video, TV, radio and online platforms and is the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, winner of a 2013 Emmy Award and a 2014 George Foster Peabody Award, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2012 (for local reporting) and 2013 (for public service).

About PRX (Public Radio Exchange)
PRX is an award-winning nonprofit public media company, harnessing innovative technology to bring compelling stories to millions of people. operates public radio’s largest distribution marketplace, offering thousands of audio stories for broadcast and digital use, including “This American Life,” “The Moth Radio Hour,” “Sound Opinions,” “State of the Re:Union,” “Snap Judgment” and “WTF with Marc Maron.” PRX Remix is PRX’s 24/7 channel featuring the best independent radio stories and new voices. PRX is also the leading mobile app developer for public media, with apps such as Public Radio Player, Radiolab, This American Life, WBUR, KCRW Music Mine and more.

The post Reveal Launches as Monthly Investigative Series appeared first on PRX.

by John at January 24, 2015 01:15 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Global Voices Summit: Social Media in the Philippines

We’ve been asked several times why Global Voices is holding a summit in Cebu, the second-largest city in the Philippines. That’s a pretty easy answer: Nini Cabaero of the Sun Sentinel, a former student of mine at MIT, made a great case for the friendliness of the Cebuano people and argued that we would get a richer picture of the Philippines if we met outside the highly globalized and cosmopolitan capital. (She’s right – it’s been a fantastic introduction to the diversity of the Philippines, a nation of 7000 islands, and of many different languages and cultures.)

But why the Philippines? Global Voices holds our meetings in countries that do not censor the Internet, and in Southeast Asia, internet censorship is quite widespread. But the Philippines is also attractive as it is a hotbed for social media. Leading Filipino media expert Tonyo Cruz tells us that of the 100 million Filipino people, 44 million have access to the internet at home, via business, school, or smartphones. 40m are users of social media, a remarkable percentage. Evidence suggests that Filipinos are the most voracious users of the internet, spending an average of six hours a day online. Fleire Castro, a blogger and relief work activist, suggests that this may be because the internet is so slow – it’s possible that those six hours are spent loading a single viral video.

Filipino social media experts at Global Voices Summit

Tonyo Cruz notes that there are thriving blogging communities in Cebu, Mindanao, Luzon, throughout the Visayas, as well as in Manila. Bloggers are now widely recognized as members of the media. Some bloggers have graduated into business as social media managers. While some of this media is personal and silly – the Philippines is now known as the selfie capital of the world – bloggers are also becoming journalists, wittingly or unwittingly. A project called Blogwatch encouraged citizens to use online media to document and protect their votes in 2010. Bloggers rented a cable television station and held a show on election day, offering blow by blow reports.

Social media is also a tool for social change outside the electoral system. Hashtag campaigns like #rescueph, #reliefph have raised money for typhoon relief. A crowdsourced “magna carta” for internet freedom has been central to a movement for online rights. And recently, a million person march organized online took on the pork barrel system in Congress, Cruz tells us.

These campaigns unfold largely on Facebook, the most popular network in the Philippines, but also on Skype, Google+, Twitter and Viber. Blogs remain powerful, though, especially as a way of speaking out against media misrepresentations. Reuben Lycera, a longtime blogger and social media expert, tells us the story of a campaign by a Cebuano blogger to combat an ad campaign featuring and misrepresenting indigenous Cebuano hero Lapu-Lapu to sell diapers. His blog, amplified by Lycera and others, gathered thousands to the cause and through viral spread, forced EQ Diaper to pull the ad. Another blog campaign debunked a story about a Filipino politician being banned from entering an airbase because the UN demanded that Filipinos not touch UN aid goods. This image and the accompanying story spread widely online, until a blogger researched the imagine and revealed that it was actually of a Filipino politician being warmly greeted by a US commodore. This campaign points to the dangers and power of social media, especially when accounts spread without being checked.

There’s great civic promise for social media in the Philippines. Fleire Castro, who is active in relief efforts, tells us about #oneforiligan, a campaign to support the victims of the Sendong typhoon in Iligan. It urged people to donate at least one dollar to fund relief efforts. Since the campaign was basically a hashtag and instructions to donate to the Iligan Bloggers Society, it was easy for dozens of microorganizations to join in the movement. Ultimately, it raised 1 million pesos (roughly $25,000) in small donations, plus donated goods, which the blogger group delivered for typhoon aid.

Tonyo Cruz points out that there could be greater social impact from digital media if not for the digital divide. During the most recent set of typhoons, Filipinos were expecting to hear damage reports from far flung areas, but no reports came. This has to do with infrastructure issues – these areas are very poor, and connectivity is limited, if not non-existent. “The digital divide blunts the effectiveness of data for social good.”

On the positive side, Cruz believes that bloggers are challenging a problem with Filipino media: credulity. There’s no local culture of factchecking, he explains. “When the president gives a state of the union address, the reporting focuses more on what people wear, what they ate, than on checking the President’s claims.” Social media is making it possible to check these assertions.

The panelists agree on two steps the blogger community should take in the Philippines – they should start holding local blogger conferences, inspired by Global Voices, and they might agree to a general code of conduct: “Bloggers should be honest, fair, accountable and minimize harm.” As bloggers ask to be taken seriously as journalists, it may be appropriate for them to be held to these basic ethical standards.

by Ethan at January 24, 2015 04:46 AM

Global Voices Summit: “Our Voices, Ourselves”

One of the more remarkable efforts Global Voices is engaged with is Rising Voices, a mentoring and microgranting project that calls attention to stories from marginalized people and groups around the world. One of the projects were are currently supporting is “Our Voices, Ourselves”, a project focused on girls’ rights in Kyrgyzstan. It’s represented by Dariya Kasmamytova and Aishoola Aisaeva in Cebu, both under 21 years old. They are leading a campaign that is helping young women talk about the barriers and persecution they experience in their daily lives.

Dariya tells us the story of a 15 year old girl, abandoned by her stepfather and left at a government shelter. She was bullied and abused, then kidnapped, forced into child marriage, and locked in the home of her husband, where she was treated like a slave and like an object, not like a human being. She identifies two problems: the government is not correctly protecting vulnerable children, and there are cultural barriers to full protection of Kyrgyz girls. There’s a culture of “uyat” – shame. Your body is a shame and you cannot talk about it. The culture encourages boys to be violent and protect themselves, and to keep girls at a lower social status than boys.

The women are opening a club for girls in Kyrgyzstan, to give a space of support and understanding, free of the threat of violence. They have been provoking debate and promoting the work using an online video campaign titled What Girls are Silent About”. Over images of Kyrgyz girls sitting in silence, young women talk about girls being forced into marriage, told they cannot study math or science, told that their place is in the home. Another striking video shows a Kyrgyz girl singing in the style of Manas, a traditional Kyrgyz epic, which is traditionally only sung by men. The message: we have voices too and are ready to act. We are part of our society, we are part of the power of the people.

You can follow the project on Twitter at @girlactivist_kg or read the stories at This is an amazing project, and exactly what I’ve always hoped Global Voices can do to support important projects around the world.

by Ethan at January 24, 2015 03:29 AM

Global Voices Summit: Protecting the Open Internet

Every two years, Global Voices comes together for a community meeting. Over a hundred of our authors, translators, editors and management have been meeting this week in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. For two days of our meeting, we’re opening our discussions to the Filipino public, hosting a public gathering at the provincial capitol of Cebu. The discussions are streamed online, and more than two hundred of our members as well as local and international activists and media figures are here with us.

The main theme for our conference is the obligation of those of us who participate in citizen media to protect and defend the open internet. With this in mind, the event begins with a solemn ritual. Eight Global Voices contributors read the names of bloggers and writers who are imprisoned by their governments or extremist forces for their online writing. They read dozens of names, from Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the USA and Vietnam. The names include members of our community like Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fatah, and the Zone9 bloggers collective from Ethiopia, where four Global Voices bloggers are imprisoned. Barret Brown, recently sentenced to a lengthy prison term for linking to an online document represents the US on this shameful list. The Global Voices statement demands that governments fulfill their duties to the universal declaration of human rights, noting “We cannot remain silent and you should not either.”

The first panel, hosted by Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Lokman Tsui, is titled “Protecting the Open Internet is Everyone’s Business”. As someone with his historical roots in the Netherlands and in Hong Kong, Lokman identifies his home country as “the internet” and notes that protecting the open internet is literally protecting our home. He introduces Nani Jansen, legal director of Media Legal Defense Initiative in London, which is managing more than 100 cases around the world including many threats to freedom of expression. She is therefore in a terrific position to offer an overview of threats to freedom of expression around the world. Internet specific legislation like Act 66A in India, which makes it a punishable crime to “cause annoyance or inconvenience to another with online posts or email”, is a great example of a chilling law. With people facing three year sentences for these vague crimes, the law is often used to surpress political speech. In the Philippines, a recent cybercrime law has extended criminal libel laws onto the internet, now offering up to six years for online defamation. Azerbaijan was promising to decriminalize defamation in 2006, but now extends those laws to the internet, offering up to three years in prison.

Governments also continue to block internet content without court order, Ms. Jansen explains. The Zambian Watchdog, one of the country’s few critical media sites, was blocked within Zambia since 2013. The site was accessible externally, but the block locally was a key restriction on speech, and when Reporters without Borders mirrored the site and had their mirror blocked as well. In Pakistan, YouTube was blocked for almost two years. Jansen explains that there’s no basis in law for these blocks – any ministry can simply contact the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and demand a site be blocked. Intermediary liability, holding a site responsible for the actions of a commenter or poster, is another form of online control. The extension of traditional media laws to online content can have a chilling effect as well. In Russia, the new blogger’s law turns online publications into traditional publications, which adds onerous new administrative requirements to online speech, causing some blogs to shut down. In Italy, it’s difficult to force removal of content via libel laws, so copyright laws are often abused to bully sites into compliance. Protecting online speech involves being vigilant on all these fronts simultaneously.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn from Prachatai, a leading activist and citizen media site, talks about resistance online and offline to media blackouts after the May 22 coup. International news stations were blocked on television, and viewers who wanted to see BBC or CNN saw a screen with the logos of the coup government. Subway stations were preemptively closed in the fear that they would be locations for protests. In response, Thai activists and citizens found ways to protest creatively, online and offline. The three finger salute from the Hunger Games has become a popular sign of protest, and the coup government has responded by detaining those who display the signal for up to a week for “attitude adjustment”.

The three finger salute has also moved online, and into stickers and graffiti, as this symbol: .|||. Another popular sticker is 2+2=4. It’s a reference to a viral video of a teacher who was trying to teach students that 2+2=5. It’s become a symbol of disobedience and resistance. Thai citizens have been remarkable in using digital media as a space for protest. When a group of high school girls were forced to walk a long distance on their knees on cement as a form of collective punishment for being late to school, the girls documented the wounds to their knees by publishing the photos online. The accompanying hashtag campaign went viral and proved extremely embarrassing for the school.

Premchaiporn makes the point that people who live in countries with no offline freedom feel more freedom online. But she warns that the authorities will eventually come for you online as well. It’s a cat and mouse game – hundreds of Facebook users have been arrested for lege mageste in military courts. We need friends who live in freer areas to ask their government to stand firm and resist censorship, and ask the companies we use for online services to protect their users.

Al Alegre from the Foundation for Media Alternatives reminds us that Cebu has several special significances for Filipino activists. It is the home of Lapu Lapu, a brave Cebuano who resisted colonization in the 1600s. It’s also the place where the Philippines were first connected to the internet in 1994. Alegre offers a quick tour of global threats to privacy: mobile phone surveillance; using backdoors of coercion, cooperation and corruption to gain information from telephone companies; backdoors in critical tools like Skype; key internet companies giving user information to governments. The Snowden revelations are only the latest bad news in a long, ugly story. And even the good guys have their dark sides, argues Alegre. Google has been good about revealing information they’ve been forced to give to governments, but has violated privacy with their Street View cameras. He encourages us to read the UN report from Frank LaRue, crediting it as “probably the most comprehensive report on how privacy and surveillance has impacted human rights.”

Alegre warns that we are likely to see more requests for surveillance in the wake of Charlie Hebdo. It’s not just direct surveillance of communications, but surveillance of transaction records – when we shop, make a phone call, or move around the world. He reminds us that “if the product is free, we are the product”. Why should we worry about digital surveillance? Isn’t privacy a shield for corruption?

He argues that we need to build a link between online privacy and other rights. We need to consider complementary rights in the human right regime and need to protect rights equally, indivisibly. He closes with a horrific Filipino story about the importance of surveillance. On November 23, 2009, 63 people, including 31 media practitioners, were killed in an act of political violence called the Ampatuan massacre. The people were surveilled and ambushed on a ridge as a mayoral candidate attempted to register his election papers. No one has been convicted. He asks us to #endimpunity, and to demand that human rights include a right to be free of surveillance.

by Ethan at January 24, 2015 03:12 AM

January 23, 2015

Bruce Schneier
Friday Squid Blogging: "Squid Jiggin' Ground"

Classic song written by Arthur Scammell and performed by Hank Snow.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

by Bruce Schneier at January 23, 2015 10:07 PM

The Security of Data Deletion

Thousands of articles have called the December attack against Sony Pictures a wake-up call to industry. Regardless of whether the attacker was the North Korean government, a disgruntled former employee, or a group of random hackers, the attack showed how vulnerable a large organization can be and how devastating the publication of its private correspondence, proprietary data, and intellectual property can be.

But while companies are supposed to learn that they need to improve their security against attack, there's another equally important but much less discussed lesson here: companies should have an aggressive deletion policy.

One of the social trends of the computerization of our business and social communications tools is the loss of the ephemeral. Things we used to say in person or on the phone we now say in e-mail, by text message, or on social networking platforms. Memos we used to read and then throw away now remain in our digital archives. Big data initiatives mean that we're saving everything we can about our customers on the remote chance that it might be useful later.

Everything is now digital, and storage is cheap­ -- why not save it all?

Sony illustrates the reason why not. The hackers published old e-mails from company executives that caused enormous public embarrassment to the company. They published old e-mails by employees that caused less-newsworthy personal embarrassment to those employees, and these messages are resulting in class-action lawsuits against the company. They published old documents. They published everything they got their hands on.

Saving data, especially e-mail and informal chats, is a liability.

It's also a security risk: the risk of exposure. The exposure could be accidental. It could be the result of data theft, as happened to Sony. Or it could be the result of litigation. Whatever the reason, the best security against these eventualities is not to have the data in the first place.

If Sony had had an aggressive data deletion policy, much of what was leaked couldn't have been stolen and wouldn't have been published.

An organization-wide deletion policy makes sense. Customer data should be deleted as soon as it isn't immediately useful. Internal e-mails can probably be deleted after a few months, IM chats even more quickly, and other documents in one to two years. There are exceptions, of course, but they should be exceptions. Individuals should need to deliberately flag documents and correspondence for longer retention. But unless there are laws requiring an organization to save a particular type of data for a prescribed length of time, deletion should be the norm.

This has always been true, but many organizations have forgotten it in the age of big data. In the wake of the devastating leak of terabytes of sensitive Sony data, I hope we'll all remember it now.

This essay previously appeared on, which has comments from people who strongly object to this idea.

Slashdot thread.

by Bruce Schneier at January 23, 2015 04:53 PM

Best Youth-Made Radio of 2014
Image via Shutterstock.Image via Shutterstock.

Thank you to everyone who nominated their favorite youth-made stories of the past year. Young people are making a tremendous amount of radio and we want to highlight some of that work. Keep it up!

Thanks also to the amazing educators out there training the next generation of radio-makers.

Take a listen to these stories which range from a teen’s take on life in poverty to a story about Costa Rica’s culture of conservation.

We encourage you to reach out to these young producers and comment on their story to tell them what you think.

Happy listening!

The post Best Youth-Made Radio of 2014 appeared first on PRX.

by Audrey at January 23, 2015 04:27 PM

Bruce Schneier
Defending Against Liar Buyer Fraud

It's a common fraud on sites like eBay: buyers falsely claim that they never received a purchased item in the mail. Here's a paper on defending against this fraud through basic psychological security measures. It's preliminary research, but probably worth experimental research.

We have tested a collection of possible user-interface enhancements aimed at reducing liar buyer fraud. We have found that showing users in the process of filing a dispute that (1) their computer is recognized, and (2) that their location is known dramatically reduces the willingness to file false claims. We believe the reason for the reduction is that the would-be liars can visualize their lack of anonymity at a time when they are deciding whether to perform a fraudulent action. Interestingly, we also showed that users were not affected by knowing that their computer was recognized, but without their location being pin-pointed, or the other way around. We also determined that a reasonably accurate map was necessary -- but that an inaccurate map does not seem to increase the willingness to lie.

by Bruce Schneier at January 23, 2015 03:26 PM

January 22, 2015

Berkman Center front page
Upcoming Events: #StopEbola : What Nigeria did right (1/27); FinTech and Entrepreneurship (1/28); Development in the Digital Age



A preview of our upcoming events calendar and recently archived digital media

Berkman Events Newsletter Template
The Berkman Center is now accepting applications for our 2015 summer internship program. Learn more!.
berkman luncheon series

#StopEbola : What Nigeria did right

Tuesday, January 27, **12:00pm ET** (please note new start time), Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor. This event will be webcast live.


On July 20, 2014 the Ebola outbreak landed in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. Public health officials warned that an outbreak could be catastrophic in Lagos, a densely populated city of 21 million. 19 confirmed cases left 11 dead from the disease, but Nigeria’s nightmare scenario never occurred. Within three months, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free, deeming the nation's efforts to contain the disease a "spectacular success story”. In a country with 130 million mobile-phone users and active social networks, social media and mobile technology played a central role in Nigeria’s Ebola containment. SMS platforms were used to share information on the signs and symptoms of the virus. Ebola Alert, a technology organization formed by group of volunteer doctors, used Facebook and Twitter to increase awareness through 24/7 updates and online Ebola chats. Social media campaigns deployed Nollywood stars to sensitize audiences, manage fear and myths, and reduce stigma. Contract tracers were equipped GPS technology on mobile devices to ensure accountability and accuracy during interviews and monitoring. Health workers were provided with mobile phones and an Android app that allowed for immediate and critical information sharing. Each of these strategies led to fast communication, better self-reporting and identification of Ebola contacts, successful tracking and monitoring - all essential components of an outbreak response that Nigeria got right in record time. What can we learn from Nigeria? And how can these strategies be utilized in public health challenges in Africa and beyond? This discussion will included video interviews with Nigerian doctors, health workers, social media campaigners and Ebola survivors from an upcoming documentary on this subject.

Aimee Corrigan is the Co-Director of Nollywood Workshops, a hub for filmmakers in Lagos, Nigeria that supports and delivers movie production and distribution, training, and research. She is also a documentary photographer and filmmaker. Aimee's passion for Nollywood sparked during her participation in the production of the documentary This Is Nollywood. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

co-sponsored event

FinTech and Entrepreneurship: Exploring the role of innovative financial services in advancing global entrepreneurship & development

Wednesday, January 28, 8:30-10:00AM at 1776 in Washington, DC, 1133 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor

Join the Global Innovation Forum in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Engine, Intuit and 1776 for a breakfast discussion about the role of emerging technology-enabled financial services in empowering global entrepreneurship and development, and ways in which public policy can impact access to these services. Featuring a keynote conversation with Congressman Jared Polis & perspectives on innovative online financing mechanisms, entrepreneurship and public policy from: Jeff Kaufman, Group Lead, QuickBooks Finance; Jonny Price, Senior Director, Kiva ZIP,; Art Stevens, Director for Social Innovation, PayPal; Brandon Pollak, Director of Global Affairs, 1776; Mark Wu, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University; Jake Colvin, Executive Director, Global Innovation Forum.

Registration Required. more information on our website>

berkman luncheon series

Development in the Digital Age: The role of online platforms & payments in enabling entrepreneurship in emerging markets

Tuesday, February 3, 12:00pm ET, Harvard Law School. This event will be webcast live.


The Internet is democratizing access to the global marketplace for millions of people around the world. Thanks to online platforms, payment systems and logistics services, companies, nonprofits and individuals can embark on global journeys like never before. Join representatives from the Global Innovation Forum, eBay and Etsy to explore the opportunities for economic development that the Internet unlocks, and the specific challenges that global entrepreneurs and micromultinationals in developing countries face.

Usman Ahmed is Policy Counsel for eBay Inc. His work covers a variety of global Internet issues including international trade, intellectual property policy, and financial services. Jake Colvin is Executive Director of the Global Innovation Forum @ NFTC. Through GIF, Jake works with startup, business, education and nonprofit leaders to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with participating in the global marketplace in the digital age, and to assess the effect of public policies on international trade and innovation. Althea Erickson is director of public policy at Etsy, the marketplace for creative people to buy and sell unique goods. Althea leads Etsy’s government relations and advocacy efforts, focusing on educating and advising policymakers on the issues that micro-entrepreneurs and creative businesses face. She is also responsible for developing and advancing Etsy’s position on issues ranging from taxes and regulation, to open Internet and free trade, to IP and privacy policies. RSVP Required. more information on our website>


Nathan Freitas: The Great Firewall Inverts


The world is witnessing a massive expansion of Chinese telecommunications reach and influence, powered entirely by users choosing to participate in it. In Usage of the mobile messaging app WeChat (微信 Weixin), for example, has skyrocketed not only inside China, but outside, as well. Due to these systems being built upon proprietary protocols and software, their inner workings are largely opaque and mostly insecure. (WeChat has full permission to activate microphones and cameras, track GPS, access user contacts and photos, and copy all of this data at any time to their servers.) In this talk, Nathan Freitas -- Berkman Fellow, director of technology strategy and training at the Tibet Action Institute. and leader of the Guardian Project -- questions the risks to privacy and security foreign users engage in when adopting apps from Chinese companies. Do the Chinese companies behind these services have any market incentive or legal obligation to protect the privacy of their non-Chinese global userbase? Do they willingly or automatically turn over all data to the Ministry of Public Security or State Internet Information Office? Will we soon see foreign users targeted or prosecuted due to "private" data shared on WeChat? And is there any fundamental difference in the impact on privacy freedom for an American citizen using WeChat versus a Chinese citizen using WhatsApp or Google? video/audio on YouTube>

Other Events of Note

Local, national, international, and online events that may be of interest to the Berkman community:

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See our events calendar if you're curious about future luncheons, discussions, lectures, and conferences not listed in this email. Our events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

by ashar at January 22, 2015 04:58 PM

Willow Brugh

While I’ve long been interested in Cochlear Implants, a combination of consistently reading Mel Chua’s blog and my ongoing fights for space for visual expression on Wikimedia Commons has reinforced my investment in accessibility. The more ways we express ourselves, after all, the more chances we have of being understood.

While it’s great to be aware of a need to become more accessible (see Benetech’s Diagram or this talk at Cascadia.JS by Alex Qin), it’s a bit more difficult to figure out if you’re “doing it right” when attempting to become more accessible. I have the terrible habit of adding in footnotes, or of linking things thoroughly, which can disrupt the text-to-speech experience. Sorry, everyone.

The most basic step I’ve taken is adding the “Accessibility plug in” on WordPress. Then, based on feedback from Twitter, running Apple Voice Over, which shows I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s also far better than it was in the past. I now think I get things just well enough to realize when I’m making layout choices balancing visual appeal and audio accessibility.

I have started taking audio recordings for some of my entries, and I’ll continue to slowly flesh this out. Additionally, some image descriptions are now far more detailed and… poetic?… than they have been before, as inspired by discussion with Diagram at Aspiration’s DevSummit. If you have requests for either image descriptions or audio files, please let me know. This has the added benefit of reminding people there’s a real live person behind the entries on this blog, stumbling speech and all.

But I still don’t know if I’m “doing it right.” How do I find out? I feel strangely like someone stumbling on social justice… is it on people already marginalized to lead me to doing things less wrong? Regardless, I’ll keep bumbling along on my own, open to learning more.

by bl00 at January 22, 2015 04:01 PM

Justin Reich
Guest Post: Wisdom from David Bowie: Technology and Change
Gregg Russell, a veteran school principal, discusses the challenges of education technology and school transformation.

by Justin Reich at January 22, 2015 01:14 AM

January 21, 2015

Berkman Center front page
Berkman Community Newcomers: Mitali Thakor



Meet Mitali Thakor, Berkman affiliate investigating the development of digital forensics technology to police sex crimes.

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This post is part of a series featuring interviews with some of the fascinating individuals who joined our community for the 2014-2015 year. Conducted by our 2014 summer interns (affectionately known as "Berkterns"), these snapshots aim to showcase the diverse backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments of our dynamic 2014-2015 community.

Profile of Mitali Thakor

Berkman affiliate and Anthropology Ph.D student at MIT
interviewed in summer 2014 by Berktern Emily Hong

A new Berkman affiliate for 2014-2015, Mitali Thakor’s research investigates the transnational politics of digital forensics technology developed to address sex trafficking and sex work. Mitali is a fifth year graduate student in the MIT HASTS PhD program, and her fieldwork traverses three continents – she’s currently in Bangkok, where she chatted with me over Skype about herself and her work.

As part of her research, Mitali has been interviewing people affiliated with law enforcement, anti-trafficking organizations, and relevant technological applications, including some people working on cutting-edge image and facial recognition software. “My mouth just falls open when you hear about some of the things people are working on” she says. Before Thailand, Mitali was conducting similar fieldwork in DC and the Netherlands, and this multi-location approach allows her to look at global patterns of how information travels from policing hubs in Europe and the US to South East Asia.
She describes the issue of policing sex crimes, particularly child pornography and child trafficking, as a unique vantage point to study the development of online policing, online law enforcement, and carceral regimes. “The issue of child exploitation online has created new partnerships between law enforcement and computer scientists,” she says. “Technologists will develop a software [to apprehend those who engage sex trafficking] and then donate it, and this actually raises all kinds of questions of policing, privacy, and surveillance.”

As an example, she points to Project Sweetie, developed by the NGO Terre des Hommes in the Netherlands. Developed to address the issue of webcam sex tourism, a kind of child pornography where videos of child abuse are shared over the web, “Sweetie” refers to a hyper-realistic computer avatar of a 10-year-old Filipina girl. Deployed in a chat room, Sweetie was used in a sting operation to investigate individuals soliciting webcam sex acts. The visceral reaction to Sweetie’s human-like face is what Mitali finds interesting. “We focus on the CGI girl – this ten year old, Filipina child who isn’t real,” she says. What exactly does it mean to have such a highly gendered, racialized virtual body out there?

“Viewing this CGI girl engages my background in queer science and technology studies (STS), particularly in the light of new law enforcement technologies” explains Mitali. “Webcam sex tourism and pedophilia is vilified; these people are referred to as ‘offenders,’ ‘as perpetrators,’ and anything related to it is made an outsider, othered and queered in some way. When an NGO develops a CGI image, I want to ask, what kind of queer object is that? Looking at the design team, we see that there are no Filipino people. It’s entirely Dutch or English, and 80% men. Already within the design process there is potential for bias.”

“I earned my BA from Stanford in Anthropology and Feminist Studies, so a gender studies analysis is very much a part of my academic work and goals,” says Mitali, describing the importance of scrutinizing cultures of power and control where technology decisions are made.

Interviews of sex trafficking survivors often garner attention and interest, but Mitali is more interested by those in positions of technological power, who are rarely interviewed or publicized. What about the NGO professional, sitting at their desk and writing reports, she queries. Who are these people and where do they come from? What are their cultural biases?  How do people think about their work, and how does that influence or shape the technologies or carceral systems they design and enforce?

In addition, Mitali notes that new technologies are simultaneously driving shifts in policing structure. Traditionally, a sting operation might have someone posing as a sex worker to catch potential perpetrators. But what happens this entire process migrates online? Anyone can pose as anyone in a chatroom, and technologies exist to track IP addresses and create online records of behavior. Does this kind of online surveillance and policing pose a problematic intervention? Given that no prior arrest records or warrants are utilized in an online sting, once individuals have been documented engaging in webcam sex tourism, what does response look like from police and NGOs, or what should it be? To address these questions, online child exploitation units are now drawing from multiple different disciplines, employing psychologists and technologists and others along with law enforcement agents.

Mitali sees Berkman as a good place to explore these issues, particularly the Center’s rights-focused projects and technology driven activism. Individuals working at tech companies and computer scientists are usually very aware of the privacy and surveillance concerns implicated in their work, she notes. However, “child pornography has always been a twist in the free speech debate… when we see images of child exploitation, that is a classic case in which every one sort of pauses. If you believe that people who commit child sex abuse must be imprisoned for life, you will take any steps necessary to convict them in anyway [including pushing the boundaries of surveillance and technological capacities].” Mitali’s analysis reveals this kind of bias in technological decision-making; one could imagine a hypothetical in which respect for online privacy in technology development could go out the window.

Outside of her dissertation work, Mitali loves dancing and yoga: “I do Indian classical dance, and in college danced competitively with an Indian folk dance group.” She’s also engaged in anti-violence organizations at MIT, efforts that focus on both sexual assault response and proactive efforts to promote healthy sexuality “I get to work with the LGBTQ community and with cultural community centers, sides which rarely gets attention,” she says. She also works with East Coast Solidarity Summer (formerly known as DC Desi summer), a program to build up a progressive South Asian youth movement by bringing together high school and early college students to discuss issues of racial identity, sexuality, activism, and mental health in South Asian communities. “ECSS is a safe and inclusive space for radical youth passionate about social justice,” she says, describing it one of the most rewarding things she does outside of her thesis work. “For me, it’s a constant reminder of power and potential. As a grad student, and hopefully one day a professor, I want community and youth engagement to remain a central and grounding force in my work.”

by ctian at January 21, 2015 05:27 PM

Municipal broadband offers hope for lagging US internet



No one disputes the importance of affordable access to high-speed internet for economic growth in the 21st century. The United States has seen consistent and rapid growth in its broadband infrastructure since the internet became popular in the 1990s, offering more households and businesses connectivity at faster speeds. However, rather than leading the world, the United States is drifting towards mediocrity.

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By Robert Faris

No one disputes the importance of affordable access to high-speed internet for economic growth in the 21st century.

The United States has seen consistent and rapid growth in its broadband infrastructure since the internet became popular in the 1990s, offering more households and businesses connectivity at faster speeds. However, rather than leading the world, the United States is drifting towards mediocrity. Compared to the global leaders, consumers in the US pay higher prices, average connectivity speeds are in the middle of the pack and household penetration rates are far from the top.

Although geography, demographics and demand partly explain the situation, the most obvious culprit is the dearth of competition in broadband markets. But that could change. Twenty states currently restrict what local governments can do in deploying their own broadband infrastructure to compete with the big providers. Now, the Federal Communications Commission appears to be on the verge of making changes that could make it easier for individual communities to invest in their own broadband infrastructure.

State of the union’s internet connection

A majority of the US is served by two providers: a cable company and telecom company. A small proportion of households, about 15%, have a third option. A quarter of households have one broadband provider or less. As we consider high speeds, the picture is more dismal. A 10 Mbps connection is not available for two out of five households, and three out of four households have one or fewer options at 25 Mbps. A 25 Mbps connection, which typically costs more than US$50 in US cities, costs US$24 in London, US$28 in Seoul, and US$31 in Paris. In France, triple play packages have typically been priced at 30 euro (about US$35). A price war in February 2014 brought the price down to 20 euro.

It’s no mystery why there’s so little competition for internet access in the US. Unlike European countries and a large majority of OECD countries, the US has abandoned policies that require the sharing of infrastructure with competing broadband providers. Instead, the US has taken a deregulatory approach that requires competitors to build their own infrastructure in order to enter the market.

Rewiring neighborhoods and homes is expensive. It costs approximately US$700-800 per house to run new fiber infrastructure through a neighborhood and another US$600-700 to make each household connection. In order to upgrade parts of its infrastructure to offer its fiber-to-the-home service, FiOS, Verizon invested US$23 billion to run fiber past 18 million homes in the US.

Americans get fed up with what the big providers are willing to provide and at what price. Steve Rhodes, CC BY-NC-SA

Municipalities take matters into own hands

For communities with poor broadband connectivity, there are few options: wait for the cable and telecommunication providers to decide it is in their interests to upgrade their systems, convince Google Fiber to wire up your community or build your own.

This is no small decision. Wiring a community with new fiber is expensive, and what it buys you is the ability to compete against existing cable and telecom incumbents who will do everything within their power to discourage you from eating into their profits.

But despite the risks and high capital costs, this is just what a growing number of communities in the US are choosing to do, in places including Rockport, Maine; Chanute, Kansas; and Powell, Wyoming The projects underway now number in the hundreds. In my own research, the most common reason I hear comes not from communities without broadband, but from those communities poorly served by existing broadband providers.

Incumbent broadband providers have responded to community broadband projects with lawsuits, steep price cuts, public relations campaigns and lobbying at the state level to inhibit community-based broadband competition. Twenty states have enacted such legislation using a wide range of measures: banning retail sales, restricting the use of public finance, requiring referendums and instituting profitability thresholds, among others. While many of the requirements appear reasonable at first glance, they are designed to open up avenues for litigation and to introduce costly delays.

The principal arguments put forward against municipal broadband networks are that the government should not be involved in broadband infrastructure as the market is working fine, that this constitutes unfair competition against private sector alternatives, and that municipal broadband projects tend to fail and leave tax payers saddled with high debts to pay off. The rationale for state intervention is thus to save local communities from making costly mistakes.

No doubt, the learning curve has been steep for many of the pioneers of municipal broadband. Burlington Telecom, a municipal project in Vermont, ran into financial trouble and has been sold to a local business. The Utopia project in Utah, a consortium of cities, is negotiating a sale of its network to complete the build-out of its network and resolve financial problems. The municipal network in Provo, Utah was sold to Google Fiber for $1. Another set of communities have demonstrated signs of success, including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Bristol, Virginia; Lafayette, Louisiana; Santa Monica, California; Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Wilson, North Carolina.

The common feature in each of these examples is that the public investments have boosted competition and brought businesses and households in their regions faster broadband at better prices. Even those projects that have struggled to pay back their debts,for example in Monticello, Minnesota, have stimulated broadband providers to offer better service at better prices.

President Obama is making access to high-speed internet an issue. Larry Downing/Reuters

Obama throws down the gauntlet

The decision to allow municipalities to invest in broadband infrastructure is solely at the discretion of the FCC, an independent agency. But President Obama has provided his endorsement and backing by coming out strongly in favor of removing these obstacles — obstacles put into place with the encouragement and support of cable and telecommunications providers. Obama has also promised assistance for communities through a new project, Broadband USA, which will “provide communities with proven solutions to address problems in broadband infrastructure planning, financing, construction, and operations across many types of business models.”

Following his stand on net neutrality, this is the second time the Obama administration has chosen to wage war against the biggest players in the telecommunications industry, including Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon, among others.

The prospects for major changes in broadband competition policy in Washington D.C. appear to be remote. That may matter less if communities are able to take matters into their hands. We may be on the cusp of a substantial shift in broadband policy away from Washington towards decisionmakers in communities across the country. The stakes are high. Expect the fight to be vicious.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

by gweber at January 21, 2015 05:09 PM

January 20, 2015

Rey Junco
New Paper: Student class standing, Facebook use, and academic performance
Student class standing, Facebook use, and academic performance

CC License: 8541370656

My newest paper, Student class standing, Facebook use, and academic performance was just published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

In previous work, I’ve discovered that social media use is related to a host of academic and psychosocial outcomes. Most notably, there is a relationship between Facebook use and academic performance and Facebook use and student engagement. When looking at time spent on the site, there is a negative relationship between Facebook use and outcome variables; however, when we parse out different ways of using Facebook, then the relationships become more complex. For instance, what students do on Facebook is more positively predictive of academic and engagement outcomes. My previous research has suggested that using Facebook in certain ways might be driving the negative relationship seen between time spent on Facebook and academic performance. Most notably, using Facebook during class or while studying seemed to explain these negative relationships.

In the current study, I surveyed over 1,600 college students and examined the time they spent on Facebook by splitting that time into two categories: 1) Time spent multitasking (i.e., task switching) with Facebook while studying and 2) “Regular” time spent on Facebook. Based on previous research, my hypothesis was that multitasking would drive the negative relationships seen between Facebook use and grades but that “regular” Facebook use would not. I also examined students at different class ranks (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) to see if there were any differences that might be attributed to academic maturation.

Here are a few highlights of my findings:

  • Seniors spent less time on Facebook than students at other class ranks
  • Seniors also spent less time multitasking with Facebook than students at other class ranks
  • Regular time spent on Facebook (not multitasking) was negatively related to actual GPA for freshmen but not for students at other class ranks
  • Time spent on Facebook multitasking was negatively related to actual GPA for students at all class ranks except for seniors

What does it all mean?

Freshmen need to feel socially integrated into their college or university, for if they don’t, they’re at risk of dropping out. One of the ways that freshmen maintain a connection to previous friends and reach out, engage with, and learn about new friends is through Facebook. Therefore, Facebook plays an important role in helping freshmen adjust to college. However, the ways in which Facebook use are negatively related to grades suggests that freshmen have difficulty regulating their Facebook use in the service of academics. I hypothesize that this isn’t an issue related to Facebook per se, but the relationship between Facebook and grades provides a way of capturing self-regulation skills in freshmen. In other words, the pattern of Facebook use helps us see something about self-regulation we might not otherwise be able to measure. This is also evidenced by how regular use of Facebook for students at other class ranks is not related to academic performance.

Another interesting finding was that seniors did not exhibit a negative relationship between multitasking with Facebook and grades. While this is unexpected given the cognitive science literature on task switching, there have been other studies (including some of my own) that have found that use of certain technologies and use of them in specific ways while engaged in learning tasks do not impact outcomes. This area is ripe for further research and I expect to see more in the coming years elucidating what characteristics of social technologies and of their uses mitigates task-switching detriments in cognitive outcomes.

You can read the full paper here.

by reyjunco at January 20, 2015 09:15 PM

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