Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

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.

September 21, 2014

Global Voices
Cambodian Garment Workers Are Pressuring H&M, Walmart and Zara to Make Their Suppliers Pay a Living Wage
Cambodian workers urge global clothing brands to give a $177 monthly minimum wage. Photo from Licadho

Cambodian workers urge global clothing brands to give a $177 monthly minimum wage. Photo from Licadho

After launching a nationwide strike last December, Cambodia’s garment workers are back in the streets demanding a monthly minimum wage of 177 US dollars.

Last year’s strike was organized to pressure the government to raise the monthly wage, which at that time stood at 80 dollars. Garment workers wanted to double the wages they were receiving, but the government only allowed an increase of 15 to 20 dollars. The strike mobilized tens of thousands of workers across the country, but it was violently dispersed by state forces in January, which resulted in the death of five workers.

The current monthly minimum wage received by Cambodian garment workers is pegged at 100 dollars. Export earnings of the garment sector represent about a third of the country’s 15.25-billion-dollar GDP last year. There are more than 600,000 garment workers in Cambodia, and the majority of them are female. But aside from receiving low wages, workers also suffer from poor working conditions, which often result in mass fainting incidents in various sweatshop factories.

This week, garment workers have revived the campaign for a wage increase, but this time they directed their appeal to the global clothing brands that buy and sub-contract supply from Cambodia. The campaign, dubbed as “The buyer must provide basic wages $177”, is aimed at pressuring global brands such as H&M, Walmart, Levi’s, Gap Puma, C&A, Adidas and Zara to directly negotiate a higher wage for workers with their suppliers.

More than 500 garment workers gathered at Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, to press for higher wages. According to garment unions, about 300 factories across the country have joined the protest.

This video shows workers holding banners as they demand international companies not to starve the garment workers of Cambodia

Union leaders explained that the 177-dollar minimum wage demand is based on the average monthly spending of garment workers. One of the workers who participated in the rally echoed the sentiment of her fellow workers to English-language newspaper The Cambodia Daily:

We want a higher wage because today we don’t have enough money to support ourselves because everything is very expensive, like rent, electricity, water and food.

Cambodian workers demand a monthly minimum wage of $177

Cambodian workers demand a monthly minimum wage of $177. Photo from Licadho

The Community Legal Education Center, a local human rights group, is supporting the campaign as it urged the brands and their suppliers “to meet their responsibility and ensure human dignity for their Cambodian workers.”

The government responded by deploying police and army units in the protest site. Meanwhile, the opposition assured workers that they will bring the wage campaign inside the parliament.

The wage increase campaign is supported by labor unions in many countries. In Canada, there is an online petition urging consumers not to buy clothes “tainted with exploitation and repression.”

Hopefully, the planned series of protests will remain peaceful and the government will respect the right of workers to demand better living and working conditions. It is also important for global clothing brands to prove their commitment to improve the welfare of workers in Cambodia's garment factories.

by Mong Palatino at September 21, 2014 02:34 AM

September 20, 2014

Lawrence Lessig
Followups from Citizens Rising

Citizens Rising at MIT last night was an amazing event. Maybe 800 people in a room for 3 hours…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at September 20, 2014 11:52 PM

Global Voices
Newspapers Predict Spain's Conservative Party Will Shelve Their Restrictive Abortion Bill to Save Face in Elections
Manifestación contra la ley Gallardón del aborto, febrero de 2014. Foto subida a Twitter por Javier López

Demonstration against Justice Minister Gallardon's abortion bill in February 2014. Photo uploaded to Twitter by Javier López. Used with permission.

A proposed law that would make Spain one of the most restrictive European countries on abortion is without a doubt the most controversial legislation put forward by the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since his Partido Popular (PP) came to power with an absolute majority in 2011.

Christened “The Organic Law for the Protection of the Life of the Unborn and the Rights of the Pregnant Woman” by its promoter, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, the legislation has not only found opposition across the Spanish political landscape, it has also faced a criticism within the ranks of the ruling PP. 

It now looks as though the bill may have finally stalled—at least, according several national newspapers.

In an article titled “The Abortion Law Won't See the Light,” Lucía Méndez for El Mundo explains that the reason for this policy shift lies in several upcoming elections:

la ley del aborto ha sido muy perjudicial para los intereses electorales del PP, ya que una sólida mayoría de sus votantes se han sentido sumamente incómodos con el tema. Ni querían ni esperaban que el Gobierno legislara de forma tan restrictiva sobre una cuestión que afecta de lleno a las mujeres, por lo que la conclusión de los expertos es clara: hay que reconducir la situación y pasar la página para no abrir otra vez una controversia que haga daño al PP en un año clave con dos convocatorias electorales: las municipales y las generales.

The abortion bill has been very damaging to the electoral interests of the PP, since a solid majority of its voters have felt extremely uncomfortable with the subject. They neither wanted nor expected the government to legislate so narrowly on an issue that affects women in every respect. So the verdict of the experts is clear: the situation must be corrected and the page turned in order to avoid another controversy that could damage the PP in a pivotal year when both a municipal and a general election are pending. 

El diario asserts that the massive loss of votes in the most recent elections may have been what provoked a strong reaction against the bill within the Popular Party:

Según fuentes de la cúpula del PP citadas por el medio, “no existe consenso en torno a este proyecto, y si no se logra un acuerdo, cosa que parece muy difícil, la ley no se aprueba y en paz”. Otros interlocutores son incluso más contundentes: “Esa ley nunca llegará al Parlamento”.

According to sources in the upper echelons of PP quoted in the media, “There is no consensus on this project, and if an agreement, which seems very difficult, is not achieved, the law won't pass and that will be that.” When asked, others are even more blunt: ” The law will never reach Parliament.”

The first law on abortion in Spain dates back to 1985 and was approved during the mandate of the first socialist government following the end of Francisco Franco's nearly 40-year dictatorship. This law decriminalized abortion in three circumstances: rape, fetal malformation, and danger to the life of the mother. In 2010, new legislation, which is currently in force, extended the reproductive rights of Spanish women, allowing them to freely abort in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, until week 22 in cases of danger to the mother, and at any time in cases of severe fetal malformation.

With Gallardón's proposed reform, the 2010 law—which is similar to those in most European countries—would have been seen its scope reduced dramatically to well before the 1985 provisions. For example, the PP bill would remove the exemption for malformation and the right of minors to have abortions without the consent of their guardians, and it would go so far as to require a woman to prove her mental or physical state was at risk by means of reports by two physicians in different medical health centers, turning an already stressful time into an obstacle course. And if that were not enough, the bill would impose a seven-day period of mandatory reflection.

Many people accuse Gallardón of legislating in a sectarian and partisan way, taking into account only the will of the most reactionary sector of society, led by the Catholic Church in the person of former Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Episcopal Conference Antonio María Rouco Varela—and doing so against the wishes of the vast majority of Spanish people, who see no need to amend the current law.

In defence of his project, Gallardón went so far as to declare in Parliament that motherhood “is what makes a woman a real woman,” which led socialist MP Patricia Hernandez to quip, “Being a mother doesn't make a woman more of a woman just as being a minister doesn't make a man smarter.” 

After news of the alleged suspension of the bill, many netizens attributed the PP's U-turn to the proximity of the municipal elections, many even taking for granted that the bill would be taken up again if the PP wins the impending municipal vote. According to commenter Otrociudadano in El diario:

Lo hacen por el descalabro electoral que se avecina, no por ideas y conciencia social. Otra mayoría absoluta y lo encajan al día siguiente.

They're doing it because of the looming disaster in the polls, not because of ideas or social conscience. Another absolute majority and they'll dump it back on us the next day.

Sciuro in newspaper Público y mason33 in El Mundo also think it is just an election maneuvre:

Ya se sabe, la postura oficial del PP respecto del aborto es “radicalmente en contra en los dos años siguientes a unas elecciones y respeto democrático el resto del tiempo”. 

We all know the official position of the PP regarding abortion is “radically against it in the two years following an election and respect for democracy the rest of the time.”

Mas claro, el agua! La ley del aborto les ha perjudicado electoralmente y la retiran por ahora. Hasta despues de las elecciones. Habra algun ingenuo que pique? Lo que importa es el poder. No tienen ni espina dorsal!

Crystal clear! The abortion bill has damaged them politically and they are shelving it for now. Until after the elections. Is anyone gonna fall for this? What counts is power. They have no backbone!

Rouco y varios ministros del PP en Londres, ciudad en la que abortaron miles de españolas antes de la ley de 1985. Imagen subida a Twitter por no_pasaran#

Archbishop Rouco and various government ministers visit London, a city in which thousands of Spanish women received abortions before the 1985 law. [Spoof of 1960s Spanish film] Image uploaded to Twitter by no_pasaran#. Used with permission.

Twitter users also take for granted that the reprieve is motivated by the elections:

El PP renuncia a la reforma electoral en Ayuntamientos y a la reforma de la ley del aborto, todo en unos días. No hay miedo no, hay pavor

— Borja Ventura (@borjaventura) September 12, 2014

The PP is dropping the municipal electoral reform and the abortion law reform, all in a matter of days. They aren't afraid, they're terrified.

EL ABORTO LIBRE ES UN GENOCIDIO NAZI, pero oye, si nos quita muchos votos lo dejamos como está. #Principios

— Els quatre gats (@Els_quatre_gats) September 13, 2014

THE RIGHT TO ABORTION IS NAZI GENOCIDE, but listen, if it means we lose votes, we'll leave it as is.

El frenazo a la ley del aborto es electoralista, no ideológico. Así que ya sabemos qué pasará si vuelven a ganar.

— Miky Injun (@miky_co) September 13, 2014

Putting the brakes on the abortion law is electoral pandering, not ideology. So we know what will happen if they win again.

Perhaps the proximity of the election is not the only reason, as Javier Lezaola points out on Twitter:

Pues parece q se va confirmando q la supuesta ley del aborto era poco más q una maniobra de distracción para colar las políticas del FMI

— Javier Lezaola (@JavierLezaola) September 13, 2014

So it looks like it's true that the abortion bill was just a distraction tactic to sneak in IMF policies.

by Victoria Robertson at September 20, 2014 03:44 PM

Thailand’s Prime Minister Apologizes for Suggesting Bikinis Raise the Murder Rate Among Tourists
Prayuth Chan-ocha 29th Prime Minister of Thailand and chief of the army. Photo by Vichan Poti, Copyright @Demotix (9/4/2014)

Prayuth Chan-ocha 29th Prime Minister of Thailand and chief of the army. Photo by Vichan Poti, Copyright @Demotix (9/4/2014)

Thailand's Prime Minister has apologized for suggesting that tourists visiting his country might not be safe if they wear bikinis. When he made the “bikini gaffe,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was speaking to television reporters about the brutal murder of two British tourists at a popular beach destination south of Thailand. Prayuth later clarified that he didn’t mean to offend anyone and only wished to express his concern about the safety of tourists.

Earlier this week, the dead bodies of Hannah Witheridge (age 23) and David Miller (age 24) were found on the beach resort island of Koh Tao, just south of Thailand. Initial reports indicate that the young Britons were probably murdered. A police investigation is now underway.

Thai authorities were busy working the murder case when Prayuth delivered his now infamous remark:

There are always problems with tourist safety. They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere…Can they be safe in bikinis… unless they are not beautiful?

Thailand's mass media did not widely report Prayuth's statement, but it triggered strong and angry reactions in other countries, especially in the United Kingdom. Many have accused the Thai leader of “blaming the victim” instead of solving the crime. Prayuth was quick to apologize:

I am sorry that my statement caused uneasiness. I affirm that I did not look down on or criticize anyone. I simply wanted to warn them to be careful at certain places and certain times.

He added that he was under intense pressure during the interview:

I admit that sometimes I speak too strongly. It was because I felt pressured and sad for the victims. I feel sorry for them, no matter if they are Thais or foreigners. I don't want this kind of loss to ever happen again.

Careful not to bear too much responsibility for the tragedy, Prayuth then shifted to blaming migrant workers for violent crimes and warned both the public and tourists to be vigilant against illegal aliens:

I insist that Thailand is safe, although there are some not-good people here. Therefore, they have to be careful. Their country and our country do not have equal safety. I admit I am worried for them.

We have to help take care of [our nation] and not let not-good people mingle with us, such as unregistered alien workers. We can't let them work like that. It's dangerous and it can cause damage to the country.

The scene of the murders is one of Thailand's most famous island resorts. Many online have shared photographs from the picturesque location, when remembering the two victims.

Prayuth is the army chief who launched a coup last May in a bid to stop the violent clashes between the country’s major political parties. After drafting an interim constitution, the army appointed members of the legislative assembly, who subsequently installed Prayuth as prime minister.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post lamented the absence of public outcry in Thailand against Prayuth’s statement, saying the local media's silence gives the country “little chance to fight rape culture.”

Blogging for the Asian Correspondent, Saksith Saiyasombut noted that the “half-baked joke is inappropriate,” calling on Prayuth to be more careful with his public statements in the future:

…this is a lesson for the outgoing army chief, junta leader and prime minister that he is now under much, much more public scrutiny now that he has took (over) this position and that he has to choose his words more carefully.

Prayuth promises a quick investigation, assuring tourists that Thailand remains safe for tourists.

That the prime minister actually apologized suggests the enormity of international backlash to his gaffe. Of course, I nadequate reporting about Prayuth's comments by the local press reflects the sorry state of media freedom in Thailand today. Unfortunately, many Internet users it seems are still unable to criticize openly the policies and actions of army officials. Or perhaps civic forces inside Thailand compelled Prayuth to apologize for his blunder, after all. If the latter is true, maybe this incident will inspire more citizens to challenge the other controversial policies of the country's military-backed regime.

by Mong Palatino at September 20, 2014 02:29 AM

September 19, 2014

Creative Commons
School of Open Africa launch event in Kenya tomorrow!

Following on the heels of School of Open Africa launch events in Tanzania and Nigeria last weekend, School of Open Kenya is hosting its own tomorrow to kick off training for four high schools in Nairobi.

SOO AfricaV2
(SOO logo here. Earth icon licensed CC BY by Erin Standley from the Noun Project.)

Called Popjam, this SOO launch event + Mozilla Maker Party will be a day-long workshop introducing high school students to open educational resources (OER). Students will learn how to use OER and the open web to complement their academic studies. Students from four high schools will participate: Precious Blood Secondary School, Nairobi School, Sunshine Secondary School, and State House Girls Secondary School. SOO Kenya is hosted by Jamlab, a co-creation community based in Nairobi for high school students and graduates in Africa.

For more information about the event, and to RSVP if you’re in Nairobi, visit the event page.


About Maker Party

School of Open and Creative Commons is excited to be partnering with Mozilla to celebrate teaching and learning the web with Maker Party. Through thousands of community-run events around the world, Maker Party unites educators, organizations and enthusiastic Internet users of all ages and skill levels.

We share Mozilla’s belief that the web is a global public resource that’s integral to modern life: it shapes how we learn, how we connect and how we communicate. But many of us don’t understand its basic mechanics or what it means to be a citizen of the web. That’s why we’re supporting this global effort to teach web literacy through hands-on learning and making with Maker Party.

About the School of Open

SOO-logo-100x100

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, and research. Volunteers develop and run courses, workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU.

by Jane Park at September 19, 2014 10:45 PM

Jessica Valenti
"The vast majority of college-age guys and twenty-something men I meet are engaged and smart about..."
“The vast majority of college-age guys and twenty-something men I meet are engaged and smart...

September 19, 2014 04:54 PM

Global Voices
Minority Scholar Ilham Tohti Denies Chinese Authorities’ Accusation That He Led a Double Life at Separatism Trial
Maya Wang posted  two photos comparing the outlook of Ilham Tohti before and after the detention on Twitter.

Maya Wang posted two photos on Twitter comparing the appearance of Ilham Tohti before and after his detention.

Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uyghur scholar in China who founded a website that promoted understanding between the ethnic minority and the country's Han Chinese majority, was put on trial for two days on charges of separatism this week.

Ilham, who is an advocate for peaceful ethnic reconciliation between the Uyghur Muslims and the Han Chinese, was arrested in January. The relationship between the two groups has been tumultuous; ethnic tensions have at times resulted in deadly clashes between Uyghur activists and authorities. 

The state's propaganda machine has claimed that Ilham was connected to the World Uyghur Congress, an overseas group that has been labelled as an extreme separatist group by the Chinese Communist Party. He is also accused of inciting his students to support separatism and spreading dissent through the the website he founded, Uyghur Online, which covered social issues from a Uyghur perspective. 

Ilham has denied the accusations. During the trial, his lawyers shot down authorities’ insistence that Ilham belonged to a separatist group. 

The Urumqi Intermediate People's Court's verdict is expected to be released next week.  

Some believe his arrest and prosecution could provoke or worsen ethnic conflicts in the western Xinjiang region, where the Uyghur people mainly live. During Ilham's eight-month detention, his family was forbidden to see him and his lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuan and Li Fangping, told the media that he was chained with leg irons and denied access to food and warm clothes.

Maya Wang, a human right activist, posted an update on the trial and tweeted two photos comparing Ilham's current appearance with how he looked before his detention:

As the court proceedings were closed to the public, Ilham's lawyers reported the details of the trial on Twitter and Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Most of Li Fangping's updates were deleted by Weibo censors, but were retweeted by Tibetan writer Woser on Twitter.

Liu Xiaoyuan pointed out that the arrangement of the trial was unfair. The Xinjiang court had denied all the lawyers’ requests for summoning witnesses to the case:

Before Ilham Tohti's trial, we had applied to the court to summon more than a dozen witnesses, but the court refused to send out the orders.

Ilham decided to speak for himself at court and Liu recorded his self-defense:

Ilham Tohti said: I support the unity of the country and oppose separatism. The idea of separating the country has never occurred to me and I have never been involved in any separatist activities. There is no separatist group. I advocate for the rule of law in Xinjiang and the implementation of ethnic autonomy with respect to the law and human rights so that all ethnic groups can enjoy the fruits of development, equal job opportunities and eliminate regional, ethnic, gender and identity discrimination.

Li Fangping revealed that the prosecutor argued that Ilham lives a double life and his public speech did not represent what he believes. Li explained how he rebuked that argument in court (via Woeser's Twitter):

RT Lawyer Li Fangping: Ilham Tohti said on many occasions (to overseas media as well) that the future of the Uyghur people depends on China, and that he opposes separatist views. He had openly recited his position just 40 days before his arrest. But the prosecutor used that as an evidence to tell a story of Ilham's hidden double life (oppose separatism in public but engage in a separatist organization in private).

RT Lawyer Li Fangping: My question to the prosecutor was: given the fact that Ilham Tohti had been under surveillance in Beijing and Xinjiang, how could he have a double life? Moreover, his writings, online publications and university classes, all these activities took place in the public. Where is his other life?

Indeed, Ilham had been under 24-hour surveillance since he was released from his different detention following the July 2009 Urumqi riots.

The separatism charge was built upon Ilham's involvement in Uyghur Online, which was blocked by authorities in 2008. Officials accused him of actively organizing his students to promote separatist thought. Ilham explained how the website operated in court, as reported by Liu Xiaoyuan:

Ilham Tohti said: He founded Uyghur Online. But the website's editors, translators, administrators and technical support are all performed by students. Among the seven students who are charged, six of them joined the website two years ago. I have never organized any separatist group. I found in the evidence that the seven students have never admitted their involvement in the website's is separatist activities.

Li Fangping also questioned in court the existence of the so-called separatist group (via Woeser's Twitter):

RT Lawyer Li Fangping: Where is the separatist group? Almost all students said at the early stage of their detention that their teacher [Ilham Tohti] is a person with conscience and responsibility. But after a period of time, the students “reflected” and believed that they were cheated, then discovered that their teacher had or might have the intention to separate Xinjiang.

RT Lawyer Li Fangping: Where is the separatist group?… The students all said that they had never involved in any separatist activities. They drew a line between themselves and their teacher, asked the court to be lenient and expressed their wish to return to school, etc. If they don't have any intention to separate the country, can we call it a separatist group?

Ilham's household registration is in Beijing. According to common practice, the trial should then be held in Beijing. The current arrangement may indicate that his case is tainted with political considerations outside the rule of law. In China, all legal authorities, including the police and the court, are under the supervision of Politics and Law Commission of Communist Party of China.

Ilham made his final appeal during the trial:

Ilham Tohti has three major points in his final appeal: He demanded that the case be transfer to Beijing Intermediate People's Court; if the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court insisted to hold the trial, he pleaded the court to rule out intervention that comes from outside the judiciary. I am innocent and have never engaged in the organization of criminal groups that wish to divide the country and have never engaged in any criminal activities that divide the country.

by Oiwan Lam at September 19, 2014 12:02 PM

The Streets of Lima Are Alive With the Sound of Music
TrompetistaLima

Photo by author Juan Arellano, used with permission.

The article by Juan Arellano was originally published in Spanish on his Globalizado blog and translated into English for Global Voices by Victoria Robertson.

Big cities are home to different kinds of people who work outdoors, in plazas, parks, avenues, and side streets. Among the denizens of these urban jungles, musicians, or buskers, occupy a privileged position: they are not just tolerated but often openly embraced on account of the joy they bring to impersonal public spaces.

Lima, the capital of Peru, is no stranger to this phenomenon. While street performers are sometimes dislodged from commercial spaces and certain areas of the city’s historic center by the police, most of Lima’s musicians enjoy a good deal of freedom in plying their trade and earning a few bucks. They are even accepted in many restaurants and on local public transit, the mini buses and vans known as micros or combis.

But whether the value of busking is truly appreciated is another question. A while back I read an article [GP1] on the topic in the blog Lima es Linda (Lima is beautiful), which suggested, “Limeños don’t value street performance because they consider it a form of panhandling rather than contributing to society.” At the same time, the article asserted, “street music livens up, inspires and motivates people (locals and tourists alike), and our city really needs that.”

Personally, I never paid the phenomenon much attention until a few years ago—maybe because I was just one more urbanite rushing along the city’s streets oblivious to what was really going on around me. But more recently, when I come across a street musician and happened to have a camera on me, I recorded the performance.

Here are a few of the talented people I have encountered on the streets of Lima.

The Asháninka people are the most populous indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon and were the victims of forced migration during the period of terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s. Of those who were not actively exterminated, many relocated to Lima’s Ate district, where a small group of them continues to live alongside members of other indigenous communities originally from Peru’s forest regions. Together they maintain close ties to the land and their culture.

One day walking through Lima’s Central Market, I came across a small gathering of Asháninka performing a typical musical number, which on this occasion included a graceful dancer interpreting Amazonian rhythms. It was an unusual sight given the generally cool climate of Lima, but on that summer day the musicians performed as they would in the warm tropical atmosphere of their forest home. Unfortunately I was able to catch only a snippet:

http://youtu.be/qnBHuga9eAM

Asháninka music is very diverse, as demonstrated by this song by Yéssica Sánchez Comanti I recorded at an Amazonian poetry and storytelling recital.

Although the Peruvian valse, derived from the European waltz, was a form primarily cultivated in Lima and the coastal cities in the late 19th century, it later made its way into the country’s interior. La Contamanina, which refers to the city of Contamana on the shores of the Ucayali river in the northern Loreto region, was apparently composed in Iquitos, the largest urban settlement in the Peruvian Amazon—or at least that is what blogger Manuel Acosta Ojeda contends:

“It is said that originally the valse featured music without lyrics, that the beautiful melody was created by an Italian violinist who travelled from Ecuador to Iquitos at the beginning of the 20th century in search of fortune during the rubber boom, and that its original title was Leonor. Don Alejandro Mera del Águila added the lyrics to describe the passion that the beautiful young Leonor Olórtegui Reyes inspired in the Italian traveller. Although his love was requited, the couple’s romance did not receive the blessing of Leonor’s family, and she was spirited away from the city.”

Several different versions of the lyrics exist, but one of the best known is performed by the group Duo Loreto. In my urban wanderings, I recorded an instrumental version that, in keeping with the serendipitous theme of my encounters, was played by a blind saxophonist on a street in the heart of Lima that just happens to be called Ucayali.

http://youtu.be/AEVYJ7SLsu0

I was not familiar with the musical saw until I met Miguel Ángel, but from what I gleaned on YouTube, it is a popular instrument in many parts of the world.

Here Miguel Ángel is playing Love Hurts, the 70s rock ballad that was a hit for the Scottish band Nazareth, although it was actually composed by Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded back in the 60s by the Everly Brothers.

http://youtu.be/ijSQ-ByAPh0

In this next video, Miguel briefly and humorously explains what a musical saw is and how it is played. Other blog posts provide explanations and samples of the instrument sometimes called a singing saw in English.

Ever since I first listened to Miles Davis play his trumpet with a mute, I was fascinated by the sound that resulted. I had no idea that I might one day come across someone playing a muted trumpet on the streets of my capital city, but this year my new friend let me capture the following performance. He was one of the few artists I met who indicated he sometimes had problems with municipal officials ejecting him from certain public spaces.

http://youtu.be/5dXsrkOhlf4

There are plenty of other styles of street music played for passers-by in Lima, including popular interpretations courtesy of the military bands of the Peruvian Navy and the Government Palace. The City of Lima itself also organizes a variety of street events featuring rock groups.

Whether an official concert or an impromptu performance by a street musician, Peru’s capital is alive with the welcome sounds of voices and instruments. Enjoy!

by Juan Arellano at September 19, 2014 11:14 AM

Bahraini Human Rights Activist Maryam Al Khawaja Is Released From Prison While She Awaits Trial
Maryam Al Khawaja with her lawyer Mohammed Al Jishi after her release from prison in Bahrain last night. Source: @Mohamed_Aljishi

Maryam Al Khawaja with her lawyer Mohammed Al Jishi after her release from prison in Bahrain last night. Source: @Mohamed_AlJishi

Following international pressure, Bahrain released human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja last night. The co-director of the Gulf Center For Human Rights was denied entry to her country and arrested at the airport on August 30, 2014.

According to the organisation, the Bahraini activist, who also holds Danish nationality, was planning to visit her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is in prison and on his 27th day of a hunger strike. Her father was jailed during the harsh government crackdown that followed pro-democracy protests, which swept Bahrain starting on February 14, 2011. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. This is his second hunger strike. His first lasted for 110 days and ended after he was force-fed by authorities.

Maryam Al Khawaja was arrested at the airport and accused of attacking a policeman. Activists accuse the authorities of framing them for alleged crimes, to intimidate and silence them. Despite her release, the authorities will continue to press charges and Maryam, who has been slapped a travel ban, is expected to appear in court on October 1.

She explains her situation to her 101K followers:

Immediately after her release, Al Khawaja took to Twitter to thank those who worked for her release, promising to continue her work in defending human rights:

Like Maryam and her father, thousands of people have been arrested since anti-regime protests started in Bahrain on February 14, 2011. Al Khawaja drew attention to their plight:

She also reminded her followers of the thousands of other activists across the Arab world jailed for taking a position against oppression in their countries since the start of the so-called Arab Spring:

Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was just released from prison on bail; activists Yara Sallam, Abd El Fattah's sister Sanaa Seif, Mahienour Al Masry are all detained in Egypt; and human rights defender Razan Zeitounah is jailed in Syria.

Activists around the world shared news of Al Khawaja's release.

Jonathan Moremi tweeted what seemed to be a message to the Bahrain government:

Moroccan Samia Errazzouki was happy:

And CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom was apprehensive of what awaits Al Khawaja:

by Amira Al Hussaini at September 19, 2014 05:16 AM

Run! The Muslims Are Coming!

By Sami Shah

Oh Muslims, you so crazy. But just how crazy? That's the question everyone has these days.

As ISIS/ISIL/IS/FuckNutBuggerFucks continue their march across Iraq/Levant/Babylonia/Assyria, and enthusiastic nut-jobs around the world get inspired by YouTube calls-to-arms and begin cutting heads off on a freelance basis, things are going to get bad for the average Muslim.

Sami Shah. Used with permission.

Sami Shah. Used with permission.

But Sami, I hear you ask, what is an “average Muslim”? Is the guy in a balaclava carrying a Kalashnikov and a bag full of heads an “average Muslim”? Or is it the sweet man who lives next door to me, with three kids and a friendly wife? How do we identify them? Classify them? Defeat them in battle? Prevent them from forming into a single, mega Kaiju-Muslim?

I can't provide all the answers, but I can help with some of your queries. So, without further ado (and with much blatant and shameless self-promotion), let me present an excerpt from my book I, MIGRANT, which answers all your questions.

The Types of Muslims

(works best if read in British Broadcaster David Attenborough voice)

Good Muslim:

My parents are the perfect living example of this type of believer. They believe fervently in Allah, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. Both pray five times a day, give to the poor, have performed Hajj and end all praise with the grateful invocations of Allah’s grace. Both my mother and father know certain passages of the Quran by heart, especially those that aid in searching for lost everyday items, and generally find pride in being a Muslim. Mommy doesn't wear a hijab and Daddy doesn’t have a beard. Nor do they think that the West was created by Satan and should be defeated in battle by inflicting maximum civilian casualties through random and creative acts of murderous suicide.

They do, however, think that America hates Muslims, that its support of Israel is evidence of this, further proven by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These are their opinions and, by and large, are no more toxic or damaging to the environment than my mother’s belief that all men are inherently lazy and my father’s belief that all women give terrible advice.

Chances are, if you were to randomly pick one hundred Muslims from around the world, they would all be like my parents. Islam is a part of their life, but it doesn't get in the way.

Bad Muslim:

Judged unfavourably by all other forms of Muslims, these are the second most common kind. They are Muslims by birth and by name. They may even go so far as to appreciate the sanctity of the Quran, Allah and his Prophet, but it ends there. They have no patience for actually practising rituals and in general will be reluctant even to publicly identify themselves as Muslim.

Some of them drink, despite the prohibitions. But none of them will ever eat pork. Pork is the final frontier for the Muslim. Sure, they may lustily eye a strip of bacon if they ever encounter one, maybe even pause to consider a side of ribs after seeing it on a television show, but on average the safest place for a pig is in a Muslim country. For alcohol though, there are all kinds of ready justifications provided. “The Quran only outlaws a specific type of booze,” they may say, pointing to the literal prohibition against wine made from fermented dates. Or “Islam is all about moderation,” they may argue, just before passing out in a puddle of vodka and vomit.

In a Venn diagram of the beliefs shared between Good and Bad Muslims, the only overlap would be that they too think that America hates Muslims, that its support of Israel is evidence of this, further proven by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Terrible Muslim:

Currently occupying every possible government job in any Muslim country you survey, another name for this breed of Muslim is “Hypocritical Bastards”.

They are different from the Bad Muslims in that, while they may commit every sin and indulge every prohibition, they present themselves as symbols of Islamic virtue. You can usually recognize them by the aggressively overt way they express their love for Islam. The men will have long, pious beards, with which they demonstrate both their commitment and masculinity; they have permanently bruised foreheads, to provide evidence of a lifetime spent prostrating on a prayer mat. Their women will wear the hijab—not wrapped tight, as is custom, but instead floating several inches above an immense hairstyle that defies both the laws of physics and style.

They will always have in their hands a string of prayer beads on an endless rotation through ceaseless fingers. Every prayer is read by both genders and every Hajj attended. Their commitment to the charade may even go so far as to shun alcohol and be completely loving and devoted husbands/wives. But put a rupee in front of them and they will serve up a round of bacon and ham while marrying a Kafir and swearing an oath to Satan.

They can also be counted in the club of people who believe that America hates Muslims, that its support of Israel is evidence of this, further proven by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The only difference here is that most of them tend to be quite willing to cozy up to their enemy if the price is right. Actually, that's not true. It's not if the price is right—it's if there is any price at all.

Frightening Muslim:

Tends to talk about “Jihad” a lot. Your average mosque imam is a good example. In appearances not that different from the “Terrible Muslim”, only with a greater commitment to the lifestyle. The men will not just sport beards, but have shaved upper lips as well. This stylish look is rooted in the belief that the Prophet wore his beard in the same way, although there is no actual evidence to prove this. Nor is there any to prove that his pyjamas ended several inches above his ankles, but that is also a popular sartorial choice amongst this lot.

Now I should also provide some clarification about my introduction to this class of Muslim. The Frightening Muslim may say “jihad” a lot and talk about fighting the West and how the Muslim Ummah needs to rise up in revolt, but chances are you will never find one anywhere near a front line.

They are classified as Frightening, by the way, only by westerners who see the stuff of terroristic nightmares in their appearance. For their fellow Muslims, this kind tends to be annoying at most and ridiculous at best. We tolerate them because on average they are useful in teaching your children the Quran (as long as you strictly supervise that the education is limited to Arabic rote memorization and does not include any kind of opinion-forming rhetoric or casual molestation). Their opinions range from far-fetched conspiracies—in which Islamic sects other than the one they belong to are plotting their downfall—to the belief that America hates Muslims, that its support of Israel is evidence of this, further proven by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. An example of the Frightening Muslim is the entire country of Saudi Arabia.

Downright Crazy Muslim:

They believe that America hates Muslims, that its support of Israel is evidence of this, further proven by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The only difference is, they want to do something about it. And that something includes killing Westerners, killing active supporters of the West, killing passive supporters of the West, killing anyone who is in the way of getting to the actives, passives and westerners and finally just killing everyone. Examples of the Downright Crazy Muslim are Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zwahiri, all of Al Qaeda, the Taliban.

Sami Shah is a stand up comedian, illustrator, graphic designer and columnist living in Western Australia. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, Comedy Central, NPR’s The World and Laughspin Magazine, and he has performed on the BBC Asian Network and for TEDx Melbourne. Sami is the author of I, MIGRANT: A Comedian's Journey From Karachi to the Outback

by Guest contributor at September 19, 2014 04:45 AM

Bollywood Actress Deepika Padukone: ‘Yes! I Am a Woman. I Have Breasts and a Cleavage! You Got a Problem?!’
Indian Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone in Mumbai. Image by Ravindra Hande. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

Indian Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone in Mumbai. Image by Ravindra Hande. Copyright Demotix (5/11/2014)

A popular news portal's tasteless remark about Indian film actress Deepika Padukone‘s cleavage in the upcoming satirical movie ’Finding Fanny‘ has received a lashing from irate Twitter users, including from the actress herself. 

Leading news media Times of India‘s entertainment page TOI Entertainment posted a screenshot from the film cropped around Padukone's cleavage linking to a photo gallery post and the comment “Deepika's cleavage show” on Twitter on September 14. Padukone angrily responded the same day in a tweet: 

After Padukone shared her first tweet, it grabbed many eyes, and people started strongly criticizing the portal's comment. TOIEntertainment responded to Padukone saying that their comment was a compliment and they wanted others to know how great she looked. This, in turn, provoked more criticism and even abuse to be directed at them.

TOI eventually deleted both the tweets and the photo gallery after Padukone accused them of disrespecting women:

Born to famous Indian badminton player Prakash Padukone, Padukone has acted in 26 movies since her debut in 2006 and has a large online following — she has 21+ million fans on her Facebook page and 7+ million followers on Twitter. About 26,500 people tweeted about TOI's remark with the hashtag #IStandWithDeepikaPadukone.

Fans and fellow Bollywood figures took to their Twitter accounts to support Padukone. A popular parody account of Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja wondered why TOI scrubbed the tweet if they indeed believed their own defense: 

Indian film actress Nimrat Kaur tweeted:

Film director Gauri Shinde condemned TOI's tweet:

Indian model and actor Pulkit Samrat, who has 122,000 followers on Twitter, questioned the journalistic purpose behind TOI's tweet:

News-oriented Facebook page ‘The Logical Indian', which as more than 1.4 million likes, poked holes in TOI's response that their remark was a compliment: 

Collage of Facebook posts by supporting Deepika Padukone's bold response to TOI. Courtesy: The Logical Indian

Collage of Facebook posts by supporting Deepika Padukone's bold response to TOI. Courtesy: The Logical Indian

TOI has still not published any public apology to date, which has strongly been debated on the social media and blogs.

Indian Homemaker, who blogs at ‘The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker‘, analysed reactions to the controversy that were less than supportive of the actress. She argued that Padukone's response was positive: 

It should start a much needed dialogue and hopefully influence in some small way, the way women’s bodies are viewed. As of now, everybody in India seems to know who owns women’s bodies – including the bodies of women in public spaces.

The blogger also commented on a statement that rape and crime against women are increasing in India and the actresses play a important part in that:

Rapes and crime against women are not increasing. The silence of survivors is ‘decreasing’. The confidence to report rape is increasing.The fear of being shamed, blamed and named is decreasing.

India has faced intense international scrutiny over the country's attitudes towards women following the horrific gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in 2012. The woman later died of her injuries. Padukone's stance can inspire a lot of women in India to protest against discrimination and abuse.

by Subhashish Panigrahi at September 19, 2014 03:34 AM

September 18, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Right to Be Forgotten: A Win for Argentina's Lawsuit-Happy Celebrities?

Argentine model Belen Rodriguez, who sued Google Argentina in landmark defamation case. Photo by Manuela Capitanucci via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Since the EU Court of Justice ruled to uphold and codify the Right to Be Forgotten last May, Google has received over 91,000 requests for removals, roughly half of which were granted. Free expression activists fear that the decision will open the door for corporate and government powers to remove unsavory information about themselves from search results. And the fact that it will be incumbent on tech companies like Google and Yahoo to make these decisions is no small matter — taking this decision out of the hands of the judiciary is a serious blunder in the field of online rights.

Conversations among the Global Voices members and across the digital rights space inspired our community to ask our colleagues — Internet law experts around the globe — to comment on the ruling and describe what impact it has had on policy and political debate in their countries since it was issued.

In this third installment in the series, Ramiro Alvarez Ugarte, formerly a senior attorney at the Association for Civil Rights (Asociación por los Derechos Civiles) in Buenos Aires, Argentina and now a PhD student at Columbia University describes how the decision might impact the strong trend towards defamation lawsuits among Argentine celebrities and public figures.

Are you familiar with EU case on the “right to be forgotten”?

Yes, I am. The case itself seems, to me, to be rather broad and open-ended in the following sense: It does not clarify when the RTBF will apply and when not, so instead of solving an issue it opens up the door for further litigation in which lower courts will do the work of shaping the RTBF, something the EU court has not done.

The European Court has not provided clear definitions of when the RTBF will apply and when a public interest analysis will prevail. Hence, lower courts who wish to follow the case-law of the European Court will face the tough questions that hasn’t been answered yet.

The most important question for me is, when does public interest trump the RTBF? It is not an easy question to answer. Should a public official who has been punished for some wrongdoing be able to have that information removed from the Internet because he has already paid the penalty or served the time? Should it matter whether that public official is now a private person, still holds public office or is running for office? Could a person who is running for public office eliminate from the web things like past traffic tickets? These are the kinds of pivotal questions that will be answered by lower courts.

Has there been local discussion and debate on the implementation of RTBF? Have their been local court cases?

There has not been, so far, a RTBF case in Argentina. However, there is a lot of litigation on intermediary liability, basically legal claims presented by celebrities against Google and Yahoo complaining about the results they get when they Google themselves. They accuse the search engines of defamation and the use of their image without their permission by third-party websites with sexual content.

In the context of those claims, the EU decision was received as a victory by celebrities’ lawyers. We were quite concerned about it as the decision came out just a few days before the Supreme Court held a public hearing on a landmark case on the issue in Argentina.

In Rodríguez  v. Google Argentina, professional model Belen Rodriguez has claimed that these search engines are violating her right to her own image and that they are engaging in defamation, as her name is linked to web pages with sexual content. This case is just one in many: Lower courts in Argentina have received many similar claims, usually advanced by celebrities represented by the same lawyers. And they have been somewhat successful, getting damages and injunctions against the search engines if they don’t exclude their names from search results. The problem with these claims is that it punishes the search engine over content produced by a separate party. We at ADC believe that intermediaries should not be in charge of any kind of censorship nor should they be liable for content they did not produce.

Sadly, the partial success obtained in Argentinean courts by celebrities so far has resulted in these intermediaries being asked to engage in private censorship. They do so through liability: If for-profit companies like Google are going to be liable for content produced by third parties, then they have a huge incentive to engage in censorship. If they are public companies, it could even be argued that they are obliged to take necessary measures to prevent avoidable financial loss. A court should not impose this kind of burden on intermediaries. The Supreme Court of Argentina has a chance to make things right in the Rodríguez case and we are confident it will do so, following the long-standing, protective freedom of expression case-law in Argentina, which should grant some kind of immunity to intermediaries. But the EU case is certainly an argument for the other side.

Do you anticipate any threat to the online public sphere once it is implemented?

I believe the RTBF is troublesome from the point of view of public debate. Who is going to decide what has to stay and what needs to go? That’s the basic question that is going to be —I think— shaped by lots of litigation everywhere, where old freedom of expression principles will come into play, specially on the issue of public interest, public officials, and so on. The not-so-clear cases will be tougher though and I’m sure many legal battles are to come in the future.

The decision does not provide clear categorical definitions on when the RTBF does and does not apply. So public officials may or may be not capable of making claims under the RTBF. I can think of cases where such claims could be successful, e.g., if a low-ranking public official wants to remove embarrassing information that has nothing to do with his office versus cases where those claims would not be successful. Or if a candidate running for election wanted to eliminate information on past wrong-doings. However, these cases themselves are not that clear and their resolution depends on the way local freedom of expression criteria plays out when applied to this new right. It’s kind of unpredictable — the actual outcomes remain to be seen.

How can policymakers strike a balance between individual right to be forgotten and free flow of information?

It is difficult, but not impossible. I think the guiding principle should be freedom of expression case-law. In the US the actual malice test involves public officials or private individuals who have voluntarily joined public debate. This is a proxy for dealing with public interest cases without getting into the thicket of producing a definition of what public interest is.

The actual malice doctrine is a test applied by the US Supreme Court on freedom of speech cases which involve public officials or private individuals who have willingly entered public debate. It basically says that a journalist or a media outlet should not be liable for false information unless they published knowing that the information was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. It comes from New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964 and has been, since then, shaped by other decisions.

This public official requirement is, however, a proxy for covering public interest cases. But because public interest is not a concept which is easy to define, US courts have traditionally used the category of public official to define public interest cases: Whether a public official is involved in the news-story or not is a much easier question to answer than whether the news itself is of public interest. Latin American courts have not followed this approach and have taken the actual malice test in its raw form: It applies to public interest cases, and the definition of what is and what is not of public interest is decided on a case-by-case basis.

The RTBF cases must be decided on a public interest test as well: If the information is in the public interest, it should remain public. If it is not, the RTBF may apply. However, the actual malice test only applies to information that is false, when the RTBF applies only to information that is true. What I am thinking is that one possible way of dealing with this is to extend the actual malice doctrine and criteria to cases where the information is true, not for liability but for the elimination of said information from relevant records. This step can be taken, but it would restrict the deliberative sphere freedom of expression wants to protect. But I believe this is an unavoidable consequence of the RTBF as crafted by the European court so far.

Want to lend your ideas to the conversation? We invite experts and interested individuals to answer these questions for us — please feel encouraged to respond to this post in the comments section or to send your thoughts to us at advocacy [at] globalvoicesonline [dot] org. We look forward to publishing them and continuing the conversation.

 

Read other posts in this series:

Right to Be Forgotten: With Free Expression Under Threat, Europe Needs a ‘Marco Civil Moment’ by Félix Tréguer

The Internet Never Forgets: Join a Global Conversation on the EU’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ by Ellery Roberts Biddle

by Guest Contributor at September 18, 2014 09:03 PM

Jessica Valenti
guardian: In the last few weeks, almost 200 students – almost...


guardian:

In the last few weeks, almost 200 students – almost all of them female – at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, New York have been given detention over dress code violations. 

Something’s very wrong here.

In which I get a fancy graphic to promote my latest article. :)

September 18, 2014 08:16 PM

Creative Commons
Why are we prosecuting students for sharing knowledge?

In July the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote about the predicament that Colombian student Diego Gomez found himself in after he shared a research article online. Gomez is a graduate student in conservation and wildlife management at a small university. He has generally poor access to many of the resources and databases that would help him conduct his research. Paltry access to useful materials combined with a natural culture of sharing amongst researchers prompted Gomez shared a paper on Scribd so that he and others could access it for their work. The practice of learning and sharing under less-than-ideal circumstances could land Diego in prison.

The EFF reports that upon learning of this unauthorized sharing, the author of the research article filed criminal complaint against Gomez. The charges lodged against Diego could put him in prison for 4-8 years. The trial has started, and the court will need to take into account several factors: including whether there was any malicious intent to the action, and whether there was any actual harm against the economic rights of the author.

Today EFF, Creative Commons, Right to Research Coalition, and Open Access Button are launching a campaign to help raise awareness about Diego’s situation, to promote a reasonable handling of his and similar cases, and to support open access policies and practices. We hope you’ll sign on.


Let’s stand together to promote Open Access worldwide.

Help Diego Gomez and join academics and users in fighting outdated laws and practices that keep valuable research locked up for no good reason.

Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student, currently faces up to eight years in prison for doing something thousands of researchers do every day: posting research results online for those who would not otherwise have a way to access them.

If open access were the default for scholarly communication, cases like Diego’s would become obsolete.

Academic research would be free to access and available under an open license that would legally enable the kind of sharing that is so crucial for enabling scientific progress.

When research is shared freely and openly, we all benefit. Sign the petition to express your support for Open Access as the default for scientific and scholarly publishing, so researchers like Diego don’t risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

Sign-on statement:
Scientific and scholarly progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. We all benefit when research is shared widely, freely, and openly. I support an Open Access system for academic publishing that makes research free for anyone to read and re-use; one that is inclusive of all and doesn’t force researchers like Diego Gomez to risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

by Timothy Vollmer at September 18, 2014 05:30 PM

DML Central
The Case for Open Courses in Higher Ed: Q&A with Connected Learning Educator Kim Jaxon
The Case for Open Courses in Higher Ed: Q&A with Kim Jaxon Blog Image

Kim Jaxon is interested in having her students “do the thing,” which, she says, means that she’s less interested in preparing them for some later occupation or activity, and more excited about having them “participating right now in ideas that matter to them right now.”

The Chico State assistant professor of English is one of a stellar group of open-learning pioneers who I met when they gathered at UC Irvine over the summer to create “Connected Courses,” a free online course for higher education faculty members to learn how to offer their own open online college courses. The class, supported by the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute, Digital Media and Learning Research Hub and MacArthur Foundation, is being offered online now. Jaxon, an active member of the National Writing Project and the Northern California Writing Project, is co-teaching Unit 3 of the semester-long course.

She’s been described by colleagues as a fearless innovator, and she is a strong proponent and practitioner of “connected learning,” a 21st century educational approach that takes advantage of today’s abundance of digital information and social connection and seeks to make learning relevant. Here’s my interview with Jaxon on open learning.

What does open learning in higher education mean to you?

Focusing on participation — thinking of participation as membership in a community. That means connecting our students to people who are thinking about similar ideas out in the world. For example, if I am working with future teachers, then I want to connect them to teacher communities. I can easily do this through blogs, Twitter, and even by connecting them to local classrooms and teachers. I incorporate digital technologies in my classes as tools for problem solving. I started using Google Docs and Twitter, for instance, because I wanted to increase collaboration and sense of community.

What do your students think about that?

Students are craving opportunities to make meaning, to discover, to tinker, to follow their own questions. And, they want to do this challenging work with the support of others who also take the work and ideas seriously.

When university professors open their classrooms and connect their students to people outside the four walls, we demonstrate that their ideas are worth hearing. As an example, my students last semester were blogging about children’s books and young adult novels in the course ‘Reading Literature for Future Teachers.’ As they blogged and tweeted, their ideas were favorited, retweeted, and commented on by authors Sharon Creech, Laurie Halse Anderson, Rainbow Rowell, and Dave Lubar. Dave Lubar, author of the Weenies series, even emailed the bloggers and shared a huge list of resources that they could use in their classrooms. In these moments, students are no longer students. They are simply members of a community who, in this case, read and celebrate children’s literature.

Why do you believe in connected learning?

Connected learning principles — designing classrooms as production centered, interest-driven, peer supported and openly networked environments — fit with theories of learning I’ve considered for many years, theories of situated learning and distributed cognition. I’m an advocate of connected learning because I’ve seen over and over again how designing classrooms that go beyond our four walls (or beyond the closed Learning Management system space) leads to students seeing themselves as members of a shared community: they act less like students and more like peers and colleagues, and more importantly, students build broad networks that will support their growth long after they leave our class. The ideas that manifest through connected learning principles have deep roots: if John Dewey were still alive and speaking about education, without a doubt, he would also be a connected learning advocate.

Why should faculty members in higher education offer open-learning courses?

I think once you think of your class as open, it changes your approach to teaching. You no longer have to imagine an audience or imagine scenarios where the ideas you are working with in a classroom will eventually show up; there is an actual audience and actual scenarios to draw from outside classrooms all the time. There is huge potential to develop networks of support once you open your class, and more importantly perhaps, there is huge potential to increase the diversity of people and ideas. Finally, I’m interested in making education accessible to the most people possible: there is no reason why someone interested in learning shouldn’t be able to drop in on spaces where learning is happening.

How does your “jumbo” writing course work?

I started thinking about open on a larger scale when I designed the jumbo writing course for 90 students. We needed to think beyond “talking in class” as we imagined ways students could participate in our course, which employs the services of nine mentors. We use a lot of digital platforms — blogs, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, Google apps, our own website — as a way to support participation. People outside our classroom often notice student’s blogs and tweets and students then come to see themselves as “real” members of a professional digital community. The point is for students to see themselves as uploaders, making and contributing to our culture, not just downloaders, consuming culture.

How else do you connect students to real-world experiences?

I’ve paired with an amazing middle school teacher. Her 8th graders and my future teachers are reading and blogging together on our course website. Our hope is that the middle school students will have access to college networks and ideas and the future teachers will see how amazing middle school students are as they talk about ideas connected to reading. I’m also teaching a graduate level course this fall, focusing on digital culture and literacies. The students in that course are participating in the Connected Courses course too: we’re really excited about it and the possibility this network will afford for all of us. We truly have the opportunity here to “make the web.”

What’s the biggest technological hurdle students encounter and how do they/you resolve them?

I think the biggest hurdle is fear — fear they will do something wrong or fear that doing something wrong will influence their grade in the class. They’ve come from environments where someone didn’t accept a paper because they wrote their name on the wrong side of the page: now I’m asking them to make a film in iMovie and to trust me that I won’t dock their grade as they figure it out. It takes a few weeks before they see our classroom as a safe space to play with new ideas and platforms.

Where do you see higher education in the future?

This is a challenging question, of course. My hope is that universities invest in faculty, staff, and students and stop investing in expensive “solutions” to problems we may not have. To stay relevant, students should be using resources and platforms that are available on the planet, not resources (like the LMS) that will have no purpose once they leave school. I am amazed by the energy and money we put into buying and supporting what I call “solutions in search of a problem.” If you buy a wrench, then you have to make problems that wrenches can solve, but maybe what I need is a hammer. I hope the future of higher education means we have a space that supports faculty and students with freely available, open source resources when possible, and that creates spaces for faculty and student collaboration. And, I hope faculty open up the possibility for students to do more with course content — more meaning making, more tinkering. Students need a chance to take the materials we offer in our courses and make them relevant to the ideas that matter to them. It is the difference between learning about history and becoming a historian. Students need opportunities to try on the ways of working and the identities that our disciplines afford.

What’s your best argument for open higher education courses?

Your class stops being a “class” and instead becomes colleagues who are members of actual communities of practice.

How do you convince fellow professors to open their classes?

I try to offer examples from students. It’s hard to disagree with classroom design principles that embrace open learning once you see the work students do. I also suggest to faculty to start on a small scale, perhaps connecting their course with another faculty member’s section of the same course. Their students can blog together, give feedback on ideas, or simply come together once in the semester to share something they’ve created. Last fall, my freshman writing classes simply had “pen pals” from another section I taught. We blogged on the same website and kicked off each week with feedback to a peer from the other class. They looked forward to reading the feedback from these outside peers and they built strong research teams, people who were invested in each other’s progress. I’ve found that showing what students are capable of when you open your classroom is the best approach.

Banner image: Kim Jaxon, center, discusses digital literacy with students Pheng Yang, right, and Melanie Higgins during a class in 2012. Photo by Beiron Andersson/courtesy Chico State

by mcruz at September 18, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices
Ebola Hasn't Reached the Gambia, and People Are Working to Keep It That Way
The logo of #EbolaFreeGambia campaign. Image source: #EbolaFreeGambia Facebook page.

The logo of #EbolaFreeGambia campaign. Image source: #EbolaFreeGambia Facebook page.

Efforts in the tiny West African state of the Gambia, which hasn't been affected by the devastating Ebola outbreak, are being intensified to protect the country from the deadly virus.

As of 31 August, nearly 1,900 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have died, according to the World Health Organisation. Following the confirmation of the first Ebola case in Senegal, the Gambia's immediate neighbour, concerns soared over the country's preparedness and public awareness about the disease. The confirmation created widespread fear among the Gambians because of the closeness of Senegal to Gambia and porous borders between the two countries. 

A coalition of civil society in the Gambia have launched Ebola Free Gambia to try and keep the country Ebola free. Its Facebook page, created on the 30 August, has over 2,900 likes.

A description of the coalition on its website says:

In light of the proximity of Gambia to the Ebola infected areas, there is a pressing need for immediate action to arrest the possible spread of Ebola into The Gambia by sensitizing the population about the nature of the disease, how it is spread and how to avoid being infected. The Government of the Gambia from the onset of the outbreak in West Africa has taken some steps to protect our country from Ebola. The impact of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa already having dire economic consequences to the Gambia not to mention the potential health implications if the disease were to spread into the Gambia.

The campaign complements government's efforts by raising awareness about preparedness, prevention and response using their website, YouTube videos, Facebook and sensitization drives around the country.

Watch one of the campaign's YouTube video below:

Meanwhile, on 11 September the US Embassy in Banjul in collaboration with Gambian artists launched a song dedicated to the crusade against Ebola. “The Ebola Song” features musicians Tra, Badibunka, Cess Ngum, Killa ACE, & Sandeng, and Amadou Sussocebook. Listen to it below:

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Banjul has already established a 24-hour information hotline from any network within the country. #EbolaFreeGambia campaign is different from the efforts by the Ministry of Health to sensitize Gambians.

The news of first Ebola case in Senegal prompted Gambian Facebook user Arfang Jobe to suggest that mobile phone companies partner with the Ministry of Health to send text messages to raise awareness about the disease.

Commenting on the suggestion, Hassan Njie cautioned:

The last thing we want is to send fear into the minds of Gambians. The messages must be tailor made for easy understanding. People interpret and react to information differently. Let us be on our guard!

Kb Bojang advised:

I think it will be great too, if they can send voice mails in the different languages we have, to their respective customers with regards to Ebola preventive measures, because I doubt everyone will be able to read the text messages

Mobile phone companies have started sending Ebola related messages to subscribers. However, It is not clear whether this initiative is the direct result of the Ebola free campaign on social media.

In August, researchers at Oxford University announced that they will begin a trial of a potential vaccine on healthy UK volunteers once ethical approval is granted, which will eventually extend to the Gambia and Mali. This announcement has since been received with mixed feelings in the Gambia with some being skeptical.

Commenting on the announcement, Mass Bajinka wrote on Facebook:

Why not Liberia, Nigeria and the countries that's already have the virus….why Gambia????? We don't have single virus their so why Gambia ? I hope the government say nope.

Eddie Baldeh advised:

The government should say no to this…why The Gambia? a Country that an Ebola has never been reported or diagnose…Do your trials somewhere n leave Gambia alone…in Peace!!

But some are more optimistic and would like the trial to go ahead in the Gambia:

One reason why everyone is worried about this outbreak is because there is no cure. And now that a prospective vaccine is about to go through trials, here we go again with our conspiracy theories. Every single drug in the market has a side effect and before they are progressed to clinical trial phase they have to pass safety tests in animals first and the vaccine is deactivated before administering, so it cannot cause disease. And why Gambia? because vaccines have to be tested on healthy individuals to assess their effectiveness and MRC has years of experience in conducting such studies. Let's just stop the pessimism people and just be thankful that there is active research being geared towards fighting the deadly disease.

Whatever the case may be, the fact is that many people in the country are worried about the deadly virus entering the country.

by Demba Kandeh at September 18, 2014 12:26 PM

Doc Searls
Remembering Uncle Chris

Yesterday was my Uncle Chris’s 100th birthday. When he passed fifteen years ago, I wrote the following, which I just unearthed from the Old Web. Now seems like a good time to expose it to the world. He was the embodiment of a Good Man, I still miss him, and I’d like his many great-grandkids to know more about the kind and strong root stock of their amazing family.


The Good Doctor

chris1

December 17, 1999

My Uncle Chris died yesterday morning, just before dawn, surrounded by his wife and five sons, at his home in Graham, North Carolina. In addition to his immediate family, he is survived by thirteen grandchildren, dozens of nieces and nephews, thousands of former patients, the church and town he helped build, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, all of which will be diminished by his passing.

Uncle Chris and his mom, Granny Crissman

Uncle Chris with his mother, “Granny” Crissman

He was eighty-five years old. For forty-five of those years, he was Graham’s family doctor. If Andy Griffith had played a doctor instead of a sheriff, his model would have been Clinton S. Crissman, MD. Uncle Chris and Andy both grew up around Mt. Airy, North Carolina, and Graham was a real-life Mayberry: one of those little Southern county seats with the courthouse in the square and the Confederate soldier statue facing north up Main Street.

Although Graham was no less segregated than most southern towns in the Forties and Fifties, Uncle Chris was always everybody’s doctor. Over the course of his career he delivered more than three thousand babies, including at least one Miss North Carolina. I doubt that other human being has ever done more good, personally, for the people of Alamance County than Doctor Crissman.

Uncle Chris was a Good Man in the purest meaning of that expression. He was more than a doctor. He was a healer. When he put his arm around you, looked you square in the eye and said “I believe you’re gonna be all right,” you were on the best drug the good Lord ever made.

csc_grandsons

Doctor Crissman with grandsons Steven and Andrew

While we were all wondering what this was about, nobody did more to calm me down than Uncle Chris. He drove down from his office, forty miles away, put his strong hands on my legs, looked me in the face and said, with grave authority, “Now David, your job is to hold down the bed. You just do what these nurses tell you to do and you’ll be all right.”Case in point. Back around the turn of the Eighties, when I was still a young man, I was seized by chest pains at work. I went to my local doctor, who didn’t like my EKG and promptly put me under Intensive Care at Durham County General Hospital. A week later we found that it was only pleurisy, but for a while there it was scary.

In those days I knew lots of doctors, including several who worked in the local health care system, and I talked Science with every one of them. But none did more to heal me than Uncle Chris, with his strong hands and plain words. If I tried to talk Science with him, he’d just smile and joke back. saying, “Well, David, I think you know more about that than I do.”

Of course, I didn’t know squat. And most of my doctor friends didn’t know a zillionth of what Uncle Chris knew in his bones about what makes people sick and well.

My cousin Mark, who took over his father’s practice a few years ago, marvels at how much medicine his old man practiced without the aid of modern technology — and how successful he was at it. I believe it’s because Uncle Chris was a natural. Love is always the best medicine; and God never made a doctor who was better at delivering that medicine. Especially to kids.

Whether he was giving us polio shots, carving up a watermelon or hauling us around to church, school or countless athletic events, he was always warm, funny, generous and kind.

csc_2girls

Uncle Chris with granddaughters Laura and Julie

When I look at these pictures of Uncle Chris, which I harvested from old family photo albums, the hands strike me again as perfect instruments of love and care. It’s easy to see their effect on his grandchildren — the same effect their parents, aunts and uncles experienced a generation earlier.affectionate. But those are all just adjectives: brochure words. Where they all came together was with those big hands of his. “Hands are the heart’s landscape,” says Pope John Paul II. They are also the best metaphor or for care (from the Allstate slogan to Christ’s last words on the cross). For countless children, patients and friends, those hands were the places to be.

Even as an adult, I loved the way Uncle Chris would hold people while he talked with them — or even while he was talking with someone else. I think I’ll miss that even more than talking with him about basketball, especially his beloved Deacons. If I didn’t bring them up right away, he’d say, “David, you haven’t asked me about my Deacons yet.”

Uncle Chris went to college at Wake Forest University, as did sons Paul and Charles. He was a loyal member of the Deacon’s Club, and often traveled with the team. Once in a shopping center I ran into Rod Griffin, one of Wake Forest’s basketball greats. I asked him if he knew Doctor Crissman and he said “of course,” making it clear that the good doctor was among the team’s favorite Deacon Club members.

Uncle Chris’ affections and appreciations were not limited to the Deacons alone, however. Next to the Deacons he loved to follow all of ACC basketball, and beyond that the rest of the college game. I remember how he was moved to tears when David Thompson, the N.C. State star, was injured in an especially brutal accident under the basket. “I love that boy,” he said to me. “I just hate to see that happen.” But the truth was that Uncle Chris loved just about everybody, as far as I could tell.

Even though our family lived 500 miles away, in New Jersey, we were always in the Crissman orbit. At least once a year — usually on Easter, at the height of North Carolina’s dogwood season — we would drive down to visit with the Crissmans on their farm-size property (bought in the early Fifties from next-door neighbor Tom Zachary, the great baseball player best known for pitching Babe Ruth’s 60th home run). Uncle Chris and Aunt Doris (my mother’s sister) had five boys. The first two, Paul and Eric, were the same ages as me and my sister Janet. The other three, Charles, Mark and Kelly, were no less fun.

csc_grandkids

Uncle Chris surrounded by sons Eric, Kelly, and Charles; granddaughters Karen, Emily, Julie, Melanie and Kate; daughters-in-law Linda and Patt; and grandson Steven

In my mind I can still see the original property — twenty-six acres of rolling pasture, populated by a single tree. Near that tree Uncle Chris built a large ranch house that was ideal for a family with four (soon five) active boys. The pool came soon after the house, then the barn, the gardens, the greenhouse, the bamboo grove and then the hundreds of new trees. Today those trees, mostly hardwoods, are huge. They also comprise some of the prettiest woods in the whole state: silent testimony to the nurture in their author’s nature.The Crissmans had ponies, dogs, cats, and other animals that roamed the acres of grass and trees. With a spread that big, everybody worked like farmhands when they weren’t having fun. For kids it was paradise. And there was never any doubt about who made it that way.

wheelhouse

The Wheel House in 1974, 1980 (after Hurricanes David and Frederic) and 1999 (after Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd). Note how the lower floor was washed away, twice. It’s still gone.

In the Seventies, when Uncle Chris and his generation were starting to retire, his wife Doris’s two sisters, Eleanor (my mom) and Margaret both moved to Graham (Mom with my father from New Jersey and Aunt Maggie from California). So did I, with my wife and two kids. The gravitational pull was that strong. Like those trees, all of Uncle Chris’s sons, nieces and nephews are in now their forties and fifties (his first son Paul and I are the oldest, at 52). When my wife Joyce first met the whole family, she said “those are all such good men.” It’s easy to see why.

March, 1974 was a rough month for my own little family. Colette was three and Allen had just turned one. My radio career in New Jersey had fizzled, my car barely ran and everything was looking bleak. We needed a place to stay and Uncle Chris provided one. It was a giant old house on Main Street in Graham that had gone unoccupied for so long that the mailman refused to come to the door because the place was clearly “hainted” (because, legend had it, the original owner, a judge, had died there in the very long tub in the bathroom upstairs). Uncle Chris let the four of us live there free of charge until I could get a steady job and we moved to Chapel Hill. He never asked for, or expected, a dime.

He was also generous with another amazing piece of real estate: The Wheel House — the Crissman’s family retreat in Oak Island, North Carolina. This simple box has always been closer to the water than anything else around, always expected to be trashed by a hurricane, and always survived after hurricanes passed through. I’m not sure if it signifies anything, but it seems worth noting anyway.

There are so many other things I could say about Uncle Chris. How he was the best man at my second wedding. How he survived the tragic premature death of his beloved Doris and later married a dear friend, Bernice, who in the difficult final months of his life returned the good care he had given so many others over the years. How much Mom, who now calls herself “the last twig on the tree” of her generation, will miss his visits to her house. How he gave so much to the Methodist Church he helped build, to the schools, to the community. How hard it is to imagine a world without him.

Of course he’s still here. The love he gave so abundantly continues to grow and spread;’ because that’s what love does. And that’s what he knew perhaps better than anybody else around.

Doc Searls
Emerald Hills, California

by Doc Searls at September 18, 2014 07:50 AM

September 17, 2014

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Turkey’s Telecom Authority Acquires Absolute Power Over Internet Content
Demonstrators bound for Taksim Square in June 2013. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Demonstrators bound for Taksim Square in June 2013. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hae-in Lim, Lisa Ferguson, Ellery Roberts Biddle, and Sarah Myers contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week’s report begins in Turkey, where the Parliament adopted an amendment to the country’s Internet law that will endow the Telecommunications Directorate with an ostensibly absolute degree of power over online content. Now approved by President Erdogan, the amendment charges the telecom agency with evaluating the political nature of all online content. It is now authorized to instantly block any site that it deems threatening to national security or public order—without oversight by a court or any other government body. The amendment removes from the current (already-restrictive) online content policy a requirement for post-facto judicial approval on content removal requests.

Proposed by the ruling party, the amendment comes several months after a series of voice recordings leaked online revealed corrupt activities of leading government officials, including Erdogan himself. In the immediate aftermath of the scandal, authorities blocked Twitter and YouTube, but these restrictions were later lifted thanks to an order by the Constitutional Court. 

A week without thuggery?

Two members of the Global Voices community were granted freedom this week. GV author and former Central Asia editor Alexander Sodiqov, who was arrested while conducting field research in Tajikistan this summer, requested and was granted a return to his home in Toronto, though he formally remains under investigation. Now reunited with his wife and daughter, he plans to continue his studies at the University of Toronto. 

Egyptian blogger and leading pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was released from prison on bail following a ruling by the Cairo Criminal Court. Convicted in June of organizing a protest without a permit and harming a police officer, the 32-year-old activist and father had been on a hunger strike since late August, and he planned to end it only when he was released from prison. It is not yet clear whether he plans to continue the strike given that he has been released on bail. A key factor in Abd El Fattah’s release was the decision by the presiding judge in his case to recuse himself from the process. 

Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served during his lifetime. In 2006, he was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest. In 2011, he spent two months in prison, missing the birth of his first child. In 2013, he was arrested and detained for 115 days without trial. Although currently out of state custody and at home with his wife and son, he still will most likely face 15 years behind bars. 

Free Expression: Is porn filtering a slippery slope to political censorship?

Lebanon made a rare foray into online censorship last week after the minister of telecommunications ordered six pornographic websites blocked by the nation’s Internet service providers, apparently on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. Despite there being little precedent for filtering online traffic, the move sparked fears of more extensive censorship in the future. 

East Timor’s Press Law, which was widely regarded by journalists and human rights groups to be a threat to free speech, was declared unconstitutional by the country’s Court of Appeal. The decision left room for legislators to draft and pass a new law, suggesting that debate over the role of media in the country is likely to continue.  

Surveillance: Stop scaring us, NSA

The NSA has created a “Google Earth” like map of the Web’s Internet traffic, according to new revelations from the Snowden files. Through the Treasure Map program, the agency seeks to identify and locate every device connected to the Internet, worldwide. The documents include detailed outlines of global communications networks, highlighting those that have been breached by the NSA. The program logo features a skull with glowing red eyes superimposed onto a compass.

In an article for Glenn Greenwald’s news site the Intercept, Edward Snowden revealed that New Zealand developed a system that collects citizens’ electronic communications metadata en masse. Despite the denials of the country’s prime minister, ample evidence from the XKEYSCORE program indicates that the GCSB, New Zealand’s intelligence agency, does indeed engage in mass surveillance of the country’s civilian population. The prime minister’s assurances coincided with the enactment of an Internet surveillance law that gave broader powers to the government for data collection. 

Wikileaks released a series of files from leading surveillance technology company Gamma International relating to the spyware FinFisher. The leaks included copies of the software itself.  

Industry: LinkedIn losing connections over censorship in China?

After facing criticism over censorship policies affecting users in mainland China, LinkedIn is having second thoughts. In an effort to appease China’s censors, LinkedIn has been censoring not just what Chinese users can view on the professional networking site, but what they can share with the rest of the world. A LinkedIn spokesperson says the company may change its policy to allow content banned in China to be viewed globally, a strategy similar to Twitter’s “geo-blocking” country-specific approach to government-requested content removal.

Google said government demands for user information increased by 150% over the past five years. It released its tenth Transparency Report, which includes government demands for user data related to criminal investigations through the first half of 2014. Google called on the U.S. Congress to enact the USA FREEDOM Act and to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to rein in the excessive collection of metadata. 

Some Comcast users reported receiving messages from the company that their use of the anonymity-protecting Tor web browser is “illegal,” and that Comcast threatened to terminate their service. Comcast refuted the claims on its blog, dismissing allegations as “totally inaccurate” and stating that its users are free to access Tor without repercussions. 

Netizen Activism: Slow loading and 800k comments to the FCC

Over 40,000 websites, including Netflix, Tumblr and Reddit, joined forces for “Internet Slowdown Day” on September 10. By placing spinning “loading” images on their home pages, the websites sought to raise awareness about protecting net neutrality in light of the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rule changes that would allow broadband companies to charge for higher speeds. The participating sites successfully rallied over 2 million Internet users to take action by emailing Congress, while nearly 800,000 users filed comments with the FCC before the end of the window for public comment, September 15th. The FCC will now have to read each and every one of these comments as it prepares to make its decision.

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report weekly emails

by Netizen Report Team at September 17, 2014 03:37 PM

September 16, 2014

Doc Searls
Giving respect to brand advertising

I wrote the first half of the following two years ago for a name-brand Web magazine that decided not to run it. You can guess why. I later turned it into a shorter piece for Wharton‘s Future of Advertising collection. For this post I took out some cruft and added a new second half. As usual, if I had more time, I could have made it shorter. But I’m in a hurry between meetings in London and want to get something up.


For most of its history, we knew what advertising was. As a metonym, “Madison Avenue” covered the whole thing.

Madison Avenue’s specialty was brand advertising: big companies (Coca-Cola, Kodak, Shell Oil, Procter & Gamble) hiring big agencies to familiarize consumers by the millions with their brands. While most advertising didn’t come from Madison Avenue, or practice big-budget branding methods, it was still simple and straightforward: companies buying time and space to send messages across to target groups. As consumers we knew that too. Here’s the key thing to remember today: none of it was personal.

The personal stuff was called direct marketing. In The Economics of Online Advertising, Magid Abraham, Ph.D., the co-founder and CEO of comScore, respects the distinction this way: “while the Internet may have been a boon for direct response advertisers, it has been a mixed blessing for brand advertisers…” (The bold-face is mine.)

If the taxonomy of business were like that of biology, direct response and brand would not only be different species, but different classes under the marketing phylum. Yet Dr. Abraham, along with everybody else today, calls both advertising. Thus the original distinctions are lost.

To find them again, let’s start by giving respect to the elder species: advertising itself.

“The great thing about advertising is that no-one takes it personally,” Richard Stacy says. Direct response, on the other hand, wants to get personal. And, because it values response above all else, it has been data-driven ever since it started out as direct mail. (Or, in the vernacular, junk mail.)

The holy grail of direct response has always been perfect personalization: getting the right message to the right person at the right place at the right time. Back in the offline world that wasn’t possible. Online, at least conceivably, it is. Thanks to tracking and big data analytics, individuals can be understood to a high degree of specificity, in real time, and addressed accordingly. This is the boon Dr. Abraham is talking about.

Yet this boon comes with costs that are hard to see if your view is anchored on the supply side. If you look at it from the receiving end, all you know is that the ad is there, and that maybe it’s meant to be personal (or even too personal). How it gets there is a mystery for the recipient and often for the medium as well. For example, the ad for SmellRight deodorant placed next to a story on a newspaper’s website may not be placed by SmellRight, its ad agency or the newspaper. It may have arrived via some combination of ad networks, ad exchanges, demand side platforms (DSPs), dynamic auctions with real time bidding (RTB), supply side platforms (SSPs) and other arcane mechanisms of the new direct response advertising business. And, in many cases, none of those entities has the whole picture of how any given ad gets placed. Worse, you don’t know whether or not some algorithmic robot, or an ad hoc committee of them, thinks you have B.O.

In The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth, Joseph Turow says direct response advertising today is “increasingly customized by a largely invisible industry on the basis of a vast amount of information that we likely didn’t realize it is collecting as a result of social profiles and reputations it assigns us and never discloses, and about which we are largely ignorant.”

And yet the ironic purpose of these mechanisms is to make the ad personal — just for you — even if all they know about you is some unique identifier, or a combination of them. Confusing? Of course. But then, it’s none of your business. Neither is brand advertising , but at least you’re not ignorant about the system, or why the brand thought it was important to advertise.

That’s because brands and brand advertising send what economists call signals. Each signal is a sign of substance that says much without saying anything at all. The feathers of a peacock send a signal. So do the songs of birds, the antlers of an elk, your haircut, your college degree, your jewelry and the clothing you wear. So think of brand advertising as clothing: something a company wears, just like it wears buildings.

Like clothing and buildings, advertising’s brand signal is impersonal and non-conversational, by design. It is pure statement. In “Advertising as a Signal” (Journal of Political Economy, 1984) Richard E. Kihlstrom and Michael H. Riordan explain, “When a firm signals by advertising, it demonstrates to consumers that its production costs and the demand for its product are such that advertising costs can be recovered.”

Direct response advertising does little if any of that. But, because we call it advertising, we need to look at the trade-offs. Don Marti has done a lot of that. He writes, “as targeting for online advertising gets more and more accurate, the signal is getting lost. On the Web, how do you tell a massive campaign from a well-targeted campaign? And if you can’t spot the ‘waste,’ how do you pick out the signal?”

In fact, the main signal sent by direct response advertising is personalization itself. By being different for everybody, all the time, there’s not much “there” there, besides the ad. There’s not even an obvious “platform” for the ad, since it could have come from anywhere.

Brand advertising doesn’t do that. Nor does Main Street or a shopping mall. When you go into a store, it doesn’t shape-shift to put hats in front of you because you glanced at hats in a store window you passed on the street a minute ago. Yet shape-shifting is now standard with online retailing, with search, and with every site and service that works to “deliver a personalized experience” in real time. The result is a virtual world that is made to look different all the time for everybody, based on surveillance and data-driven guesswork. It’s also creepy, because you don’t know what’s personal and what’s not, or what’s based on surveillance of your activities and what’s not. And opt-out “solutions” from the industry, such as AdChoices only serve as a paint job over the surveillance required to make ads personally relevant (which, nearly all the time, they are not).

The historic shift we’re experiencing here is one from the static Web to the live one — a development I visited in a 2005 essay in Linux Journal titled The World Live Web. It begins,

There’s a split in the Web. It’s been there from the beginning, like an elm grown from a seed that carried the promise of a trunk that forks twenty feet up toward the sky. The main trunk is the static Web. We understand and describe the static Web in terms of real estate. It has “sites” with “addresses” and “locations” in “domains” we “develop” with the help of “architects”, “designers” and “builders”. Like homes and office buildings, our sites have “visitors” unless, of course, they are “under construction”.

At the time (see herehere and here) I saw the Live Web as a branch off the static one, starting with RSS and real-time search of RSS feeds, which at the time was done only by Technorati and its competitors. (The only survivor in that category is Google blogsearch, which lets you isolate postings in the past ten minutes, the past hour, the past 24 hours and so on.) What I didn’t expect was for the Live Web to become pretty much the whole thing. But that’s where we’re headed today. Except for domain names, logos and other persistent, impersonal graphics and structures, the Static Web is becoming a lost signal as well.

And yet “brand” and “branding” are hot topics on the live Web, and have been ever since marketers began advancing on the Internet’s wild frontiers. (This Google Ngram graph traces the popularity of the word “branding” in books from 1900 to 2008. Note how the word starts to hockey-stick in 1995, when the commercial Web was born.)

Back in early 2000, when The Cluetrain Manifesto came out, among the first companies we heard from were Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and other established consumer goods companies that had actual “brand managers.” They bought the premise that “markets are conversations” (Cluetrain‘s first thesis, and the title of one of its chapters). But they were flummoxed by the oxymoronic challenge of making a brand talk. Why should it? They were also baffled by first-generation Net-native marketing types talking about “brands” and “branding” as if these concepts translated easily and instantly to the networked world. Real brand managers knew, in their bones, that the solid and durable substance of a brand wasn’t personal. It was pure signal.

I think this is one reason Dr. Abraham calls the Internet a “mixed blessing” for brands. The static and durable substance of a brand can still be communicated on the Web the same old-fashioned way it is in print and on radio and TV, but the temptation to get personal with advertising irresistibly high, especially since there are now hundreds of companies and countless experts and technical means for doing that.

So the new stuff is marginalizing the old stuff in a huge way. For a crash course on how this is going, read Bob Hoffman’s Ad Contrarian blog, watch this speech, and read this one. From the latter:

First, that an astounding amount of what the experts, the pundits, and the geniuses have told us about advertising and marketing and media in the past 10 years has turned out to be bullshit.

And second, that the advertising industry has become the web’s lapdog – irresponsibly exaggerating the effectiveness of online advertising and social media… glossing over the fraud and corruption, and becoming a de facto sales arm for the online ad industry.

The online advertising he’s talking about here isn’t traditional brand advertising, but the direct response stuff that wants to get personal with you.

But, because brand and direct response advertising are now fully conflated, the brand baby gets thrown out with the direct response bathwater. That’s why we have, for example, Ethan Zuckrman‘s The Internet’s Original Sin. Writes Ethan, “The internet spies at us at every twist and turn not because Zuckerberg, Brin, and Page are scheming, sinister masterminds, but due to good intentions gone awry.” The good intentions were around making advertising better — something Ethan himself worked on, back in the last Millennium.

But Ethan’s main issue is with the whole business model of advertising on the Web, which includes both the brand and the direct response stuff: “20 years into the ad-supported web, we can see that our current model is bad, broken, and corrosive. It’s time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us—the users and our attention—as the product.”

But the ads won’t go away, because the Web will always be a wide open publishing space. So the question becomes, What’s best?

After Ethan’s piece came out, Don posed Ethan’s position against Bob’s and looked for a solution that respects what both bring to the table:

But Hoffman and Zuckerman are both right. Web advertising has failed. We’re throwing away most of the potential value of the web as an ad medium by failing to fix privacy bugs. Web ads today work more like email spam than like magazine ads. The quest for “relevance” not only makes targeted ads less valuable than untargeted ones, but also wastes most of what advertisers spend. Buy an ad on the web, and more of your money goes tointermediaries and fraud than to the content that helps your ad carry a signal.

From Zuckerman’s point of view, advertising is a problem, because advertising is full of creepy stuff. From Hoffman’s point of view, the web is a problem, because the web is full of creepy stuff. (Bonus link: Big Brother Has Arrived, and He’s Us )

So let’s re-introduce the web to advertising, only this time, let’s try it without the creepy stuff. Brand advertisers and web content people have a lot more in common than either one has with database marketing. There are a lot of great opportunities on the post-creepy web, but the first step is to get the right people talking.

Can we make that happen? Or do we just have to wait for the creepy bubble to burst? I predicted the burst in The Intention Economy, which came out in May 2012. It hasn’t happened yet. But it’s looking a lot closer since PageFair published 2104 Report: Adblocking Goes Mainstream last week. Summary findings:

  • There are about 144 million active adblock users around the world.
  • Adblock usage grew by nearly 70% between June 2013 – June
  • Growth is driven by Google Chrome, on which adblock penetration nearly doubled between June 2013 – June 2014.
  • Adblock usage varies by country. In some countries nearly one quarter of the online population has it installed.
  • Adblock usage is driven by young internet users. 41% of 18-29 year olds polled said they use adblock.
  • Adblock usage is higher with males, but female usage is still very significant.
  • A majority of adblockers expressed some willingness to receive less intrusive ad formats (however they strongly rejected intrusive ad formats such as interstitials and popovers).

Often we hear it said that we have made a “deal” with online advertising, trading our privacy for advertising that pays for the content we consume. We didn’t. (As I said here, four years ago.) We just put up with it.

But we actually do make a deal with the brand advertising that supports the print and broadcast content we also consume. We give them time and space in our lives. Sometimes we skip over ads on our cable DVRs, or page past the ads in magazines. But we are conscious of the good those ads do, even if some of the ads annoy us. They support the paper, the magazine, the radio or television program, and the creative people behind them.

It should be the same on the Web. But it’s not, because an unknown but obviously high percentage of the ads we see are aimed by unwelcome spying on our personal lives. If Don’s right, and we subtract the creepy stuff out, and respect brand advertising for the good it does (while putting up with the annoying stuff, which will probably never go away), we might keep the free stuff we like, or at least reduce the price of it.

 

 

by Doc Searls at September 16, 2014 06:49 PM

Global Voices
Criticizing the Government Could Get You Arrested in Malaysia. Is it Time to Repeal the Sedition Act?
Launching of people's movement calling for the repeal of the Sedition Act of 1948. Photo from Suaram.net

Launching of people's movement calling for the repeal of the Sedition Act of 1948. Photo from Suaram.net

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak made an election promise in 2012 that his government would repeal the Sedition Act of 1948, a colonial-era law which has been used to silence critics of the government. Two years later, the law is still in effect and authorities continue to use it against the political opposition.

In recent weeks, dozens have been charged in the courts for violating the Sedition Act. Ten arrests were done in a span of 26 days since August 19. Those accused of making seditious remarks included lawyers, journalists, preachers, and even academicians.

Writing for The Nut Graph, Ding Jo-Ann explained how the broad and vague provisions in the Sedition Act had been abused in the past to harass activists and critics of the ruling party:

It is a crime to excite disaffection against the government, or the administration of justice, or even just to raise “discontent or disaffection” amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia. It contains broad offences such as promoting “feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes”.

The repeal of this Act is certainly desirable given its antiquated nature and perceived abuse in the selective prosecution of government critics.

Worried about the sudden rise of sedition-related arrests, around 128 civil society organizations coalesced and called for the immediate abolition of the “archaic” law. They released a statement and an online petition demanding the withdrawal of the sedition cases filed against individuals who were merely voicing an opinion about government policies:

No one should be criminalized for expressing his or her opinion, no matter how his or her opinions may differ from the government's, as long as he or she is not advocating violence or religious or racial hatred.

About 300 academics signed a statement in support of a law scholar who was charged with sedition for commenting on a political crisis that took place in 2009. The “subversive” comment allegedly made by the scholar was cited in a news article. “Does it not defeat the very purpose of his work and indeed the work of thousands of other academics within a nationwide university system if he is to be summarily hauled up for merely doing his duty as an academic?” the statement read. 

Activists are using the Twitter hashtag #MansuhAktaHasutan (Abolish Sedition Act) to enjoin the people to sing, dance, and pose to repeal the law.

Ramon Navaratnam, chairperson of the Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies, reminded the government that the Sedition Act is not helping Malaysia:

We have been urged to think out of the box, innovate and give feedback to the government and to help transform the economy and indeed our beloved country.

But how will this structural change be possible if honest dialogue is apparently stifled by the heavy handed use of the powerful Sedition Act?

It’s “sedition season”, wrote K Kabilan noting the numerous arrests made by the police in the past month:

This is the season where one wrong word can land you in trouble, never mind if you had uttered your allegedly seditious words three years ago, or had only been putting your educated thoughts in writing. As long as it offends someone in power, you look certain to be in trouble.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia's youth wing accused Prime Minister Najib of being a “Sedition King”. The group also warned Najib that the legal repression will incite the people to resist: 

These people (who have been arrested or charged under the Sedition Act) are not thieves, robbers, nor murderers, they merely spoke up.

The government has forgotten that this is an old tactic to frighten the people, especially the youth and the students, (but) the more oppressive they get, the more people would come forward to speak up.

But what provoked authorities to make arrests in recent weeks? Nathaniel Tan thinks it’s related to the coming assembly of the ruling party: “I sincerely doubt that the levels of ‘seditious’ comments have gone up in recent weeks or months. Rather, it is only that the Umno General Assembly has drawn closer.”

Umno, the country's largest political party, has never lost an election in Malaysia. Some of the Umno hardliners have been criticizing the leadership of the prime minister and they have expressed reservation over the decision of the government to abolish the Sedition Act.

As an alternative to the Sedition Act, some government scholars are proposing the enactment of a National Harmony Bill, National Unity Bill and National Unity and Integration Commission Bill. The government vowed to conduct further consultations about these proposals but human rights groups are concerned that some of these measures would merely revive the “draconian” provisions of the Sedition Act.

Malaysians are celebrating Malaysia Day this week and perhaps the government can use this occasion to renew its commitment to promote democracy and human rights. Prime Minister Najib can deliver a strong statement by fulfilling his pledge to abolish the Sedition Act.

by Mong Palatino at September 16, 2014 05:34 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Talking the Talk: Communication Styles for Diversity at AlterConf


Photo by jordesign

The first AlterConf Boston hosted a mix of techies, gamers, and journalists to discuss diversity in these communities. As a self-identified communication-nerd, I was excited for Shauna Gordon-McKeon's "Talking the Talk" presentation on the role of different communication styles in encouraging diversity inclusion. These notes are from her talk.

Gordon-McKeon wants to dispel the myth that arguing is the road to truth, that truth = people + talking - emotions + data. She suggests memorizing stock phrases so they're like second nature when you need them. For a deeper analysis of communication, she suggests the work of Dr. Deborah Tannen.

She begins by addressing interruption. There are several kinds of interruptions: Classic interruptions (cutting someone off completely), interjections (a short interruption), pause (beginning to talk while someone pauses), overlap (when two people start talking simultaneously, and one stops). Pause and overlap, although not always thought of as interruptions have the same effect of allowing one person to talk and not another.

One strategy is the 5-second rule: requiring a 5 second pause before a new person begins talking. There are phrases that can help: "I can't tell if you're done talking, were you finished?" Some of these strategies can result in push-back. Using the buddy system can reduce push-back.

Derailing, by manipulating the topic of a conversation is another obstacle. Some people are more comfortable than others refocusing a conversation back to the original topic.

Speaking less, or not at all, is a sure way to prevent dominating a conversation. It can help to acknowledge that your comment is a tangent. Some phrases to refocus: "I'd like to get back to what Sam was saying before," or "That's an interesting point, but may be part of another discussion."

She notes that tumblr and Twitter are anecdotally known to be conducive to social justice conversations. She asks whether the ability to fork conversations and prevent derailing might be responsible.

She ends by suggests that truth is really people, talking, empathy, mindfulness, and hard work.

by elplatt at September 16, 2014 04:39 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Nearly 70% of Young Iranians Use Illegal Internet Circumvention Tools
"God is with us. Are you filtering him too?" Photo by Cyrus Farivar via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

“God is with us. Will you filter him too?” Photo by Cyrus Farivar via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

In a report conducted by Iran's Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Iranian government announced that of 23.5 million youth using the Internet, 69.3 percent of them are using circumvention technology such as proxies and VPNs — virtual private networks that provide access to the “global Internet”.

At the moment, Iranians often encounter a firewall when trying to access websites that appear antagonistic towards the government or the nation’s Islamic ideals. The report did not make mention of the legality of circumvention tools. But according to Iran’s list of Computer Crimes, the distribution of both circumvention technology and instructions to use such tools are both illegal. Violating these laws can result in severe punishment. 

Iran's Internet policy remains an often incoherent and fractious issue. Last week President Hassan Rouhani stated that filters could never be effective in a nation like Iran; however a few days later the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance started blocking news websites without proper press licensing. Similarly, while Rouhani and key members of his cabinet are some of the most recognized Twitter and Facebook users in the country, both social networks remain blocked for regular Iranian Internet users.

While some have argued that Rouhani’s Internet policy is one of the rare areas where rhetoric and action coincide, pointing to recent improvements in mobile and fixed line Internet infrastructure, reports like this one perpetuate a feeling of overall uncertainty among many users and open Internet advocates in the country.

by Mahsa Alimardani at September 16, 2014 04:22 PM

Global Voices
Nearly 70% of Young Iranians Use Illegal Internet Circumvention Tools
"God is with us. Are you filtering him too?" Photo by Cyrus Farivar via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

“God is with us. Will you filter him too?” Photo by Cyrus Farivar via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

In a report conducted by Iran's Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Iranian government announced that of 23.5 million youth using the Internet, 69.3 percent of them are using circumvention technology such as proxies and VPNs — virtual private networks that provide access to the “global Internet”.

At the moment, Iranians often encounter a firewall when trying to access websites that appear antagonistic towards the government or the nation’s Islamic ideals. The report did not make mention of the legality of circumvention tools. But according to Iran’s list of Computer Crimes, the distribution of both circumvention technology and instructions to use such tools are both illegal. Violating these laws can result in severe punishment. 

Iran's Internet policy remains an often incoherent and fractious issue. Last week President Hassan Rouhani stated that filters could never be effective in a nation like Iran; however a few days later the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance started blocking news websites without proper press licensing. Similarly, while Rouhani and key members of his cabinet are some of the most recognized Twitter and Facebook users in the country, both social networks remain blocked for regular Iranian Internet users.

While some have argued that Rouhani’s Internet policy is one of the rare areas where rhetoric and action coincide, pointing to recent improvements in mobile and fixed line Internet infrastructure, reports like this one perpetuate a feeling of overall uncertainty among many users and open Internet advocates in the country.

by Mahsa Alimardani at September 16, 2014 04:09 PM

Presenting the 2014 Rising Voices Amazonia Grantees

rv-amazonia-ES-logo

Rising Voices is pleased to announce this year's Amazonia microgrants will be awarded to seven citizen media outreach projects across South America. 

Earlier this year, we invited local Amazon communities to submit their ideas on how citizen media could help to tell their own digital story. We received a total of 52 proposals from six different countries focusing on a variety of topics that included climate change, biodiversity, conflict and reconciliation. Many projects came from indigenous communities across the region who wanted to embrace digital technologies for their communication needs.

Applicants were given the option to share their proposal publicly through our interactive platform available in both Spanish and Portuguese. There they were able to exchange feedback and comments with other applicants, as well as help facilitate potential collaborative partnerships.

Originally we were slated to select six winners, but we were able to fund seven projects in total. These grantees will join the Rising Voices community, where we will provide microgrants so that they can carry out their ideas. They will also receive mentoring and other technical support, as well as amplification and translation of their digital stories.

Congratulations to the newest grantee projects! The seven winners (in alphabetical order by country):

Bolivia: Tsimané Linguistic Universe

Many rural Tsimané indigenous communities in the Beni region of Bolivia are left without Internet or mobile connections. While there is hope that a new government telecommunications satellite will eventually fill these connectivity gaps, those wanting access to the web must make a trek to the nearest town of San Borja. When they do get online, there is little to no content in the Tsimané language, but this project seeks to address this need. A team of young people, which includes students, teachers, and researchers, who often make this trek themselves to study or work in San Borja will create a multimedia encyclopedia that collects digital audio recordings to encourage a new generation of tech-savvy young people to use their language online.

Brasil: Rádio Arraia

Since 2011, young artists from the project “Rivers of Meeting” located in the Afro-indigenous community of Cabelo Seco situated between the Tocantins and Itaciúnas rivers have been producing a rich variety of creative content about the realities of their surroundings. Despite a high-degree of social marginalization, poverty, and drug-related violence, the community of Cabelo Seco reflects solidarity, cooperation, and a colorful popular culture, which has been passed on by generations. The project will create an online/offline radio station to help capture the richness of this popular culture through the production of radio theater, local interviews, debates, home remedies, and citizen journalism, all produced by a team of youth participants using free software tools and shared through social networks.

Colombia: Yadiko Uruk + Sons of Yadiko

Dozens of analog audio and video cassettes containing ancestral stories from a community of Witoto – M+n+ka indigenous people, as well as documentation of the sacred ritual called Yadiko, were recorded by external researchers in the 1980s. This rich content, however, remains inaccessible to the community of Cabildo Milán located in La Chorrera in the Colombian Amazon region, where the recordings were made. A young university student named Ever Kuiru, who was orphaned at at a young age and left the community, wants to transfer these recordings to a digital format and present them to the community in the hopes of inspiring and training others to make their own podcasts. Through this process, Ever hopes to maintain ties with his roots through the stories of his late father and grandfather found in these recordings.

Ecuador: Shuar y Achuar: Our Digital Stories in Our Own Language

Community radio stations in the Ecuadorian Amazonian indigenous communities Shuar and Achuar have a rich history of transmitting in their native languages about issues important to this region. The people behind these radio stations want to learn how to take these intercultural stories to the web using free software tools to stream online and create blogs to complement their traditional transmission. Young members of these radio stations will be trained in the use of these free tools as a way to strengthen inter-generational dialogue and communication in their own native Shuar and Achuar languages.

Ecuador: Southern Amazon: Young Images of Resistance and Ancestral Alternatives

Sumak Allpa (Forest Alive) is a concept promoted by Kichwa peoples living in the community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian province of Pastaza. Sarayaku is a community that can only be reached by small plane or canoe; there are no highways leading in or out. However, thanks to a satellite connection, young indigenous people will use free software and community digital video to share their stories of resistance following Sumak Allpa in defense of their territories against the XI Oil Round, which seeks to provide concessions for oil extraction in large sections of ancestral territory belonging to seven indigenous nations located in the Southern Amazon in Ecuador.  

Perú: Chariboan Joi

A storytelling festival planned for the community of Nueva Betania on the outskirts of Yarinacocha in Ucayali, Peru will be the starting point for this project. With support from the Arkana Alliance, newly trained citizen reporters from the Organization of Indigenous Youth from the Ucayali Region (OJIRU) will explore how to use mobile phones to cover the event and help document the legends and stories shared by the local artists in the native Shipibo language and translated into other languages. From there, the citizen reporters will continue to create digital stories about their communities focusing on preserving cultural traditions and language, but also examining the effects of extractivism on the surrounding environment. By establishing partnerships with local radio stations and employing other distribution techniques, such as loud speakers in public spaces, the citizen reporters will be able to better reach those without internet access.

Venezuela: Jatta Wöötanö

In the Yekuana indigenous community of Boca de Ninchare located within the Caura River Basin in Venezuela, a new generation of young people are discovering the potential of digital media as these tools become more widely available. This project will engage young people from the community to create a team of “ethno-communicators,” a term used to describe individuals who use social communication and have a deep knowledge of their culture with a desire to share knowledge. Members of the coordinating team have strong ties to the Indigenous University of Venezuela as current students and former professors. While there is a draw of young people to the cities to use these technology, thanks to a community Internet connection provided by a national telecommunications company, these ethno-communicators will now have the chance to tell their stories from where the stories take place.

This Rising Voices Amazonia project is made possible by the generous support of Avina Americas, Fundación Avina, and the Skoll Foundation.

Please join us in welcoming these new projects and look for updates very soon.

by Eduardo Avila at September 16, 2014 03:57 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Was Popular Saint Lucia Blog Hateful or Just Outspoken?

lucian

Writer and actor Jason Sifflet's popular Saint Lucia-based Flogg Blog was taken down by Google for violating its terms of service before being restored last week. The no-holds-barred, muckraking blog had become both notorious and controversial among people interested in local politics. Sifflet reported the removal of the blog in a series of posts on his Facebook page:

4am SATURDAY, AUGUST 30: When the other NEG left the tower, I went back to my mocambo and got out my cyber-drum. Imagine my surprise to find that GOOGLE had burnt my cyber-fort THE FLOGG BLOG to the ground. No warning. No prior notification. Just an email saying: 

Hello, Your blog at http://thefloggblog.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: HATE.

In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible. For more information, please review the following resources:

Terms of Service: http://www.blogger.com/go/terms 

Blogger Content Policy:http://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy 

-The Blogger Team 

Sifflet, still considered an enfant terrible despite a career that spans nearly two decades, had a dedicated following and The Flogg Blog's sudden demise has been a major topic of discussion in both mainstream and social media on the Caribbean island, with much speculation on what motivated the blog's removal. The Flogg Blog's contents ranged from investigative reporting to acerbic satirical pieces, all written in a freewheeling, profane style which was usually leavened with profanity. Sifflet's blog included investigations into mismanagement at several statutory boards, including the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, which were particularly controversial.

Sifflet discussed The Flogg Blog and his career in a lengthy interview a few days before the blog was taken down:

Norbert Williams believed the controversy will have a “Streisand effect”, making Sifflet's work even more prominent:

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently generated further publicity of it. 
 
If Jason Sifflet's FloggBlog had been popular before last Saturday, the take down from the Google servers because of a purported ‘HATE’ report has only increased its popularity and an unquenched desire, by all and sundry, to read it from end to end in an attempt to decipher who is behind such a dastardly deed. Nevertheless, the conclusion by everyone and their dog is that it was perpetrated by some stinking politician because it certainly wasn't by Fidel Castro! They're just all confused as to which one.

 Williams added that Sifflet has merely exposed the topics that many Saint Lucians already discuss privately:

The Flogg Blog has shaken things up in St. Lucia. Even though it was not articulated in mainstream media, much of what Jason wrote has been thought of and discussed by many St. Lucians. They talked about the Flogg Blog at work, on Facebook, in emails, some mother-floggers even stayed up late at night unable to sleep because of the details and damning information contained within.

Kevin Edmonds suspected that Sifflet's harsh criticism of the tourism industry is what may landed him in trouble (A days after the Flogg Blog was taken down, Sifflet announced on Facebook that his wife had lost her job at a local hotel) : 

A series of recent posts on the Flogg Blog sharply critiqued the St. Lucian tourism industry, discussing such topics as high level corruption, crime, money laundering and bluntly stating that it is creating an apartheid like system on the island. Heavy stuff, no doubt – but it was excellent, much needed stuff.  You do not find this kind of pointed critique in The Star, The Voice or the Mirror. This is because one would be a fool to think that the mainstream media in St. Lucia or anywhere else is divorced from power. It acts as little more than public relations for the power – allowing critique to fall within a very narrow, previously agreed upon spectrum. Go outside of that and you are in trouble. See Jason Sifflet as Exhibit A.

He continued:

What we are seeing with the case of the Flogg Blog is that the interpretation of what constitutes hate speech is actually violating freedom of speech on the island and the wider internet in general. Whether or not you agree with the Flogg Blog – that is not the point – it is that his right to say it is under attack.
An important part of the definition of hate speech is that it ‘intimidates a protected individual or group'. Protected individual or group? Who is being protected from who? The powerful are being protected from the people? You don’t say!

In contrast, Tonjaka Ewart Kho-Hinkson noted that because Google is a private company that can make and enforce its own rules about content created by its users, the removal of Sifflet's blog, while problematic, actually may not constitute a violation of free speech:

The right to free speech DOES NOT exist between two private actors such as between two persons or two companies or any combination thereof. So you do not have a right to say whatever you like on my property, for example. [...] The Flogg Blogg does not have a ‘right’ to free speech where the exercise of that right is being enforced against Google (a company) who is a private actor. In fact, it wouldn't be enforceable against Facebook for that matter. So unless it can be shown that the views contained within the Flogg Blogg are censored after being expressed on a domain owned and controlled by the Flogg Blogg itself, and censorship is conducted by the state, then there is no attack on free speech here. This is a wrong [assertion] in law.

Hinkson addressed the likelihood of Google acting under the instructions of government officials:

In the interesting case of the SLU government putting pressure on google to take down the blog, if there were any evidence of this, then this still would not amount to a violation of Article 10 of the St. Lucia constitution. Only if that pressure gave google no choice other than to remove the blog would there be a violation. But my guess is that google is not beholden to the whims of the St. Lucia government, and it would have to be shown that google would have been significantly affected financially by that pressure. 

Hinkson stated that he has advised Sifflet to purchase his own domain name. In the mean time, Sifflet continued his work on a new blog on a different platform and began an attempt to uncover the reasons for the Flogg Blog being taken down.

Interestingly, the blog was restored on the Google platform on September 11. Global Voices got in touch with Sifflet to determine whether he was given any explanation for The Flogg Blog being taken down in the first place. This is what he said:

The email of Sat Aug 31 3:35 am informed me that the blog was deleted for TOS hate [violating Google's Terms of Service concerning hate speech on the Blogger platform]. It was one paragraph, very simple, no warning. By nine the next morning, I had a few calls that ratted out some culprits. One name remained the same and other names kinda changed. But the suspects were all political lawyers and statcorp CEOs – i.e. people who felt attacked by the blog.

By this time, I had already appealed for review through the help forums. But it was discouraging cos I couldn’t get a human response. Just automated response.

Automated response after automated response for days.

But then, a couple of American lawyers came out of the woodwork to bat for me on the other side. And a couple of Lucians had a friend of a friend in Google who might be able to check. The field research over the next few days revealed some surprising things which will take some time to work out.

So Wednesday, afternoon, I think, after I set up the new DIS Flogg and started republishing old Tourist board articles, just to fuck with the people I know fucked with me…Google reinstates the FLOGG with a simple message saying it was like a mistake of an automated scan.

In any case, I drop one story from each blog, just to be a dick and then, SOURCE B at Google calls me for an unofficial source, he sounds really formal and official with me.

‘This was a mistake. It should never have happened. It seems there was a community complaint which should not have been dealt with at the level it was. As a result, your blog has been flagged so that this never happens again. In fact, if there are new complaints, they have to bee forwarded higher up the chain than the regular blog, because of this incident. This was a big mistake. Your blog contains nothing that is hateful or violates free speech. This should never have happened.’

Our conversation went like this for 20 minutes.

All the while, I’m trying to get him to give me transcripts and identities, but he is insisting the same way I have freedom of speech, so do the people who complained and Google guaranteed them anonymity, which means the lawyers who are helping me now have a very well defined assignment on their hands.

Sifflet's story provides an instructive example of a case that pits speech and privacy rights against one another, and of a situation in which further inquiry with the decision-maker (Google, in this case) led to a strong outcome.

To learn more about blogging and social media content removals and appeals processes for these kinds of incidents, read “Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practices for Companies and Users,” a collaborative report by the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Berkman Center.

by Global Voices at September 16, 2014 01:33 PM

Global Voices
Was a Popular Saint Lucia Blog Taken Down by Google Hateful or Just Outspoken?

lucian

Writer and actor Jason Sifflet's popular Saint Lucia-based Flogg Blog was taken down by Google for violating its terms of service before being restored last week. The no-holds-barred, muckraking blog had become both notorious and controversial among people interested in local politics.

Sifflet reported the removal of the blog in a series of posts on his Facebook page:

4am SATURDAY, AUGUST 30: When the other NEG left the tower, I went back to my mocambo and got out my cyber-drum. Imagine my surprise to find that GOOGLE had burnt my cyber-fort THE FLOGG BLOG to the ground. No warning. No prior notification. Just an email saying: 

Hello, Your blog at http://thefloggblog.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: HATE.

In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible. For more information, please review the following resources:

Terms of Service: http://www.blogger.com/go/terms 

Blogger Content Policy:http://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy 

-The Blogger Team 

Sifflet, still considered an enfant terrible despite a career that spans nearly two decades, had a dedicated following and The Flogg Blog's sudden demise has been a major topic of discussion in both mainstream and social media on the Caribbean island, with much speculation on what motivated the blog's removal. The Flogg Blog's contents ranged from investigative reporting to acerbic satirical pieces, all written in a freewheeling, profane style which was usually leavened with profanity. Sifflet's blog included investigations into mismanagement at several statutory boards, including the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, which were particularly controversial.

Sifflet discussed The Flogg Blog and his career in a lengthy interview a few days before the blog was taken down:

Norbert Williams believed the controversy will have a “Streisand effect”, making Sifflet's work even more prominent:

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently generated further publicity of it. 
 
If Jason Sifflet's FloggBlog had been popular before last Saturday, the take down from the Google servers because of a purported ‘HATE’ report has only increased its popularity and an unquenched desire, by all and sundry, to read it from end to end in an attempt to decipher who is behind such a dastardly deed. Nevertheless, the conclusion by everyone and their dog is that it was perpetrated by some stinking politician because it certainly wasn't by Fidel Castro! They're just all confused as to which one.

 Williams added that Sifflet has merely exposed the topics that many Saint Lucians already discuss privately:

The Flogg Blog has shaken things up in St. Lucia. Even though it was not articulated in mainstream media, much of what Jason wrote has been thought of and discussed by many St. Lucians. They talked about the Flogg Blog at work, on Facebook, in emails, some mother-floggers even stayed up late at night unable to sleep because of the details and damning information contained within.

Kevin Edmonds suspected that Sifflet's harsh criticism of the tourism industry is what may landed him in trouble (A few days after the Flogg Blog was taken down, Sifflet announced on Facebook that his wife had lost her job at a local hotel) : 

A series of recent posts on the Flogg Blog sharply critiqued the St. Lucian tourism industry, discussing such topics as high level corruption, crime, money laundering and bluntly stating that it is creating an apartheid like system on the island. Heavy stuff, no doubt – but it was excellent, much needed stuff.  You do not find this kind of pointed critique in The Star, The Voice or the Mirror. This is because one would be a fool to think that the mainstream media in St. Lucia or anywhere else is divorced from power. It acts as little more than public relations for the power – allowing critique to fall within a very narrow, previously agreed upon spectrum. Go outside of that and you are in trouble. See Jason Sifflet as Exhibit A.

He continued:

What we are seeing with the case of the Flogg Blog is that the interpretation of what constitutes hate speech is actually violating freedom of speech on the island and the wider internet in general. Whether or not you agree with the Flogg Blog – that is not the point – it is that his right to say it is under attack.
An important part of the definition of hate speech is that it ‘intimidates a protected individual or group'. Protected individual or group? Who is being protected from who? The powerful are being protected from the people? You don’t say!

In contrast, Tonjaka Ewart Kho-Hinkson noted that because Google is a private company that can make and enforce its own rules about content created by its users, the removal of Sifflet's blog, while problematic, actually may not constitute a violation of free speech:

The right to free speech DOES NOT exist between two private actors such as between two persons or two companies or any combination thereof. So you do not have a right to say whatever you like on my property, for example. [...] The Flogg Blogg does not have a ‘right’ to free speech where the exercise of that right is being enforced against Google (a company) who is a private actor. In fact, it wouldn't be enforceable against Facebook for that matter. So unless it can be shown that the views contained within the Flogg Blogg are censored after being expressed on a domain owned and controlled by the Flogg Blogg itself, and censorship is conducted by the state, then there is no attack on free speech here. This is a wrong [assertion] in law.

Hinkson addressed the likelihood of Google acting under the instructions of government officials:

In the interesting case of the SLU government putting pressure on google to take down the blog, if there were any evidence of this, then this still would not amount to a violation of Article 10 of the St. Lucia constitution. Only if that pressure gave google no choice other than to remove the blog would there be a violation. But my guess is that google is not beholden to the whims of the St. Lucia government, and it would have to be shown that google would have been significantly affected financially by that pressure. 

Hinkson stated that he has advised Sifflet to purchase his own domain name. In the mean time, Sifflet continued his work on a new blog on a different platform and began an attempt to uncover the reasons for the Flogg Blog being taken down.

Interestingly, the blog was restored on the Google platform on September 11. Global Voices got in touch with Sifflet to determine whether he was given any explanation for The Flogg Blog being taken down in the first place. This is what he said:

The email of Sat Aug 31 3:35 am informed me that the blog was deleted for TOS hate [violating Google's Terms of Service concerning hate speech on the Blogger platform]. It was one paragraph, very simple, no warning. By nine the next morning, I had a few calls that ratted out some culprits. One name remained the same and other names kinda changed. But the suspects were all political lawyers and statcorp CEOs – i.e. people who felt attacked by the blog.

By this time, I had already appealed for review through the help forums. But it was discouraging cos I couldn’t get a human response. Just automated response.

Automated response after automated response for days.

But then, a couple of American lawyers came out of the woodwork to bat for me on the other side. And a couple of Lucians had a friend of a friend in Google who might be able to check. The field research over the next few days revealed some surprising things which will take some time to work out.

So Wednesday, afternoon, I think, after I set up the new DIS Flogg and started republishing old Tourist board articles, just to fuck with the people I know fucked with me…Google reinstates the FLOGG with a simple message saying it was like a mistake of an automated scan.

In any case, I drop one story from each blog, just to be a dick and then, SOURCE B at Google calls me for an unofficial source, he sounds really formal and official with me.

‘This was a mistake. It should never have happened. It seems there was a community complaint which should not have been dealt with at the level it was. As a result, your blog has been flagged so that this never happens again. In fact, if there are new complaints, they have to bee forwarded higher up the chain than the regular blog, because of this incident. This was a big mistake. Your blog contains nothing that is hateful or violates free speech. This should never have happened.’

Our conversation went like this for 20 minutes.

All the while, I’m trying to get him to give me transcripts and identities, but he is insisting the same way I have freedom of speech, so do the people who complained and Google guaranteed them anonymity, which means the lawyers who are helping me now have a very well defined assignment on their hands.

Sifflet's story provides an instructive example of a case that pits speech and privacy rights against one another, and of a situation in which further inquiry with the decision-maker (Google, in this case) led to a strong outcome.

To learn more about blogging and social media content removals and appeals processes for these kinds of incidents, read “Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practices for Companies and Users,” a collaborative report by the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Berkman Center.

by Matthew Hunte at September 16, 2014 01:28 PM

How a Vote for Scottish Independence Could Affect the Caribbean
Labour for Scottish Independence; photo by Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Labour for Scottish Independence; photo by Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

As former colonies and current members of the Commonwealth, a group that comprises the United Kingdom and states that were once part of its empire, including dependencies, the Caribbean is taking a particularly keen interest in the Scottish referendum on independence from the UK. The move towards independence is being pushed by The Scottish National Party, which won 2011′s Scottish parliamentary election by a definitive margin.

Proponents of the “Yes” vote maintain that the centuries-old union no longer meets modern-day needs. They feel like what West Indians refer to as the “outside child” of the UK parliament and think that Scotland can be better served by using its economic strength (primarily derived from oil and gas revenues) for its own interests.

“catch a fire”, a blog run by a Bermudian resident who can and will vote in this Thursday's referendum, thought that a vote for independence could have a strong impact on Bermuda. He noted that the British overseas territory actually held a referendum on independence in 1995, but “in general, support for Bermudian independence has hovered at around 25-30% – [...] a minority position.” The blogger suggested that despite “the potential loss of the colonial carrots of home tuition and EU [European Union] citizenship, the Scottish independence movement – and actual Scottish independence in the event of a Yes vote – has the potential to captivate the imagination of Bermudians about the potential of Bermudian independence.”

The UK, in its current formation (of which Scotland is an integral part), offers many benefits to the Caribbean under the umbrella of the Commonwealth of Nations. Member states cooperate with one another on issues of democracy, including things like human rights, international peace, transparency, good governance and sustainable development, values which are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter. The group is also supportive of the needs of smaller and more economically vulnerable member states.

With this in mind, a guest post by Sir Ronald Sanders at Barbadian diaspora blog The Bajan Reporter called Scottish independence “a one-way ticket to their own misfortune, and with consequences that will go beyond their borders”:

For countries in the Caribbean, a shrunken UK has several consequences. One of them is as basic as contributions to the Commonwealth Secretariat and its Fund for Technical Cooperation. [...] The 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries also need a strong UK in the European Community and in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as an advocate for Caribbean interests [...] there are a host of economic linkages including tourism, investment and development assistance that a less well-off UK will certainly be forced to curtail.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at September 16, 2014 12:55 PM

One Man's Response to Chinese Communist Party-Style Patriotism: Here, Have a Chrysanthemum
Beijing netizen "Fisherman" protested outside the Renmin University against the promotion of party-state patriotism by a Marxist Professor.

Beijing netizen “Fisherman” protested outside Renmin University against the promotion of party-state patriotism by a Marxist professor.

A Beijing netizen who goes by the name of Fisherman recently brought Marxism professor Chen Xiankui at Renmin University a Chrysanthemum. But the flower wasn't meant as a gesture of love or gratitude for the scholar. In traditional Chinese culture, Chrysanthemums are an for offering to the dead. In popular online usage, it also means “ass kissing.”

Fisherman and his flower were protesting Chen's opinion piece in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times stating that ”patriotism and loving the party is the same” in contemporary China. Chen argued that treating love of country as separate from love of the communist party is a western idea that undermines the foundation of the one-party regime in China. 

Chen's opinion is unacceptable to liberal-minded mainland Chinese people, like Fisherman. Twitter user @minshenguancha reported on the protest:

Netizen shows protest placard in front of Renmin University to condemn the propaganda of “loving the country is the same as loving the party”.

The placard says: “Chen Xiankui: Fisherman is here to deliver the Chrysanthemum to you. Lick it hard. And remember to bring a lightning rod with you whenever you go out.”

One of the major fronts in the ideological battle launched by the new leadership of the CCP under President Xi Jinping is convincing Chinese to accept the idea that loving the country is equal to loving the party. Twitter user @xinyouqingbo explained the implication of Chen's patriotism theory:

One can alway find a group of intellectuals who are willing to act as shield and insult one's ancestor by licking [the party's] ass. They debase the term patriotism. And when judging from the perspective of political tactics, they are destroying the construction of a united front. Professor Chen has turned people away from their country so easily. A new crime will soon emerge: Not loving the party = treason.

On Twitter-like Weibo, Chinese netizens also spoke out against the blurred line between country and party. Below is a selection of comments from caijing's Weibo news thread:

张耀辉-从容中道:[…]“党”由西方导入,在中国不过一百年历史,若此教授逻辑存在,真不知古人如何爱国。

冬夜明月月1976:一个贪污腐败的利益集团也让我必须爱他!苏共垮台俄罗斯还在,罗共垮台罗马尼亚还在,柬共灭亡柬普寨还在,真无耻!

hitrust:建议大陆人一出生就拥有中共党籍,保证实现该类型逗比的想法

周末心情_木:党能等同于国??这是有多愚蠢!国是家,党是管家,你爱家还非要爱你管家?还无论如何不能换管家?

Zhang Yaohui: […] “Party” is a term from the west. Political party only has more than a century of history in China. According to Chen's argument, I wonder how people in the past loved their country.

“Winter moon 1976″: How can you compel me to love a corrupted interest group? Russia still exists after the Soviet Communist Party lost power. Romania still exists after the Romanian Communist Party lost power. Cambodia still exists after the Cambodian Communist Party lost power. Shameless [theory].

hitrust: I suggest that people born in mainland China automatically sign up as Chinese Communist Party members so as to make this kind of patriotism a reality.

“Weekend mood”: The party is the same with the country? This is so stupid. The country is home, the party is just a housekeeper. You don't need to love the housekeeper for loving your home. Can't you change the housekeeper?

Both “Sitting on the floor 2013″ from Weibo and @leo3194 from Twitter pointed out that Chen just described the reality:

席地而坐2013:他说的是真话,你只爱德国,不爱纳粹,在二战时的德国行不通的!

“Sitting on floor 2013″: What he said is true. You could not love Germany without loving the Nazis in Germany during second World War.

The person who said loving the party is the same as loving the country just told the truth. In the eyes of the CCP, anti-party and anti-China are no different.

Chen's notion of patriotism is in line with mainland Chinese top official Li Fei's explanatory remarks on Beijing's framework for political reform in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. The mainland requires that candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive be endorsed by the majority of a pro-Beijing nominating committee before being allowed on the ballot for the city's first direct vote of their leader in 2017.

Li stressed that the ruling role of CCP is established in China's Constitution and thereby it goes without saying that the chief executive of Hong Kong should embrace the party-state. Pro-democracy activists are planning to challenge that thinking with a massive sit-in in the city's financial district to demand the right to choose the candidates. 

The imposition of such an unpopular party-state patriotism onto the election system in Hong Kong will inevitably escalate the political conflict in the pearl city, where “East meets West”.

by Oiwan Lam at September 16, 2014 05:56 AM

Info/Law
Icanhazjurisdiction?

Alan Trammell and I have a new article coming out on the problems of personal jurisdiction analysis when it involves Internet contacts. (The title is Personal Jurisdiction and “teh Interwebs”; I tried very hard to convince Alan to go with the title of this post, to no avail.) Abstract is below; we’d love your comments and thoughts.

For nearly twenty years, lower courts and scholars have struggled to figure out how personal jurisdiction doctrine should apply in the Internet age. When does virtual conduct make someone amenable to jurisdiction in any particular forum? The classic but largely discredited response by courts has been to give primary consideration to a commercial Web site’s interactivity. That approach distorts the current doctrine and is divorced from coherent jurisdictional principles. Moreover, scholars have not yielded satisfying answers. They typically have argued either that the Internet is thoroughly exceptional and requires its own rules, or that it is largely unexceptional and can be subject to current doctrinal tests. 

The difficult relationship between the Internet and modern personal jurisdiction doctrine is a symptom of a much larger problem. We argue that the Supreme Court’s current approach has bifurcated physical and intangible harm. Viewed through that lens, the overarching problem comes into focus because rules that sensibly govern the physical world apply awkwardly — sometimes incoherently — to intangible harm. Accordingly, we propose a return to personal jurisdiction’s first principles, particularly a concern for fairness and predictability. We argue that courts should dispense with the fiction that purely virtual conduct creates any meaningful contact with a particular forum. The narrow approach that we advocate likely will restrict the number of places where a plaintiff can sue for intangible harm, but through three test cases we demonstrate why such a rule will enhance fairness and predictability while also ensuring sufficient access to justice.

Cite: Alan M. Trammell & Derek E. Bambauer, Personal Jurisdiction and “teh Interwebs,” 100 Cornell Law Review (forthcoming 2015).

by Derek Bambauer at September 16, 2014 04:22 AM

Global Voices
Frustrated by a 2-Hour Delay, Passengers Refuse to Let Pakistani Politician Rehman Malik Board Plane

A mobile video showing angry airline passengers shooing off one of Pakistan's most prominent politicians Rehman Malik from a delayed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight leaving Karachi for capital city Islamabad has gone viral.

Flight delays because of politicians or well-connected individuals are not uncommon on Pakistan's national airline. It is unclear whether PK 370 was ‘delayed’ for Malik or because of technical difficulties, which is also fairly common. But some of the flight's disgruntled passengers decided that the two-hour delay was Malik's fault and refused to let him enter the plane. After the incident, Malik tweeted that the delay had nothing to do with him.

According to Daily Motion user Minator90210, who posted a series of mobile videos from inside the plane, crew members told passengers the delay was because of a technical difficulty initially. But a buzz started on the plane that the delay was because of VIP passenger former Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who was running late.

Within three hours of being posted on the video sharing site Daily Motion, the mobile clip showing Rehman Malik being confronted by angry passengers has been viewed more than 53,000 times. (YouTube is banned in Pakistan but the clip has also been reposted there.)

A few disgruntled passengers are clearly heard but not visible in the mobile video, which focuses on the entrance of the plane connected to the jet bridge. One passenger says in English, “My foot VIP. I will grill him. Don't you worry. When he comes in.”

Another frustrated passenger chimes in Urdu,”Sir, someone should grill these donkeys. They delay us by 2-3 hours all the time.”

A few more passengers join in, completing each other's sentences, “We have taken it [the VIP culture] for 68 years [that's how long Pakistan has been independent]. Are we going to take it for another 68 years?”

As Malik is visible walking through the the jet bridge towards the plane, one passenger exclaims in Urdu, “He has arrived. He has arrived.”

Angry passengers start accusing and shouting at him for delaying the flight for two hours. Malik almost instantly turns back with his entourage before boarding the plane. 

Other passengers can be heard angrily cursing at the minister from behind. The passenger who promised to grill him apologizes for the aggression and tries to take a softer approach in his tone, but a member of the crew tries to stop him, then he shouts to Malik, “Sir, before you go back, you should apologize to these passengers!”

Malik turns around for a second, and we can't hear what he says. The same passenger continues, “Rehman Malik, 250 passengers have been delayed because of you. I am sorry. It is your fault sir. You should be ashamed of yourself. Mr. Malik, you are not a minister anymore. And even if you are a minister, we don't care. We don't care! You people have to become humans. Come down to earth!”

As Malik exits, the passenger says, “Close the gates and fly this plane to Islamabad. This should be [known] and recorded. Rehman Malik has been offloaded. [We] threw him out!”

After Malik turned back from the plane, the politician, who has over 200K followers on Twitter, turned to the platform to explain his side:

Minator90210 also posted two other videos from inside the plane before Rehman was shooed off. In the first one, passengers try to confirm if Rehman Malik is delaying the plane; it is titled “PIA officials trying to hide identity of Rehman Malik:”

“Who delayed this plane? Rehman Malik? I demand the captain close the door of the plane now. Tell Rehman Malik to take a bus to Islamabad. This is not fair,” exclaims a passenger in the video. A lawyer says, “Who will fight my case tomorrow, my father? I have work to get to!”  

A second video posted by Minator90210 shows another politician from the ruling party PML-N Ramesh Kumar Vankwani entering the plane late as well. Passengers ask him who he is and accuse him of being with Rehman Malik; he gives them a confirmation that Rehman Malik was indeed a passenger on the plane, but says he isn't with him. Passengers aren't convinced by his story and shoo him off the plane as well, chanting “shame, shame, shame, get off the plane.”

Rehman Malik served as Pakistan's minister of interior from 2008-2013, and was at the forefront of the country's battle against terrorism in the last government led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Recently Malik was back in the news for trying to help the current government of Nawaz Sharif negotiate with politicians leading massive anti-government protests in Islamabad, which has attracted tens of thousands of protesters across the country, around slogans decrying corruption, and Pakistan's VIP and entitlement culture.

by Sahar Habib Ghazi at September 16, 2014 12:36 AM

September 15, 2014

Creative Commons
Daily awesome from the internet: CC presents the Thing of the Day

When you go searching for Creative Commons–licensed content, you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes you’ll find the exact photo or piece of sound you were looking for, and sometimes you’ll find something you never could have imagined.

We’ve created a new Tumblr blog to celebrate those unusual, beautiful, and quirky CC finds from around the web. It’s the Creative Commons Thing of the Day!

Sign up to get the Thing of the Day delivered to your inbox every morning.

Here’s the last week and a half in Thing of the Day.


Italic Shelf / Ronen Kadushin / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Ronen Kadushin designs unusual pieces of furniture like this unorthodox bookcase. He shares the designs under Creative Commons licenses and invites people to experiment with them, adapt them, and share their modified versions. Kadushin writes, “An open design value is increased with wider modification possibilities and transformation potentials into other products. Designs that typically live only a few years in the marketplace can live on and develop into new shapes and uses.”


Buy My Bed in Brooklyn / Jonathan Mann / CC BY 3.0

Jonathan Mann writes a song every day. Many of them tackle complex emotions and ideas. But inevitably, a lot of them are just silly, like “Buy My Bed in Brooklyn.” In songs like “Buy My Bed,” we see a songwriter whose talent lies in his childlike approach to day-to-day life.

On why he licenses all his music under CC, Jonathan told us, “It’s kind of a no-brainer… I don’t even really understand why anyone would do anything different. It makes such simple sense.”


Coming Out Simulator / Nicky Case / CC0

Nicky Case creates videogames that deal with issues many videogame designers wouldn’t touch. Nicky’s Nothing to Hide is a frank look at government and corporate surveillance, and an addictive puzzle game to boot.

Coming Out Simulator is a semiautobiographical game about Nicky coming out of the closet to their parents. The player is given choices of what to say, but the heartwrenching ending is inevitable.


Andrew Archer / CC BY-NC 3.0

Illustrator Andrew Archer drew these terrifying images of a post-apocalyptic California for a feature in California Magazine.


Found in Translation / Anjaya Iyer / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

These gorgeous prints feature words that capture ideas and feelings we’ve all experienced, but that don’t translate well into English. By introducing such perfect words to English speakers, they serve as a testament to the way that languages constantly grow, adapt, and borrow words from each other.


Copyright / XKCD / CC BY-NC 2.5

It even happens to us some days.


프라하 까를교 악사 / Miyoung Yi / CC BY 2.0

Miyoung Yi’s gorgeous drawings capture everyday moments, both in her home country of South Korea and around the world. As a Creative Commons activist, she encourages other Koreans to consider sharing their work under open licenses.


Steven Lewis / CC0

Here at CC, we’re huge fans of the photography blog Unsplash. The blog presents a single photo every day – the Unsplash curators have a great eye for delightful slices of life. The best part is that all of the photos are available under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, meaning that anyone can use them for any purpose, commercial or noncommercial, with or without attribution.


Silhouettes / The OO-Ray / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Illustration: Broken window / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The OO-Ray’s Silhouettes is a great example of how Creative Commons–licensed work can take on a life of its own. The OO-Ray (né Ted Laderas) composed and recorded the piece in 2011. Since then, it’s appeared in dozens of videos thanks to its CC license. As Laderas told SoundCloud, “It’s incredibly energizing to see that people like your music so much to include it in their video.”

by Elliot Harmon at September 15, 2014 09:55 PM

Hey, CC musicians! Enter the Free! Music! Contest!

Every year, our friends at Musikpiraten e.V. host the Free! Music! Contest to find the best Creative Commons–licensed music of the year. CC is proud to serve as a partner in this awesome tradition.

This year, anyone who preorders the album of winning selections earns the right to vote for their favorite entries. From the announcement:

“With the public voting we want to achieve two things,” explains Christian Hufgard, chairman of the Musikpiraten. “On the one hand, the selection of songs on the CDs are placed on a broader footing. And the obvious choice is to give a voice to those who will hear the CDs afterwards? But we also hope that the participating bands indicate their fans even before publication of the sampler the competition and we still get the more attention.”

Additionally, German gothic rock band Aeon Sable is offering a special prize for remixing its song “Visions,” which the band has shared a multitrack version of under CC BY-NC.

Submissions are due September 30. Check it out!

by Elliot Harmon at September 15, 2014 09:06 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah Released on Bail
Alaa Abd El Fattah and Manal Hassan. Photo by Lilian Wagdy via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Alaa Abd El Fattah and Manal Hassan. Photo by Lilian Wagdy via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was released on bail today, Sept 15, 2015, following a ruling by the Cairo Criminal Court. Two other fellow defendants Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally were also released.

The three were the only ones detained among 25 defendants sentenced to 15 years in absentia and a 100,000 Egyptian pound fine last June after being convicted of attacking a police officer and violating a 2013 protest law that prohibits unauthorized demonstrations. According to Mada Masr, which quoted the state-owned Ahram Gate website, they are accused of: “organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and destruction of public property.”

In late August, Abd El Fattah began a hunger strike, days before the death of his father, prominent human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam.

After an appeal by his lawyers, Abd El Fattah was issued a retrial in August 2014. Today, the presiding judge recused himself from the case after an incident last week, in which the prosecution presented a video depicting Manal Hassan, Abd El Fattah’s wife, dancing. Taken from Hassan’s laptop, which confiscated by police when Abd El Fattah was arrested and taken from his family’s home in November of 2013, the video bears no discernible relationship with his political activities. In another twist today, the judge ordered that the aforementioned video be presented to the prosecutor general and placed under investigation for violating Abd El Fattah's privacy.

Journalist Amira Howeidy reported to her 50K followers on Twitter:

Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served during his lifetime. In 2006, he was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest. In 2011, he spent two months in prison, missing the birth of his first child. In 2013, he was arrested and detained for 115 days without trial. And he now faces 15 years in prison.

Abd El Fattah has long worked on technology and political activism projects with his wife, Manal Hassan. He comes from a family of prominent human rights advocates. His father, Ahmed Seif El Islam, was jailed multiple times under the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Abd El Fattah’s sisters, Mona and Sanaa Seif, have both faced censure in connection with their activism on military trials in the country. Sanaa Seif is currently behind bars, also for allegedly violating the controversial protest law.

Abd El Fattah is on his 27th day of an open-ended hunger strike, which he said would continue until his release from prison. It is not clear whether he intends to continue his hunger strike while out on bail.

According to Nervana Mahmoud, it was his hunger strike, and that of other prisoners and supporters outside prison that brought about today's turn of events.

As soon as today's verdict was announced, congratulations poured in on social media. But for many, the struggle continues. On Facebook, Aida Seif Elldawla writes:

مبروك الحرية لعلاء ونوبي ووائل ومبروك الفرحة لاهاليهم وحبايبهم واصحابهم ومبروك للجدعان والجدعات اللي اضربوا واعتصموا واللي لسه هيضربوا ويعتصموا لحد الكل ما يخرج

Congratulations on the freedom of Alaa, Noubi and Wael and we congratulate their families, relatives and friends for their happiness. Congratulations to the brave men and women who went on hunger strike and who will continue to do so until all those imprisoned are released

Egyptian Mahmoud Refaat wonders why many judges are asking to be removed from trials. He tweets:

The judge in Alaa Abdel Fattah's case has stepped down. Judges step down to ensure the impartiality of the trial. The number of judges stepping down from cases is an unprecedented indicator of the pressure exerted by the executive branch on court judgements

And for Abdulmonen Mahmood, a former Muslim Brotherhood blogger who was also arrested during Mubarak's era, justice is far from served in Abdel Fattah's case. He tweets:

Alaa got his rights too late, without a gesture from the state and nothing will make up for his absence in taking car of his father in his last days … thousands remain in jail awaiting the same right

Follow Egyptian Tamer Mowafy agrees:

The road ahead is long. In addition to all those unjustly detained who should be freed from the prisons of injustice, there is an entire country which should be liberated from the rule of the jailer

And Egyptian writer Mohamed El Dahshan laments:

Happy that a number of oppressed people will spend the night with their families but sad when I remember the number of oppressed people still unjustly imprisoned

Meanwhile, Palestinian blogger Abir Kopty concludes:

The oppressor's deceit makes us happy with shreds of justice, and our greatness stems from our smiles and our insistence that our battle with him are not over and we will not be content with anything other than complete justice 

The sentences borne by Abd El Fattah and the 24 others are the longest yet in a string of crackdowns on freedom of expression, assembly, and opinion in the country. The controversial protest law requires citizens to obtain a state-issued license before holding a demonstration and has been used to jail other prominent activists, including outspoken human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry, and April 6 movement founder Ahmed Maher. In June, three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven and ten years in prison for “reporting false news.” 

Like Kopty, many human rights advocates in Egypt believe Abd El Fattah's case and others are merely political in nature, and meant to keep prominent activists behind bars while intimidating others to keep them away from the political process.

by Amira Al Hussaini at September 15, 2014 06:13 PM

Global Voices
Take a Musical Tour of Latin America's Talented Subway Performers
3478443714_5e7de07b82_z

Image by Fernando Messino on Flickr, used under theCreative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Have you ever been to Buenos Aires, Quito, Caracas, or Mexico City? If so, it's highly likely that you have ridden the metro in these cities. As such, it is also likely that at some point you've encountered the street musicians that use these modes of transportation as a stage. 

You may like them or you may be bothered by them. You may even consider it an illegal activity, as was recently the case in Medellin, Colombia. But it is difficult to remain indifferent when an artist is demonstrating his or her skills or telling an infectious personal joke. 

Let's take a quick and comfortable virtual tour of some of the Latin American cities whose subways are frequently taken over by public art. 

Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, is traditionally known as a cosmopolitan city, home to a vibrant arts and culture scene. This is reflected in the performances I came across in the Buenos Aires subway.

YouTube user buenosaires34 uploaded the following video in 2011 of a couple of musicians in a Buenos Aires subway station. They call themselves Rusia Kalipso and their music is also available on MySpace. With a guitar, a musical saw, and lots of fun, they entertain riders waiting for their train to arrive (and manage to make a few bucks along the way): 

Let's leave the station and get on the subway. A bit full? You wouldn't believe that in the narrow aisles of a subway car, riders could find an five-piece orchestra. Nonetheless, swing band Los Hijos del Sodero managed to arrange it so that they could perform in one and even use the subway car itself as an instrument. We can appreciate their talent in the following video posted on YouTube by Mr. Duke Baires:

These types of musical genres are not the only ones that can be found in the Buenos Aires metro. According to Global Voices collaborator Jorge Gobbi, “There are many musicians floating around, some with portable speakers playing everything from folk music to punk. They can easily be found on the weekends (on weekdays, certain lines are very crowded). But it is informal, as opposed to the product of government policies or anything like that. Nevertheless, the topic is being dealt with more strictly in recent months, and the Metropolitan Police, functioning under the government of the city, is driving them out. But they seem like specific policies because it is not difficult to find musicians in the subway cars and platforms.”   

Now let's cross the Andes and go to Santiago de Chile. Although the image that most people outside of Chile have in regards to Santiago natives are of dedicated workers, they view themselves as lazy or even spoiled. It is important to remember that, for example, Los Caporales, a Chilean comedy duo, made all of Latin America laugh for several decades since the 1950s. Current Chilean humor can be a bit harsh for other countries’ tastes, but it is no less effective.   

And what does humor have to do with music? Watch the following video uploaded by YouTube user Jonathan Alzamora and you will understand: 

Elizabeth Rivera, a GV collaborator in Santiago, tells us that Rafael Budú, the artist playing in the video above, has gotten a lot of exposure thanks to his performances in the metro, or Transantiago. He has even become an Internet sensation, according to certain media outlets, has been hired by companies and even appeared on television. 

Next let's jump to Mexico City, more specifically to the metro, where musicians play rock music with their instruments and speakers. Doubtful? Watch the following video uploaded by Carlos Luis in 2012: 

But there are more than just Mexican artists in Mexico City's metro. In the following video, shared by Eduardo Franco in 2011, we can see a seemingly Colombian duo performing music from their country: 

Indira Cornelio, a GV collaborator in Mexico City, says: “These types of groups are common in the subway and on buses. One time I found an excellent storyteller on the metro. Also, there is a man in the park that dresses up as a jester and sings all of the songs from Cri-Cri, a very popular Mexican composer and performer of children's song. He's very popular. I also have a friend who earns his living singing on buses and recently street vendors have become banned from the metro. The truth is I don't know if this has affected subway musicians as well.” 

On to Quito, where a proper metro doesn't exist yet, but there is a system of buses and trams known as the trolleybus. Street musicians also take advantage of the system of transport, as seen in the video below, uploaded to YouTube by a user from Elcomerciocom:

These hip hop performers are common on the trolleybus, so much so that I, someone who does not live in Quito, have come across them on several occasions. As Susana Morán, an Ecuadorian blogger, states: “Rappers, ballad singers, and merengue performers all pass through there. Some enjoy the performances and sing along and if no one gives them a single penny, they do not seem bothered because — maybe — they are doing what they love most. Nonetheless, some have hoarse voices and are reluctant in their performances — who knows how many times they have sung that one song. Due to fatigue, a gallo (a poorly toned note) is permitted here and there. They wear ternos (suits) despite the fact that in Quito the midday sun is unbearable. Or at night they walk around in t-shirts, jeans, and a guitar on their backs.” 

Finally, we end in Caracas, where we end our virtual musical tour with this video, uploaded to YouTube by todovariedad in 2009. Let us introduce you to Cindy: 

Cindy, the rapping grandma (thank you, Luis Carlos) has been a Caracas metro sensation for years. According to Buenamúsica: “The beautiful thing about this woman is that she does not interfere with anyone. She herself makes fun of her own appearances, as well as her difficult life in the neighborhood, her beloved dog, her three cats, her three husbands that do not stop her (they do not pay attention to her) and who she does not stop.” But perhaps because of the troubling situation in Venezuela now, she is gone. “She is most likely not seen on the metro recently because of the new law that prohibits cultural events in subway cars.” 

In short, despite the increasing restrictions by city authorities, in exercising the right to freedom of expression and the need for members of society to have an unregulated cultural exchange, urban musical art in Latin America is alive and kicking. This, in times of smart cities that threaten to convert our cities into workspaces and places of permanent vigilance, is not an understatement.  

The original version of this post appeared on the Globalizado blog.

by Marianna Breytman at September 15, 2014 05:18 PM

Fiji's Pacific Climate Warriors Are Ready to Stand Up for Climate Change Action
Pacific Climate Warriors in Fiji know which side of history they belong on. Mass mobilization is one of the best ways to shock the entire system into action. There have been anti-war marches, anti-nuclear marches, marches for civil rights, and more. On September 21st we stand in solidarity with those marching for climate justice. Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

Pacific Climate Warriors in Fiji know which side of history they belong on. Mass mobilization is one of the best ways to shock the entire system into action. There have been anti-war marches, anti-nuclear marches, marches for civil rights, and more. On September 21, we stand in solidarity with those marching for climate justice.
Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

This article was written by Fenton Lutunatabua from 350.organ organization building a global climate movement, in the lead-up to the People's Climate March and global mobilisation, and is adapted for republication on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.

More than 100,000 are expected to take to the streets of New York on September 21 to participate in the People's Climate March just two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit. Worldwide more than 2,000 events in 150 countries are planned throughout this week as part of the People's Climate Mobilisation. This is a key moment: scientists warn us that global warming is spiralling out of control. We need to see immediate action now. There’s no time to keep kicking the can down the road. Thus time for action, not words. 

The climate crisis is particularly relevant to the people in the Pacific, with sea level rise threatening their very existence. In the Pacific Islands, from Tonga to Tuvalu to Tokelau, people are rallying calling for action, not words to protect the Pacific Islands. As they are marching they are also preparing to send 30 Pacific Climate Warriors with their canoes to block the world’s largest coal port in Australia in October.

Below is a photo series from the Pacific Climate Warriors of Fiji in preparation for their actions as part of the People's Climate Mobilisation.

The Peoples Climate March is part of a larger movement for climate justice. People are doing work in their communities every day to confront climate change, and it is time for us to come together and march. We’re calling for more than climate action, we’re calling for climate justice. We want action that protects the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and solutions that prioritize those who have born the brunt of the problems.    Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

The People's Climate March is part of a larger movement for climate justice. People are doing work in their communities every day to confront climate change, and it is time for us to come together and march. We’re calling for more than climate action: we’re calling for climate justice. We want action that protects the poorest and most vulnerable in our society and solutions that prioritize those who have born the brunt of the problems.
Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

The People’s Climate March  will be about lifting up the voices of people who are already feeling the impacts of climate change and pollution. We know that people need to be at the heart of climate solutions. The old energy economy put power in the hands of corporations. The new energy economy should put power back in the hands of the people. Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

The People’s Climate March will be about lifting up the voices of people who are already feeling the impacts of climate change and pollution. We know that people need to be at the heart of climate solutions. The old energy economy put power in the hands of corporations. The new energy economy should put power back in the hands of the people.
Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

It is time show the world that we are coming together. We are demanding something, which we know, is in our reach- a safe future and an economy that works for people and the planet.  Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

It is time show the world that we are coming together. We are demanding something, which we know, is in our reach — a safe future and an economy that works for people and the planet.
Photo credit: Fenton Lutunatabua

by 350.org at September 15, 2014 05:07 PM

Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah Released on Bail
Alaa Abd El Fattah and Manal Hassan. Photo by Lilian Wagdy via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Alaa Abd El Fattah and Manal Hassan. Photo by Lilian Wagdy via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was released on bail today, Sept 15, 2015, following a ruling by the Cairo Criminal Court. Two other fellow defendants Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally were also released.

The three were the only ones detained among 25 defendants sentenced to 15 years in absentia and a 100,000 Egyptian pound fine last June after being convicted of attacking a police officer and violating a 2013 protest law that prohibits unauthorized demonstrations. According to Mada Masr, which quoted the state-owned Ahram Gate website, they are accused of: “organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and destruction of public property.”

In late August, Abd El Fattah began a hunger strike, days before the death of his father, prominent human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam.

After an appeal by his lawyers, Abd El Fattah was issued a retrial in August 2014. Today, the presiding judge recused himself from the case after an incident last week, in which the prosecution presented a video depicting Manal Hassan, Abd El Fattah’s wife, dancing. Taken from Hassan’s laptop, which confiscated by police when Abd El Fattah was arrested and taken from his family’s home in November of 2013, the video bears no discernible relationship with his political activities. In another twist today, the judge ordered that the aforementioned video be presented to the prosecutor general and placed under investigation for violating Abd El Fattah's privacy.

Journalist Amira Howeidy reported to her 50K followers on Twitter:

Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served during his lifetime. In 2006, he was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest. In 2011, he spent two months in prison, missing the birth of his first child. In 2013, he was arrested and detained for 115 days without trial. And he now faces 15 years in prison.

Abd El Fattah has long worked on technology and political activism projects with his wife, Manal Hassan. He comes from a family of prominent human rights advocates. His father, Ahmed Seif El Islam, was jailed multiple times under the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Abd El Fattah’s sisters, Mona and Sanaa Seif, have both faced censure in connection with their activism on military trials in the country. Sanaa Seif is currently behind bars, also for allegedly violating the controversial protest law.

Abd El Fattah is on his 27th day of an open-ended hunger strike, which he said would continue until his release from prison. It is not clear whether he intends to continue his hunger strike while out on bail.

According to Nervana Mahmoud, it was his hunger strike, and that of other prisoners and supporters outside prison that brought about today's turn of events.

As soon as today's verdict was announced, congratulations poured in on social media. But for many, the struggle continues. On Facebook, Aida Seif Elldawla writes:

مبروك الحرية لعلاء ونوبي ووائل ومبروك الفرحة لاهاليهم وحبايبهم واصحابهم ومبروك للجدعان والجدعات اللي اضربوا واعتصموا واللي لسه هيضربوا ويعتصموا لحد الكل ما يخرج

Congratulations on the freedom of Alaa, Noubi and Wael and we congratulate their families, relatives and friends for their happiness. Congratulations to the brave men and women who went on hunger strike and who will continue to do so until all those imprisoned are released

Egyptian Mahmoud Refaat wonders why many judges are asking to be removed from trials. He tweets:

The judge in Alaa Abdel Fattah's case has stepped down. Judges step down to ensure the impartiality of the trial. The number of judges stepping down from cases is an unprecedented indicator of the pressure exerted by the executive branch on court judgements

And for Abdulmonen Mahmood, a former Muslim Brotherhood blogger who was also arrested during Mubarak's era, justice is far from served in Abdel Fattah's case. He tweets:

Alaa got his rights too late, without a gesture from the state and nothing will make up for his absence in taking car of his father in his last days … thousands remain in jail awaiting the same right

Follow Egyptian Tamer Mowafy agrees:

The road ahead is long. In addition to all those unjustly detained who should be freed from the prisons of injustice, there is an entire country which should be liberated from the rule of the jailer

And Egyptian writer Mohamed El Dahshan laments:

Happy that a number of oppressed people will spend the night with their families but sad when I remember the number of oppressed people still unjustly imprisoned

Meanwhile, Palestinian blogger Abir Kopty concludes:

The oppressor's deceit makes us happy with shreds of justice, and our greatness stems from our smiles and our insistence that our battle with him are not over and we will not be content with anything other than complete justice 

The sentences borne by Abd El Fattah and the 24 others are the longest yet in a string of crackdowns on freedom of expression, assembly, and opinion in the country. The controversial protest law requires citizens to obtain a state-issued license before holding a demonstration and has been used to jail other prominent activists, including outspoken human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry, and April 6 movement founder Ahmed Maher. In June, three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven and ten years in prison for “reporting false news.” 

Like Kopty, many human rights advocates in Egypt believe Abd El Fattah's case and others are merely political in nature, and meant to keep prominent activists behind bars while intimidating others to keep them away from the political process.

by Amira Al Hussaini at September 15, 2014 04:20 PM

DML Central
Channeling Engelbart: Augmenting Human Education
Campbell Channels Engelbart, Augmenting Human Education Blog Image

Gardner Campbell not only teaches the ideas of Doug Engelbart — the visionary who invented the mouse, hypertext and many more of the digital tools so many people use every day — he understands that Engelbart’s technological attempt to “augment human intellect” also ought to be a central goal of pedagogy. Fortunately, as vice provost for learning innovation and associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, Campbell is in a good position to pursue this goal in practice. If, as Engelbart insisted, digital media should be seen as means of helping individuals and communities think more deeply and solve problems more effectively, then Campbell’s insistence on teaching on the open web rather than in a learning management system underlies the way the web can be a mind-amplifier — for those who know how to use it.

I first delved into Campbell’s work when Jim Groom converted me to the practice of teaching and learning on the open web. When I asked Groom why he insists that students and teachers claim their own domain names, lease their own servers, and set up their own blogs and wikis, he referred me to Campbell’s call for students to build their own “personal cyberinfrastructure:”

So, how might colleges and universities shape curricula to support and inspire the imaginations that students need? Here's one idea. Suppose that when students matriculate, they are assigned their own web servers — not 1GB folders in the institution's web space but honest-to-goodness virtualized web servers of the kind available for $7.99 a month from a variety of hosting services, with built-in affordances ranging from database maintenance to web analytics. As part of the first-year orientation, each student would pick a domain name. Over the course of the first year, in a set of lab seminars facilitated by instructional technologists, librarians, and faculty advisors from across the curriculum, students would build out their digital presences in an environment made of the medium of the web itself. They would experiment with server management tools via graphical user interfaces such as cPanel or other commodity equivalents. They would install scripts with one-click installers such as SimpleScripts. They would play with wikis and blogs; they would tinker and begin to assemble a platform to support their publishing, their archiving, their importing and exporting, their internal and external information connections. They would become, in myriad small but important ways, system administrators for their own digital lives. In short, students would build a personal cyber infrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career — and beyond.

Why be a system administrator for your own digital life? The practical answer is that if you don’t control your digital footprint and your power to influence people through digital media, others will do it for you. The pedagogical answer is that the web is a knowledge platform that requires a portfolio of literacies in order to tap into and contribute to a vast and growing online collective intelligence just as basic alphabetic literacy enables the literate to tap into the written and published knowledge platform contained in books and libraries. The political answer is that technical conflicts over intellectual property, net neutrality, MOOCs, and learning management systems are about whether individuals or institutions will control the power to innovate, influence, learn, and persuade.

Campbell’s proposal for providing low-cost access to web publishing tools was brought to life by Martha Burtis, Jim Groom, and Tim Owens at University of Mary Washington in A Domain of One’s Own, a service that has enabled me and my students — and hundreds of others — to take control of our own domains and install platforms such as WordPress and MediaWiki on our own leased servers. The cost is $25/year — about half the best price I have been able to find or equivalent services — and a lot better than the $7.99 per month it cost in 2009, when Campbell published his call to action. Twenty-five dollars is a fraction of the cost of many of the textbooks students are forced to purchase.

Technology is a servant of pedagogy in Campbell’s view, but he recognizes that mind-amplifying technologies can serve as instruments for the kind of inquiry and reflection that good pedagogy is meant to facilitate. In a keynote lecture on “Ecologies of Yearning and the Future of Open Education,” Campbell dived deeply into this issue and the questions arising from the collision of educational institutions, digital media, and commerce (e.g., MOOCs and LMSs).

Inspired by Campbell’s writing, speaking, and from our collaboration in creating Connected Courses, I asked him a few questions about co-learning, learning on the open web, the meaning of open, and how his Thought Vectors course has put his ideas into practice. I found this 15-minute interview to be one of the most exciting of the 60 interviews I’ve done for DML Central so far — exciting because a vice provost, educator, and teacher of educators groks so fully the challenges and opportunities that life in the digital age has presented to learners and learning institutions.

Banner image credit: Jean-Baptiste LABRUNE

by mcruz at September 15, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Who Says You Can Block Google? Chinese Citizen Sues Telco, Demands Answers
Wang Long's profile picture on Weibo.

Wang Long's profile picture on Weibo.

Gmail and Google services including Search, Scholar, Maps, Translate, and Calendar have been largely inaccessible in mainland China since June of 2014 — all were blocked just prior to the 25th anniversary of the protests at Tiananmen Square.

Users commonly assume that the Chinese government is responsible for the blocking. But exactly which government authorities are in charge here? And under which specific regulations do they block Google and other overseas platforms, such as Facebook?

There is no official channel for ordinary citizens to pose such questions to Chinese authorities. But as consumers, they do have a right to demand that their Internet service providers answer questions about discrepancies in their services. A legal worker living in Shenzhen has decided to act on this right.

Wang Long is suing China Unicom, China's second biggest telecom operator, for failing to provide access to Google's online services. Via social media, Wang has explained that knew he was unlikely to win the case, but wanted to make a point that citizens have the right to challenge these decisions.

The Chinese government has denied engaging in Internet censorship on several occasions and routinely claims that control over Internet access is intended only to block illegal content such as pornography, stave off online financial crime, and protect national security. Decisions to block online content providers and search engines could fall under the above categories, but it is difficult to see how this claim could apply to personalized email services. Thus far, no authority in China has explained why Google's online tools such as Translate, Gmail and Scholar have all been blocked since June. This stifling lack of accountability and transparency in Internet policymaking and enforcement has kept Chinese Internet users in the dark for years. Wang's lawsuit is an attempt to shine light on the story.

Wang's hearing took place on September 4, in Shenzhen Futian District Court. Below is a translated excerpt from the hearing transcript:

Plaintiff: The websites are inaccessible!
Judge: Defendant, can you confirm that the sites are inaccessible?
Defendant: Yes, they are inaccessible.
Judge: Why?
Defendant: I am not sure if I can say… I need to consult before I answer… I can explain this unofficially, I use China Telecom back home, and I can't access those sites either… (People sitting in the court were laughing at the answer)
Judge: The fact that those websites are inaccessible does not mean that China Unicom has to be responsible.

The fact that China Unicom's lawyer hesitated to answer the judge's question regarding “why the websites were inaccessible” shows that even the mere mention of government accountability for web blocking is a sensitive, practically unspeakable topic — the lawyer cannot point to a specific regulation to explain the inaccessibility problem.

In Chinese social media, bloggers kept highlighting the defendant's hesitation and his unofficial answer, again underlining the question: Exactly which authority is responsible for the blocking of overseas websites?

A derivative work on the blocking of google in China. Uploaded by 蛋蛋-坏坏-蛋蛋  on Weibo.

A derivative work on the blocking of google in China. Uploaded by 蛋蛋-坏坏-蛋蛋 on Weibo.

In mid-August, an online campaign was launched in demand of a transparency report from the Ministry of Industry, Information and Technology (MIIT) — a state agency established in 2008 for regulation and development of information and communication technology sector — on the official notices for the blocking of Google, Google+, Youtube and Gmail. The response was, “such documents do not exist”.

If this rules out the involvement of MIIT in the recent blocking of overseas websites, the instruction, as speculated by a Chinese blogger Lu Songsong, may have come directly from the State Internet Information Office under the State Council, which was set up in 2011 to coordinate and supervise online content management and handle the administrative management of businesses related to online news reporting. Indeed, the Council recently announced a set of regulations on mobile instant messaging services. But it also might pertain to the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, an entity headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and established in February 2014 to deal with the country's information security issues.

If citizens were able to identify which authority issues and approves blocking requests, many of the legal and technical aspects of web censorship in China might become clearer. But other voices in the debate have suggested that authorities take a different route. In a recent article, party mouthpiece Global Times cited a Beijing-based expert in cyber security who blamed Google for the authorities’ censorship practice:

China Unicom has nothing to do with the failure. It is Google that should be blamed, since it does not operate its business in China. I call on companies like Google or Twitter or Facebook to offer services in China and accept [proper supervision].

Similar to other countries with restrictive online content regimes, it may become a norm for China to request overseas online service providers, such as social media platforms, to censor their users’ content if they wish to remain accessible in the country.

When explaining its change of censorship policy in June this year, LinkedIn revealed that its Chinese site, launched in February 2014, received a request from Chinese authorities to censor its content in June 2014. To keep the site accessible in China, LinkedIn complied with the request and started censoring sensitive posts from showing, at the same time, sensitive contents that are posted from within China will not be viewable to the world so as to “protect its Chinese user from retribution from government officials,” LinkedIn's spokesperson explained.

Although LinkedIn is now accessible in China, users in mainland China are still limited in the ways that they can use the site. As a number of human right groups have pointed out, LinkedIn's “global blocking” policy has limited the degree to which Chinese can interact with the rest of the world — and infringes the rights of users outside China.

The court's decision on the lawsuit filed by Wang Long has yet to be announced. While most Chinese netizens appear not to expect the lawsuit to clear people of their doubt and explain the legal ground for the blocking, they are still applauding Wang Long's effort to pursue government accountability for infringing citizen's right for free Internet access.

by Oiwan Lam at September 15, 2014 02:50 PM

Global Voices
Who Says You Can Block Google? Chinese Citizen Sues Telco, Demands Answers
Wang Long's profile picture on Weibo.

Wang Long's profile picture on Weibo.

Gmail and Google services including Search, Scholar, Maps, Translate, and Calendar have been largely inaccessible in mainland China since June of 2014 — all were blocked just prior to the 25th anniversary of the protests at Tiananmen Square.

Users commonly assume that the Chinese government is responsible for the blocking. But exactly which government authorities are in charge here? And under which specific regulations do they block Google and other overseas platforms, such as Facebook?

There is no official channel for ordinary citizens to pose such questions to Chinese authorities. But as consumers, they do have a right to demand that their Internet service providers answer questions about discrepancies in their services. A legal worker living in Shenzhen has decided to act on this right.

Wang Long is suing China Unicom, China's second biggest telecom operator, for failing to provide access to Google's online services. Via social media, Wang has explained that knew he was unlikely to win the case, but wanted to make a point that citizens have the right to challenge these decisions.

The Chinese government has denied engaging in Internet censorship on several occasions and routinely claims that control over Internet access is intended only to block illegal content such as pornography, stave off online financial crime, and protect national security. Decisions to block online content providers and search engines could fall under the above categories, but it is difficult to see how this claim could apply to personalized email services. Thus far, no authority in China has explained why Google's online tools such as Translate, Gmail and Scholar have all been blocked since June. This stifling lack of accountability and transparency in Internet policymaking and enforcement has kept Chinese Internet users in the dark for years. Wang's lawsuit is an attempt to shine light on the story.

Wang's hearing took place on September 4, in Shenzhen Futian District Court. Below is a translated excerpt from the hearing transcript:

Plaintiff: The websites are inaccessible!
Judge: Defendant, can you confirm that the sites are inaccessible?
Defendant: Yes, they are inaccessible.
Judge: Why?
Defendant: I am not sure if I can say… I need to consult before I answer… I can explain this unofficially, I use China Telecom back home, and I can't access those sites either… (People sitting in the court were laughing at the answer)
Judge: The fact that those websites are inaccessible does not mean that China Unicom has to be responsible.

The fact that China Unicom's lawyer hesitated to answer the judge's question regarding “why the websites were inaccessible” shows that even the mere mention of government accountability for web blocking is a sensitive, practically unspeakable topic — the lawyer cannot point to a specific regulation to explain the inaccessibility problem.

In Chinese social media, bloggers kept highlighting the defendant's hesitation and his unofficial answer, again underlining the question: Exactly which authority is responsible for the blocking of overseas websites?

A derivative work on the blocking of google in China. Uploaded by 蛋蛋-坏坏-蛋蛋  on Weibo.

A derivative work on the blocking of google in China. Uploaded by 蛋蛋-坏坏-蛋蛋 on Weibo.

In mid-August, an online campaign was launched in demand of a transparency report from the Ministry of Industry, Information and Technology (MIIT) — a state agency established in 2008 for regulation and development of information and communication technology sector — on the official notices for the blocking of Google, Google+, Youtube and Gmail. The response was, “such documents do not exist”.

If this rules out the involvement of MIIT in the recent blocking of overseas websites, the instruction, as speculated by a Chinese blogger Lu Songsong, may have come directly from the State Internet Information Office under the State Council, which was set up in 2011 to coordinate and supervise online content management and handle the administrative management of businesses related to online news reporting. Indeed, the Council recently announced a set of regulations on mobile instant messaging services. But it also might pertain to the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, an entity headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and established in February 2014 to deal with the country's information security issues.

If citizens were able to identify which authority issues and approves blocking requests, many of the legal and technical aspects of web censorship in China might become clearer. But other voices in the debate have suggested that authorities take a different route. In a recent article, party mouthpiece Global Times cited a Beijing-based expert in cyber security who blamed Google for the authorities’ censorship practice:

China Unicom has nothing to do with the failure. It is Google that should be blamed, since it does not operate its business in China. I call on companies like Google or Twitter or Facebook to offer services in China and accept [proper supervision].

Similar to other countries with restrictive online content regimes, it may become a norm for China to request overseas online service providers, such as social media platforms, to censor their users’ content if they wish to remain accessible in the country.

When explaining its change of censorship policy in June this year, LinkedIn revealed that its Chinese site, launched in February 2014, received a request from Chinese authorities to censor its content in June 2014. To keep the site accessible in China, LinkedIn complied with the request and started censoring sensitive posts from showing, at the same time, sensitive contents that are posted from within China will not be viewable to the world so as to “protect its Chinese user from retribution from government officials,” LinkedIn's spokesperson explained.

Although LinkedIn is now accessible in China, users in mainland China are still limited in the ways that they can use the site. As a number of human right groups have pointed out, LinkedIn's “global blocking” policy has limited the degree to which Chinese can interact with the rest of the world — and infringes the rights of users outside China.

The court's decision on the lawsuit filed by Wang Long has yet to be announced. While most Chinese netizens appear not to expect the lawsuit to clear people of their doubt and explain the legal ground for the blocking, they are still applauding Wang Long's effort to pursue government accountability for infringing citizen's right for free Internet access.

by Oiwan Lam at September 15, 2014 02:47 PM

Rising Voices
Media Literacy and Resisting Manipulation: Project Update

Rising Voices Grantee Update

Bosnian people protest in the country's capital of Sarajevo in front of BiH's Presidency building. Several hundred people show up demanding that politicians at all levels of government resign. Banner reads: "We want the names of millionaires". Photo by Midhat Poturović and used with permission.

Bosnian people protest in the country's capital of Sarajevo in front of BiH's Presidency building. Several hundred people show up demanding that politicians at all levels of government resign. Banner reads: “We want the names of millionaires”. Photo by Midhat Poturović and used with permission.

This month, the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) launched its new web platform Balkan Diskurs, which is dedicated to providing fresh and independent views on issues that matter to people in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The platform will aim to challenge stereotypes and provide a broad range of perspectives on society, culture, and politics that cannot be found in other media. With regard to PCRC’s project “Media Literacy and Resisting Manipulation”, this platform will play an integral role in the publication and promotion of work produced by the 10 youth bloggers we select to take part in our media workshop being held in Sarajevo at the end of October 2014. Workshop participants will be able to publish their work without fear of censorship, and will be given a space where their voices can be heard.

During training, participants will take part in hands-on learning that will cultivate their skills in investigative journalism, multimedia, and blogging so that their work lives up to international standards. Trainees will get the chance to focus on a number of important topics, including photo journalism, writing techniques, conducting interviews, and source verification. After participants complete their training, we aim to keep them actively involved – for one year, they will be responsible for publishing articles every two months that focus on important topics. PCRC wants trainees to utilize their year of writing and support to develop their skills so that they can serve as local correspondents for Balkan Diskurs in the future.

Another special feature of the Balkan Diskurs multimedia platform will be the “Person in Focus” section, which PCRC will use to promote the stories of young people across Bosnia. We will produce youth profiles on topics such as unemployment, education, youth activism, and the challenges young people face in their day-to-day lives. This feature, as well as our emphasis on youth-created content, makes Balkan Diskurs truly unique.

Balkan Diskurs Topics in Focus

As previously mentioned, Balkan Diskurs aims to provide views on issues that matter to people in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The region recently commemorated 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo—the act that triggered WWI. Due to this event’s importance, PCRC decided to publish a series of analytic and opinion pieces written from the perspectives of several well-known authors from the region. In her piece The Otherworldly Balkans, journalist Paulina Janusz writes about the role such a fateful event has had on the region’s current state of affairs. In his piece An Ordinary Day, poet Marko Tomaš tries to visualize the experiences behind the black and white images of young soldiers from the past. Sociologist and journalist Saida Mustajbegović writes on the topic of missing persons as a legacy of war in her piece The Balkans—An Abode of Unrest.

Bosnia’s upcoming 2014 elections will also be a featured topic on Balkan Diskurs. We recently published a piece by Paulina Janusz entitled War Profiteers Go on Campaign that gives insight into the pre-campaign activities of various political elites as they gear up for this year’s round of elections. PCRC will be asking workshop participants to write pieces that present their perspectives on this important topic so as to prompt them to start thinking critically about their role in local and national politics. PCRC will be working with trainees to help teach them how to form opinions based on information from reliable sources, so that they are less likely to become victims of propaganda.

What We’ve Learned about our Community

Throughout the planning and implementation of this project, we’ve learned that there is a real demand for unbiased news that presents more than one side of an issue. People are fed up with Bosnia’s status quo. This discontent has given rise to a series of protests across Bosnia, and citizens are beginning to insist that their voices are heard. PCRC views the protests as an opportunity for change, and we believe that now is a good time to implement a strategy that puts a spotlight on media manipulation and its implications.

Additionally, although we were well aware of the all-encompassing corruption that penetrates every level of Bosnian society, working on this project has given us the chance to learn about the personal experiences of many people. It is glaringly obvious that the lack of objective, relevant, invigorating, independent regional media is preventing people from understanding one another, and we are constantly being reminded about the importance that respecting differences of experience and opinion has regarding reconciliation, democratic transition and interethnic cooperation.

The Challenges

Many of the authors and pieces we publish will be considered controversial, but it is important that we provide space for all opinions, not just those considered politically or socially correct. In our case, confirmation bias (i.e. the tendency for people to seek out information that conforms to, or validates, their pre-existing views), has an ethnic undertone. This makes it important for us to provide information and perspectives that span the ethnic spectrum so as to maximize readership as well as present more than one side of the story.

Another challenge we face involves the upcoming 2014 elections. We are expecting political pressure on freedom of speech. During election years, politicians are particularly focused on how the media report about their activities. Our publications won’t try to cover up the identities of corrupt political officials, nor will we censor the opinions of our writers. This could prove unfavorable to those involved in unscrupulous activities. On the bright side, our network is strong and we have the right kind of support that will enable us to get the truth out there.

Author Leslie Woodward is Co-founder & Project Director of the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC)

by Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) at September 15, 2014 03:16 AM

September 13, 2014

MIT Center for Civic Media
How To Party Online

How do you party with a group of people across four continents? As a trustee of Awesome Knowledge, I'm looking for great ways to celebrate our community and congratulate our grantees. Every month or two, we give $1000 to an awesome project that spreads knowledge (learn more, and unlike most Awesome Foundations, we're a distributed group who have no shared geography. Most chapters conclude each grant cycle with a party, where a wide community is invited to celebrate as the grantee receives a big cheque or bag of money. After weeks of grant reviews and hard decisions, it's this party that often keeps the foundation Awesome.

Awesome Knowledge can't easily party in one place, so we're looking for ways to celebrate online.

What Happens When You Optimize for Content Quality

As Stuart Geiger and I argue in a recent talk proposal, we have a vast proliferation of platforms focused on producing high quality conversations, but far fewer systems to foster community. Shared calendars, video chats, word processors, and spreadsheets make real-time collaboration possible with almost anyone in the world, across almost any distance. These technologies have profoundly reshaped how we get things done, from crisis mapping to telecommuting-- but when we optimize for content quality, we tend get something like this:

Optimizing for Community

Distributed organizations like Global Voices, Mozilla, and Wikimedia manage the online party gap by holding occasional festivals in urban centers, flying as many people as possible to the same place for a week of celebration and community building.

How can we create awesome parties online? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Conversations That Converge and Merge

Using video chat or forum software to celebrate is like putting bunting on the wall for an office party, without the advantages of an office. Software for online conversations often lack the affordances of physical space that make a good party work. As Judith Donath points out in her book The Social Machine, chat software shares everything you say with the entire room, rather than offering a flow of breaking and merging conversations needed for a good party.

Chat Circles and Talking in Circles by Roy Rodenstein are two examples of technologies that go beyond being there. By arranging chat participants in circles on a two-dimensional screen, it's possible for participants to move around a space and hear only the people who are close to them. This interface allows opportunities like overhearing, introductions, and the chance to move to areas that aren't being recorded.

How to Be a Great Party Host Online

Great parties need capable hosts. Most work in online facilitation focuses on the quality of content with tasks like upvoting good answers or eliminating spam. Over the last few months, Media Lab colleagues, Computer Clubhouse laders, and I have been testing group facilitation practices on Google Hangout, starting with simple introduction and party games. Many classic games and activities need to be modified for video chat. Mimicry games, for example, can work well when you shout out someone's name rather than point to them. Charades is another video chat favorite.

Go Crazy with Collaborative Office Software

Parties sometimes break out when we use productivity technology in unconventional ways. Memes, hashtags, discussion music tracks, and remix threads bring together a wide community into bursts of common creativty that shape our collective identity. Consider, for example, what happened when some friends used Google Spreadsheet to organize a retreat:


The soundtrack Doing the Churlish Pule, is a musical rendition of a conversation thread on Metafilter)

Remix Parties

Exquisite corpses and remix competitions on forum sites are great fun, but creative remix can also have a high bar of entry. Unlike the Samba schools described by Henry Jenkins, it's often not possible to be a visible bystander, open to being dragged into the center by "participation police" who try to make sure everyone has a good time.

Virtual Reality

Lots of friends have playfully suggested that Awesome Knowledge meet up in Second Life, a dedicated platform for online socializing. Just, no.

Second Life 11th Birthday Live Drax Files Radio Hour.jpg

Here are four reasons I'm unsatisfied with Second Life as a place for Awesome Knowledge to hold our parties:

  • It's hard to join: I want to invite people with an invite link, from almost any device
  • It overemphasizes fidelity to the physical world, unlike worlds like Minecraft and gif dance party (which is sadly single user)
  • It tries to do everything.
  • It won't be retro-cool for another few years

Join a Crowd

Twitch is a great example of a system that's easy to join and participate in. Alex Leavitt noted this year at PAX that 121,000 concurrent viewers played Twitch Plays Pokemon at its peak-- it was easy to jump into a livestream. Single purpose platforms can also facilitate powerful collective experiences, as I've previously written about in my post about online prayer events.

Listen to Music Together

Social listening apps like Plug.dj allow you to create listening rooms where you and others can chat and listen to music together. From 2011-2013, this was the business model of Turntable.fm, who never managed to find a lucrative enough business model to justify the $7 million of investment they took in, even after attempting to create interactive concerts for fans with Turntable Live. Plug.dj appears to be a clone of the Turntable idea, offering a more sustainable approach to licensing fees by hosting YouTube videos rather than streaming directly. An API is available for creating extensions and bots.

Plug.dj illustrates the difficulty faced by commercial platforms. Since their business model is music recommendations, they structure user interaction towards rating songs: the only way to dance is to upvote a song.

How do YOU party with your friends online?

This October, Mariana Santos and I are hoping to facilitate a brainstorming session at the Mozilla Festival to find better ways to Party Online. We would love your suggestions -- add them in the comments:

by natematias at September 13, 2014 09:38 PM

Global Voices
Keiko Tsuyama Is Breaking the Odds as a Japanese Journalist Covering the United States
Japanese journalist Keiko Tsuyama in New York City. Photo used with permission.

Japanese journalist Keiko Tsuyama in New York City. Photo used with permission.

Reporter Keiko Tsuyama has carved out a respected career as Japan's window into America. Originally from Japan, where typically less than 3 percent of managerial positions in the business world are held by women and just 15 percent of full-time journalists are women, she is noteworthy indeed: Tsuyama was Japan's first woman to work as a business writer for Kyodo, the country's largest newswire

And in Japan, a country where relatively few people speak a foreign language, Tsuyama's fluency in English and French helps her provide unique insights about the world outside Japan. A past contributor to the Wall Street Journal Japan, Tsuyama now is a regular contributor to AERA, one of Japan's most widely read weekly magazines.

I spoke with Tsuyama, who is based in New York, about her career, her home country and the one time she interviewed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Nevin Thompson (NT): Please tell us about yourself.

Keiko Tsuyama (KT): I am a journalist, writer, author, and photographer, and am the City of Nagasaki’s Peace Correspondent. I live in New York City, and so I write what Japanese readers want to know about the United States.

My focus is on human interest stories, technology, and the media scene.

NT: You’re from Japan originally. How did you end up being a freelancer based in New York City?

KT: I used to work for Kyodo News. It’s Japan’s largest newswire with about 900 reporters. From 2003 to 2006 I was Kyodo’s news correspondent in New York.

In fact, I didn’t want to be sent to New York at all in 2003 – it was right after President Bush launched his war in Iraq. But once I landed in New York City I really loved being there.

NT: You eventually left your career at Kyodo to work as a freelancer. Why?

KT: I stayed on in New York City as a freelancer because I had some story ideas that I really wanted to write about. As a staff reporter, there are always deadlines to meet with little time to write feature stories.

Although I did write a lot of feature stories while I was with Kyodo in New York, there were always had more stories I wanted to write.

So, in 2006 when Kyodo reassigned me to Tokyo and it was time to leave New York City, I decided to stay on and keep exploring story ideas.

NT: Was it easy to break into freelancing full time?

KT: I didn’t know any editors in Japan, and as a matter of fact the first assignment I got was from Newsday in New York. It was an English-language piece about the Iraq War. It was my debut as a freelancer.

Little by little through my network I was introduced to Japanese editors and radio show directors (I am often asked to appear as a radio commentator), and then AERA.

NT: What’s AERA?

KT: AERA is the Japanese equivalent of New York Times Magazine. It’s a weekly glossy that is published by Asahi, one of Japan’s largest news organizations.

NT: Receiving assignments from AERA must have boosted your transition to freelancing.

KT: All the editors want someone who can use their professional experience and training to write a “real story.”

AERA told me, “You’re great, because your stories never need to be corrected in terms of company names and figures.”

NT: What's a notable assignment so far during your career as a freelancer?

KT: I interviewed Mark Zuckerberg a couple of years ago. It was out of the blue – it was in the lead-up to Facebook going public, and Zuckerberg was doing events aimed at investors. Facebook wanted to provide one exclusive interview for Japan, and AERA got it.

NT: What was it like to interview him?

KT: He speaks really fast. I really enjoyed it, but he’s really different than my regular interviewees. I would ask a question, and then Zuckerberg would want to know why I had asked the question, the context and rationale behind it.

He would then look at me carefully as though there was an insect on my nose while he considered his answer. And then would start speaking really fast.

However, whatever Zuckerberg talked about, he made clear points. I could see he brain was running really fast, and I could tell by the words he selected that he was quite intelligent, and was a good choice for leading Facebook.

 NT: You’re also the City of Nagasaki’s Peace Correspondent. Are you from Nagasaki?

KT: No, I’m from Tokyo. However I started my career with Kyodo in 1988 as a crime reporter in Fukuoka and Nagasaki (neighboring cities on the island of Kyushu), and I kept in touch with the people I met there.

More recently, I have worked as volunteer translator for hibakusha (the surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) who visiting New York City for events.

So that’s how I came to be appointed as Nagasaki's Peace Correspondent. As part of my role, I contribute to eliminating nuclear weapons, and I speak overseas for the people of Nagasaki.

NT: What is a developing story in Japan at the moment that the rest of the world should keep an eye on?

KT: The decision to construct a US military base in Henoko and Oura Bay in Okinawa Prefecture. If this sort of project were planned for the East Coast or the West Coast of the United States, it would never be tolerated by Americans. Why Henoko?

The decision to construct a US military base on Henoko will cause a lot of environmental destruction. People here in the US are more conscious of the environment.

However, this project is happening in Okinawa, far from the US, and I want people to know, and so I am creating a video in English that will be uploaded to YouTube.

NT: Who are some Japanese journalists who might be of interest to Global Voices readers?

KT: Tanaka Ryusaku (@tanakaryusaku), Ugaya Hiro (@hirougaya), and Iwakami Yasumi (@iwakamiyasumi) are all doing interesting work at the moment. If you can read Japanese, check them out! Otherwise, hopefully GV will translate some of their posts!

In New York City on September 20, Tsuyama will be moderating a discussion with filmmaker Soda Kazuhiro about the film “The Gift from Beate“, which explores how performing arts presenter Beate Sirota Gordon influenced Japan's postwar “Peace Constitution”. Online, Tsuyama can be found at @keikoworld

by Nevin Thompson at September 13, 2014 10:30 AM

HiperBarrio/Convergentes: A Virtual Community Evolves While Preserving Its Essence
ConVerGentes4

Members of HiperBarrio/Convergentes during a get-together. Photo courtesy of the collective and used with permission.

A feature of any community, including a virtual one, is that over time it evolves. This can sometimes mean dramatic changes, but it can also be evidence of a more subtle transformation. Both community members and leaders come and go, as new opportunities and challenges present themselves. The HiperBarrio project in Colombia is no stranger to this phenomenon, but as its story demonstrates, the key to longevity is maintaining the essence of a community.  

HiperBarrio was established in 2007 in Medellin thanks to microfinancing from Rising Voices, and today it actively collaborates with Convergentes, its forerunner and sister organization. This funding has helped it realize its goal of providing digital and social media training to young people in the La Loma neighbourhood of Medellin. Over time, these young people have in turn taught new members of the immediate community, other parts of the city, and the greater Medellin area. 

To take the pulse of the project, we spoke to Gabriel Vanegas, coordinator of the San Javier-La Loma branch of the Pilot Public Library in Medellin, where HiperBarrio and Convergentes usually hold their meetings:


In the video, Gabriel discusses the three fundamental issues targeted by the collective: activating local cultural memory, documenting the community through citizen journalism, and maintaining a collaborative learning lab. Currently HiperBarrio/Convergentes is focusing on three specific projects: social and physical mapping of the area to make the community visible online, ensuring food safety and sovereignty through private and public gardens, and the network LaLoLib, an initiative to improve access to free and open source software.

On its blog, Convergentes defines itself as:

Somos una comunidad de práctica autónoma e independiente, caracterizada por el continuo aprendizaje y enseñanza colaborativos. [...] Creemos en la resiliencia y buscamos empoderar a nuestra comunidad en el fortalecimiento de los tejidos sociales, en la participación ciudadana y en el dominio de herramientas que aporten a la construcción de posibles soluciones a las problemáticas locales, especialmente la autogestión comunitaria.

We are an independent and autonomous community, characterized by continuing collaborative learning and teaching. [...] We believe in resilience, and our aim is to empower our community to strengthen the social fabric, foster civic participation, and master the tools needed to reach tangible solutions to local challenges, in particular self-management.  

In the following video, Gabriel tells us something about the history and evolution of the community and its membership:


Gabriel explains how Convergentes began, and how it merged with HiperBarrio in 2007. It all started with eager, inquisitive users who wanted to solve problems. The success of the collective lies in the fact that it has not allowed itself to become rigid and institutionalized, but a dynamic, open structure has enabled it to be more responsive to community needs.

More recently, the community struggled to attract the attention of mainstream media — that is, until it received the APC Chris Nicol FLOSS prize for its Our Network LaLoLib initiative, which put it back in the spotlight. According to the Convergentes website:

Nuestra red: LaLoLib es una Red mesh local en proceso de construcción, con software libre. Es una iniciativa basada en la sumatoria de voluntades de parches de amigos y colectivos, que apuestan por resolver el problema de conectividad, para difundir información y propiciar la comunicación con los habitantes de La Vereda La Loma, en el Corregimiento de San Cristóbal de la ciudad de Medellín.

En ella vamos a difundir los contenidos que hemos construido durante 11 años de ejercicios. A la vez que fortaleceremos nuestras tres líneas de trabajo: rescatar y dinamizar la memoria histórica y cultural, registrar y documentar la vida cotidiana por medio del periodismo ciudadano, y consolidar el Laboratorio social de aprendizajes colaborativos.

Our Network LaLoLib is a local mesh network currently under construction using open software. It is the fruit of the collaborative efforts of friends and like-minded collectives who are determined to resolve connectivity issues so that information can be shared and communication encouraged among the residents of La Vereda La Loma in the municipality of San Cristobal, Medellin.

We will use the mesh network to broadcast content created over the last 11 years. At the same time, it will give us the ability to reinforce our three-pronged mission: to save and reenergize our shared historical and cultural memory, document and record the daily life of our community through citizen journalism, and consolidate the social laboratory of collaborative learning.

A typical example of the way in which HiperBarrio/Convergentes has evolved is the case of Catalina Restrepo, one of its original members. Although she is no longer part of the project, focusing instead on her professional career, Catalina continues to collaborate as a Global Voices author. In the following video, she explains what HiperBarrio has meant to people who, like her, took part in the project as it was getting off the ground: 


Catalina talks about how Convergentes provides a space to talk and exchange ideas in a relaxed setting. It reinforces the human aspect of community.

Now with incoming members, the community is continuing its traditional activities at the same time as it embarks on new ones:

Luego de 10 años de trabajo, debemos reconocer que somos una sumatoria de voluntades, que lo que hemos logrado es gracias al esfuerzo de todos, a los amigos y a sus parches, a las instituciones como la biblioteca y a todos los que han venido a compartir su tiempo, su afecto y sus conocimientos con nosotros.

After 10 years of work, it is important to acknowledge that we are the culmination of the will of many people —what we have achieved is due to the efforts of our friends and those they brought with them, institutions such as the library, and all those who came and shared their time, spirit, and knowledge with us.

HiperBarrio, like many similar communities, is proof that change can be a positive force. It is a clear sign of the adaptability and diversity that are possible when a community, however virtual, is able to anchor itself in the daily interaction between its members. 

You can follow the project on its blogTwitter and Facebook.

Other posts about Hiperbarrio
2007
Rising Voices Social Projects Kickstart
Medellín, Colombia: From Kidnap Capital to Reneaissanace City:
HiperBarrio: Local stories global audience
Medellín, Colombia: The Recipe
Catching up with Rising Voices outreach projects
HiperBarrio: Changing Perceptions with Creativity
2008
HiperBarrio's Citizen Jounalists Bring Their Local Community Together
HiperBarrio Gets Its Groove Back
2009
Hiperbarrio: Winner of the Prix Ars Electronica Award
Colombia: Catalina Restrepo Awarded “Miss Talent” Medellín Award
HiperBarrio Receives the Golden Nica 2009 in Linz, Austria
HiperBarrio: Leading with Crime and Searching for a Soul
2010
Hiperbarrio: Balloon Festival of La Loma
Chatting with Cati Restrepo from Hiperbarrio
Featured Blogger: Nora Catalina Urquijo
HiperBarrio: Recording daily lives and sharing with the world
Hiperbarrio Expands to Three New Libraries in Medellín
Featured Blogger: Yesenia Corrales
HiperBarrio: Voices Expressing Fear, Outrage and Hope
The Hiperbarrio Experience Multiplies by Three
Colombia: HiperBarrio – Ituango Without Electricity
HiperBarrio: Campus Party Colombia and Pinhole Photography
Colombia: Bloggers on Violence in Medellín
Hiperbarrio: Podcast Workshops for New Groups
HiperBarrio Won First Prize in Community Journalism
2011
Hiperbarrio: Celebrating International Women's Day
HiperBarrio: Balloon Mapping La Loma Neighborhood
2014
HiperBarrio: Becoming Digitally Visible

Post originally published on the blog Globalizado.

by Victoria Robertson at September 13, 2014 08:00 AM

A Group of University Students in Kyoto Want Japan, China and Korea to Just Be ‘Happy’
Video of "Japan China Korea Happy"

A screenshot of “Japan China Korea Happy” posted on YouTube on July 18, 2014

Taking inspiration from American singer Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” video, a group of university students in Kyoto, Japan are reaching out to the youth in China and Korea with a message of peace and friendship, something that the governments of the three nations have been struggling to achieve.

Sumireko Tomita, who played the leading role in making the video “Japan China Korea Happy,” decided to promote friendship among East Asian countries after she witnessed racist, xenophobic remarks against the residents in Korea towns of Osaka on her way to school, according to The Huffington Post Japan. The video, which was uploaded to YouTube mid-July, has more than 161,000 views.

The description of the video on YouTube reads:

“Japan-China-Korea HAPPY” was made by Japanese university students wishing for the peace between the three countries. These three countries may have sensitive historical relations, but younger generations are willing to work on to fix and have better relations for the better future. The ‘HAPPY’ music video makes people smile and happy. That's why we made this video with young people from the three countries. This video was mainly filmed in Japan, but also some clips were filmed in South Korea and China. We hope that this video helps to spread smiles and encourages ever bettering futures for these three countries.

Among non-Japanese nationals living in Japan, ethnic Koreans make up of largest demographic throughout Japan, but Osaka and Kyoto have particularly high ratios of Korean residents compared to ones in other prefectures. For a travel destination that attracted over one million foreigners last year, Kyoto certainly would not want to promote racism and xenophobia. 

The video was made with help of foreign students. Over a hundred students participated in the production of the video including those studying in Kyoto as well as ones overseas.

Muwa Yamada, a Japanese expat in New York, watched the video commented:

Those college kids showing us that we have a constructive positive way to deal with the many issues we have. I think the bottom line is that we're all breathing the same air.

It has been more than two years since the government officials of Japan, South Korea and China held high-level talks (and they are finally breaking the silence this week at the vice ministers’ talk in Seoul to mend their relationship). The relations among the three have been strained due to disputes over territory and history. Japan and China have sparred over who owns the Senkaku Islands (China refers to them as Diaoyu, Taiwan as Tiaoyutai ), and Japan and South Korea have similarly feuded over the ownership of Takeshima islets (Korea refers to it as Dokdo). Anti-Japan protests and anti-Korean protests have mutually giving bad impressions of the other, as well.

Another YouTube user, “矢神悠希” (YAGAMI Haruki), emphasized that young people can make a difference:

みんな政府からの影響ですぎでしょ。
若い世代がhappyになれば、”政府の”友好関係も変わるんじゃない?
それを変えようとせずいがみ合うだけなら解決はないと思う。
自分達でやる前に否定はよくないな。

It seems everyone is excessively influenced by their government.
Once the young generation becomes happy, the relationship between these governments will change.
If you keep snarling at each other, there won't be any solution.
Disapproving of the video without taking action [for better ways to change the relationship] is not good.

The video promoting friendship across the three countries was also the target of criticism and at times vicious comments. Most of these comments tried to put a damper on the happy mood by bringing up historical issues and diplomatic problems among the nations.

Des Moore, a YouTube user whose profile says he or she is American-born and raised in Japan, commented in rebuttal, saying that bringing politics into the matter is pointless:

日中韓の一般市民レベルの交流を促進してる動画なのに、外交問題や歴史問題を持ち出してる人は何事? 本質を見失ってるような。向こうの国で普通に生きてる人は、そんな反日に燃えた人でもないだろうよ。こっちにニュースとして届いてるってことは、そういった活動は向こうの目から見てもイレギュラーな事態ってことだし、全員が全員反日じゃないっつうの。肩の力抜けよみんな。

What's the matter with these people bringing diplomatic issues and historical issues to the table, when the video is solely promoting civil exchange among Japan, Korea and China. Most of the people living in Korea or China should be living a normal life, and not all of them are energetically against Japan. The fact that anti-Japan demonstrations makes news headlines means that such activities are unusual and not normal, and that not everyone is against Japan. Relax, everybody.  

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing and ASEAN summit in Myanmar for Southeast Asian countries plus China, Korea and Japan in coming November, could be the chance for government nationals to thaw their relationship.

Written with additional help by Aparna Ray and L. Finch

by Keiko Tanaka at September 13, 2014 02:38 AM

One of the Latest ‘Happy’ Tribute Videos Comes From Sikkim, High in India's Himalayas
Screenshot from the video Happy Sikkim uploaded by Sushmita Pakhrin

Screenshot from the video “Happy Sikkim” uploaded by Sushmita Pakhrin

The song “Happy”, written, produced, and performed by American singer and producer Pharrell Williams, became a viral phenomenon earlier this year as countless tribute videos filmed around the world were uploaded online.

Better late than never, Sushmita Pakhrin of Lens Craft Production has made a version for Sikkim, a landlocked northeast Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains.

The video was uploaded to YouTube on August 28, 2014, and received accolades for the high quality production.

Ms. Pakhrin commented in an interview with online news site Sikkim Now:

We have tried to showcase the scenic beauty of Sikkim along with well-known and upcoming artists of the state.

by Rezwan at September 13, 2014 12:44 AM

September 12, 2014

Lawrence Lessig
Coolest day ever

Just returning from the coolest day I can remember, watching and working through strategy with the…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at September 12, 2014 07:10 PM

Rising Voices
Taking the Mayan Language Tz'utujil to Social Media

Rising Voices Grantee Update

Introductory presentation on Tz'utujil Tziij Pa Nimk'atz project. Photo by Israel Quic.

Introductory presentation on Tz'utujil Tziij Pa Nimk'atz project. Photo by Israel Quic.

Taking the Mayan language Tz'utujil to social media has been a large challenge because people that pass through the school system have always written in Spanish. There has been almost nothing in their own Mayan language because of the resistance to writing fluently in indigenous languages and much of this “Spanish-ization” of indigenous peoples can be traced to State policies.

It has been a collective effort from the Mayan Tz'utujil communities when a Facebook group was created in 2012 so that internet users could express themselves in their own language Tz'utujil Tziij, which has significantly increased the amount of participation, publication, and commenting. Those who only speak this language join this group, and it has been interesting to see how the group has helped facilitate communication, the creation of new knowledge and entertainment.

In addition, in 2011 a Facebook Page was created to promote the language in the community and allow others from around the world to learn words and phrases in the Mayan Tz'utujil language.

For this process, we created a plan to recruit participants from the communities that speak Tz'utujil because there are young people in each community that are currently writing in this Mayan language. In addition, we also have a plan for social media trainings, images, and the recording of audios.

by Israel Quic at September 12, 2014 05:45 PM

Global Voices
Oscar Pistorius’ Verdict Ends the Biggest Social Media Event in South African History
Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in court. May 5, 2014 by Ihsaan Haffejee. Demotix.

Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in court. May 5, 2014 by Ihsaan Haffejee. Demotix.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-leg amputee runner who shot his girlfriend last year, has been found guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter). Pistorius claims he thought his girlfriend was an intruder trying to break into the house through the bathroom window. Judge Thokozile Masipa rendered a guilty verdict, but ruled that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius intended to kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

In a blog dedicated to constitutional law, Cape Town University's Professor Pierre de Vos said he isn't surprised that the court didn't find Oscar Pistorius guilty of premeditated murder. He explained:

Although Judge Masipa highlighted several “peculiar” aspects of the case (for example, why did Pistorius pump 4, instead of 1, shots through the toilet door?), she found that the evidence produced to try and prove the “premeditated murder” of Reeva Steenkamp was almost exclusively circumstantial.

It would be difficult to convict somebody for murdering his girlfriend merely because the state produced evidence that they had fought on Whatsapp and (contradictory) evidence that neighbours heard them fighting on the night of the killing.

The high-water mark of the state’s case in this regard was the questions raised about how likely it would have been for Pistorius not to notice that Steenkamp was no longer in bed when he grabbed his gun and proceeded to the bathroom. But as the onus falls on the state to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, it is not surprising that the judge found that there was not sufficiently evidence to convict Pistorius of murdering Steenkamp in a premeditated manner.

However, the judge also found that Pistorius could not be convicted of murder for killing who he had claimed he believed was an “intruder” locked in the toilet.

In South African law it is not a valid defence to claim that you did not have the intention to kill X because you had in fact intended to kill Y and had killed X by mistake. Thus if Pistorius had intended to kill an intruder (and not Reeva Steenkamp), he would still be guilty of murder as long as the state had proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had intended to kill the person behind the door whom he might (or might not) have thought to be an intruder.

According to Data Drive Insights, the trial is the biggest social media event in South Africa's history, producing an estimated 3.5 million tweets since Reeva Steenkamp's murder in February 2013.

Most Twitter users seem to be responding to the verdict with anger or shock. Pistorius's conviction on a lesser charge comes on the heels of a 77-year sentence handed down to a rhino poacher in July, and some on Twitter have wondered if Pistorius might have received the maximum prison term, if his victim had been a rhinoceros.

Twitter users have also drawn attention to Judge Masipa's own admission that Pistorius lied on the stand:

Some believe that Pistorius' wealth and celebrity status unfairly influenced the court's decision:

Bec Murton imagined Reeva's final moments:

Not everyone on Twitter, of course, is against the verdict or the athlete.

This being the Internet, more than a few reactions displayed a sense of humor:

Lingerie model Rhian Sugden shared some advice for women:

Despite the conviction, some still consider Pistorius an inspiration:

Writing for the British charity group Womankind Worldwide, Bethan Cansfield said she hopes the verdict will lead to a debate about violence against women:

We live in a world where 38% of all women who have been murdered were murdered by their intimate partners; we can only hope that the attention of the Ray Rice case and Pistorius verdict leads to a serious debate on how we end violence against women and girls for good.

In 2009, Cansfield points out, the South African Medical Research Council found that a woman is killed by her intimate partner every 8 hours in South Africa. With so much attention on the Pistorius case, it's now high time for a better public conversation in South Africa and elsewhere about violence against women.

by Ndesanjo Macha at September 12, 2014 05:34 PM

How the United States H4 Visa Traps Foreign Workers’ Family Members in a ‘Golden Cage’
Stack of paperwork for US immigration. Image from Flickr by Stephanie Pakrul. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Stack of paperwork for US immigration. Image from Flickr by Stephanie Pakrul. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It has been dubbed the “golden cage”, “depression visa” and “prisoner visa” in various reports and comments. The United States’ H4 visa allows immediate family members of those awarded an “H” visa for temporary work to reside in the US, but not much else. 

Holders of this visa cannot obtain a Social Security number, the de facto national identification number for taxation, job applications and other tracking purposes. By contrast, dependents of another temporary work visa, the L1, are allowed to work in the US after obtaining employment authorization from the United States Immigration Service.

Many of the spouses of “H” visa holders are mostly women and are professionals with valuable skills to contribute to the workforce. But they cannot get a job in the US, work remotely for a company back home or even freelance, according to the terms of the H4 visa. So H4 visa holders resort to continuing education, limited volunteering or illegal freelance work, a minimal use of their skills.

A recent petition started by Shah Peerally, a lawyer in California, demands that the US government allow them more rights.

A Facebook page titled “H4 visa, a curse” has close to 5,000 likes. An associated blog details experiences of H4 visa holders and highlights the depression, frustration and sometimes familial abuse attached to a visa that restricts employment, especially for immigrants who have no social support system in a new country. For instance, Shilpa – Future entrepreneur writes:

I have masters degree and 3 year of work experience from my home country, all in waste. By the time I will get my work permit I will be 45 year old and there will be more than 10 year of career gap in my resume. Which employer will like to hire with this huge career gap. 2) To live in America and afford the daily expense with kids is very hard and that is why we are not able to buy a house. 3) H4 visa woman are abused, one of my friends Mother was abused very badly. All because she did not have any identity card, no money, nowhere to go. These abuse cases go unreported because h4 dependents don’t have an identity.

Elsewhere on the Internet, Jaspreet, in an open letter to President Obama, writes:

We were both from top institutes back in India, there was a time when I had a great career , making more money than my husband, but I came to the US to support my husband's career

ppl who have been here since there education and paid taxes for yrs are the ones most affected. The sad part is, even if you grant us a small favor and authorize work, what will the wives do after a gap of 7 yrs in their career?

Geetha Krishnan, a chemical engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area, tweets:

A study of immigrant entrepreneurs in the US, commissioned by the National Venture Capital Association, found that in recent years immigrants started one-third of US venture-backed companies that became publicly traded. 

Recognizing the value that immigrants bring to the culture and economy, President Barack Obama's administration announced  on May 7, 2014, proposals to allow a subset of H4 visa holders to work in the US. The number of qualified candidates is around 100,000 at the current time. 

The rationale for this was explained by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker: “These individuals are American families in waiting. Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States, and these regulations put us on a path to do that.”

As with any immigration reform, the proposal has been greeted by a mixture of fear and triumph. Interested individuals have posted positive and negative comments on Regulations.gov, a website that allows the public to track and comment on federal rulemaking. It received 12,922 comments before the commenting period was closed on July 11.

Cecilia Curtis vocalizes the worry of many Americans vis a vis immigration reform:

This proposed rule change does NOT help American workers who are indeed skilled and unable to find work. Why does this Administration continue to put up roadblocks to hurt the American worker? Further, why does this Administration continue to bypass congress when it comes to immigration? There are way too many immigrants (legal and illegal) here in the US now. Our country cannot continue to absorb these excess workers/people. This is such a bad idea.

Vivek Pandey, however, disagrees that the law will divert jobs from citizens:

My wife has years of very high quality work experience and can easily find employment were this rule in effect. Please bear in mind that this rule does not in any way promote the ‘low cost’ worker rhetoric that has become rampant. The kind of job that my wife and many other spouses on H4 visa compete for require a very high level of expertise and experience.

Meanwhile, the production company of an immigration attorney in California, Shah Peerally Productions, is working on a movie to educate the general public about the trauma associated with the H4 visa:

It remains to be seen how long it takes for the work permits to be issued to dependent visa holders. This proposal is a step toward in fixing a system which handicaps qualified spouses of qualified workers, hailed with relief by many prisoners of the “golden cage”.

by Tejasvini Prasad at September 12, 2014 05:02 PM

Creative Commons
Creative Commons launches School of Open events in Tanzania and Nigeria

Today and tomorrow the School of Open launches in Tanzania and Nigeria in conjunction with Mozilla Maker Party!

SOO AfricaV2
(SOO logo here. Earth icon licensed CC BY by Erin Standley from the Noun Project.)

In Tanzania, CC Tanzania is hosting a creative event for kids at the Open University of Tanzania, the first university in the region to offer open and distant learning programs. Kids will use the Internet and open educational resources to create animations. This event occurs today: see the Maker Party page for details. It marks the launch of three training programs around ICT empowerment training for unemployed youth, teaching persons with disabilities how to use computers, and training educators on using ICT to improve how they teach their students.

In Nigeria, CC Nigeria is hosting a web building skills event for the public at the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies at the University of Lagos. Anyone may join to learn how to build the web and share creative works through Mozilla and CC tools. The opening ceremony and maker party are tomorrow, see the Maker Party page for details. The event also marks the launch of a five-week training program around Nigerian copyright and Linux Operating System. During the opening ceremony, SOO Nigeria’s facilitators, partners and supporters will meet and set expectations for program participants. See the School of Open Nigeria page for more details. You can follow SOO Nigeria on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #SOOAfrica and #MakerParty.

School of Open launch events are also set to occur in Kenya and South Africa — stay tuned! (Read more about their plans here.)


About Maker Party

School of Open and Creative Commons is excited to be partnering with Mozilla to celebrate teaching and learning the web with Maker Party. Through thousands of community-run events around the world, Maker Party unites educators, organizations and enthusiastic Internet users of all ages and skill levels.

We share Mozilla’s belief that the web is a global public resource that’s integral to modern life: it shapes how we learn, how we connect and how we communicate. But many of us don’t understand its basic mechanics or what it means to be a citizen of the web. That’s why we’re supporting this global effort to teach web literacy through hands-on learning and making with Maker Party.

About the School of Open

SOO-logo-100x100

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, and research. Volunteers develop and run courses, workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU.

by Jane Park at September 12, 2014 04:51 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Global Voices’ Alexander Sodiqov Is Safe With His Family in Toronto, Canada
Alex Sodiqov with his wife and daughter. Shared via www.freesodiqov.org

Alex Sodiqov with his wife and daughter. Shared via www.freesodiqov.org

This post is part of our campaign #FreeAlexSodiqov: GV Author Detained in Tajikistan. 

Global Voices is thrilled to relay that Alexander Sodiqov, a GV author and the former editor of Global Voices Central Asia, has touched down in Toronto and is ready to continue his life as an academic in Canada. Alex flew into Toronto on Wednesday. He was joined by his wife Musharraf and daughter Erica today.

He will continue his PhD studies at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Edward Schatz, who, alongside John Heathershaw, was responsible for coordinating the freealexsodiqov campaign

A message shared by Schatz on Facebook reads as follows:

John Heathershaw and I are ecstatic that Alexander SodiqovMusharraf Sodiqova and daughter Erica are now back in Toronto! A formal request was made of the authorities to permit his return, and it was granted. Formally, Alexander remains under investigation, but the fact that the Tajik authorities saw fit to let him travel abroad strongly suggests that they are also convinced of the need to exonerate him. We want to thank the many people and institutions that advocated publicly and worked privately for Alexander’s return to his PhD work at the University of Toronto. As you can imagine, it has been a difficult period for all of them, and one expects that the transition back to life in Toronto will be somewhat disorienting. Please do welcome them back but please also respect their need for privacy.

Arrested on June 16 while carrying out academic research in the politically restive town of Khorog, Tajikistan, Alex was released from captivity by the GKNB (formerly KGB) on July 22. Nevertheless, anxiety over his fate grew when Tajik authorities exercised the option to extend their criminal investigation on August 19, with one Tajik blogger suggesting a struggle within the Tajik government might be holding his case up.

As Schatz's post notes charges have not been formally dropped yet, but it does look like life for Alex, Musharraf and Erica is about to take a turn in favor of normality after a summer of fear and stress.

Below are photos from the July 16 global vigil held in Sodiqov's name:

FREEALEX26FREEALEX25freealex22freealex23freealex20freealex17
Till
Kanykei
freealex11freealex8Freealex6

Anasal University Gurgaon, India
lauren

E-IR

Eric

American Political Science AssociationbermetFREEALEX31Free alex 2
free alex sodiqovFreealex 3
Freealex 4freealex 5
dm
freealex7
freealex9
Laura Adams Harvard
freealex10
Sfera
freealex12
freealex13
freealex14
dm2
freealex34
freealex15freealex16
freealex18
berlin
freealex19
freealex21
freEALEX24
yfs
FREEALEX27FREEALEX28FREEALEX29
freealex33
FREEALEX30

Alex and family

by chrisrickleton at September 12, 2014 01:06 PM

Global Voices
Shortly Before Her Death, Lebanese Student Sara Khatib Gave an Inspiring Tedx Talk About Her Battle With Cancer
Sara Khatib at TEDxLAU (Source: Humans of LAU)

Sara Khatib at TEDxLAU. Photo from Humans of LAU. Used with permission.

The death of a Lebanese American University (LAU) student to cancer on Sept. 5 provoked an outpouring of grief online.

Twenty-two-year-old Sara Khatib was a fourth year pharmacy student at LAU. Two weeks before her death, she had given a TEDxLAU talk entitled “4 lessons I learned while battling cancer” in which she spoke about her story of being a person defined by cancer to becoming a more empowered one transcending the disease.

Halfway through the talk, she received a standing ovation for overcoming her fear of cancer by saying:

I chose not to be Sara Khatib, the cancer patient and amputee, but to continue being Sara Khatib, the fourth-year pharmacy student who is clumsy, loves Nutella, and just happens to have cancer and a missing arm.

In an official statement, LAU mourned Khatib:

She turned a bright face to the world and decided to enjoy life no matter what it brought on. That was Sara Khatib’s gift to all those who knew her, and she will remain an inspiration to many, long after her passing on.

Noura Andrea Nassar from Humans of LAU, who had covered TEDxLAU, recalled Khatib in the following way:

I woke up this morning to terrible news: Sara El Khatib, a speaker at TEDxLAU's event on August 23, had passed away. I met Sara at TEDxLAU a couple of weeks ago. She was a fighter, an inspiration and a very a kind person. I am sure that those of you who knew her or at least saw her Talk agree.

American University of Beirut student Kareem Zreik agreed and recalled his story with her:

I remember meeting her outside the audition room for the first time. Had no idea who she was. She was looking around, I think unsure which door to open or whether she could (possibly because an audition was taking place inside). I just smiled at her and said, pardon me are you here for TEDxLAU? She of course nodded and smiled, and I gestured toward the door and leaned forward to open it for her. Again, I had no idea who she was. The position she standing in concealed any evidence of previous surgical history. Yet, in that brief moment, and at the risk of sounding melodramatic, one could tell that she was a very special human being with a great deal of love and kindness inside her. She was the sort of person who if you spent even a minute talking to her, you'd feel at ease and happy. And again, my first interaction with her was prior to knowing anything about her, or even being able to recognize any signs of who she is (since I knew we had an individual who was to audition that day with a particular story). She was right after all. She isn't her disease. She's, simply, Sara. And I am glad that this is the person I got to know, however briefly and fleetingly.

I've dealt with a lot of death, and so I wouldn't pretend to know what would be best for others in this tragedy. But what common thread with all the loss I have seen is to continue to make something positive and meaningful out of the person's life. And with Sara, if we do anything at all, I think it should be to remember her strength, her hope, her smile and most importantly her message. For those of us struggling with sickness or injury, and for our loved ones who have struggle along side us, let us take Sara's message to heart it and apply it.

We are not our disease. We may feel pain, but the suffering that can come with it is optional.

May this wonderful human being rest easy now. We are all grateful to have been touched by her mind and soul.

Khatib had started a support group for amputees in Lebanon. To honor her memory, her friends, colleagues and loved ones decided to pick up her cause.

An earlier version of this story misspelled Sara Khatib's first name.

by Joey Ayoub at September 12, 2014 09:52 AM

Global Voices’ Alexander Sodiqov Is Safe With His Family in Toronto, Canada
Alex Sodiqov with his wife and daughter. Shared via www.freesodiqov.org

Alex Sodiqov with his wife and daughter. Shared via www.freesodiqov.org

This post is part of our campaign #FreeAlexSodiqov: GV Author Detained in Tajikistan. 

Global Voices is thrilled to relay that Alexander Sodiqov, a GV author and the former editor of Global Voices Central Asia, has touched down in Toronto and is ready to continue his life as an academic in Canada. Alex flew into Toronto on Wednesday. He was joined by his wife Musharraf and daughter Erica today.

He will continue his PhD studies at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Edward Schatz, who, alongside John Heathershaw, was responsible for coordinating the freealexsodiqov campaign

A message shared by Schatz on Facebook reads as follows:

John Heathershaw and I are ecstatic that Alexander SodiqovMusharraf Sodiqova and daughter Erica are now back in Toronto! A formal request was made of the authorities to permit his return, and it was granted. Formally, Alexander remains under investigation, but the fact that the Tajik authorities saw fit to let him travel abroad strongly suggests that they are also convinced of the need to exonerate him. We want to thank the many people and institutions that advocated publicly and worked privately for Alexander’s return to his PhD work at the University of Toronto. As you can imagine, it has been a difficult period for all of them, and one expects that the transition back to life in Toronto will be somewhat disorienting. Please do welcome them back but please also respect their need for privacy.

Arrested on June 16 while carrying out academic research in the politically restive town of Khorog, Tajikistan, Alex was released from captivity by the GKNB (formerly KGB) on July 22. Nevertheless, anxiety over his fate grew when Tajik authorities exercised the option to extend their criminal investigation on August 19, with one Tajik blogger suggesting a struggle within the Tajik government might be holding his case up.

As Schatz's post notes charges have not been formally dropped yet, but it does look like life for Alex, Musharraf and Erica is about to take a turn in favor of normality after a summer of fear and stress.

Below are photos from the July 16 global vigil held in Sodiqov's name:

FREEALEX26FREEALEX25freealex22freealex23freealex20freealex17
Till
Kanykei
freealex11freealex8Freealex6

Anasal University Gurgaon, India
lauren

E-IR

Eric

American Political Science AssociationbermetFREEALEX31Free alex 2
free alex sodiqovFreealex 3
Freealex 4freealex 5
dm
freealex7
freealex9
Laura Adams Harvard
freealex10
Sfera
freealex12
freealex13
freealex14
dm2
freealex34
freealex15freealex16
freealex18
berlin
freealex19
freealex21
freEALEX24
yfs
FREEALEX27FREEALEX28FREEALEX29
freealex33
FREEALEX30

by Chris Rickleton at September 12, 2014 09:39 AM

Doc Searls
Public radio explodes in Santa Barbara

sb-radioWhen we moved to Santa Barbara in 2001, the public radio pickings were pretty slim:

  • 88.3 KCLU, a faint signal from Thousand Oaks.
  • 88.7 KQSC, a strong local station on Gibraltar Peak carrying the classical music programming of Los Angeles’ KUSC. Santa Barbara also had classical KDB on 93.7, an equal-sized signal on Gibraltar Peak.
  • 89.1 KCRU, a weak signal from Oxnard carrying Santa Monica’s KCLW.
  • 89.5 KPBS, San Diego’s public station, which came and went depending on weather conditions over the 200 miles of Pacific Ocean it crossed on the way.
  • 89.9 KCBX from San Luis Obispo, via a 10-watt translator on GibraltAr Peak
  • 102.3 KCLU’s 4-watt translator on Gibraltar Peak

So Santa Barbara had two strong local classical stations and no local public station, other than KCLU’s translator. Credit where due: KCLU devoted a large percentage of its local news coverage to Santa Barbara. Also, in those days, KEYT, the TV station, also had a local AM news station on 1250am, with Morning Drive held down by local news star John Palminteri.

In the years since then, the following happened:

  • KEYT disappeared on 1250am, which became a Spanish station.
  • KCLU bought 1340am, which radiates from downtown, and cranked up local coverage for Santa Barbara, in effect becoming Santa Barbara’s first real public radio station. They used John Palminteri a lot too.
  • KCBX left its translator on 89.9 and started a repeater station, KSBX, on 89.5, a signal with 50 watts to the west and south about 10 watts to the east, from Gibraltar Peak. The old 89.9 signal went to a religious broadcaster. Local Santa Barbara coverage was minimal.
  • KCRW got a translator on 106.9, to reach Goleta and the western parts of Santa Barbara from a site on West Camino Cielo radiating 10 watts toward town and as little as 1.35 watts in other directions.
  • KDB got saved when it was bought by the Santa Barbara Foundation, and converted to a noncommercial station.
  • Bob Newhart sold his station at 1290am, effectively, to the Santa Barbara News-Press, which made it KZSB, A 24-hour local news and talk station. At just 500 watts by day and 120 watts at night, it’s small but covers the city itself just fine.

And that was the status quo until just recently, when all this happened:

  • KCLU cranked up the power of its 102.3 translator to 115 watts toward downtown, with nulls to the east and west (across hills and mountains) of 5.4 watts, which is still better than the old 4-watt signal.
  • KPCC, Los Angeles’ main all-news/talk public station from Pasadena, displaced the religious broadcaster on the 89.9 translator. It puts out 10 watts to the west from Gibraltar Peak, and less in other directions.
  • A set of deals went down (see links below) by which KDB’s staff got fired and programming replaced by KUSC’s, which moved up the dial to 93.7 from 88.7, where KCRW appeared with the call letters KDRW. The KQSC call letters were dropped, so the call letters on 93.7 are still KDB, but the station is really KUSC.

As a result, Santa Barbara now has all three main Los Angeles public stations — KUSC, KCRW and KPCC — along with KCLU and KCBX. And that’s in addition to a pair of non-NPR public stations: KCSB/91.9 from UCSB (radiating from Broadcast Peak west of the city, home of nearly all the locals that aren’t on Gibraltar Peak), and a 10-watt translator for KPFK, the Pacifica station from Los Angeles, on 98.7 from Gibraltar Peak.

As Nick Welsh asks in the Independent, NPR Saturation in Santa Barbara?

As a listener, I’m glad to have so many choices. (Even the mostly-news-talk stations are hardly clones of each other; and KCRW is heavily into music and a younger demographic slant.) But if I were KCLU or KCBX, I’d be pissed to find my stations playing Bambi in a fight with three big-city Godzillas.

So here’s a bunch of additional stuff you probably won’t read anywhere else.

First, Santa Barbara’s terrain is weird for FM. There is no perfect transmitter site.

At our house, on the city side of the Riviera, we have line of sight to none of the local stations, which is what you need for a clear signal. So they all sound like crap there.

The Gibraltar Peak site is good for covering most of the South Coast, but is well below the crest of the mountains, block signals toward the Santa Ynez valley. They all sound awful there, or are gone completely.

Power matters less than line-of-sight. This is why KCLU, with just four watts on 102.3fm for all those years, did very well in the ratings I’ve seen for it.

The Broadcast Peak site is much higher (over 4000 feet high, with a view from San Luis Obispo to Ventura. Signals from there are advantaged by the elevation, but its distance from Santa Barbara is also a factor. It’s way out of town. The killer signal there, by the way, is KVYB on 103.3fm. It’s 105,000 watts, making it the most powerful FM station in the whole country. KYGA, a noncommercial Christian rock station on 97.5, is also huge with 17,500 watts. KCSB is just 620 watts up there, which is why it’s strong in Goleta but on the weak side in Santa Barbara. KFYZ doesn’t do much better from the same site, with 810 watts. KCBX also has a 10-watt translator on Broadcast Peak on 90.9, but it’s only full-power south toward Gaviota Beach and northwest toward Solvang and Los Olivos.

These FM issues are why, in my opinion, KCLU’s AM signal on 1340 is a big winner. Its signal isn’t big (only 650 watts), but AM waves flow over terrain that messes up FM. A transmitter site near salt water does wonders for AM signals as well. (KCLU radiates from a red and white pole standing in the city equipment yard on Yanonali Street, a few hundred feet from the ocean. That’s it in the picture above.) So there are no “holes” in its coverage, from Carpinteria to Capitola Beach.

The big loser, hate to say, is KCBX. Their old Santa Barbara signal on 89.9, now occupied by KPCC, had the advantage of nobody else on that channel that could be picked up in the area. By moving to 89.5, their signal had to compete with KPBS, which since then has moved closer to Santa Barbara and raised its power. At our Riviera home on KPBS blows KCBX away on 89.5, nearly all the time. KCBX knew they had problems after they moved, and tried to move back to 89.9 with a bigger signal, but that fell through.

I expect the result will be a lot more public radio listening in Santa Barbara, with KCLU remaining the local favorite, simply because it remains local.

Meanwhile, some other moves on the South Coast:

  • 106.3, which radiated from Gibraltar Peak for many years with different call letters and formats, moved to Ventura, where it is now a country station.
  • KSBL/101.7, which moved from Gibraltar Peak to West Camino Cielo a while back, and dropped its power in the process to 890 watts (a bad move, in my opinion), has a construction permit to move the transmitter to Santa Cruz Island. This involves a raise in the class of the station, meaning technically it’ll be bigger. Santa Cruz Island has great line-of-sight to all of coastal Southern California, but the station will now be more than 30 miles from town. And the signal is directional, mostly to the west, meaning it will only be full power toward the islands and the coast west of Santa Barbara. Toward the east it will be way less. (I’m also not sure how they’ll get electric power to the site, which is on a remote peak of what is also a nearly uninhabited national park.)
  • KRZA-LP is a new 100-watt station on 96.5. The construction permit is licensed to La Casa de la Raza, and will broadcast from downtown Santa Barbara. Says the site, “The mission of La Casa de la Raza is to develop and empower the Latino community by affirming and preserving the Latino cultural heritage, providing an umbrella for services and by advocating for participation in the larger community.” So: a true community station. Says here the transmitter will be at the corner of Montecito and Salsipuedes Streets.
  • KTYD/99.9, which has the biggest signal on Gibraltar Peak (34,000 watts), is getting a new 250-watt translator in Goleta on 104.1, radiating from Platform Holly, off the coast of Isla Vista.

by Doc Searls at September 12, 2014 04:01 AM

September 11, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Right to Be Forgotten: With Free Expression Under Threat, Europe Needs a ‘Marco Civil Moment’
Mugshot for American organized crime leader James "Whitey" Bulger. Photo by Bureau of Prisons, released to public domain.

Mugshot for American organized crime leader James “Whitey” Bulger. Under the right to be forgotten, should criminal data be subject to de-indexation, and under what conditions? Photo by Bureau of Prisons, released to public domain.

Written by Félix Tréguer, researcher at EHESS and founding member of La Quadrature du Net, France.

Conversations among the Global Voices members and across the digital rights space inspired our community to ask our colleagues — Internet law experts around the globe — to comment on the ruling and describe what impact it has had on policy and political debate in their countries since it was issued. In this second installment in the series, we hear from French Internet law scholar Félix Tréguer.

Are you familiar with the EU case on the “right to be forgotten”?

Yes. In Europe, the EU Court of Justice “Costeja” ruling has stirred a very heated debate about privacy and free speech on the Internet.

But I must underline that the ruling itself is not literally about the right to be forgotten. More accurately, it is a ruling that recognizes a right to the de-indexation of links attached to a person's name in search engines, based on the 1995 EU law on the protection of personal data. This means that when a given item is de-indexed by Google in the search results to a query that includes a person's name, it remains accessible through the search engines as long as the search query does not include that name. So it is quite a far cry from an actual right to be forgotten.

That being said, the ruling of course raises important concerns about free speech online. Clearly, the Court's decision restricts the right to information for Internet users, and the right to freedom of expression of online publishers whose content will be harder to find once it is de-indexed from some search results.

To me, the worst aspect of the ruling is the fact that, while it recognizes that the right to de-indexation is not absolute, it is the responsibility of search engines to make a judgment about whether a person's request for de-indexation of online content is valid. The Court noted that the search engine's decision on the request would depend on the “role played [by the claimant] in public life”. Accordingly, the threshold for de-indexing content is higher for a public figure than for the average citizen.So the ruling effectively gives Google the task of drawing the boundaries of whom and what belongs to the public sphere. By doing so, it is reinforcing the dangerous trend toward privatized online censorship – a trend we've gotten used to in the context of copyright enforcement.

It is truly disconcerting to see Europe's highest court issuing such an important ruling while being blind to the wider legal and regulatory ecology surrounding fundamental rights on the Internet.

Has there been local discussion and debate on the implementation of RTBF? Have their been local court cases?

Yes, besides the ECJ ruling, there have been court cases across Europe regarding the right to be forgotten.

Last January in France, a Parisian art dealer with a criminal record demanded the de-indexation of links to content related to a past conviction. A lower court decided in his favor, ruling that the complainant had a right to protect his reputation under France's law on personal data.

In 2012, a former porn actress also won a case on the grounds of local privacy laws after Google denied her requests to de-index links to her pornographic videos.

But besides these judicial decisions, there is an even more problematic side to the “right to be forgotten” debate in Europe. Right after the ECJ ruling, in May, the president of the French Data Protection Authority (DPA), who is currently coordinating the works of all European DPAs on the matter, announced in an interview that a third of the complaints received by her services (about 2000 out of approximately 6000 a year) were related to online content. Shockingly, she made clear that in those cases, the DPA does not just ask search engines to de-index specific content and links in search results, but that it goes straight to publishers (online media editors, bloggers, etc) to request that online information pertaining to any given complainant be removed or anonymized.

The prototypical case for the DPA is as follows: a former union leader comes to the DPA requesting action on a decade-old video showing him in speaking vehemently against his company's CEO. The video now tops the search results associated with his name, and, as he explains in his request, prevents him from finding a job. What the DPA can do in such cases is ask the publisher of the video to delete the name of that person from the text associated with the video.

But what this also means is that without any court approval or even clear legal principles on how to balance privacy and free speech, with absolutely no transparency on how much and what content is being taken down, and without considering other ways of protecting that person from employment discrimination, administrative agencies are orchestrating the censorship of online material. And this can have a big impact on the democratic debate. To continue with the previous example, what if, five years from now, the former union leader enters the field of electoral politics? Shouldn't the electorate have a right to know about his previous political engagement?

Even before the ECJ ruling, the implementation of the right to be forgotten had already gotten out of control in Europe. There is hence an urgent need to create an appropriate framework for balancing the right to privacy and freedom of expression, since neither existing law nor the ECJ ruling provide the appropriate answers.

Do you anticipate any threat to the online public sphere once it is implemented?

In the aftermath of the ECJ ruling, we're witnessing very dangerous developments. Besides encouraging the trend toward privatized censorship, the decision is also giving way to a rule-making problem.

First, Google is acting as a de facto public body and putting together a consultation on how best to implement the right to be forgotten. Google has denounced the ECJ ruling but is forced to implement it, and they logically need to come up with guidelines considering that both the ruling itself and EU law are very vague. But I find it odd that instead of calling for a legislative debate on workable principles regarding the privacy/free speech balance, the company instead created an “expert committee” to issue these guidelines. Even though the committee includes very commendable people such as Frank La Rue (the outgoing UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression), this process further legitimizes a form of private rule-making for the regulation of fundamental rights on the Internet, and as such it just cannot lead to legitimate rules.

Then, there are the national Data Protection Authorities from each EU member states who, in part in response to Google's own committee, are also working on guidelines regarding the implementation of the ruling. They started the process in July by questioning search engines (Google has already issued its response; Bing, Yahoo and others should soon follow suit). But while they have more legitimacy in this position than Google does, DPAs are administrative agencies and lack the democratic legitimacy or accountability of actual lawmakers. Culturally, they are also heavily biased towards the protection of privacy. Google's response to the DPA inquiries explains that in evaluating the requests received so far and acting upon them, it is facing questions such as:

  • What is the nature and delineation of a public figure’s right to privacy? 
  • How should we differentiate content that is in the public interest from content that is not? 
  • Does the public have a right to information about the nature, volume, and outcome of removal requests made to search engines? 
  • What is the public’s right to information when it comes to reviews of professional or consumer services? Or criminal histories? 
  • Should individuals be able to request removal of links to information published by a government?
  • Do publishers of content have a right to information about requests to remove it from search?

(Excerpted from Google's response to question n° 25 of the WP29 questionnaire)

So absent clear legal principles, it's quite worrying to see DPAs making up rules and adjudicating these very difficult questions raised by the right to be forgotten.

How can policymakers strike a balance between individual right to be forgotten and free flow of information? 

That is indeed the crucial question, but one that needs to be taken up by both lawmakers and citizens, not by private companies and administrative agencies.

The right to be forgotten has its roots in criminal law, and no doubt there are very legitimate cases in which the protection of privacy should prevail upon freedom of expression. Europe has traditionally been a defender of strong privacy rights, which is in part explained by its history – in particular the surveillance practiced by totalitarian regimes in the 20th century – and the subsequent fear of seeing computers being used to empower states and private companies to spy on people. The focus on privacy has made Europe the worldwide leader for the protection of personal data. Today – in the age of the Internet, and especially in these “post-Snowden times” – it is an important legacy to carry forward. These old principles must be adapted to the technical and social realities of the Internet, so that we can protect the privacy of Internet users in the face of the harmful practices of the advertising, insurance and banking industries, among others, but also against the stunning return of mass surveillance by state powers.

On the other hand, in Europe, freedom of expression has not enjoyed a similar level of concern or protection as privacy. So in this debate on the right to be forgotten, there is a risk that online free speech will be routinely undermined, especially given that the problems raised by the ECJ ruling echo wider issues surrounding online censorship.

Going forward, there is a premise that should be questioned, namely the idea that the rules on the protection of personal data can apply as such to speech that is part of the public sphere. From a legal perspective, it seems to be a dangerous overreach, since I don't think it was the intention of French lawmakers in 1978, when they adopted the first law on personal data (nicknamed the “Computing and Freedoms” law). Still today, before the ECJ ruling, case law was unsettled: Many judges felt that only press laws should be used to regulate the public sphere, and thus refused to apply data protection laws to restrict freedom of expression online.

In the aftermath of the ECJ ruling, but also in the face of the many threats looming on freedoms online, Europe needs a “Marco Civil” moment. We need to raise and answer big questions about fundamental rights on the Internet, and in particular on the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, how to protect them, when and how they can be limited and balanced, while paying the utmost attention to applicable international human rights law.

Ultimately, it should not be up to Google or other Internet companies to implement these rules. Nor should it be the responsibility of the Data Protection Authorities. It must fall to European lawmakers to issue these rules and, consistent with the rule of law, up to the judiciary to implement them. An option to avoid private censorship while making sure courts are not flooded with requests would be having a “mediation authority” representing all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors as well as from civil society. Such a mediation body could give legal advice to claimants and online actors so as to find a common ground based on what the statutes and case law say. But when no agreement can be reached, then the case would be referred to a judge.

Want to lend your ideas to the conversation? We invite experts and interested individuals to answer these questions for us — please feel encouraged to respond to this post in the comments section or to send your thoughts to us at advocacy [at] globalvoicesonline [dot] org. We look forward to publishing them and continuing the conversation.

 

Read the first post in this series:

The Internet Never Forgets: Join a Global Conversation on the EU’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

by Guest Contributor at September 11, 2014 05:51 PM

DML Central
Wolf Sharks, Energy Drinks and Learning Standards: Reflections from White House Education Game Jam
Wolf Sharks, Energy Drinks and Learning Standards

It's 6:30 Sunday morning and the loft-like space that houses the educational software company Difference Engine echoes the metronome like taps of a ping pong ball flying across the table.

It’s not clear how much the Rovio team members (the trio from Finland that were partly responsible for unleashing Angry Birds upon the world) have slept, but their energy has yet to slow as they move steadily into hour 20 of intense programming. This is what happens when you throw a bunch of game developers and educators in a room and encourage them to make better, amazing games for learning.

Over the course of 48 hours, handfuls of videogame developers gathered in D.C. to take on the challenge of developing powerful, educational games against a ticking clock. The Educational Game Jam, organized by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, was an intense experience and we saw an impressive amount of creativity being distilled into eye-catching graphics, innovative gameplay, and unique learning environments. The event brought more than 20 teams of developers ranging from top tier companies like Sony and Ubisoft to indie developers and college students.

Armed with laptops, nestled amongst myriad whiteboards, and popping cans of energy drinks on a regular basis, the teams met with educators who shared insights into how games could align with college and career-ready standards to engage students in learning.

After opening remarks from Nick Sinai, White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer, and Mark DeLoura, Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, teams of developers quickly dispersed to brainstorm on post-its, white boards, and Google docs. Everyone felt the time crunch. The programmers invited to the game jam had a singular, herculean goal of getting a playable prototype off the ground and presentable by Monday morning. A working version of their game essentially acting as their ticket into the White House, the stakes felt high throughout the weekend.

Impressively, eight hours after the game jam had launched, nearly every group had at least a rudimentary and operational version of their game to work upon. Further, by Sunday, a group of playtesters — including students from the Hirshorn ARTLAB+ visited the jammers and gave crucial feedback with less than 24 hours before presentation time.

Keeping Learning Central

Throughout the game jam, experienced teachers and members of the U.S. Department of Education worked closely with developers, asking them prodding questions about their design and the roles the students can take within their games.

While games are (and should be!) fun, the imperative for them to be educationally sound could not feel more important.

Reflecting on the game jam and the role video games can play in education, teacher Chad Sansing wrote, “I think we live and teach in a time when we need to return to fun and games at school. We need to return to playful learning.” Like the other educators present, Sansing was asked to advise at the game jam based on his expertise as an educator and his experience using games in his own classroom. Later in the same post, Sansing notes, “The more we explore video games as a teaching tool, the more opportunities we’ll see to match kids and content with them the same way we work to match kids and content with traditional texts or video.”

While the weekend was about making learning fun, Sansing reminds us that this is important, serious work. Looking at the powerful gaming prototypes that were presented, we are inspired by the potential that comes to fruition when developers and educators work collaboratively for the sake of our students. The games we saw included algebraic-shooting spaceships, a platform for students to take on historic identities during World War I, and the possibilities of creating a vicious wolf shark by managing environmental conditions.

We hope this marks the start of a broader national movement to use technology to make learning fun. The need for engaging learning opportunities that empower students and teachers alike could not be more prescient. And, with increased technology in schools made possible through the ConnectED Initiative, the opportunity to do so has never been more real.

Banner image: Participants at the White House Educational Game Jam create and test new game designs. Photos courtesy U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology 

by mcruz at September 11, 2014 03:50 PM

Lawrence Lessig
We lost. Beautifully: On Zephyr and Tim’s amazing win

Ok, technically, Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu didn’t win the Democratic nomination on Tuesday….

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at September 11, 2014 01:34 PM

Feeds In This Planet