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.

July 30, 2014

Creative Commons
Rijksmuseum case study: Sharing free, high quality images without restrictions makes good things happen

SK-A-3584small

Girl in white kimono, George Hendrik Breitner, 1894; CC0

Yesterday Europeana published a great case study documenting the experiences of the Dutch Rijksmuseum in opening up access to their collection of digital public domain images. The case study was written by Joris Pekel, community coordinator for cultural heritage at the Europeana Foundation. Over the last few years, Europeana has worked with the Rijksmuseum in order to make available at the highest quality possible images of public domain artworks held by the museum.

The report discusses the Rijksmuseum’s initial apprehension to sharing these high quality images of public domain works. The museum originally planned to share the digital reproductions of public domain works under an open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). But after some convincing by organizations that advocate for unrestricted access to the public domain, the Rijksmuseum began to open its collections more by choosing to use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication for the digital reproductions.

The Rijksmuseum began to experiment with how it would offer high quality reproductions of the public domain artworks. The museum adopted a mission-driven approach, and staff understood the opportunity to showcase the best of the museum’s collection as a promotional tool. The marketing department argued that “…The core goal of the museum is to get the collection out and known to the public as much as possible…[and] the digital reproduction of an item would pique public interest in it, leading them to buy tickets to the museum to see the real deal.” The Rijksmuseum also realized that by releasing high quality digital reproductions of works out of copyright, it could help educate the public by providing true-color images and accurate metadata about the works.

Instead of worrying that making available high quality digital reproductions of public domain artwork for free would destroy a piece of the museum’s revenue stream, the Rijksmuseum initially adopted a hybrid approach. They made images available in two sizes: .jpg images at approximately 4500×4500 pixels were free, while the huge 200MB master .tiff files were made available for €40. The museum saw a steady increase in revenue from image sales, but eventually decided to discontinue the tiered offerings. Since October 2013 the Rijksmuseum has been releasing their highest quality images for free.

The Rijksmuseum has found a way to support broad access to its rich collection of cultural heritage resources. And it’s done so in such as way that promotes interest by new audiences, recuperates costs, and upholds the principles of supporting unrestricted access to the digital public domain.

Take a look at the full case study.

by Timothy Vollmer at July 30, 2014 08:51 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Spain on a Downward Spiral? New Law May Destroy the Digital Commons
"All Rights Reserved." Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, released to public domain.

“All Rights Reserved.” Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, released to public domain.

Spanish legislators are threatening the open Internet once again. Reforms to the country's Intellectual Property Law would have a particularly grave impact on websites that feature content produced by regular Internet users — like blogs, photo and video sites, social media platforms. Recently approved by the Chamber of Deputies and pending confirmation before the Spanish Senate, the law could inflict long-lasting harm on the digital commons. Although activists and lawyers are forming coalitions to block the law from passing, there is much cause for concern.

This comes in sharp contrast to Internet-related policies of the not-so distant past, when Spain led important initiatives to promote open access to culture and knowledge. But the legislation in question would do just the opposite: The law, mockingly referred to as the “Google tax”, will codify the monetization of linking and mandating compensation for content (even if authors do not want it), thereby starving Spain's rich open access academic space, limiting the rights of users, and generating restrictions on the freedoms of authors.

The current reform of Spain’s copyright law incorporates a new levy on universities that is related to open access to publications. Under the policy, universities that want to share research or other content for free will be prohibited from doing so beyond the confines of their institution and personnel. In other words, if you are an author from a university and you want to share beyond the academic world and someone links to your journal article, that person must pay even if you do not even want the payment. A percentage of these fees will be collected by the Spanish agency CEDRO (Centro Español de Derechos Reprográficos) and the virtual campuses of universities will be required to comply.

The law also includes a host of other provisions that go against the generative, collaborative Web. It establishes an administrative commission that will serve as a chief decision-making body for copyright-related takedowns, a move that circumvents the judicial process typically recommended for such laws and could easily undermine due process. And it could pose grave threats to online creativity and innovation, saddling websites that do not remove links to “infringers” with fines of up to EU 600,000.

The law also poses a threat to online anonymity as it demands that not only from Internet Service Providers but also aggregators and advertisement companies to collect and disclose the identities of their users upon official request. 

On a conceptual note, the law will foster an “informant” culture in which users are encouraged to “report” on one another and suggest that certain websites be shut down.

While intended to protect the rights of authors, these laws may serve as tools to remove content, to monitor citizens and to reduce the possibilities of access and collaborative learning and creation enabled by the Web. Linking is what made the Web what is today — restricting its possibilities and imposing control to interfere in the ability of users to do so poses a threat to the very nature of the open Internet.

by Renata Avila at July 30, 2014 06:07 PM

Netizen Report: Colombian Scholar May Face Prison Thanks to Free Trade Copyright Reforms
Demonstrators protest the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Washington DC. Photo by b.wu via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Demonstrators protest the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Washington DC. Photo by b.wu via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

The Netizen Report originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. Juan Arellano, Ellery Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-in Lim, and Sarah Myers West 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 Colombia, where two pending court cases concerning defamation and an alleged copyright violation could send free expression in the country on a rapid, downward spiral. In one case, biology graduate student Diego Gomez could face between four and eight years in prison for posting another academic’s research on the file sharing site Scribd. The 26-year-old is being prosecuted under a criminal law that was reformed in 2006, as the result of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. Though it was intended to fulfill the trade agreement’s restrictive copyright standards, the law expanded criminal penalties for copyright infringement, increasing possible prison sentences and monetary fines.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Maira Sutton writes, “Gomez only wanted to share these articles to further his life mission to protect native wildlife and to allow others with a similar passion to access this research. He is only one of countless thousands who risk themselves every day to push against the prohibitive restraints of copyright.” Colombian digital rights NGO Fundacion Karisma is providing legal counsel for Gomez and supporting his case with the online campaign #CompartirNoEsDelito (#SharingIsNotACrime).

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a man sentenced to 18 months’ jail time and a fine of 9.5 million pesos (roughly USD $5,100) for calling a former government official a “rat” ​​on the website of Cali-based newspaper El Pais. In a piece critical of the decision, Colombian national daily El Espectador gathered comments from lawyers who say the Supreme Court is confusing information with opinion. The decision sets a dangerous precedent for online commenters and social media users in Colombia.

Free Expression: Is Tunisia’s digital rights renaissance coming to a close?

A leaked draft of a proposed cybercrime bill in Tunisia includes vague and broad provisions that could undermine the progressive approach to Internet policy that the country has taken since 2011. Among the provisions are a six-month imprisonment and fine for anyone who uses “information and communications systems to spread content showing obscene acts and assaulting good morals” and five years’ imprisonment and a fine for “using an information system to process others’ personal data or to damage their reputation.” The bill would also grant sweeping surveillance powers to the Ministries of Interior and Defense. 

Members of the French Administrative Law Committee voted in favor of an anti-terrorism bill that criminalizes “provoking acts of terrorism” and “advocating terrorism,” specifically targeting online activity. The law also obligates Internet service providers to block access to sites and provide user data at the behest of the administrative authority charged with the law’s enforcement.

Thuggery: “Terrified” by political threats, Chinese editor shutters news site

Popular pro-democracy news site the House News shut its doors on July 26, reportedly under significant political pressure and the withdrawal of advertisers. In a letter to readers explaining the closure, co-founder Tony Tsoi explained that “a sense of White Terror lingers in the country” over the political struggle between Hong Kong and China. 

Copyright: Spain’s Google tax is back in business

Spain’s lower house of Congress passed a controversial new law that places a tax on aggregation of hyperlinks, requiring news sites and aggregators to pay fees for including links with “meaningful explanations” in their text. Though the government clarified that the law will not apply to social networking sites, it remains unclear how it will be enforced. The bill now moves on to the Senate and is expected to be approved later this year. Commenting on the perils of the law for the digital comments, the Web We Want's Renata Avila writes, “linking is what made the Web what is today — restricting this function poses a threat to the very nature of the open Internet.”

A leaked document indicated the Australian government may soon crackdown on online piracy, in part by requiring Internet service providers to take active measures to discourage and reduce online copyright infringement. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the document also cited unratified trade obligations with the United States to pursue its reforms under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Access: Pacific Island nations push for greater Internet infrastructure

The Connect the Blue Continent campaign advocates for Pacific Island governments to invest in Internet infrastructure, systems, and skills development. The geography of the Pacific region means communities tend to be small and distant, making them among the slowest in the world to adopt Internet technology, according to group founder Chris Sampson.

Industry: Twitter bird obeys Russian bear Twitter removed access for Russian users to @b0ltai, the account of a hacker collective that leaked a number of internal Kremlin documents online. While the company refused to comment on why the account was removed, a report on Chilling Effects indicated that Russian authorities asked the company to block @b0ltai and produced a judicial order issued by a St. Petersburg court.

Netizen Activism: Tweet for justice for Ethiopia’s Zone9 bloggers

The Global Voices community is organizing a “tweetathon” on Thursday, July 31 calling for justice for the ten bloggers and journalists facing terrorism charges in Ethiopia. Join us across all time zones and in all languages under the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers. Learn more here.

Important Things: Graphic artists take on conflict in Gaza

The non-profit data visualization collective Visualizing Palestine produced a new infographic charting casualties, injuries and incidents of violence in both Palestine and Israel over the last two years. The graphic has gone viral among Internet activists both in and outside of the region.

New Research

by Netizen Report Team at July 30, 2014 05:48 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Global Voices Advocacy
Tajik Blogger: “We Must Prove our Professionalism and Close the Case Against Alexander Sodiqov”
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 story is part of our campaign #FreeAlexSodiqov: GV Author Detained in Tajikistan. A version of this post was originally written in Russian on the Tajik blogging platform blogiston.tj and translated for Global Voices by Chris Rickleton. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

About six weeks ago in Khorog police detained my good friend, the young academic Alexander Sodiqov. Disregarding the principle of the presumption of innocence and the laws of our own country, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) issued a statement to the press the following day, in which Alexander was accused of “espionage” on behalf of “a foreign state.” Later, when Alexander was finally allowed access to independent lawyers, it was reported that Alexander had been charged under Article 305 of the Criminal Code (“Treason”).
 
I wanted to write about Alexander even then, but as I was neither a relative nor a lawyer, I decided to leave it to the professionals. Exactly one week ago, on July 22 after nearly 40 days in jail, Alexander was released on bail, apparently upon condition of remaining in the country. As I understand, the charges against Alexander have still not been lifted: he is still awaiting trial and is still charged under Article 305, which carries a  sentence of between 12 and 20 years.
 
After his release, Alexander gave only two interviews, one to Asia Plus and one to Radio Ozodi. As far as I know, many journalists from other publications also wanted to talk to him, but he refused to be interviewed. Most likely this is due to the very conditions of his bail, although it may be something else. I, too, have been unable to talk with Alexander since his release.

Now I want to share my view on this matter. Alexander Sodiqov, who our law enforcement agencies have rushed to write into the ranks of state criminals, is a young academic working on his Ph.D. in Canada. To find this out and read his biography in full it is sufficient to type his name into Google or Yandex.

There has been much online discussion regarding Alexander, and many of our citizens (especially those who do not have enough intelligence to enter a foreign university) have reproached Alexander for choosing to study at a western university.

Certainly, Alexander earned his Master's degree in the UK and is working on his doctoral thesis in Canada. However, prior to doing both of those things he graduated as a student from the Russian-Tajik Slavic University (RTSU) in Tajikistan, where he subsequently went on to teach having received his Masters from England. As one of his students, I can say that he was one of the most knowledgeable and professional teachers at the university.

Moreover, is receiving a degree in the West some sort of crime or reprehensible action? Tens of thousands of young Tajiks – including the children of highly-placed officials – prefer to get an education abroad. It is not punishable by our laws, and therefore we cannot throw accusations at Alexander for worthily representing our country at leading western universities.
 
Alexander also wrote a lot about our country. We bloggers in Tajikistan should be grateful for his work at Global Voices, where he constantly highlighted issues discussed through social networks and blogs in Tajikistan. Thanks to him, we were heard by a wider audience, while in our own country we are more often than not neither heard nor listened to.
 
Firstly, regarding the charges brought against Alexander, I personally think these accusations are absurd. First, Alexander did not hide from anyone either the nature of the research he was working on or the fact he was going to Khorog. We, friends of Alexander, knew perfectly well when and why he was going to Khorog. And, once in Khorog, he openly met with representatives of civil society on a bench in a central park. I do not think that spies behave this way. Real spies are extremely difficult to catch precisely because they operate covertly, secretly, not openly, as Alexander acted.
 
Secondly, the arrest of Alexander generated a huge buzz. The world's leading media, including The Guardian, The Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Huffington Post, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, EurasiaNet, Registan, Open Democracy, and many other publications wrote about his arrest. Major universities and academic associations quickly came out in support of Alexander, while thousands of academics from hundreds of the most prestigious universities (including Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge) and research centers in the world demanded that the Tajik authorities release Alexander, withdraw the charges levelled against him and allow him and his family to return to Canada so he can continue his studies.

People studying and teaching in countries as diverse as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, USA and the UK, as well Tajikistan's neighbors such as Afghanistan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have all pledged support for the campaign to #freealexsodiqov.

Never have so many famous academics, research centers and universities stood up in such solidarity for a spy. Everyone who follows the news knows that the detention of spies usually passes without fuss or hype. After that, arrested spies are quietly exchanged for other arrested spies or released following inter-governmental bargaining. Well-known Western scholars would never put their signatures towards supporting the rights, integrity and reputation of a person in whom they lacked faith. These academics value their name and reputation, and if they have come out in support of Alexander, his honesty cannot be in doubt.
 
That broad support that Alexander received from so many academics led the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to demand that our government release him. Without this support, I think it would have been much harder for Alexander to convey his innocence. After all, Alexander and his wife are citizens of Tajikistan.
 
Thirdly, the fact that Alexander has been released from prison (albeit on bail) speaks to the fact that law enforcement agencies do not have anything to hold against him that could be considered evidence of Alexander's involvement in the offenses he has been accused of. Our law enforcement agencies have worked well and correctly: a citizen was detained, investigated for involvement in a crime, and let go once no evidence linking him to any crime was found. That is how law enforcement agencies around the world work. I am personally very pleased that in this case, our state organs have not lost face and, as noted in Alexander's recent interviews with Asia Plus and Ozodi, have worked “professionally”.
 

So, why is Alexander still facing charges?

This is not yet clear. I think the whole thing amounts to a quarrel within our government. Bringing Khorog under government control, we have been told, is the responsibility of a presidential aide, former Defense Minister Sherali Khairullayev. This is the same Khairullayev that shamed himself in 2012 by sending a 3,000-strong military detachment to Khorog but singularly failing to apprehend any of the “criminals” on the government's wanted list. For this Khairullayev it is becoming harder and harder to answer before the president for the continued unrest in GBAO [the province where Khorog is situated], and so he pushes the line of “foreign spies” conducting “subversive activities” and funding “state criminals” in Badakhshan.

From what I have heard from unofficial sources, it is Khairullayev that ordered Sodiqov's arrest – hoping that no one would intercede on his behalf, since Alexander does not have influential relatives – with the ultimate aim of presenting him before a court, the president and the country as a “Western spy” carrying out “subversive activities” in Khorog.

Unfortunately for Khairullayev it did not work out as planned.

The GKNB leading the investigation correctly understood the situation and reported to Khairullayev that they had nothing with which to hold Alexander. Western governments, funding our security services and all of our social programs – did you really think that these programs are financed from the state budget? – demanded Alexander's release. Foreign Minister Aslov, meanwhile, who has had to answer for Khairullayev's nonsense in the international arena, seems himself to be convinced of the absurdity of the charges brought against Alexander.

In order to minimize the loss of branding to our country and prove our professionalism, our state bodies must now close the case against Alexander, take him to the airport and put him on a flight to Canada. This they will confirm their professionalism and impartiality. And Khairullayev, the presidential aid should be removed. He has once again demonstrated he is incompetent. I think his position could be taken up by Saymumin Yatimov, who currently heads the GKNB.

Although Alexander's case will now be decided at the highest level, each of us can make a small contribution to his full release. I urge you all to take a minute of your time and sign the petition to withdraw all charges against Alexander.
 
This petition will soon be sent to the presidential administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan.

 

by Global Voices at July 30, 2014 03:46 PM

Global Voices
Tajik Blogger: “We Must Prove our Professionalism and Close the Case Against Alexander Sodiqov”
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 story is part of our campaign #FreeAlexSodiqov: GV Author Detained in Tajikistan. A version of this post was originally written in Russian on the Tajik blogging platform blogiston.tj and translated for Global Voices by Chris Rickleton. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

About six weeks ago in Khorog police detained my good friend, the young academic Alexander Sodiqov. Disregarding the principle of the presumption of innocence and the laws of our own country, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) issued a statement to the press the following day, in which Alexander was accused of “espionage” on behalf of “a foreign state.” Later, when Alexander was finally allowed access to independent lawyers, it was reported that Alexander had been charged under Article 305 of the Criminal Code (“Treason”).
 
I wanted to write about Alexander even then, but as I was neither a relative nor a lawyer, I decided to leave it to the professionals. Exactly one week ago, on July 22 after nearly 40 days in jail, Alexander was released on bail, apparently upon condition of remaining in the country. As I understand, the charges against Alexander have still not been lifted: he is still awaiting trial and is still charged under Article 305, which carries a  sentence of between 12 and 20 years.
 
After his release, Alexander gave only two interviews, one to Asia Plus and one to Radio Ozodi. As far as I know, many journalists from other publications also wanted to talk to him, but he refused to be interviewed. Most likely this is due to the very conditions of his bail, although it may be something else. I, too, have been unable to talk with Alexander since his release.

Now I want to share my view on this matter. Alexander Sodiqov, who our law enforcement agencies have rushed to write into the ranks of state criminals, is a young academic working on his Ph.D. in Canada. To find this out and read his biography in full it is sufficient to type his name into Google or Yandex.

There has been much online discussion regarding Alexander, and many of our citizens (especially those who do not have enough intelligence to enter a foreign university) have reproached Alexander for choosing to study at a western university.

Certainly, Alexander earned his Master's degree in the UK and is working on his doctoral thesis in Canada. However, prior to doing both of those things he graduated as a student from the Russian-Tajik Slavic University (RTSU) in Tajikistan, where he subsequently went on to teach having received his Masters from England. As one of his students, I can say that he was one of the most knowledgeable and professional teachers at the university.

Moreover, is receiving a degree in the West some sort of crime or reprehensible action? Tens of thousands of young Tajiks – including the children of highly-placed officials – prefer to get an education abroad. It is not punishable by our laws, and therefore we cannot throw accusations at Alexander for worthily representing our country at leading western universities.
 
Alexander also wrote a lot about our country. We bloggers in Tajikistan should be grateful for his work at Global Voices, where he constantly highlighted issues discussed through social networks and blogs in Tajikistan. Thanks to him, we were heard by a wider audience, while in our own country we are more often than not neither heard nor listened to.
 
Firstly, regarding the charges brought against Alexander, I personally think these accusations are absurd. First, Alexander did not hide from anyone either the nature of the research he was working on or the fact he was going to Khorog. We, friends of Alexander, knew perfectly well when and why he was going to Khorog. And, once in Khorog, he openly met with representatives of civil society on a bench in a central park. I do not think that spies behave this way. Real spies are extremely difficult to catch precisely because they operate covertly, secretly, not openly, as Alexander acted.
 
Secondly, the arrest of Alexander generated a huge buzz. The world's leading media, including The Guardian, The Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Huffington Post, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, EurasiaNet, Registan, Open Democracy, and many other publications wrote about his arrest. Major universities and academic associations quickly came out in support of Alexander, while thousands of academics from hundreds of the most prestigious universities (including Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge) and research centers in the world demanded that the Tajik authorities release Alexander, withdraw the charges levelled against him and allow him and his family to return to Canada so he can continue his studies.

People studying and teaching in countries as diverse as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, USA and the UK, as well Tajikistan's neighbors such as Afghanistan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have all pledged support for the campaign to #freealexsodiqov.

Never have so many famous academics, research centers and universities stood up in such solidarity for a spy. Everyone who follows the news knows that the detention of spies usually passes without fuss or hype. After that, arrested spies are quietly exchanged for other arrested spies or released following inter-governmental bargaining. Well-known Western scholars would never put their signatures towards supporting the rights, integrity and reputation of a person in whom they lacked faith. These academics value their name and reputation, and if they have come out in support of Alexander, his honesty cannot be in doubt.
 
That broad support that Alexander received from so many academics led the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to demand that our government release him. Without this support, I think it would have been much harder for Alexander to convey his innocence. After all, Alexander and his wife are citizens of Tajikistan.
 
Thirdly, the fact that Alexander has been released from prison (albeit on bail) speaks to the fact that law enforcement agencies do not have anything to hold against him that could be considered evidence of Alexander's involvement in the offenses he has been accused of. Our law enforcement agencies have worked well and correctly: a citizen was detained, investigated for involvement in a crime, and let go once no evidence linking him to any crime was found. That is how law enforcement agencies around the world work. I am personally very pleased that in this case, our state organs have not lost face and, as noted in Alexander's recent interviews with Asia Plus and Ozodi, have worked “professionally”.
 

So, why is Alexander still facing charges?

This is not yet clear. I think the whole thing amounts to a quarrel within our government. Bringing Khorog under government control, we have been told, is the responsibility of a presidential aide, former Defense Minister Sherali Khairullayev. This is the same Khairullayev that shamed himself in 2012 by sending a 3,000-strong military detachment to Khorog but singularly failing to apprehend any of the “criminals” on the government's wanted list. For this Khairullayev it is becoming harder and harder to answer before the president for the continued unrest in GBAO [the province where Khorog is situated], and so he pushes the line of “foreign spies” conducting “subversive activities” and funding “state criminals” in Badakhshan.

From what I have heard from unofficial sources, it is Khairullayev that ordered Sodiqov's arrest – hoping that no one would intercede on his behalf, since Alexander does not have influential relatives – with the ultimate aim of presenting him before a court, the president and the country as a “Western spy” carrying out “subversive activities” in Khorog.

Unfortunately for Khairullayev it did not work out as planned.

The GKNB leading the investigation correctly understood the situation and reported to Khairullayev that they had nothing with which to hold Alexander. Western governments, funding our security services and all of our social programs – did you really think that these programs are financed from the state budget? – demanded Alexander's release. Foreign Minister Aslov, meanwhile, who has had to answer for Khairullayev's nonsense in the international arena, seems himself to be convinced of the absurdity of the charges brought against Alexander.

In order to minimize the loss of branding to our country and prove our professionalism, our state bodies must now close the case against Alexander, take him to the airport and put him on a flight to Canada. This they will confirm their professionalism and impartiality. And Khairullayev, the presidential aid should be removed. He has once again demonstrated he is incompetent. I think his position could be taken up by Saymumin Yatimov, who currently heads the GKNB.

Although Alexander's case will now be decided at the highest level, each of us can make a small contribution to his full release. I urge you all to take a minute of your time and sign the petition to withdraw all charges against Alexander.
 
This petition will soon be sent to the presidential administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan.

 

by Guest contributor at July 30, 2014 08:54 AM

Rising Voices
Community Radio Soap Opera Starts Researching What Ugandans Think About Democracy

Rising Voices note: This post by Emmanuel Gira continues our series of blog posts written from the perspective of our grantee projects. This post comes from the Common Community – Radio Soap project taking place in Lira, Uganda.

Common Community is a community information sharing initiative, intended to raise awareness in the Lango region of Uganda about electoral issues. This weekly radio soap opera, to be produced by the Theatre Technology House (TTH), will address governance, citizen participation and social development.

Theatre Technology House and the Common Community Radio Soap

Theatre Technology House, image by author and republished with permission.

Civic education is critical in the communities in Lango and other regions as the area is still grappling with development challenges. Poverty, low levels of education, ignorance, and other social problems prevail over interventions intended to deal with them.

Voter education drives have proven to be key in improving citizens’ awareness as well as stimulating active participation, especially among those traditionally disenfranchised groups such as uneducated women and youth.

The radio soap opera will be aired on a local FM Radio, targeting both rural people and disadvantaged urban dwellers. While it is essential for all election stakeholders to have access to voter education, the priority audience is rural, with the hope to increase participation in political processes relevant to their communities.

After a week of activities and meetings with stakeholders, Theatre Technology House has established the core research areas for the common community radio soap, a three-month radio drama campaign on citizen participation in electoral democracy. The central governing body of Theatre Technology House has created a research team – the initial stage of the implementation. Key research areas have also been ideintified. These include: local voters’ perceptions about electoral democracy, political leadership and what motivates them, how the voting wisely can be translated into social and economic development, and how democracy is relevant to a citizen in a less developed country.

Lira, Uganda. Image by Brien Beattie (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lira, Uganda. Image by Brien Beattie (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Each of the four research areas has its primary target audience. The first audience is community members: citizens in rural (75%) and urban (25%) areas within the listenership range. The secondary audience will be aspiring politicians, currently serving politicians, and retired or otherwise excluded politicians. The tertiary audience will be political and development experts, and the fourth will be civil society organisations working in areas of governance, social development and the government electoral agencies.

The research has kicked off and will run for two weeks.

by emmanuelgira at July 30, 2014 08:06 AM

July 29, 2014

MIT Center for Civic Media
Inequality Regimes and Student Experience in Online Learning: Tressie McMillan Cottom at Berkman

Today, I'm liveblogging a talk by Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) at the Berkman Center for a talk about inequality in online learning, based on her qualitative research with students taking online for-profit learning.

Tressie, who's completing her PhD in the Sociology Department at Emory University, studies stratification, considering what inequality means both experientially and empirically when corporations are people, supranational corporations like Facebook and Twitter shape the public square, and education is increasingly privatized. She also has a developing research agenda that examines the political economy of emerging “new” media organizations.

As jobs with good wages decrease in availability, more people seek higher education to find jobs. Tressie does research on systemic biases in society and for-profit higher education. For-profit higher education companies know that inequality is a basic part of their business plan, and yet there's a tendency to avoid analyzing the connection between inequality and their businesses.

Tressie's research starts with Inequality Regimes, an analytical approach to understanding the "interlocked practices and processes" that create and reproduce class, gender, and racial inequality in various combinations (Acker 2006). We tend to look at these issues independently, we can downplay the importance of inequalities. Tressie encourages us to see these issue in relation.

If you cannot measure inequality, you end up perpetuating it, she says.

Democratizing Ideologies and Inequality Regimes by Tressie McPhd

When we focus on the design of technology platforms, we can miss out discussions of inequality, Tressie says. For example, many people critiqued Healthcare.gov for its technical difficulties. Those debates missed out the access difficulties as well: is it really best to use the Internet to expand healthcare for people who have the least access to the Internet?

MOOCs tend to see information delivery as education, when we know that education is more about bringing your background into new opportunities that you internalize and synthesize. Information alone won't get you an education. Information is also culturally relative, Tressie tells us. Furthermore, online technologies are good at measuring tasks but not so good at measuring learning. There's also a risk that these systems might get tooled to "the norm" -- a "roaming autodidact," a "self-motivated, able learner that is simultaneously embedded in technocratic futures and disembodied from place, culture, history, markets, and inequality regimes." What you end up with is a system that evaluates people who aren't like this and constantly finds them at fault.

Researching Experiences of Online Learning

This summer, Tressie has looked at young people's interactions in online learning. One in 20 students at degree-granting institutions attends a for-profit: black and latino students, many of whom are first generation college students looking for credentials and upward mobility. She's talked to 60-70 students currently involved in a degree granting for-profit institution, many of whom are women. She's asking them about their motivations, the admissions experience, their classroom experience, and how their friends and potential employers see their degree. By 2020, college students will be more likely to be browner, more likely to be women, and have families.

Finding these students can be hard work. Online learning companies have no physical student lounge and many companies are reluctant to grant access to students. Tressie meets students by going to sports games, churches, and other community events to find students at for-profit colleges. Those students sometimes introduce her to friends from work who are also taking similar courses.

Students at these degree granting institutions aren't saying "I always wanted to do physics because I'm interested in it." Instead, they tell her story about working in call centers, watching men move up into supervisory positions, often because they have degrees. They're talking about the difficulties of shift work, the gender wage gap, and the families they're trying to support.

How Online Learners find Peer Support and Navigate Online Racism/Sexism

In online courses, even when sharing physical space, students get very little time with each other and with faculty/administrators. These aren't sprawling campuses and often occupy a floor or two in an office. Since the programs are accelerated, students are taking night classes, and they're working and caring for families, where do they spend time together?

Tressie tells us about a group called "SWAG: Successful Women Achieving Greatness," all of whom say they're pursuing a PhD. Most of them are at for-profit schools, care for a family, and have family situations that aren't especially supportive.

These students recognise that having better social connections would make their education more fruitful for them. In one case, an online platform gave up requiring its students to comment on each others' posts, after students complained. Many students however missed the chance to get feedback from other students, to find out how they were doing. Students went outside official university platforms to get information on loans, worrying that revealing their racial identity and financial difficulties to administrators, faculty, and peers would bias responses against them.

Students have complicated relations to anonymity: on one hand, "[other members of the support group] said I shouldn't use my picture in the [avatar for her online class] because they will know I'm a black woman. But I was like, shit, my name is Keisha!" On the other hand, hiding their racial and gender information might make it harder for them to meet each other and find peers.

Research Methods for Studying Online Learning Experiences

Tressie thinks that social media content can be used as "event history diaries" and that content produced by universities themselves can be "institutional ethnographies." Tressie talks with students about their Facebook timeline, and then compares it to what the institution says they're providing. She also creates composite renderings of group identities, to look beyond individuals to race and class groups. As she does this, Tressie also does multiple ongoing queries for consent to ensure that everyone is comfortable being involved.

Questions:

A participant asks: how do we know that the people in online courses are actually who they say they are? Tressie notes that in-person exams often have similar issues. Tressie also notes that race is a social, not a biological location-- something that isn't about the color of your skin

Jessa asks: do these students enjoy school? Tressie notes that the majority of the students are very proud of themselves and their education -- they think that the problem is us, not them. They measure their success by their effort given the opportunities they had. Even if they're not overwhelmingly happy with their institutions, they're happy with themselves.

Andromeda, a librarian who teaches people to code, asks if she's seen successful attempts at place-making online. Some online learning initiatives are focusing on a specific region, or limiting the number of people involved -- Tressie thinks that these ones are most successful at creating meaningful social connections. In some cases, students are finding each other and creating safe spaces, based on shared similarities-- online courses should support these efforts.

Mary Gray asks Tressie to tease apart the degree to which students identify as students, and students at particular institutions. For students, Tressie says, it's important to feel like they can identify as a student: getting the ID card, changing a profile username to note the degree they want. Online institutions offer fewer of those opportunities, so they develop alternatives.

Bruce Schneier asks how much of this is a new generational development. It's hard to answer, Tressie says. Generations are hard to understand in the context of online education. We could take this for granted in periods where students were coming from similar class and socio-economic backgrounds. Most students Tressie speaks to tend to be in their 30s and 40s. she's not sure they have any different ideas of group formation online due to generation -- it's more based on the constraints that led them to an online degree. Some of the students don't want to spend time with each other in person, they see the online degree as necessary, but they don't necessarily trust people they meet online.

Do students in online, for-profit campuses organise student societies, Tim Maly Asks. No, says Tressie -- people build collective identities around their degree, but not around their institution or other student groups. In some cases, student contracts don't allow collective organizing. Even if they wanted to -- where could they do it? They are already overworked; they're not going to have the time to start a college debate club.

TL Taylor asks if Community Colleges are being replaced by online learning, or whether they're expanding opportunities for new groups. Tressie replies that community colleges used to be seen in a similar way as MOOCs. At one point, it was a place that was cheap where you went until you figured things out. Online courses have turned out to be bad at remedial 100 and 200 level courses-- work that takes hard work and support. That's exactly what community colleges are expected to do. The fortunes of community colleges are deeply tied to the political whims of state legislatures. Community colleges have been given higher expectations of addressing inequality at the same time that funding was going down. Furthermore, community colleges have been hit by difficult economic situations -- people trying to make a living simply don't have time to show up at their community college twice a week any more.

by natematias at July 29, 2014 05:46 PM

Global Voices
With Doctors on Strike and Boko Haram on the Loose, Nigerians Fear an Ebola Outbreak
Health workers in an Ebola screening unit in Kenema government hospital, Sierra Leone. 30 June 2014. Photo by Tommy Trenchard. Copyright Demotix

Health workers in an Ebola screening unit in Kenema government hospital, Sierra Leone. 30 June 2014. Photo by Tommy Trenchard. Copyright Demotix

The latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, considered to be the worst ever since the virus was discovered in 1976, has killed 672 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. 

The disease now has reached Nigeria, where a Liberian man infected with Ebola died in Lagos, a city of 21 million. The country's Federal Ministry of Health confirmed that the man was tested after he collapsed on arrival at Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos

2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak Situation Map (Image released to public domain by CDC)

2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak Situation Map as at July 20, 2014. Image released to public domain by CDC.

So far, health officials have counted 1,201 cases since it was first diagnosed in February. About 60 percent of people who have caught the disease in the current outbreak have died.

The Liberian man's body was cremated in Lagos, and the private hospital where he was treated has been shut and quarantined

An outbreak of the highly infectious disease in Nigeria would be catastrophic. The country is at war with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has killed, maimed and abducted civilians over the last four years. Also, about 30,000 members of the Nigerian Medical Association are on an indefinite strike until certain changes are made to the public health system. Critics have called their demands “untenable.” Following the Liberian man's death from Ebola in Lagos, the association refused to return to work.

Ebola virus is transmitted through contact with the body fluids of infected animals like bats and monkey. This is why the outbreak has devastated those areas where bush meat, or meat from wild animals, is eaten. The virus can spread from person to person through direct contact with blood, broken skin of someone who is infected or an infected corpse. Symptoms include fever, weakness, nausea, headache, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding.  

Nigerian netizens have been discussing the dangers that a possible Ebola epidemic poses to the country. Chuba Ugwu, a scientist between Lagos and London, wrote on Twitter: 

The same view was echoed by @9jaBloke in London: 

Nego in Lagos pointed out the horrible timing of the doctors’ strike and the arrival of Ebola in Nigeria: 

Violinist Godwin Strings was concerned about the public health implication for women and children:

Uyi Omorhienrhien wasn't confident that the country's bloggers would inform web users about Ebola: 

Henry Okelue shared an infographic to spread useful information on the virus: 

@onose10w urged everyone to be hygienic: 

@Dimeji_W turned it into a joke: 

But @daveek10 didn't appreciate jokes about Ebola: 

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at July 29, 2014 04:51 PM

Spanish Soldier Who Penned a Best-Selling Novel About Military Corruption Gets Jail Time
El teniente Luis Gonzalo Segura en el vídeo de presentación del libro. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook

Lieutenant Luis Gonzalo Segura in the video launch of his book. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

Luis Gonzalo Segura, a lieutenant in the Spanish Army with almost 12 years of service, was fed up with seeing all sorts of corruption within the higher command. The issue is one few Spaniards know about, so he wrote a novel titled “Un paso al frente” (A step forward), a work of fiction based on the alleged abuses that takes place in the armed forces.   

In the media tour that followed the novel's publication, Segura was outspoken against the armed forces, leading to his arrest for publicly criticizing military authorities. He was sentenced to two months in a military prison and faces possible expulsion from the army.

Segura explained the military's culture of communication in an interview published on online magazine La Marea:

Desde que se suprime el servicio militar hay un corte de flujo de información desde el mundo militar al exterior. […] Al no tener libertad de expresión los militares, ese flujo todavía se corta de forma más radical, de tal forma que al final, a día de hoy, las fuerzas armadas son un estado paralelo y completamente estanco a resto de la sociedad.

As long as the military is suppressed, the lack of communication between the military and the outside world will exist. [...] Without freedom of speech, the military's non-existent communication is even more drastic, leading to the army's present parallel status, one that is completely disconnected from the rest of society.

Portada de la 6ª edición del libro. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook

The cover of the book's 6th edition. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

In 2010, Segura was assigned a task involving the inventory of information technology, during which he found, in his own words, “a discrepancy of about 25-35%,” that totaled “millions of euros.” The young serviceman attempted to report the situation to military authorities, but the judge and the attorney closed the case without reviewing the information on the hard disc that Segura had presented to the court.

According to news website vozpópuli, Segura “in his book alludes to alleged embezzlement, prevarication, negligence, false secondments, meal and petrol fraud, sale of data, summer homes, golf memberships, spas and VIP rooms.” So many indulgences have left the army in a serious economic crisis, Segura said during the launch of his book in the city of Huesca:

Los datos económicos de la institución militar que, según afirma, tiene una deuda de 29.000 millones de euros y destina el 77% de sus 6.000 millones de presupuesto anual a personal, evidencian, por otra parte, que el Ejército es “un modelo anticuado y obsoleto, e insostenible a nivel económico”.

The military's economic data that according to Segura is 29,000 million euros in debt and allocates 77 percent of its annual 6-billion-euro budget to personnel, is evidence furthermore that the army is “an antiquated and obsolete model, and not sustainable at an economic level.”

Segura explained the alleged misuse of funds and bloated hierarchy to Barrio Canino, an interview program on Ágora Sol Radio, a broadcast platform associated with the 15M protest movement in Spain:

Hay un excedente de mandos enorme. De hecho, ahora mismo uno de los problemas que tenemos es que hay 42 000 soldados, a los que se les trata como a perros, y con contratos basura […] y tenemos 52 000 mandos […] cualquiera que tenga dos dedos de frente se da cuenta de que esto es insostenible.

There is an enormous surplus of commanders. As a matter of fact, one of our current problems is that there are 42,000 soldiers, all who are treated like dirt, and have contracts that are rubbish [...] and we have 52,000 commanders [...] anyone in their right mind would know that this is not sustainable.

He elaborated for news website Periodista Digital:

Lamentablemente en España muchos cargos son heredados en el ejército. Tenemos 270 generales y con veinte sería suficiente; tenemos 1050 coroneles y con 50 sería suficiente. Esto evidencia el excedente de oficiales como ejemplo de cómo la cúpula militar se mueve buscando su propio interés.

Unfortunately, in the Spanish army many positions are inherited. We have 270 generals, 20 would be sufficient; we have 1,050 colonels and 50 would be sufficient. This evidence of surplus officials is a perfect example of how the military leaders looks out for their own interest.

The lieutenant blames the army's corruption on the impunity that exists within the institution, which lacks organizational separation between its judges, law enforcement and financial authorities. The army's lack of will to change doesn't help either, he says:

[…] ha habido una especie de pacto entre los dirigentes de la sociedad civil y los del mundo militar por el que nadie se quería meter en el terreno de nadie. Aunque pudo tener un sentido hasta el año 90 por el riesgo del golpe de Estado, a día de hoy no se entiende que se siga sosteniendo

[...] there's been some kind of pact between civil society leaders and the military because no one wanted to step on anyone's toes. And although, because of a coup d'état, it might have made sense until 1990, it doesn't mean it should continue on today.

Furthermore, Segura told La Marea that the military themselves cover up corruption: “There is a false sense of loyalty to a comrade that goes beyond the loyalty to Spain, the institution and the citizens.” News and analysis website Nuevatribuna.es reported that he isn't only criticizing the malpractices of the army, but is also putting forward solutions:

En su novela, eleva una carta al Ministro de Defensa, sugiriéndole hasta 19 medidas, «que harían del ejército una institución más justa y honorable». El problema de las fuerzas armadas, no es solo estructural, «están enfermas y necesitan ser regeneradas», dice el teniente.

In his novel, he writes a letter to the Minister of Defense, suggesting up to 19 ways “that would make the army a much more just and honorable institution.” The army's issue is not structural, “it has become ill and it must be reformed,” the lieutenant said.

Segura en la presentación del libro en la tienda FNAC, Madrid. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook.

Segura during the launch of the book in FNAC, Madrid. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

Some of what Segura has said in interviews regarding his book spurred the disciplinary proceedings against him. He was arrested on July 18 and sentenced to two months in the military prison, Colmenar Viejo. The lieutenant, who has been suspended from duty for several months, has another case filed against him that could lead to his expulsion from the army.

These sanctions, imposed for criticizing the military authorities publicly, show the lack of freedom of expression in the army and the possible punishment for exercising that right, thanks to an exception to articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention for the Protection on Human Rights and the Fundamental Freedoms that the Spanish government supports.

In addition, according to online newspaper eldiario.es, “a “major hunt” has begun in military quarters located in Zaragoza, Valencia, Córdoba and Canarias: “Comrades have been harshly threatened, including with expulsion and arrest, so they do not attend [events for the book], buy or discuss the book.”

Segura, who remains a lieutenant, began a hunger strike to protest the “lynching” which he believes military authorities are subjecting him to. He was recently admitted to the military hospital Gómez Ulla.

In the meantime, his book has become a bestseller, with more than 20,000 copies sold since it was published on April 21. It's already in its sixth edition. You can read the first chapter on his publisher's website, Tropo Editores.

by Raquel Marin at July 29, 2014 04:17 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
China Monitors the Internet and the Public Pays the Bill

The article was originally written by Michelle Fong and published in Chinese on 16 of July 2014. This English version was translated by Jennifer Cheung and republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

There are around 2 million Internet public opinion analysts  in China. Image from Voice of America.

There are around 2 million Internet public opinion analysts in China. Image from Voice of America.

New data shows that government and private sector “Internet public opinion analysts” may have the most popular job in China. And the sector is growing rapidly. 

Different from the “Fifty-Cent Party” who are responsible for channelling public opinions by writing online comments and deleting posts, Internet public opinion analysts use computer software to monitor all the social networking sites, collect netizen opinions and attitudes, compile reports and submit the reports to decision-makers.

According to The Beijing News, roughly 2 million people in China currently work as public opinion analysts, officially outnumbering China's 1.5 million active armed service members. Sina, one of China's largest online content providers, has pointed out that the scale of the Internet monitoring business can reach hundreds of billions yuan, with the market expanding by roughly 50% every year.

Taxpayers bear the cost of government monitoring systems
But the trend also levies a heavy tax burden on the public, as the market for these analysts is created by the government’s need for “stability maintenance”. Government agencies today spend huge amounts of public money on opinion monitoring. Very often, they subcontract the work to party-affiliated private companies, an expense that ultimately hits taxpayers.

He Qinglian, an economics and sociology scholar, called it a “stability maintenance industry”, designed to help the government tighten its grip over public opinions on the Internet. Indeed, it is plain to see that “stability maintenance” work has turned into an economy of its own, with a government-created market need, business model for private sectors to serve the government, and a new professional status, which is granted by party-affiliated agents, like the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit.

“Stability maintenance” by the numbers
The People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit, affiliated with the online version of government newspaper People’s Daily, was founded in 2008 with the goal of building a more comprehensive online public opinion monitoring system to quantify the public sentiment. It primarily monitors public opinion regarding government affairs, produces magazines such as “Internet public opinion” and “Help Leaders Understand the Internet”, and launches Internet surveillance platforms and public opinion reports. The annual revenue generated by its public opinion business can reach 200 million yuan.

Beijing's Fifth Internet Public Opinion Training Class recently posted a call for applications, which is likely to stir a registration boom. Deputy Secretary General Shan Xuegang of the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit issued an Enrollment Notice, stating that the five-day course is priced at 7800 yuan (roughly USD 1,260), which includes a training fee of 3980 yuan and a tuition fee of 3820 yuan. There will also be an accommodation charge of 2000 yuan. The Notice also lists directors of the relevant departments of party and government institutions at all levels as the training target. The stability-maintenance economy is ultimately self-serving.

There are more than 800 public opinion monitoring and software companies in China today, with the number rising steadily. The China-based Public Opinion Research Institute estimates that the public opinion monitoring services market has a business scale of hundreds of billions yuan. As its growth is mainly boosted by government demand, the industry has to serve a huge market, with an average annual growth of over 50%.

According to information from the Chinese government procurement platform, there are nearly 200 public tenders on the “Public Opinion Monitoring System”. From central government ministries to lower-level municipalities and counties, relevant departments’ expenditures on the public opinion monitoring can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands yuan, with some projects even costing millions. The government on one hand sponsors its civil servants to receive relevant trainings; on the other hand, it also employs external analysts and related systems to construct a huge network of interests. 

Promoting state propaganda in the “mass microphone era”
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Zhejiang province-based freelance writer Zan Aizong described Internet public opinion analysts as the “Senior Fifty-Cent Party,” noting that many had previously worked in temporary government positions of a similar nature. She continued:

“Now the government gives them a comprehensive system of training, certification and official titles, allowing the temporary workers to become full-time employees. The government can also publicly use the stability maintenance fees to build relevant departments and hire people.”

People's Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit Secretary-General Zhu Hua explained at the 13th China Internet Media Forum that the role of the public opinion analysts is to provide intelligence about online public sentiments to the governments and corporates to improve their governance, operation and public image. The objective, as Zhu put it, is to promote propaganda that will help win the “guerrilla battle” against the background of the rise of “mass microphone era”.

References:

NetEase: Beijing fifth internet public opinion analysts training open to enrollment today
Southern Weekly: Public opinion analyst stuck between a rock and a hard place
Radio Free Asia: China tightens Internet public opinion monitoring, to develop Internet public opinion analysts
Xinhua: Public opinion business’ value and market space in the time of media transformation
Xinhua: Public opinion monitoring improves the nation’s governance and modernisation
Sina: Dancing with big data, Huangsheng & SEEC develop public opinion monitoring business

by inmediahk.net at July 29, 2014 04:03 PM

Global Voices
China Monitors the Internet and the Public Pays the Bill

The article was originally written by Michelle Fong and published in Chinese on 16 of July 2014. This English version was translated by Jennifer Cheung and republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

There are around 2 million Internet public opinion analysts  in China. Image from Voice of America.

There are around 2 million Internet public opinion analysts in China. Image from Voice of America.

New data shows that government and private sector “Internet public opinion analysts” may have the most popular job in China. And the sector is growing rapidly. 

Different from the “Fifty-Cent Party” who are responsible for channelling public opinions by writing online comments and deleting posts, Internet public opinion analysts use computer software to monitor all the social networking sites, collect netizen opinions and attitudes, compile reports and submit the reports to decision-makers.

According to The Beijing News, roughly 2 million people in China currently work as public opinion analysts, officially outnumbering China's 1.5 million active armed service members. Sina, one of China's largest online content providers, has pointed out that the scale of the Internet monitoring business can reach hundreds of billions yuan, with the market expanding by roughly 50% every year.

Taxpayers bear the cost of government monitoring systems
But the trend also levies a heavy tax burden on the public, as the market for these analysts is created by the government’s need for “stability maintenance”. Government agencies today spend huge amounts of public money on opinion monitoring. Very often, they subcontract the work to party-affiliated private companies, an expense that ultimately hits taxpayers.

He Qinglian, an economics and sociology scholar, called it a “stability maintenance industry”, designed to help the government tighten its grip over public opinions on the Internet. Indeed, it is plain to see that “stability maintenance” work has turned into an economy of its own, with a government-created market need, business model for private sectors to serve the government, and a new professional status, which is granted by party-affiliated agents, like the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit.

“Stability maintenance” by the numbers
The People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit, affiliated with the online version of government newspaper People’s Daily, was founded in 2008 with the goal of building a more comprehensive online public opinion monitoring system to quantify the public sentiment. It primarily monitors public opinion regarding government affairs, produces magazines such as “Internet public opinion” and “Help Leaders Understand the Internet”, and launches Internet surveillance platforms and public opinion reports. The annual revenue generated by its public opinion business can reach 200 million yuan.

Beijing's Fifth Internet Public Opinion Training Class recently posted a call for applications, which is likely to stir a registration boom. Deputy Secretary General Shan Xuegang of the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit issued an Enrollment Notice, stating that the five-day course is priced at 7800 yuan (roughly USD 1,260), which includes a training fee of 3980 yuan and a tuition fee of 3820 yuan. There will also be an accommodation charge of 2000 yuan. The Notice also lists directors of the relevant departments of party and government institutions at all levels as the training target. The stability-maintenance economy is ultimately self-serving.

There are more than 800 public opinion monitoring and software companies in China today, with the number rising steadily. The China-based Public Opinion Research Institute estimates that the public opinion monitoring services market has a business scale of hundreds of billions yuan. As its growth is mainly boosted by government demand, the industry has to serve a huge market, with an average annual growth of over 50%.

According to information from the Chinese government procurement platform, there are nearly 200 public tenders on the “Public Opinion Monitoring System”. From central government ministries to lower-level municipalities and counties, relevant departments’ expenditures on the public opinion monitoring can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands yuan, with some projects even costing millions. The government on one hand sponsors its civil servants to receive relevant trainings; on the other hand, it also employs external analysts and related systems to construct a huge network of interests. 

Promoting state propaganda in the “mass microphone era”
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Zhejiang province-based freelance writer Zan Aizong described Internet public opinion analysts as the “Senior Fifty-Cent Party,” noting that many had previously worked in temporary government positions of a similar nature. She continued:

“Now the government gives them a comprehensive system of training, certification and official titles, allowing the temporary workers to become full-time employees. The government can also publicly use the stability maintenance fees to build relevant departments and hire people.”

People's Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit Secretary-General Zhu Hua explained at the 13th China Internet Media Forum that the role of the public opinion analysts is to provide intelligence about online public sentiments to the governments and corporates to improve their governance, operation and public image. The objective, as Zhu put it, is to promote propaganda that will help win the “guerrilla battle” against the background of the rise of “mass microphone era”.

References:

NetEase: Beijing fifth internet public opinion analysts training open to enrollment today
Southern Weekly: Public opinion analyst stuck between a rock and a hard place
Radio Free Asia: China tightens Internet public opinion monitoring, to develop Internet public opinion analysts
Xinhua: Public opinion business’ value and market space in the time of media transformation
Xinhua: Public opinion monitoring improves the nation’s governance and modernisation
Sina: Dancing with big data, Huangsheng & SEEC develop public opinion monitoring business

by inmediahk.net at July 29, 2014 04:01 PM

These ‘Poets With a Cause’ Are Defending Social Justice in Crisis-Hit Puerto Rico

Somos Pueblo Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, writers, artists and musicians have united under the name “Poetas en Marcha” or “Poets with a Cause” to voice their opposition to school closures and their solidarity with the working class. 

The movement has hosted two events so far. The first was June 13 under the title “No al cierre de las escuelas: Poetas en marcha” (No to school closures: Poets with a cause), during which about 30 artists met to object to a government order to close down nearly 100 schools due to the economic crisis.

Government representatives have used the recent declining population in Puerto Rico as a basis for their decision. According to most recent official census figures from Puerto Rico in 2010, more than 600,000 Puerto Ricans have left the country. The lack of work and the slowdown in the economy in the smallest island of the Greater Antilles, for almost an entire decade, are just some of the issues that have spurred this new migratory wave.

The first “Poetas en Marcha” event took place in front of the Department of Education. We spoke with some of the organizers about the motive which ignited the movement. José Ernesto Delgado, author of “Tatuaje,” explained: “What propelled us to carry out this event is that some of us poets are products of the public system and feel that it is pertinent to defend a system that is mistreated by successive governments.”

El poeta José Ernesto Delgado.

Poet José Ernesto Delgado.

Marioantonio Rosa, a poet and literary critic, said: “We want to raise awareness about an issue that will negatively affect students in need and lead to teacher unemployment, but most importantly that our education system is lagging behind even more, which has a great deal to do with bureaucracy, politics and nepotism.”

The second event took place July 3 in front of Fortaleza (the residence of the governor of Puerto Rico) in the capital city San Juan. This time, the participants of “Poetas en Marcha,” under the slogan “Yo soy Pueblo,” (I am the People) marched in the streets of Old San Juan. This “cultural crusade for social justice” was held in support of the working class, a sector which will also be affected by the measures imposed by the government to face the fiscal and economic crisis. During this event, nearly 500 people supported the poets and leaders of certain unions.

Regarding its importance, attorney Daniel Nina, writer and founder of the online newspaper El Post Antillano –- a digital magazine which also sponsored the event — said:

Ni en los tiempos de Miguel Algarín y Miguel Piñeiro en el Nuyorican Poets Café de la ciudad de Nueva York, cuando cientos de personas se juntaban en el número 236 este de la calle 3 del bajo Manhattan, para leer poesías. Ni en los tiempos del Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño, en la década de 1970, cuando se dio un quehacer callejero y cultural al rescate de la dignidad nacional. Lo vivido anoche tampoco se asemeja a la experiencia del teatro y la cultura obrera de Puerto Rico de la década de 1920 y 1930, bajo el liderato de Luisa Capetillo o Pedro Albizu Campos y el Partido Nacionalista.

Anoche, en el Viejo San Juan de Puerto Rico, los “Poetas en Marcha” marcaron una diferencia entre el quehacer cultural del siglo 21 y del siglo 20. ¿Por qué? Porque en el junte de anoche, más allá de convocar a todos los poetas, escritores, artistas plásticos y cantautores, se convocó también al pueblo trabajador.

Not even in the days of Miguel Algarín and Miguel Piñeiro, when hundreds of people gathered at 236 E. Third St. in Lower Manhattan at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, to read poetry. Nor during the 1970s, when the Puerto Rican Socialist Party was in a cultural pursuit to attempt to save national dignity. Last night's developments also didn't come close to the theatrical experiences, nor the working class culture in Puerto Rico during the 20s and 30s, under the leadership of Luisa Capetillo or Pedro Albizu Campos and the Nationalist Party.

Last night, in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, the “Poetas en Marcha” marked a significant difference between the cultural pursuits of the 21st and 20th century. Why? Because during last night's event, beyond gathering all the poets, writers, creative artists and songwriters, the working class was present as well.

Poetas durante el evento "Poetas en Marcha" en el Viejo San Juan.

Artists at the “Poetas en Marcha” event in Old San Juan.

Nina, who is a professor as well, called the event “glorious”:

Lo que pasó anoche en Puerto Rico, no había sucedido desde los tiempos que el líder obrero histórico, Bernardo Vega, organizó en Cayey a los obreros del tabaco. No pasaba, desde que Juan Mari Brás y César Andreu Iglesias, a fines de la década de 1970, salían en un viejo Volkswagen a organizar grupos de trabajo del Movimiento Pro-Independencia, luego Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño. Anoche se trató de un momento glorioso.

What happened last night in Puerto Rico had not occurred since the times when Bernardo Vega, a historical leader of workers, organized the tobacco workers in Cayey. It hadn't happened the late 70s when Juan Mari Brás and César Andreu Iglesias drove around in an old Volkswagen to organize working groups for the pro-independence movement, which later was the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Last night was a glorious moment.

Perhaps it is the words from poet William Perez Vega, referring to the future of poetry using verses from the Spanish poet Gabriel Celaya, which best describe the atmosphere of these events:

Todo depende de si sabemos o no utilizar esa arma (la poesía) y al servicio de quien o quienes la utilizamos. Es bonito hablar de una rosa, del paisaje o del amor. Pero es necesario ser militantes a favor de las condiciones que permiten que esa flor siga naciendo, que podamos seguir disfrutando de ese paisaje y que podamos conservar el país, la gente y el planeta como escenario donde hacemos ese amor. Si no lo hacemos, convertiremos la poesía en una simple pieza de museo, en un fósil, en otra indiferencia más. Eso nos acabaría de matar.

It all depends on whether or not we know how to use this weapon (poetry) and who it will serve. It's pleasant to speak of a rose, the landscape or about love. However, one must support the conditions that allow the flower to bud, that enable us to take in the landscape and that help us conserve our country, the people and the planet as a platform for our love. And if we don't, we will turn poetry into something of the past, a fossil, something indifferent. That would be the end of us.

In the most recent press release published July 4, the collective pointed out in a defining statement:

Nosotros, buscamos y amamos el discurso de la inclusión, del amor al País sin banderitas, o trasnochados bostezos en las ventanas del pasado. Somos pueblo y el pueblo es poesía, renovación… esperanza… Poetas en Marcha nunca será William Pérez Vega, José Ernesto Delgado, o Marta Emmanuelli y Marioantonio Rosa. Poetas en Marcha es aquel empleado de mantenimiento llamado Felipe, aquella secretaria cargada de trabajo y mal pagada llamada Sofía, esos jóvenes que ríen mientras toman una cerveza después del examen final, esa mujer noble que vende frituras para echar adelante una familia, ese profesor dedicado y sencillo que imparte la enseñanza día a día en el salón de clases, ya sea en la escuela o una universidad. Poetas en Marcha no busca apellidos ni títulos, busca pueblo, unión, renovación cultural, y siempre esa pluralidad es la mejor semilla que podemos dejar. Somos Pueblo.

We seek and love to talk about inclusion, love of our country without the flags or boring and antiquated talk of the past. We are the people and we are poetry, restoration… hope… Poetas en Marcha will never be William Pérez Vega, José Ernesto Delgado, or Marta Emmanuelli and Marioantonio Rosa. Poetas en Marcha is Felipe the janitor, Sofia the overworked and underpaid secretary, the young adults laughing while having a beer after their final exams, the noble lady selling fruit to get her family ahead, the dedicated and uncomplicated professor in his classroom day in and day out..whether it be in a school or university. Poetas en Marcha doesn't look for fancy names or titles, it looks for the people, connection, cultural restoration, and that plurality will always be the best seed we can leave behind. We are the People.

The next “Poetas en Marcha” event is scheduled for August 30, 2014, in the sector known as La Perla, Old San Juan.

by Raquel Marin at July 29, 2014 03:42 PM

Andrew McAfee
Even If Grandma Embraces Her Robot, Should We Fear It?

Zeynep Tufekci‘s recent piece “Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma” has been getting some attention. It’s a polemic against the prospect of using advanced technologies to provide elder care, embedded within a larger diatribe about technological progress, automation, and capitalism.

I don’t want to take on her big argument here. If you want a response to it, and a very different and mindfully optimistic view of tech progress and capitalism, check out our book The Second Machine Age (an age which, incidentally, Tufekci thinks we’re “close to concluding.” Erik and I think it’s just heating up). I want to concentrate instead on what she says about the idea of using robots to help take care of Grandma:

In my view, warehousing elderly… in rooms with machines that keep them busy, when large numbers of humans beings around the world are desperate for jobs that pay a living wage is worse than the Dickensian nightmares of mechanical industrialization, it’s worse than the cold, alienated workplaces depicted by Kafka.

… surely we should mourn if we put our elderly… in “care” of metal objects animated by software because we, the richest society globally the world has ever seen… cannot bring together the political will to remain human through taking care of each other, and making a decent living doing so.

Who could argue with such ringing language and humanist sentiment? I’ll start.

First of all, no serious person I know is advocating warehousing old people in rooms where they’re looked after only(?) by machines, any more than the Affordable Care Act set up death panels. Hyperbole is the ally of demagoguery, not of serious argument.

And to the extent that Tufekci is advancing a real argument, it’s one that stumbles both on its economics and its view of where the better angels of our nature spring from.

Her piece includes no numbers about the costs of elder care. And the numbers are daunting. Care.com reports, for example, that a semi-private nursing home room in Massachusetts costs more than $120k per year, and a 44 hour per week home health aide almost $60k.

Faced with these figures many families decide to take care of their oldest members themselves (a task that, as Tufekci notes, usually falls to women), but this approach has its own costs, and they’re also high. As reported by NPR in 2012, “a  MetLife report said that for the typical woman, the lost wages due to dropping out of the labor force because of adult caregiving responsibilities averages nearly $143,000.”

The direct costs do not go away if we decide to greatly increase public elder care; they just get paid by the government (and paid for via higher taxes or borrowing) instead of individuals. Maybe this is the right thing for us to do, but it wouldn’t change anything about how expensive it is to provide labor-intensive services in a high-wage country.

The one thing we can all agree on about automation is that it lowers the costs of good and services. Most people would also agree that cost reduction is what we need more than anything else right now throughout our healthcare system. Tufekci ignores these issues completely.

Instead, she paints a picture of how we will inevitably become desensitized to each other and therefore dehumanized as technology starts to help with caregiving tasks. I just don’t buy it, for the simple reason that technology has already taken over a great many things that used to take place between people, and humanity keeps chugging along admirably.

I don’t see the harm in creating technologies to help with elder care and more than I do with taking a pulse, connecting a telephone call, making a book recommendation, issuing an airline ticket, or doing any of the thousands of things that used to be done exclusively by people and are now done often by machines. I certainly don’t feel that because I now use technologies for these things my humanity is being chipped away at; I feel instead that having these things done better, faster, and cheaper by technology frees me up to have the kinds of human interactions that I actively choose to have. I’m happy to report that these have not gone to zero.

The idea that there’s some kind of clear Rubicon that we should never cross in the world of work — some tasks that should must always be done by people lest we lose something precious and essential about ourselves — is a perennially beguiling one, but it’s wrong.  Among its many flaws the deepest is that it doesn’t give us enough credit.

It suggests that we’re going to stop caring about our grandmas once we use technologies to learn if they’ve fallen, help them get out of bed, or yes, keep them company. Who here is not offended by that suggestion?

 

by Andrew McAfee at July 29, 2014 03:31 PM

Rising Voices
Los Inespertos Set Off to Find the Information in the Streets

Rising Voices note: This is a grantee update provided by Radio Los Inestables based in Córdoba, Argentina.

March of the Hats – Córdoba, Argentina. Photo by Radio Los Inestables

March of the Hats – Córdoba, Argentina. Photo by Radio Los Inestables.

Los Inespertos (the name adopted by the participants of the Rising Voices grantee Radio Los Inestables) have been putting into practice the digital skills learned by taking to taking to the streets of Córdoba in search of the opinions of citizens.

Los Inespertos interviewing protest participants. Photo by Radio Los Inestables

Los Inespertos interviewing protest participants. Photo by Radio Los Inestables.

One of these activities took place during the annual gathering of social organizations organized by the Youth Collective for Our Rights under the slogan “The March of the Hats,” which has been taking place on an annual basis to protest the Código de Faltas (Code of Misdemeanors). Critics say that this controversial code gives the police broad powers to detain people who they suspect are committing crimes, and this broad interpretation especially discriminates against youth that may come from lower socio-economic areas who may dress or look a certain way.

Los Inespertos interviewing protest participants. Photo by Radio Los Inestables

Los Inespertos interviewing protest participants. Photo by Radio Los Inestables

Our participants identified as “Radio Los Inestables Correspondents” practiced the learned skills, such as how to conduct a quality interview and the proper use of the digital audio recorders. With this, they collected high-quality information from a diverse set of people that participated in the fight for the rights of Córdoba youth. Here is one of the sample interviews conducted by Ignacio, who spoke with a local university professor at the march.

Being in the place where the events were happening and to collect the words of those protagonists allowed the participants to take on the role as interviewer and correspondent became important for the knowledge of all of the realities. In addition, the production of content for community, alternative, and popular radio stations allows for effective livelihoods through concrete practices.

by Solana Yoma at July 29, 2014 08:07 AM

July 28, 2014

MIT Center for Civic Media
Open Water Project: Exploring Open-Source Water Quality Monitoring

This post includes contributions from Don Blair.

Over the last several months, Civic has been working on the Open Water Project, which aims to develop and curate a set of low-cost, open-source tools enabling communities to collect, interpret, and share their water quality data. Open Water is an initiative of Public Lab, a community that uses inexpensive DIY techniques to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms (read more about Public Lab and the Open Water initiative here). The motivation behind Open Water derives partly from the fact that most water quality monitoring uses expensive, proprietary technology, limiting the accessibility of water quality data. Inexpensive, open-source approaches to water quality monitoring could enable groups ranging from watershed managers to homeowners to more easily collect and share water quality data.

As part of the Open Water Project, we’ve looked at other open-source water quality monitoring tools and initiatives (you can read more about those initiatives on this Public Lab research note, “What’s Going on In Water Monitoring”) and we’ve had meetups to talk about water quality and monitoring strategies (here’s a summary of an awesome water quality primer with Jeff Walker). We’ve also been working on development of the Riffle -- the “Remote, Independent, and Friendly Field Logger Electronics”. The Riffle is a low-cost, open-source hardware device that will measure some of the most common water quality parameters using a design that makes it possible for anyone to build, modify, and deploy water quality sensors in their own neighborhood. Specifically, the Riffle will measure conductivity, temperature, and depth, which can serve as indicators for potential pollutants. Eventually the Riffle will be able to fit in a plastic water bottle.

Riffle

A few weeks ago, Public Lab received generous support from Rackspace for an Open Water event in July, and Catherine D’Ignazio, Don Blair, and I decided we’d host a workshop focused on exploring conductivity as an important and widely-used water quality parameter. In addition to facilitating a group discussion on the topic, we hoped we could work together on prototyping simple, inexpensive and creative ways of measuring conductivity.

We started the workshop with a discussion around water quality monitoring and community support structures, including what a distributed water quality monitoring effort might look like (and some of the associated challenges) and strategies for developing community support (e.g. ‘tool libraries’ that include water quality monitoring tools). We also talked about the ways in which inexpensive, non-proprietary sensors might allow for new and important questions to be asked and answered in water quality, and how we might calibrate open hardware sensors.

Next, we had a mini lecture on conductivity measurements from Craig Versek and dove into creating a resistance-dependent oscillation circuit using the 555 timer (a fairly simple circuit). The idea behind the circuit is that oscillation frequency of the output will increase as the resistance value decreases (as a result, an LED will blink at different rates or a piezo buzzer will click at different rates). In our case, the resistance value derives from the water source connected to the circuit; thus, the LED blinking (or piezo buzzing) corresponds with conductivity (inversely, resistance) of the water.

breadboarding circuit
Participants breadboard the conductivity circuit.

Before the workshop, Craig Versek had measured out various amounts of table salt in order for us to be able to prepare water samples whose salinity matched some real world examples (here’s a table of salinity values for common water sources). After building the circuits, we explored how solutions of varying salinity affected the rate of oscillation in our circuits, by watching the LED blink rate change as we dipped the probe into the various samples. We then tried replacing the LED with a piezo buzzer and listening to the results. Some folks in the workshop even went so far as to connect the circuit via audio jack to a computer, and then use an open-source, browser-based pitch detector to associate specific pitches with water samples.

By the end of the workshop, we had:

  • built simple, cheap 555 conductivity meters on a breadboard
  • demonstrated that we could distinguish solutions of varying salinity from one another using this circuit
  • added an audio component to the circuit via a piezo buzzer, allowing one to 'hear' the conductivity of solutions
  • wired up an audio jack to the circuit, so that the resultant audio could be recorded on a smartphone or laptop
  • tested out browser-based pitch detection software -- different levels of conductivity can now be assessed using only the browser!

There’s much more to explore in conductivity measurements and in water quality monitoring in general, and we’ll be hosting more Open Water workshops to explore open-source water quality monitoring techniques. To learn more about the project, visit Public Lab’s Open Water project page.

by hhcraig at July 28, 2014 11:58 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Leaked Cybercrime Law Could Undo Tunisia's Pioneer Status on Internet Rights

A leaked copy of Tunisia's new cybercrime draft law [ar] shows signs that the country's major achievements in the field of Internet freedom may soon come undone.

It is unclear whether the text, leaked on July 23, represents a final draft. It is similarly unclear whether the National Constituent Assembly will have sufficient time to debate or adopt the law, as fresh legislative elections are due to be held on October 26. The bill has not been submitted to the Assembly yet, but it has provoked many a raised eyebrow among Tunisian netizens.

Lawyer Kais Berrjab tweeted:

The anti-cybercrime law = an arm of mass destruction in the hands of any authority in place

What's wrong with the bill?

Vague and broad provisions in the bill could allow for the violation of user rights to privacy and free speech.

Article 24 provides a six-month imprisonment and TND5000 (about USD 2900) fine to anyone who uses “information and communications systems to spread content showing obscene acts and assaulting good morals.” The punishment increases to a three-year jail term if the content in question “incites to immorality”.

The next Belaid [in reference to left-wing politician Chokri Belaid assassinated in 2013] will not be assassinated, but will be imprisoned for assaulting good morals

Article 25 punishes with five years’ imprisonment and a TND 50,000 fine anyone who “deliberately uses an information system to process others’ personal data, to link it to content that is contrary to good morals or feature it in a way which would damage their reputation or prejudice their esteem.” It is easy to imagine how such a law could be used to target bloggers or journalists writing about politicians’ activities.

Chapter four on “public security and national defense measures” gives the Ministries of Defense and Interior unchecked and broad powers to access, collect or intercept communications data without judicial control. Article 30 states the following:

Public authorities tasked with maintaining public order and national defense can exceptionally, and in accordance with the provisions of the fourth chapter of this law, access data stored in public or private databases, collect communications traffic or intercept, copy and store communications content to prevent organized and terrorist crimes…

Under article 31, Ministers of Interior and Defense can authorize in written form access to data related to the identification of users and collection of traffic data.

The draft further provides for heavy sentences for activities related to malicious hacking. Six years in jail and a TND 50,000 fine is the punishment for anyone found guilty of “deliberately impeding the functioning of an information system by introducing, sending, damaging, changing, deleting, canceling or destroying information data.”

The bill's purpose

The bill on Communications and Information Crimes is a project of the previous interim government of Ali Laarayedh. Indeed, former ICT minister Mongi Marzouk affirmed on several occasions that his ministry was working on a draft cybercrime law.

The bill aims to consolidate the legal framework under which the Technical Telecommunications Agency (better known by its acronyms ATT or A2T), operates.

The ATT was created by government decree (decree n° 2013-4506) last November with the task of providing technical support for judicial investigations into “information and communication crimes”. To this date, there is no comprehensive legal text in Tunisia on cybercrime which defines “information and communication crimes.” The bill would presumably seek to fill this legal void.

Last June, ATT general-director Jamel Zenkri told [fr] the local magazine Webdo:

Pratiquement, tout l’arsenal juridique nécessaire est déjà en vigueur. Il reste cependant une loi relative à la cybercriminalité qui sera bientôt élaborée.Cette loi définira exactement les différents crimes de l’Internet, et en fixera les peines. Elle apportera, aussi, plus de précisions quant aux obligations de l’ATT, lesquelles ne sont pas bien fixées. Par exemple, le décret ne détermine pas la période durant laquelle l’ATT doit conserver les données à caractère personnel avant de le détruire.

Practically, all the judicial arsenal necessary [for the ATT to operate] is already into effect. However, there remains the law related to cybercrime which will soon be drafted. This law will define exactly the different Internet crimes and fix the penalties. It will also bring more clarifications regarding ATT's obligations, which are not rightly fixed. For example, the decree does not determine the period during which ATT keeps personal data before destroying them.

Will this be Tunisia's “Patriot Act”?

A2T seems to arrive smoothly under the form of the Tunisian version of the [Patriot] act. All digital rights largely affected.

The creation of the Technical Telecommunications Agency and the drafting of a new cybercrime law comes at a difficult time, as the Tunisian armed and security forces face growing security threats by armed Islamist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Only last week, these groups waged a deadly attack on the Tunisian armed forces in the mountainous Chaambi area on the border with Algeria, leaving fifteen soldiers dead.

Following the attack, a government crisis cell gave instructions to the Minister of Higher Education and ICTs to “take the necessary precautions to confront social media pages inciting to violence and terrorism,” and officials reiterated their calls to filter and monitor the Internet.

cartoon by Willis from Tunis: a cyber police officer tells an Internet user “This is to protect you from evil terrorists”.

A cyber police officer tells an Internet user: “This is to protect you from evil terrorists.” Cartoon by Willis from Tunis, used with permission.

During a press conference on July 17, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou stated that the Internet “remains outside the control of the State.” “We are currently working on activating the Technical Telecommunications Agency to track these cells seeking to train and recruit youth via the Internet, and Skype in particular.”

“This agency will also be tasked with censoring and controlling the cyberspace,” the Minister added.

It is worth mentioning that under Decree 4506 the ATT is only tasked with practicing communications surveillance. In no way does the decree state that the ATT should practice filtering of any type of content.

ATT head Jamek Zenkri said that his agency does not seek to practice Internet filtering. “Censorship of the Internet is not the prerogative of the ATT,” he added. In fact, Tunisian law does not establish any entity responsible for Internet filtering. The Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) was obliged to do so under the regime of Zeine el-Abidine Ben Ali despite this legal void, but the technical apparatus for these activities has since been repurposed.


Progress under threat

Throughout the past three years that followed the ousting of dictator Zeine el Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia made major strides in the field of human rights on the Internet. Interim authorities showed a strong commitment to ending Internet censorship practices, despite attempts to filter adult content and calls to filter content inciting to terrorism and violence. In June 2012, Tunisia hosted the Freedom Online Conference after joining the coalition of governments “committed to advance Internet freedom” in 2012.

The National Constituent Assembly's adoption of a new constitution banning “prior censorship” and enshrining the rights to access communication networks, personal data protection, and freedom of expression in January this year also represented a significant step forward, making Tunisia a clear leader on these issues in the MENA region.

But the lack of political willingness to scrap repressive Ben Ali era laws, in addition to the authorities’ hasty enactment of laws affecting users without public consultation, put all these strides at risk.

Raed, a member of the Tunisia Pirate party, tweeted [ar]:

If this law is adopted, the internet we have known and loved in Tunisia, will come to an end

by Afef Abrougui at July 28, 2014 10:31 PM

The World Tweets for Ethiopia's Zone9 Bloggers on July 31
Free Zone9 Tumblr collage. Images used with permission.

Free Zone9 Tumblr collage. Images used with permission.

Join Global Voices bloggers for a worldwide, multilingual tweetathon in support of the ten bloggers and journalists facing terrorism charges in Ethiopia.

The Global Voices community and our network of allies are demanding justice for these men and women, all of whom have worked hard to expand spaces for social and political commentary in Ethiopia through blogging and journalism. We believe their arrest is a violation of their universal right to free expression, and that the charges filed against them are unjust. Learn more about their story and the campaign for their release at the Zone9 Trial Tracker blog.

The bloggers’ trial begins on August 4, 2014. Until then, and beyond, they will need all the support they can get. So this Thursday, we as a global community of bloggers, writers, activists, and social media experts will share this message around the world, tweeting in our native languages at community leaders, government and diplomatic officials, and mainstream media to draw public attention to the case.

Six of the detained bloggers in Addis Ababa. Photo used with permission.

Six of the detained bloggers in Addis Ababa. Photo used with permission.

#FreeZone9Bloggers: A Tweetathon Demanding the Release of Jailed Ethiopian Bloggers 

Date: Thursday, July 31, 2014

Time: 10am – 2pm — no matter what time zone you're in!

Hashtag: #FreeZone9Bloggers

Hosts: Nwachukwu Egbunike (@feathersproject), Ndesanjo Macha (@ndesanjo), Ellery Roberts Biddle (@ellerybiddle)

Want to join us this Thursday? Or help spread the word? Add your name and Twitter handle to our community planning sheet.

Sample Tweets:

  • .@Zone9ers deserve a fair trial under international standards #FreeZone9Bloggers http://bit.ly/1g65ijg 
  • Free the @Zone9ers… because blogging is not a crime! #FreeZone9Bloggers http://bit.ly/1g65ijg
  • “We blog because we care” #FreeZone9Bloggers http://bit.ly/1g65ijg 
  • Blogger arrests in #Ethiopia are a violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights #FreeZone9Bloggers http://bit.ly/QlzRuG
  • Blogger arrests in #Ethiopia violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights #FreeZone9Bloggers http://bit.ly/1g1MUNM

Tweet until your fingers hurt and demand justice for the Zone9 bloggers!

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at July 28, 2014 09:17 PM

Global Voices
‘Shots Started Ringing Everywhere. Then What? Then People Being Hit, Screams, Utter Chaos’
Evacuation warning from Israeli army.

Evacuation warning from Israeli army.

The Israeli army attacked and occupied the village of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, in the week beginning July 21. It is still not clear how many Palestinians were killed or wounded, as for many days ambulances were prevented from entering the village and bodies were left in the street or under the rubble of houses.

Student Mahmoud Ismail survived the attack, and tweeted about his experience. Now he has now published a fuller account on Facebook.

About 1,100 people have been killed in Gaza and thousands more injured since Israel launched an operation there nearly three weeks ago. As civilian death tolls mount, Israel’s military says it is warning Gazans living in targeted areas to leave, but Palestinians have nowhere to go. The narrow 40-kilometre-long coastal strip is surrounded by fences and concrete walls along its north and east with Israel and on its southern border with Egypt.

On July 20, the Israeli army called most of the residents of Khuza'a and sent text messages, instructing them to leave the village. They also intercepted Al Aqsa television channel, showing an evacuation warning.

Of the 10,000 residents of Khuza'a, approximately 7,000 left. Ismail explained why some people stayed:

كنّا ثلاثة آلاف شخص قرّر كل واحد فينا، وبشكل فردي، تجاهل كل التهديدات وأوامر الإخلاء والبقاء في بيوتنا. ليس في ذلك أي بطولة. كل ما في الأمر أن فينا من كان يمكن أن يصاب بانهيار عصبيّ لو نام في غير سريره، وآخر كان أكثر كسلاً ممّا تتطلبه عملية الإخلاء. وآخرين، مثلي، لم يرون في اسوأ خيالاتهم السيناريو الذي كان يترصّدهم بعد ساعات قليلة.

There were 3,000 of us who had each, on our own, decided to ignore all the threats and orders to evacuate, and to stay in our homes. There was no heroism involved in this; some of us would have suffered a nervous breakdown if we’d had to leave, and some simply didn’t have the energy required to get out. Others, like me, couldn’t imagine even in their worst nightmares the scenario that would play out in a few hours.

Khuza’a is close to the Israeli border. It was heavily attacked by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and the Goldstone Report later documented that Israeli snipers had shot civilians and ambulances were prevented from taking the wounded away.

During the latest attack, the Israeli army have once again prevented ambulances from entering the village and have targeted civilians, according to Gaza NGO the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Various eyewitnesses report that the army used Palestinians as human shields.

Ismail described what happened when the attack started:

الغارة الأولى قطعت الطريق التي توصل خزاعة بخانيونس. الثانية ضربت محولات الكهرباء. الثالثة أبراج شركة المحمول. الرابعة خطوط الهاتف الأرضي. نحن وحدنا وليل خزاعة حالك والقصف لا يتوقف. الطيران يعضّ كل شيء. زجاج الشبابيك يتساقط. الشظايا تغزّ بيتك وكل ما هو حولك. تحتمي في مكان تعتقد أنه أقل خطورة وتأخذ وضعيّة تعتقد أنها ستحميك. تحصي الغارات والاحتمالات: هل هذا الصوت لصاروخ في طريقه لنا؟ هل هذه القذيفة في البيت؟ لماذا لم تنفجر؟ هل استهدفت بيت فلان؟ المسجد الفلاني؟ هذه غارة إف 16، هذا قصف مدفعي. ليلة كاملة تحاول أن تحافظ فيها على عقلك وتمالك ما تبقى من أعصابك.

في الصباح قالوا اخرجوا. الصليب الأحمر على مدخل البلدة سيؤمن خروجكم، اخرجوا، الجيش لا يريد إلحاق الأذية بكم، العملية تستهدف بيوتكم وشوارعكم وأراضيكم وكل نواحي حياتكم، لكن حياتكم ليست هدفًا. خرجنا مع الثلاثة آلاف. مشينا في حشدٍ مهيب كما مشى سكان الشجاعيّة قبل أيام وكما مشى أجدادنا قبل 66 عامًا. نمشي، وعيوننا تفحص داهشة حجم الدمار الذي يمكن لقصف ليلة واحدة أن يتسبب به، نمشي كأننا نودّع كل ما تبقى. لكن هذا كلّه لا يهمّ، تجمّد مشاعرك وتركّز على قدميك. تصل إلى حيث قالوا. تجد رصًا من الدبابات ولا شيء آخر. لا تكاد تشعر بالفخ قبل أن يدوّي الرصاص في كل مكان.

ثم ماذا؟ ثم ضربٌ وصراخ ولغوٌ وجدل.

The first attack was on the road to Khan Younis, cutting Khuza’a off. The second hit the power transformers. The third, the mobile phone towers. The fourth, the landlines. We were alone, and the night in Khuza’a was pitch black, and the bombardment wasn’t stopping. The planes were hitting everything. The glass was falling from the windows, shrapnel was flying into the house and all around us. We sheltered in a place we thought was less dangerous, taking a position we thought would protect us. We counted the attacks and calculated the possibilities: is this the sound of a missile on its way to us? Is this shell in the house? Why hasn’t it exploded? Is so-and-so’s house targeted? Such-and-such mosque? This is a F16 attack, that is an artillery bombardment. The whole night was spent trying to hold on to our minds and what remained of our nerves.

In the morning they told us to get out, that the Red Cross at the entrance of the village would ensure our exit. Get out, the army doesn’t want to hurt you; the operation is targeting your houses and streets and land and every aspect of your life, but your lives themselves are not the target. Three thousand of us came out. We walked in a crowd as massive as the one in Shuja’iya days earlier, like the one our forefathers walked in 66 years earlier. As we walked, we saw with astonishment the scale of the destruction of a single night. We walked as if we were saying goodbye to what was left. But that wasn’t important; you had to freeze your feelings and focus on your feet.

We reached the point they had told us to go to, and found a line of tanks, and nothing else. We had just realised it was a trap when shots started ringing everywhere.

Then what? Then people being hit, screams, utter chaos.

Ismail, his mother and brother took refuge in a nearby house:

كنّا ثلاثة آلاف، صرنا خمسون شخصًا. تجمّعنا في بيتٍ واحد. نصفنا ليس من أهل البيت لكن هذا أيضًا لا يهمّ. توزعنا بين ثلاث غرف كي لا نموت معًا إن حانت اللحظة. (نعم، يراوغ الانسان عقله في لحظات كهذه ويقنعه أن حائطًا قديمًا يفصل بين غرفتين يمكن أن يحدّ من الخسائر التي سيتسبب بها صاروخ أطول من أطولنا وأثقل منّا مجتمعين).

في الغرفة معي كان عجوزان يهيّجان أزمتي النفسية: أحدهما بمفاضلته بين الحروب التي عاصرها في حياته والآخر بإلحاحه المستمر على شربة ماء قبل آذان الصيام متناسيًا للمرة الألف أن قطرة ماء واحدة لم تتبقى في البيت بعد استهداف الجيش لخزّانات المياه. الأطفال يمارسون دورهم الطبيعي في الحياة: البكاء خوفًا، البكاء مللاً، البكاء عطشًا. المهم أن يبكوا. الآخرين، وأنا منهم، نستمع إلى نثار حديث العجوزين بصمت وملل ونطالع الشبّاك والساعة في انتظار الصباح. (ثمّة، على ما يبدو، خرافة لا أدري مصدرها تقول أن احتمالات الموت تتضاءل وأن القصف تقل وتيرته مع أول خيط للضوء. لكنها، كما كل الخرافات، غير ملزمة بتوقعاتك منها وباسقاطاتك عليها).

We had been 3,000; now we were 50 people. We gathered in one house. Half of us were not from the family of the house, but that didn’t matter. We were distributed between three rooms, so that we wouldn’t die all together if the moment came. (Yes, people take leave of their senses at times like this, and convince themselves that the old wall separating two rooms could limit the losses caused by a missile taller than any of them and heavier than all of them put together.)

In our room were two elderly men who were making me feel even more anxious, one by comparing the situation with the other wars he had experienced, and the other by his insistence on drinking water before the call to prayer, ignoring the fact that barely any water was left in the house after the army had targeted the water tanks. Children were playing their natural role: crying from fear, crying from boredom, crying from thirst. The main thing is that they were crying. Others, myself included, were listening to the fragments of chatter of the old men in silence and boredom, and looked out of the window and at the clock, waiting for morning. (There seems to be a myth, the origin of which I don’t know, that says the probability of dying diminishes and bombardment decreases with first light. But as with all myths, your expectations will fall short.)

Ismail recounted having to watch a 20-year-old man dying over a period of hours, as no one was able to go and help him. Two of his own cousins died, one trying to help the other.

طلع الضوء وسقط الصاروخ الأول على درج البيت. اسوأ من صوت الإنفجار؟ صمت ما بعد الانفجار. أو ما تخونك أذنيك به فتظنه صمتًا. تشظّى كل شيء. اللون الرمادي هو كل ما تراه. لحظات ليعود لك سمعك وينقشع الغبار. الخوف يتحوّل إلى جثث واللون الأحمر يفضّ الرمادي. أمّك وأخوك؟ لا زالوا أحياء. تعود لقدميك، بعد ستة عشر ساعة خمول، وظيفتهما الأولى: الركض. تبتعد عن المكان، يسقط الصاروخ الثاني. تصفّر شظاياه في أذنيك، تتأكد أنك بخير. تهرب إلى بيتك، دقائق ويقصف بيتك. تهرب مجددًا. الكثير من الناس تتحرّك في الكثير من الاتجاهات. ترسم المروحيّة في السماء لك بطلقاتها طريق المنفذ الوحيد. تركض إليه. تركض كأن حياتك تعتمد على ذلك، لأن حياتك بالفعل تعتمد على ذلك. تركض فوق الذين سقطوا، تركض بجانب الجثث، عينٌ على الدمار والطريق المفخّخة بالحفر وعين على عائلتك التي تذوب في السيل الجاري.

Light appeared and the first missile landed on the steps of the house. What’s worse than the sound of an explosion? The silence of an explosion. Or what deceives your ears by making you think it is silence. Everything disintegrates. You can only see grey. It takes some moments for your hearing to return and for the dust to settle. Fear turns into corpses, and red breaks up the grey. Your mother and brother? They’re still alive. You get back on your feet, which have been idle for sixteen hours, and their first task is to run. You get away from the place just before the second missile hits. Shrapnel is whistling past your ears, and you check that you’re OK. You escape to your house, and minutes later your house is hit. You escape again. There are many people running in many directions. With its firing, the helicopter in the sky outlines the only escape route. You run towards it. You run as if your life depends on it, because your life does indeed depend on it. You run over the top of those who have fallen, you run next to corpses, with an eye on the destruction and the bombed road full of holes, and an eye on your family who are dissolving in the movement of people.

Ismail didn't know exactly what happened to the other people in the house he had been sheltering in — just that his shoes were soaked in their blood. After running from that house, he and family made it to their home, which was hit by three missiles minutes later. He was slightly injured.

He, his mother and brother then tried to leave the village. Helicopters were firing on people, and on the way he saw the bodies of his uncle and cousin next to their house. Israeli snipers were targeting people's legs to stop them leaving.

خرجت وعائلتي والكثير من العائلات من خزاعة. كيف؟ حالفنا الحظ. لماذا؟ لا أملك أدنى فكرة. الأهم أن ثمة من بقيوا هناك، وأن الجثث لا زالت حتى هذه اللحظة في الشوارع وتحت الأنقاض. كم عددهم؟ قد يكون 20، 50، 100.. لا أحد يعرف بشكل أكيد، وهذا هو الأمر الوحيد الأكيد. الصور الوحيدة التي خرجت من خزاعة حتى اللحظة كانت مقتضبة ومصدرها الجيش الإسرائيلي وتظهر مشاهد دمار تحشي الصدر بالحقد وتدمي القلب وتنبئ بأن الأيام الهادئة لهذه القرية الوادعة ولأهلها الطيّبين لن تعود عمّا قريب.. وربما للأبد.

My family and I, and other families, managed to get out of Khuza’a. How? We were lucky. Why? I don’t have the slightest idea. More importantly, the bodies of those who stayed are until now in the streets and under the rubble. How many were there? Perhaps 20, 50, 100? No one is certain. The few images that have come out of Khuza'a until now are from the Israeli army, and show heartrending scenes of destruction that fill your chest with hatred, and make you think that the tranquillity of this village and its people will not return any time soon – or perhaps ever.

by Ayesha Saldanha at July 28, 2014 06:00 PM

Bangladesh Authorities Shut Down a 200-Year-Old Brothel, Evicting Hundreds of Sex Workers
Ariel view of Kandapara brothel in Taingail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh. Image by Ranak Martin. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2012)

Ariel view of Kandapara brothel in Taingail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh. Image by Ranak Martin. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2012)

The 200-year-old Kandapara brothel in Tangail, one of the oldest brothels in Bangladesh, was shuttered on July 14, 2014. Tremendous pressure from local Muslim clerics and politicians supposedly led to the brothel's closure, but the national platform of sex workers of Bangladesh has accused local authorities of land grabbing under the guise of religious piety.

More than 759 prostitutes were evicted as a result. Residents were only given a few hours’ notice, human rights organizations have protested. The Facebook page of women-centered publication “Women Chapter” says that the evicted sex workers are now facing uncertainties and living in unsafe environments.

Sociologist Laura Agustín tweeted how the sex workers were evicted:

Twitter user ATM Zakaria warned:

Eviction of sex workers without rehabilitation is a threat to the society and nation.

Mogoje Curfew (Curfew in the brain) wrote on Sovyata (Civilization) blog that these sex workers did not join the profession willingly, but out of hardship or coercion. The blogger wrote what will happen to the sex workers without rehabilitation:

এই লাঞ্চিত এবং অমানবিক জীবন যাপন করা মেয়েগুলো কি করবে তা আমরা না জানলেও অনুমান করতে পারি । তাদের বাইরে কোথাও কেউ কাজ দেবে না এটা নিশ্চিত থাকতে পারেন । বাধ্য হয়ে এরা এইবার এদের খাবার জোগাড় করবে মানুষের বাড়ি বাড়ি গিয়ে ।

We can guess the future of the evicted sex workers who are oppressed. They will certainly not get any work out there. They have to beg from home to home to feed their mouths.

The Kandapara brothels sprung up from 1860 to 1880 as traders arrived on commercial vessels. They had both time and money and were sex workers’ main clients. The total population was until recently about 2,000, including sex workers, their children, some parents, babus (fixed lovers/permanent clients), pimps, and landlords.

It's not the first brothel to be shut down and its workers evicted in the Muslim-majority country, where conservatism is on the rise. On July 23, 1999, the Tanbazar brothels, one of the oldest and largest, were closed down and about 2,600 sex workers were evicted from their homes. Dhaka's Kandupatti, home to several thousand sex workers, was next. Then it was Magura. Last August, attacks were carried out on the Madaripur brothel and homes of approximately 500 sex workers were vandalized and looted.

Members from Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh (SWNOB) form a human chain in Dhaka protesting attack on sex workers in a brothel in Madaripur. Image by Shafiqul Alam. Copyright Demotix (29/8/2013)

Members from Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh (SWNOB) form a human chain in Dhaka protesting attack on sex workers in a brothel in Madaripur. Image by Shafiqul Alam. Copyright Demotix (29/8/2013)

The general understanding is that religious and social pressures were behind the eviction in Tangails Kandapara. However, Sex Workers Network, the national platform of sex workers of Bangladesh, said in a press conference on July 17, 2014 that the local mayor harnessed religious sentiments to grab the 302-decimal land of the Kandapara brothel.

Similar accusations were made after the eviction of the Tanbazar and Madaripur brothels. The people behind the eviction denied the allegations. They claimed that the brothels are source of criminal activity.

Sex worker formed human chain at front of press club in Dhaka protesting the eviction of Kandapara brothel, Tangail. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (20/7/2014)

Sex workers formed human chain at front of press club in Dhaka protesting the eviction of Kandapara brothel, Tangail. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (20/7/2014)

Bangladesh is one of the few Muslim-majority countries were prostitution is not officially banned. Prostitution can be found in the old history of Bengal, but this profession never had any legal recognition, including during the British colonial period. In 2000, a local court recognized the profession in a verdict. 

In Bangladesh, there are 18 registered brothels and around 200,000 sex workers across the country. A recent study revealed rampant child prostitution.

Kazi Mamun Hossain, a diaspora Bangladeshi blogger, wrote on Bangla blogging platform Somewhereinblog:

পতিতাবৃত্তিকে নিষিদ্ধ না করা আবার পতিতাবৃত্তিকে স্বীকৃতি না দেয়ার মতো রাষ্ট্রযন্ত্রের দু'মুখো আচরণের তীব্র প্রতিবাদ জানাই৷ কোনো প্রকার পুর্নবাসনের ব্যবস্থা না করেই পতিতাদের উচ্ছেদ করার তীব্র প্রতিবাদ জানাই৷

I condemn the duality of the state in not banning the prostitution, but also not upholding sex workers rights. I strongly protest eviction of the sex workers without rehabilitation.

by Rezwan at July 28, 2014 05:04 PM

Can France Catch Up With Internet of Things World Leader China?
Infographics of connected life in Asia by 2017 - Public Domain

Infographics of connected life in Asia by 2017 – Public Domain

Most links send to french-language articles. 

Like online social networks, the Internet of Things is permanently and fundamentally revolutionizing our consumption habits.

First, what is The Internet of Things ? In layman's terms, it is the connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of applications. For instance, the Internet of Things is involved in utilizing sensors to assist in environmental protection by monitoring air or water quality. Below is a TED video unpacking the concept :

In this field, China, having successfully united stakeholders to provide the sector with a regulatory framework, stands out as the undisputed world leader in this field.

Despite the rise of the Chinese giant, however, France can still expect to play a meaningful role in the market if its stakeholders work together to find ways to finance their projects.

According to a recent report by the GSMA, an association which represents 850 mobile telephone operators across 218 countries, China is the world leader in the adoption of M2M technology. 

China occupied 27 percent of the world market in 2013, with more than 50 million M2M connections. Alex Sinclair, the chief technology officer at the GSMA, said:

China is a rapidly developing country that is investing in communications technologies that will make its cities smarter and provide a better quality of life for its citizens

While the development of a new generation of interconnected devices is clearly something that mobile manufacturers are aiming for, other Chinese stakeholders are also getting involved. In October 2013, 40 companies and research bodies (including China Telecom and Tsinghua University) joined together under the sponsorship of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation to form an industry alliance for the Internet of Things.

Répertoire d'un fonds d'archives visualisé sous la forme d'un réseau. CC BY-SA 3.0

Visual representation of an archives directory as a network. CC BY-SA 3.0

In order to provide a regulatory framework to this new technology, 200 national and industry standards for the Internet of Things have been implemented by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. These regulatory efforts have led Alex Sinclair to remark:

Proactive government support has benefited China and its mobile operators, whereas in many global markets, regulatory uncertainty has held back the deployment of M2M solutions. M2M.

A new generation of start-ups is emerging thanks to American, Australian and – notably – Chinese crowdfunding platforms. DemoHour, for example, was created in 2011 and has helped fund 2,000 projects, including a number of projects directed towards the development of interconnected accessories and devices.

A saucer which transforms your smartphone into a universal remote, a shirt-button which ensures that its wearer keeps their back held straight, an interconnected glucometer that operates using test strips, a cup that tracks its user’s daily water consumption and encourages them to drink the right amount water according to their size and weight – these are all examples of devices that DemoHour has funded.

While these devices might seem like weird gizmos that do not really have anything to do with quality living, some have actually proved to be very useful tools especially in the health sector.

China has also set itself apart in the energy sector, especially in gas, through its use of smart meters. Recent reforms have permitted the widespread introduction of AMR (automatic meter-reading modules) and smart meters throughout the country, which currently operates 180 million such meters in total.

So what kind of odds does France have when faced with the Chinese giant? Well, while France might be far from the Middle Kingdom, it prospects are still pretty good. When it comes to the Internet of Things, France presents an important emerging market. Valued at €150 million in 2013, it is expected to come up to about €500 million by 2016.

France offers many advantages and has every chance of bringing leaders into the world market. However, it has not yet managed to organize concerted dialogue between all stakeholders operating in the sector. It is also facing funding problems as the sector’s investment needs are quite big. As a result, small and medium businesses are struggling to move from innovation and development into widespread production.

Yves Clisson, the CEO of Telelogos who since 1982 has specialised in data synchronization, mobile device management and M2M has said: 

Nous avons montré qu’il y a beaucoup d’intelligence et de talents au top niveau en France pour les machines communicantes. Il suffit de voir ce qui se fait en aéronautique. Mais la descente vers le consommateur lui-même n’est pas du tout au niveau de ce que l’on peut trouver dans certains pays asiatiques ou aux États-Unis.  Nous avons du mal à aller vers l’usage quotidien et le grand volume… 

We have shown that there is lot of high-level intelligence and talent in France when it comes to interconnected devices– just look at what’s happening in the aeronautic sector. But this is not being brought down to individual consumers at the rate which we see in some Asian countries or in the United States. We are finding it hard to move towards day-to-day usage and large volume…

>Even so, the rollout of Linky smart meters – pillars of France’s energy transition – is imminent. Minister for Ecology Ségolène Royal has stated that she wanted to “accelerate the goal” and, by 2020, 35 million boxes should be fitted with a smart meter that should citizens to optimize their energy consumption.

Indeed, there is already a sign that the era of interconnected devices is becoming a reality in France: a dedicated store, the first of its kind, just opened in Paris. The store is an initiative of the technology company Innov8 and its founder, Stéphane Bohbot. The products that it sells are likely to appeal, beyond the geek community, to the 75 percent of French people who have heard of the interconnectivity concept. That 75 percent, in turn, will lead the others to discover the possibilities that interconnected devices can offer in everyday life.

by Joel Gilbourd at July 28, 2014 03:53 PM

Why Some Caribbean Authors Are Accusing Trinidad-Born Novelist Monique Roffey of Being a ‘Latter Day Columbus’
Author Monique Roffey takes a walk around literary Clerkenwell as part of the Free Word Centre's 'FLOW' Festival. Photo by Robert Sharp / English PEN, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Author Monique Roffey takes a walk around literary Clerkenwell as part of the Free Word Centre's ‘FLOW’ Festival. Photo by Robert Sharp / English PEN, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Trinidad-born, Britain-based writer Monique Roffey has taken down her Facebook page* following fierce criticism of a blog post she wrote for the website of British bookstore chain Waterstones. The post was intended to serve as an introduction to new and emerging writers from the Caribbean who, for the most part, may not be as well known as authors from what Roffey refers to as the “Golden Era of Caribbean Literature”, which includes Nobel Laureates Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul

But members of the Caribbean literary community have accused her being a “latter day Columbus,” or discovering what was already there, and representing the region inaccurately.

Roffey, perhaps best known for her novel “The White Woman on the Green Bicycle,” which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010 and the Encore Award the following year, has been sharing her expertise with some of these authors through her involvement in CaribLit, an action group that helps to promote Caribbean writing and publishing. But until she attended the 2012 Bocas LitFest in Port of Spain, Trinidad, it hadn't quite struck her that this new crop of regional writers were all part of her generation:

It was a memorable experience for me because there in my hometown, I got to meet many other Caribbean writers born in the 1960s and 70s. Most of these writers were female, and incredibly they were of varied race, class background, and sexual orientation [...] We all had a lot in common and yet we were all so different; in fact, much of our life experience isn’t common at all. But what was pertinent for me, then, only two years ago, was to come across a constellation of writers of similar age. We were children born into the early years of the Independence era in the region. We were children of the new era, literally.

According to Roffey, existing issues in the region, dating back to colonisation and slavery, have become more complex over time. There are new challenges as well — environmental, economic, even enduring questions of identity have a new face with the advent of cable television, the Internet and social media. Her essay came to the conclusion that this “new generation of Caribbean writers” is more interested in exploring these issues on their own terms than in responding to views from the metropole:

Our generation is no longer writing back, that much strikes me as over for sure. Instead, we are writing for ourselves and sometimes towards each other. We are not only talking to each other, but sometimes arguing too. Some of us are still gate-keeping, asking what is the real deal, who constitutes a true true Caribbean author and who doesn’t. And some of us are too busy writing for such censorious thoughts about identity. These days, the Caribbean writer might be white and middle class, or brown-skinned and privileged, or from Chinese or Syrian extractions; they might be gay or straight, they might be living in the region or in Diaspora. The New Wave of writers has become so much more porous and diverse in terms of their social background. And so, the literature of the Caribbean region is alive and well and very varied and we are charting our own here and now. 

Saint Lucian poet and critic Vladimir Lucien called Roffey's post “ahistorical,” arguing that she mischaracterized certain themes as new to Caribbean writing when they aren't. ”She is now the British correspondent for the Caribbean, the Caribbean’s link to the wider world of resources and opportunity; the one who knows the ‘real deal’ about Caribbean writing. Not a gatekeeper however. Not at all,” he wrote:

Roffey’s ignorance also raises the issue that she is trying to abscond from: What constitutes a Caribbean writer? This is not an attempt to gate-keep, but rather creating a means by which one could discern specious and superficial interactions with the Caribbean from deeply concerned, profound engagements with the society. Does being a Caribbean writer merely mean that you were born, or even born and grew up in the region? The question is important though in some circles it has been straw-manned by coalescing it with a perversion of it which I am not sure exists in the way that Roffey claims: the idea of gatekeeping.

Some of the quote from the Waterstones post – including the reference to gatekeeping – was subsequently taken out and there was an editor's note stating that the article was amended on 24 July 2014 at the request of the author. Lucien drew attention to the changes in a new blog post of his own.

At The Eternal Pantomime, one emerging Trinidadian writer, Rhoda Bharath, compared Roffey's post to cultural appropriation: 

It seems Columbussing – the act of discovering what is already there, that became fashionable in the 1400s – is STILL very much a thing; and European/Caucasian people ‘discovering’ and appropriating the cultures of the Other, whether to boost their ego or some greater gain, isn't about to die anytime soon [...]

Despite having achieved independence throughout the region (for the most part), spearheading revolutions and overthrowing dictatorial regimes, we just can't be left alone to wade through our issues and develop our space without the added ingredients of judgmental first world comparisons that don't take into consideration contextual issues, and worse, the role of their influence in our shortcomings.  

The discussion grew quite heated on Facebook; at first, Roffey was engaging the discourse, then decided to take down her Facebook page. There has been some debate as to whether the argument about Caribbean literature degenerated into a personal squabble. Jamaica-based blogger and writer Annie Paul noted:

When is a writer a Caribbean writer was a debate that raged on Facebook for a while in May and seems to have spun off this searing critical response. Lucien takes the discussion into territory we don’t examine enough. The question ‘Who has the right to call themselves a Caribbean writer?’ appeared in the original discussion on Facebook and remains a cogent one. Do Caribbean writers have the responsibility to represent the corpus of writing from the region with a depth born of serious engagement and research are additional questions he’s asking.

While he was not impressed with her prose style, Facebook user Nadge Frank Augustin felt that Roffey succeeded in reaching her audience:

When Roffey says, ‘Our generation is no longer writing back, that much strikes me as over for sure…', who comes to mind? As far as my limited information goes (ie. the website the article is published under), I would think that the answer was obvious: the British reader-consumers of the article. 

Augustin simply did not see how you could avoid sounding like you are introducing something new to an audience if that is, in fact, what you are doing:

Does she come off as a ‘latter day Columbus'? Who, in such a position, wouldn't sound the same? Which one of us, if put to promote Caribbean Lit to a bunch of Vietnamese, Germans, South Africans…wouldn't sound as if we are bringing something ‘new’ to them? Quite frankly, I think she did an ok job in presenting to a non-specialist audience a whirl of names for them to go discover contemporary caribbean writers for themselves. In the world of business, I think they call that plugging.

*The author's Facebook page is reportedly back up.

by Matthew Hunte at July 28, 2014 02:45 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
‘Terrified’ Founder Decides to Shutter Hong Kong Pro-Democracy News Site ‘House News’
Screen Capture of the House News' Facebook Page. The site had more than 230 thousand Facebook followers before it shut down.

Screen Capture of the House News’ Facebook Page. The site had more than 230 thousand Facebook followers before it shut down.

The House News, a popular pro-democracy news site in Hong Kong modeled after the Huffington Post, was shut down without warning on July 26. 

Tony Tsoi, a House News co-founder and key investor, announced the closure in a note posted to the site at 5 p.m. He explained that political pressure against critical voices and a lack of advertisers drove his decision to shutter the site.

Launched in July 2012 as a news curation and blog site, The House News grew to become one of the most popular online media outlets in Hong Kong, ranking 57 in traffic from Hong Kong on Alexa with 300,000 unique visitors per day. Yet over the past two years, the news platform failed to attract enough advertisers to keep afloat.

Tsoi, who supports protest movement Occupy Central's plans to peacefully take over central Hong Kong and demand the right to choose candidates for the city's next chief executive election, said in the shutdown announcement that he is “terrified” by the political atmosphere:

我恐懼

原來今天的香港已經變了,做一個正常公民、做一個正常媒體、為社會做一點正當的事,實在不容易,甚至感到恐懼 — 不是陌生,而是恐懼。由於當前政治鬥爭氣氛令人極度不安,多位民主派人士,被跟蹤、被抹黑、被翻舊賬,一股白色恐怖氛圍在社會瀰漫,我亦感覺到這種壓力。還有,作為一個經常往返內地公幹的商人,我得承認,每次過境都會提心吊膽,但這是我過分疑神疑鬼嗎?那種感覺,根本不可能向外人説得清楚。

令我最不安,是家人也感受到這股壓力,終日替我擔心。隨著社會氣氛逐漸緊張,這股壓力在我身邊蔓延的程度令我日益困擾。

I am terrified.

Hong Kong has changed. To act as a normal citizen, a normal media outlet and to do something right for society is becoming difficult, or even terrifying — not that you feel alienated, but fearful. The ongoing political struggle makes people very anxious — many democrats are tracked and smeared. Their past records have been dug up. A sense of White Terror lingers in society and I feel the pressure as well. As a businessman who travels frequently to mainland China, I admit that every time I walk past the border, I am scared. Am I being paranoid? It is difficult to explain the feeling to outsiders.

My family feels the pressure and they are worried about me. As the atmosphere gets more tense, the pressure around me becomes more disturbing.

A former British colony, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of communist China and enjoys a high level of autonomy from the communist country under the idea of “one country, two systems.” Relations between the two have become tense in recent months. China has promised Hong Kong a direct vote for the next chief executive in 2017 for the first time, but insists that a committee approve the candidates.

The mainland considers “love of country” to be important criteria for Hong Kong's administrators, according to a white paper released by the government. Some Hong Kongers suspect they will only have pro-Beijing candidates to choose from, defeating the purpose of a direct vote. 

Businesses aren't keen to advertise with pro-democracy media for fear of souring their relationship with the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, making it nearly impossible for sites to develop a sustainable business model based on advertising. Tsoi described the market in Hong Kong in his shutdown note:

從開始,我們當一盤正常生意來做,可是,在不正常的社會及市場氣氛下,主場新聞的廣告收入跟它的影響力,不成比例。主場新聞小本經營(很多熟悉我們的博客可作證),但創辦至今,每月從未達至收支平衡。最大問題是在可見將來,香港社會氣氛只會更見緊張,從生意角度,主場新聞實在看不到曙光。有人問我,主場新聞有沒有出現抽廣告情況,答案是沒有,從未落,何來抽?香港不單止核心價值被扭曲,市場也被扭曲。

At the beginning, we had a business model in mind. But in an abnormal society and market, the revenue generated from The House News advertising is not proportional to its impact. Our budget is not big, but since our launch, we never have had a balanced budget. The biggest problem is that in the near future, the atmosphere in Hong Kong will become more tense. We can't see any hope from a business point of view. Some people asked me if any of our clients withdrew their ads. My answer is no. They never advertise on our site in the first place. Our core value has been twisted, and now the market is also twisted.

Soon after the closure was announced, all of the site's content became inaccessible. The abrupt decision sparked wide speculation among netizens that Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong's media. Wen Yunchao, a mainland Chinese blogger who is now based in the U.S., commented on Twitter:

The major cause of the abrupt shutdown of The House News is more likely related to fear than business considerations. The fear most likely stems from direct threats rather than the political atmosphere — the imperative kind of threat in the form of “shut down or else you will face certain consequences.” If it is business considerations, they should at least look for a business partner, sell the business or seek another solution.

Au Ka Lun, a former journalist and columnist at The House News, wrote on his Facebook (republished on citizen media platform inmediahk.net with the writer's permission):

影響力漸見,既喜亦憂。我們這城市,遊戲規則是這樣的,你搞得無聲無息,無人問津,縱使「反動」,說話不中聽,有關方面會隻眼開隻眼閉,無時間關心你。若媒體影響力大,引人注目,還要搞串連,自然會有人搞你。
搞,有很多方式。結業,是政治原因、經濟原因,還是「誤判恐懼」,又怎能分得清楚。

I felt happy and worried about the impact [of The House News]. In this city, the rules of the game are like this: If you don't have impact and no one cares about you, even though you are “politically on the wrong side” and say something unpleasant, authorities will play dumb as they don't have the spare time to pay attention to you. If the media outlet becomes influential, attracts attention and turns into a nexus for the progressive community, naturally they will “do something”.
There are different ways to “do something”. It is hard to distinguish if the shutdown is due to political considerations, business considerations or “fear and wrong judgement”.

A few days before The House News’ shuttered, pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai's donation to the democrats led the headlines in six major newspapers in Hong Kong. As Lai is the chairperson of the Next Media Group, current affairs commentator Yip Yat Chi hypothesized on inmediahk.net that Beijing is launching a major crackdown on pro-democracy media in Hong Kong, including the Next Media's Apple Daily News and major online media platforms:

在其他傳媒歸順下,成為「真理部」的工具時,如果能成功消滅蘋果,在親共傳媒的操作和篩選下,一切反駁聲音便會消失泰半。[...] 因此,不難看到,對蘋果的打擊是如何全方位進行中――先是商戶抽廣告,繼而是黑客攻擊,現在是利用所謂政治捐獻(還被扭曲為「黑金政治」),在資源上削弱(斷其資金),在運作上打擊(增加成本),並在道德上抹黑(撲滅同情),全方位開動,誓要殺之而後快。

當然,今天還有互聯網。網媒越來越多,網絡成為「第五權」,不單協助監察政府,連傳媒也成為監察對象。網媒眾多,個別更甚具影響力。但正因如此,可以預期,中共在宣揚歪理和統戰傳統傳媒有了初步成效時,必會針對網絡開戰[...]

As all other media outlets are cooperative and are turning into a tool of the “ministry of truth” [Chinese Communist Party propaganda], if they can eliminate Apple Daily News, opposition voices will be cut down by half. […] The crackdown against Apple Daily is so obvious — advertisements were withdrawn, the news site had been attacked by hackers. Now they turn the story of political donation into “corrupt money politics.” There are multiple dimensions to the crackdown: resources (cut its revenue), technical operations (increase its operational cost) and moral smearing (alienate it from public sympathy).

Of course today we still have the Internet. There are more and more online media outlets and the Internet has become the “fifth estate” serving the function of monitoring the government alongside mainstream media. Some online media has become influential and it is predictable that once the Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in building a united front among conventional media for propaganda purposes, they will start the online battle. […]

Yip Ya Chi explained that just as he was finishing up his piece, the House News announced its shutdown.

Which online media platform will be the next target of this suspected crackdown? What can be done to protect the media freedom environment in Hong Kong? Many Hong Kongers are wondering.

by Oiwan Lam at July 28, 2014 02:25 PM

Twitter “Blocks” Access to Russia's Most Infamous Hackers
Twitter screen capture.

Twitter screen capture.

Russia's Twitter users no longer have access to @b0ltai, an account belonging to a hacker collective that has leaked several internal Kremlin documents to the Internet over the past seven months. The hacker group, which RuNet Echo profiled last month, has published stollen emails belonging to high-profile members of the Russian government, inside reports on the state of Russian politics, and the Kremlin's instructions to state-controlled TV news channels. 

Asked to explain why Twitter removed Russians’ access to @b0ltai, a Twitter spokesperson told RuNet Echo, “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” Elsewhere, however, Twitter has confirmed the takedown of @b0ltai for Russian users. Twitter is one of only two companies (the other being Google) to post actioned takedown orders to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project of EFF and several law schools, to promote transparency.

Dated July 25, Twitter logged a “Russian request to block [a] Twitter user,” attaching a letter from Russia's federal communications agency, Roscomnadzor. The letter cites a decision by a St. Petersburg court, banning b0ltai's blog and microblog in accordance with a lawsuit by an unnamed individual concerning “personal data.” Little is known about the lawsuit that resulted in b0ltai's blacklisting. According to Kommersant newspaper, neither the Russian courts nor Roscomnadzor has elaborated on the trial that banned from the Internet Russia's most infamous hackers.

While Twitter's “Country Withheld Content” policy does stipulate that the company may “reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time,” if Twitter receives a “valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity,” it is still very easy for Twitter users inside Russia to access @b0ltai. Indeed, Russians have been tweeting the circumvention instructions all day.

Attention! For those of you who want to view the Twitter accounts blocked inside Russia (for example, @b0ltai), just go into your account settings and change your country setting to anything but “Russia” or “worldwide.”

Toggling a user's country is just 3-clicks-deep in the Twitter account settings. For now, that's all it takes to defeat the Great Firewall of Russia.

by Kevin Rothrock at July 28, 2014 02:15 PM

Thai Junta Issues New Gag Order Against Media
Under the new regulation, Thai media  and even netizens can face punishment if they reported this photo because the public reading of the book '1984' is deemed a protest by the coup authorities. Photo from Facebook page of Prachatai.

Under the new regulation, Thai media and netizens could face punishment if they reported on this photo. Reading George Orwell's 1984 is considered to be a form of protest by the Junta. Photo from Facebook page of Prachatai, used with permission.

The Thai Junta has issued a new order banning media from reporting news that is critical of the government. Issued on July 18 by the National Council For Peace and Order, the order applies to all types of media including electronic and social media.

According to unofficial translation published on Asian Correspondent, the order bans:

- News that are detrimental to the national security or libelous against other individuals.

- Criticism of operations of the National Council for Peace and Order, its officials, or any related individual.

- News or information that causes confusion, incites disputes, or leads to disunity in the Kingdom.

- Invitation or plotting to organise in manner that may lead to resistance against officials or individuals related to the National Council for Peace and Order

- Threats to harm individuals that may panic or frighten the public.

Media groups immediately raised concern about the broad and vague provisions of the order. They also highlighted the severe punishment – legal prosecution, censorship, and shutdown – for violating any part of the order.

After meeting with four major media groups — Thai Journalist Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalist Association, the National Council of Press in Thailand, and the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand –- the NCPO issued a new order that slightly amended the original. The ban will now only apply to “criticism of the NCPO’s operations that have the dishonest intention to damage the credibility of the NCPO with false information.” And instead of being prosecuted in the courts, violators will face an internal “ethics inquiry” by their respective press associations.

The government also clarified that the original order intended only to ask for cooperation in information dissemination to the public and that it is not a new regulation since it merely combines previous policies of the Junta government, which is just months old.

Human rights groups continue to argue that the new orders constitute a threat to free expression since violations of the regulation are to be determined solely by the Council. Given the broad categories included in the order, many fear that the policy will force Thai media groups to practice self-censorship in an effort to avoid punishment. Further, the Council has not rescinded a previous order prohibiting media groups from interviewing academics and former civil servants who could “give opinions in a manner that can inflict or worsen the conflict, distort information, create confusion in the society or lead to the use of violence.”

Phansasiri Kularb, a journalism lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, reminded the Junta leader, General Prayuth, of his earlier commitment to allow citizens to air their dissent against authorities:

Gen. Prayuth said on his televised program, repeatedly since the coup, to urge those who disagreed with his views to open up their mind and talk, but this announcement says the opposite. The order is very broad and … every comment is subject exclusively to the NCPO's interpretation whether they violate the order or not.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul of the Thai Netizen Network described the new ruling as a gag order against all Thai netizens:

This is basically a gag order, and it's not just a gag order to the press, but it's extending to anyone in Thailand, especially now that a lot of Thai people use social media to express opinions. I think it is very dangerous and, to me, it signals that the coup makers may not have a clear idea of who the enemies are.

On July 26, the Council invoked the new order to reprimand the Manager Weekly in connection to its 251st issue (July 26-Aug 1, 2014) which allegedly “spread distrust and fear among the public.”

The Royal Thai Army launched a coup on May 22, detained hundreds of politicians, suspended the Constitution, and controlled the newsrooms of mainstream media outlets throughout the country. It outlawed the public gathering of five or more people and the holding of protest actions. And it approved an interim constitution just last week. It appears the Junta is doing all it can to stifle media freedom in the face of deep political strife and uncertainty — just when the need for strong, independent reporting and critique is greatest.

by Mong Palatino at July 28, 2014 01:21 PM

Rising Voices
Building Clogher Power!

Rising Voices note: This post by Sopheap Chak continues our series of blog posts written from the perspective of our grantee projects. This post comes from the Empowering Clogher Project taking place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)’s Empowering Cloghers Project is an exciting initiative that has the potential to make a real difference for women in Cambodia, and to drive improvement in human rights for everyone. Cloghers are Cambodian bloggers – locally known as “cloggers” – who are women…thus “cloghers”.

The Project will train young women from rural areas, attending universities in Phnom Penh, to help them develop the ICT and communication skills they need to be able to develop their own blogs. This will enable them to create their own online forums to discuss, share ideas, and advocate for human rights and/or social change, particularly in the context of their experiences as young women growing up in a province outside of Phnom Penh.

In many parts of Cambodia, particularly rural areas, there continues to be a culture of traditional gender stereotypes and expectations. This can limit not only women’s opportunities to express themselves, but also the value that is placed on their opinions and views. This is why we’ve chosen to focus this project on supporting young women from rural areas. It’s a way of empowering and bringing an online voice to some of the most marginalized people in Cambodia.

Indigenous youths coming from difference provinces attended the training on “Video Journalism” organized by CCHR’s at Sithi Hub in June 2014. (photo provided by CCHR)

Indigenous youths coming from difference provinces attended the training on “Video Journalism” organized by CCHR’s at Sithi Hub in June 2014. (photo provided by CCHR)

The internet is a fantastic tool for overcoming communication barriers and reaching out to new people with different ideas and values both nationally and internationally. Internet penetration in Cambodia is still developing, especially in rural areas. However the greatest uptake has been amongst young Cambodians, particularly with social media. We know from our own use of online tools such as Facebook, YouTube and the Sithi Blog that young people want to see changes in the human rights situation in Cambodia, and will take action online to support our efforts to make this happen. The Empowering Cloghers Project builds on this motivation, and gives young women the opportunity to become drivers of this change.    

The Empowering Cloghers Project is just getting started and we are currently recruiting young women to attend the training. We’ve had a fantastic response to this opportunity so far and it is exciting to see so many young women wanting to learn new ways to have their voices heard and positively influence Cambodian society. The training will start shortly and will be delivered over five sessions. As well as developing their own blogs, our trainees will be linked into the existing Clogher community so that they have peer support to continue their clogging after the Project finishes. They will also be writing articles for the Sithi Blog as part of their training and we will be inviting them to contribute as guest cloghers in the future.

by Ramana Sorn at July 28, 2014 10:28 AM

July 27, 2014

Global Voices
‘Terrified’ Founder Decides to Shutter Hong Kong Pro-Democracy News Site ‘House News’
Screen Capture of the House News' Facebook Page. The site had more than 230 thousand Facebook followers before it shut down.

Screen Capture of the House News’ Facebook Page. The site had more than 230 thousand Facebook followers before it shut down.

The House News, a popular pro-democracy news site in Hong Kong modeled after the Huffington Post, was shut down without warning on July 26. 

Tony Tsoi, a House News co-founder and key investor, announced the closure in a note posted to the site at 5 p.m. He explained that political pressure against critical voices and a lack of advertisers drove his decision to shutter the site.

Launched in July 2012 as a news curation and blog site, The House News grew to become one of the most popular online media outlets in Hong Kong, ranking 57 in traffic from Hong Kong on Alexa with 300,000 unique visitors per day. Yet over the past two years, the news platform failed to attract enough advertisers to keep afloat.

Tsoi, who supports protest movement Occupy Central's plans to peacefully take over central Hong Kong and demand the right to choose candidates for the city's next chief executive election, said in the shutdown announcement that he is “terrified” by the political atmosphere:

我恐懼

原來今天的香港已經變了,做一個正常公民、做一個正常媒體、為社會做一點正當的事,實在不容易,甚至感到恐懼 — 不是陌生,而是恐懼。由於當前政治鬥爭氣氛令人極度不安,多位民主派人士,被跟蹤、被抹黑、被翻舊賬,一股白色恐怖氛圍在社會瀰漫,我亦感覺到這種壓力。還有,作為一個經常往返內地公幹的商人,我得承認,每次過境都會提心吊膽,但這是我過分疑神疑鬼嗎?那種感覺,根本不可能向外人説得清楚。

令我最不安,是家人也感受到這股壓力,終日替我擔心。隨著社會氣氛逐漸緊張,這股壓力在我身邊蔓延的程度令我日益困擾。

I am terrified.

Hong Kong has changed. To act as a normal citizen, a normal media outlet and to do something right for society is becoming difficult, or even terrifying — not that you feel alienated, but fearful. The ongoing political struggle makes people very anxious — many democrats are tracked and smeared. Their past records have been dug up. A sense of White Terror lingers in society and I feel the pressure as well. As a businessman who travels frequently to mainland China, I admit that every time I walk past the border, I am scared. Am I being paranoid? It is difficult to explain the feeling to outsiders.

My family feels the pressure and they are worried about me. As the atmosphere gets more tense, the pressure around me becomes more disturbing.

A former British colony, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of communist China and enjoys a high level of autonomy from the communist country under the idea of “one country, two systems.” Relations between the two have become tense in recent months. China has promised Hong Kong a direct vote for the next chief executive in 2017 for the first time, but insists that a committee approve the candidates.

The mainland considers “love of country” to be important criteria for Hong Kong's administrators, according to a white paper released by the government. Some Hong Kongers suspect they will only have pro-Beijing candidates to choose from, defeating the purpose of a direct vote. 

Businesses aren't keen to advertise with pro-democracy media for fear of souring their relationship with the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, making it nearly impossible for sites to develop a sustainable business model based on advertising. Tsoi described the market in Hong Kong in his shutdown note:

從開始,我們當一盤正常生意來做,可是,在不正常的社會及市場氣氛下,主場新聞的廣告收入跟它的影響力,不成比例。主場新聞小本經營(很多熟悉我們的博客可作證),但創辦至今,每月從未達至收支平衡。最大問題是在可見將來,香港社會氣氛只會更見緊張,從生意角度,主場新聞實在看不到曙光。有人問我,主場新聞有沒有出現抽廣告情況,答案是沒有,從未落,何來抽?香港不單止核心價值被扭曲,市場也被扭曲。

At the beginning, we had a business model in mind. But in an abnormal society and market, the revenue generated from The House News advertising is not proportional to its impact. Our budget is not big, but since our launch, we never have had a balanced budget. The biggest problem is that in the near future, the atmosphere in Hong Kong will become more tense. We can't see any hope from a business point of view. Some people asked me if any of our clients withdrew their ads. My answer is no. They never advertise on our site in the first place. Our core value has been twisted, and now the market is also twisted.

Soon after the closure was announced, all of the site's content became inaccessible. The abrupt decision sparked wide speculation among netizens that Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong's media. Wen Yunchao, a mainland Chinese blogger who is now based in the U.S., commented on Twitter:

The major cause of the abrupt shutdown of The House News is more likely related to fear than business considerations. The fear most likely stems from direct threats rather than the political atmosphere — the imperative kind of threat in the form of “shut down or else you will face certain consequences.” If it is business considerations, they should at least look for a business partner, sell the business or seek another solution.

Au Ka Lun, a former journalist and columnist at The House News, wrote on his Facebook (republished on citizen media platform inmediahk.net with the writer's permission):

影響力漸見,既喜亦憂。我們這城市,遊戲規則是這樣的,你搞得無聲無息,無人問津,縱使「反動」,說話不中聽,有關方面會隻眼開隻眼閉,無時間關心你。若媒體影響力大,引人注目,還要搞串連,自然會有人搞你。
搞,有很多方式。結業,是政治原因、經濟原因,還是「誤判恐懼」,又怎能分得清楚。

I felt happy and worried about the impact [of The House News]. In this city, the rules of the game are like this: If you don't have impact and no one cares about you, even though you are “politically on the wrong side” and say something unpleasant, authorities will play dumb as they don't have the spare time to pay attention to you. If the media outlet becomes influential, attracts attention and turns into a nexus for the progressive community, naturally they will “do something”.
There are different ways to “do something”. It is hard to distinguish if the shutdown is due to political considerations, business considerations or “fear and wrong judgement”.

A few days before The House News’ shuttered, pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai's donation to the democrats led the headlines in six major newspapers in Hong Kong. As Lai is the chairperson of the Next Media Group, current affairs commentator Yip Yat Chi hypothesized on inmediahk.net that Beijing is launching a major crackdown on pro-democracy media in Hong Kong, including the Next Media's Apple Daily News and major online media platforms:

在其他傳媒歸順下,成為「真理部」的工具時,如果能成功消滅蘋果,在親共傳媒的操作和篩選下,一切反駁聲音便會消失泰半。[...] 因此,不難看到,對蘋果的打擊是如何全方位進行中――先是商戶抽廣告,繼而是黑客攻擊,現在是利用所謂政治捐獻(還被扭曲為「黑金政治」),在資源上削弱(斷其資金),在運作上打擊(增加成本),並在道德上抹黑(撲滅同情),全方位開動,誓要殺之而後快。

當然,今天還有互聯網。網媒越來越多,網絡成為「第五權」,不單協助監察政府,連傳媒也成為監察對象。網媒眾多,個別更甚具影響力。但正因如此,可以預期,中共在宣揚歪理和統戰傳統傳媒有了初步成效時,必會針對網絡開戰[...]

As all other media outlets are cooperative and are turning into a tool of the “ministry of truth” [Chinese Communist Party propaganda], if they can eliminate Apple Daily News, opposition voices will be cut down by half. […] The crackdown against Apple Daily is so obvious — advertisements were withdrawn, the news site had been attacked by hackers. Now they turn the story of political donation into “corrupt money politics.” There are multiple dimensions to the crackdown: resources (cut its revenue), technical operations (increase its operational cost) and moral smearing (alienate it from public sympathy).

Of course today we still have the Internet. There are more and more online media outlets and the Internet has become the “fifth estate” serving the function of monitoring the government alongside mainstream media. Some online media has become influential and it is predictable that once the Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in building a united front among conventional media for propaganda purposes, they will start the online battle. […]

Yip Ya Chi explained that just as he was finishing up his piece, the House News announced its shutdown.

Which online media platform will be the next target of this suspected crackdown? What can be done to protect the media freedom environment in Hong Kong? Many Hong Kongers are wondering.

by Oiwan Lam at July 27, 2014 09:09 PM

Macedonian Authorities Claim Social Networks ‘Have Always Been Blocked’ in University Dorms
A screenshot of a YouTube video showing the living conditions at Goce Delchev dormitory in Macedonia.

A screenshot of a YouTube video showing the living conditions at Goce Delchev dormitory in Macedonia.

Censorship of freedom of expression by Macedonian authorities is nothing new, but seems to be developing in the small southeast European country. Earlier in 2014, when the residents of a state-run student dormitory in Skopje began an online campaign to expose the horrific living conditions in the dorms, access to Facebook and other websites for the residents of the dorm was cut off

Albanian-language news portal Portalb.mk was the only media outlet from Macedonia to publicly ask the Ministry of Education and Science for explanation. The ministry claimed that it never blocked access to all of the Internet, but “only to social media in the dorms”:

“About the student claims, regarding blocking the Internet, we have never done that and there have not been any problems with the Internet in the “Goce Delchev” dorm. On the other hand, those Internet pages and social networks [in question] have always been blocked, the same way they have been blocked in high schools and primary schools. We enable students to use the Internet for studying purposes only, and not to use pages which have no connection to education,” stated the Ministry representative.

None of the student representatives or media ever claimed that access to all of the Internet was restricted. Prior to the students’ online campaign going viral on social networks throughout the region in March, the residents of the dorm had unrestricted access to Facebook within and outside of exam seasons.

The campaign to raise awareness about the unhealthy living conditions the the state had provided for them drew international interest in the matter. At the time, some media and Twitter users even went as far as to compare the living conditions to those in prisons:

This drew much unwanted attention to the state-run facility, and during the break-out of bad publicity for Macedonian authorities, Facebook and some other websites were suddenly off-limits to them.

As a result of the internationalization of the scandal, the Macedonian government promised to repair that particular dormitory in Skopje and improve living conditions for students. Living conditions in other dorms remain substandard.

by Filip Stojanovski at July 27, 2014 04:02 PM

Doc Searls
Time for digital emancipation

Civilization is a draft. Provisional. Scaffolded. Under construction. For example:

DEC. OF INDEP. 1

That’s Thomas Jefferson‘s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration hasn’t changed since July 4, 1776, but the Constitution built on it has been amended thirty-three times, so far. The thirteenth of those abolished slavery, at the close of the Civil War, seventy-seven years after the Constitution was ratified.

Today we are in another struggle for equality, this time on the Net. As Brian Grimmer put it to me, “Digital emancipation is the struggle of the century.”

There is an ironic distance between those first two words: digital and emancipation. The digital world by itself is free. Its boundaries are those of binary math: ones and zeroes. Connecting that world is a network designed to put no restrictions on personal (or any) power, while reducing nearly to zero the functional distance between everybody and everything. Costs too. Meanwhile, most of what we experience on the Net takes place on the World Wide Web, which is not the Net but a layer on top of it. The Web is built on architectural framework called client-server. Within that framework, browsers are clients, and sites are servers. So the relationship looks like this:

calf-cow

In other words, client-server is calf-cow. (I was once told that “client-server” was chosen because “it sounded better than ‘slave-master.’” If anyone has the facts on that, let us know.)

Bruce Schneier gives us another metapor for this asymmetry:

It’s a feudal world out there.

Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.

These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals.

It’s handy being a vassal. For example, you get to use these shortcuts into websites that require logins:

social-signin

To see how much personal data you risk spilling when you click on the Facebook one, visit iSharedWhat (by Joe Andrieu) for a test run. That spilled data can be used in many ways, including surveillance. The Direct Marketing Association tells us the purpose of surveillance is to give you a better “internet experience” through “interest-based advertising—ads that are intended for you, based on what you do online.” The DMA also provides tools for you to manage experiences of what they call “your ads,” by clicking on this tiny image here:

adchoicesbutton

It appears in the corners of ads from companies in the DMA’s AdChoice program. Here is one:

scottrade

The “AdChoices” text appears when you mouse over the icon. When I click on it, I get this:

scottradepopdown

Like most companies’ privacy policies, Scottrade’s says this: “Scottrade reserves the right to make changes to this Online Privacy Policy at any time.” But never mind that. Instead look at the links that follow. One of those leads to Opt Out From Behavioral Advertising By Participating Companies (BETA). There you can selectively opt out of advertising by dozens of companies. (There are hundreds of those, however. Most don’t allow opting out.)

I suppose that’s kind of them; but for you and me it’s a lot easier just to block all ads and tracking on our own, with a browser extension or add-on. This is why Adblock Plus tops Firefox’s browser add-ons list, which includes many other similar products as well. (The latest is Privacy Badger, from the EFF, which Don Marti visits here.)

Good as they are, ad and tracking blockers are still just prophylactics. They make captivity more bearable, but they don’t emancipate us. For that we need are first person technologies: ways to engage as equals on the open Net, including the feudal Web.

One way to start is by agreeing about how we respect each other. The Respect Trust Framework, for example, is a constitution of sorts, “designed to be self-reinforcing through use of a peer-to-peer reputation system.” Every person and company agreeing to the framework is a peer. Here are the five principles to which all members agree:

Promise We will respect each other’s digital boundaries

Every Member promises to respect the right of every other Member to control the Member Information they share within the network and the communications they receive within the network.

Permission We will negotiate with each other in good faith

As part of this promise, every Member agrees that all sharing of Member Information and sending of communications will be by permission, and to be honest and direct about the purpose(s) for which permission is sought.

Protection We will protect the identity and data entrusted to us

As part of this promise, every Member agrees to provide reasonable protection for the privacy and security of Member Information shared with that Member.

Portability We will support other Members’ freedom of movement

As part of this promise, every Member agrees that if it hosts Member Information on behalf of another Member, the right to possess, access, control, and share the hosted information, including the right to move it to another host, belongs to the hosted Member.

Proof We will reasonably cooperate for the good of all Members

As part of this promise, every Member agrees to share the reputation metadata necessary for the health of the network, including feedback about compliance with this trust framework, and to not engage in any practices intended to game or subvert the reputation system.

The Respect Network has gathered several dozen founding partners in a common effort to leverage the Respect Trust Framework into common use, and within it a market for VRM and services that help out. I’m involved with two of those partners: The Searls Group (my own consultancy, for which Respect Network is a client) and Customer Commons (in which I am a board member).

This summer Respect Network launched a crowd-funding campaign for this social login button:

respect-connect-button

It’s called the Respect Connect button, and it embodies all the principles above; but especially the first one: We will respect each others’ digital boundaries. This makes itthe first safe social login button.

Think of the Respect Connect button project as a barn raising. There are lots of planks (and skills) you can bring, but the main ones will be your =names (“equals names”). These are sovereign identifiers you own and manage for yourself — unlike, say, your Twitter @ handle, which Twitter owns. (Organizations — companies, associations, governments — have +names and things have *names.)

Mine is =Doc.

Selling =names are CSPs: Cloud Service Providers. There are five so far (based, respectively, in Las Vegas, Vienna, London, New York/Jerusalem and Perth):

bosonweb-logo danube_clouds-logo paoga-logo emmett_global-logo onexus-logo

Here’s a key feature: they are substituable. You can port your =name from one to the other as easily as you port your phone number from one company to another. (In fact the company that does this in the background for both your =name and your phone number is Neustar, another Respect Network partner.)

You can also self-host your own personal cloud.

I just got back from a world tour of places where much scaffolding work is going up around this and many other ways customers and companies can respect each other and grow markets. I’ll be reporting more on all of it in coming posts. Meanwhile, enjoy some photos.

 

by Doc Searls at July 27, 2014 02:31 PM

Global Voices
The Philippines’ ‘Anti-Corruption’ President Is Facing Impeachment Calls Over Accusations of Corruption
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Photo from the official Facebook page of the government

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Photo from the official Facebook page of the government

Philippine President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III won on an anti-corruption platform in 2010. Four years later, some are calling for his impeachment for what they see as systemic corruption and patronage politics.

At the center of the criticism is the 177-billion-peso (US$4.086-billion) Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), created shortly after Aquino took office. The program, which was supposed to stimulate the economy, allowed the executive to transfer funds from different agencies and branches of the government into other projects that is favored by the executive.

The implementation of DAP was stopped after the Supreme Court ruled on July 1 that it is unconstitutional. Under the law, Congress has the exclusive power to allocate funds. Critics assailed the DAP as another form of pork barrel under the sole discretion of the president. Opposition Senator Jinggoy Estrada exposed DAP as the source of money used to bribe senators to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The first impeachment complaint was lodged in Congress on July 22 by 28 people coming from anti-corruption groups. The second complaint, filed on July 23, was signed by 25 student leaders coming from various universities. A third impeachment complaint, which was lodged by activist groups to Congress on July 24, has also been filed in connection to the government’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States. Complainants said violates constitutional prohibition of the presence of foreign troops and bases in the country.

President Aquino aggressively defended DAP in a live televised speech on primetime TV, saying the program is legal and beneficial to the public as a stimulus to drive economic growth. This infographic below, released by the government, identifies some of the DAP projects which allegedly boosted the country's disaster preparedness:

dap projects

But Ibon, a progressive think tank, used government documents to show that DAP projects have little contribution to the economy:

DAP Infographic

Many observers are asserting that pushing the impeachment case forward is difficult because of a solid administration majority in Congress, the branch with the power to formally charge a government official for impeachment. Yet former legislator Teddy Casino said that impeachment will hold the president accountable for DAP and other issues:

This is to be expected. After all, the SC decision categorically states that the President violated the Constitution and the law. The logical next step would be to hold him accountable. Since the President is immune from suit, the only way to exact accountability is to impeach him first, then file the appropriate criminal charges after.

According to veteran activist Carol Araullo, the president has become more unpopular by the day because of the DAP controversy with majority of the people feeling betrayed by another elite government that promised reforms with populist rhetoric:

Mr. Aquino is deluded if he thinks he can muster a spontaneous outpouring of support from the people who may have been earlier hoodwinked into believing his anti-corruption/good governance rant… His plea for people to “tie a yellow ribbon” to show their support for his administration has fallen on deaf ears so much so that his spokesman has had to tell the public not to take it seriously.

Nevertheless, the president still has defenders. The blog Perspectives in Development and Evaluation, for instance, believes that DAP is perfectly legal and is beneficial to the public.

The Executive Branch needs some funds or access to funds in order to realize it’s set objectives. I’m not in agreement to the proposal that the Executive (or the Legislative) run absolutely without funds. It’s simply unrealistic. Even company CEOs are provided some funds.

Meanwhile, an online campaign has been encouraging netizens to post photos of themselves with messages for President Aquino regarding DAP. Many are asking why they have not benefited from DAP despite the repeated claims of the government that the program boosted the domestic economy and improved the lives of the poor.

"The education budget is insufficient. Where is the DAP Mr. President?"

“The education budget is insufficient. Where is the DAP Mr. President?”

"Where is the DAP that you boasted for [supertyphoon] Yolanda victims? We don't feel it."

“Where is the DAP for [super typhoon] Yolanda victims that you boasted about? We don't feel it.”

"Why are many still unemployed these days when you said we are your boss?. Where did DAP go?"

“Why are many still unemployed these days when you said we are your boss? Where did DAP go?”

A Radical Nut, an activist researcher, notes that the handling of the impeachment process by the President’s political allies in Congress will determine the shape of the brewing political crisis.

The Aquino administration firmly controls the lower house and, like the Arroyo regime, will surely use all its influence and resources – including massive presidential discretionary funds – to dictate the outcome of the impeachment… But for the people, all these only highlight how rotten the prevailing political system is.

by Karlo Mikhail Mongaya at July 27, 2014 02:48 AM

July 26, 2014

Global Voices
Palestinians Accuse Israel of War Crimes, Push for ICC Trial Gets Support Online

Thousands of people from around the world lent their support to put Israel on trial in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for committing war crimes in Gaza.

Legal proceedings have started by Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem Al Saqqa and Gaza Court public prosecutor Ismail Jabr through a Paris-based lawyer – but commentators say the gesture is symbolic and the ICC may not have jurisdiction as Palestine, which only has observer status in the United Nations, isn't a full UN member.

Today is Day 19 of an Israeli offensive on the Palestinian enclave, which has claimed the lives of at least 1,000 Palestinians and injured 6,000 others to date.

The hashtag #ICC4Israel has been trending worldwide for the past eight hours, generating more than 334.6K tweets at the time of writing.

Palestinian doctor Belal, who lives in Gaza, tweets to his 40.5K followers:

Seventy-five percent of the Palestinians killed are civilians, which has raised questions about the tactics and targets being used in Israeli strikes. Israel says the assault is targeting Hamas, a group that has ruled the territory since 2007, for firing hundreds of missiles across the border into Israel. Two Israeli civilians and 33 Israeli soldiers have been killed so far.

Palestinian Zaki Safar, who has 31K followers on Twitter, notes:

Hamas’ rockets into Israel are mostly homemade and reaching further than ever before, but most of them are picked off by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and rarely cause damage. Sirens warn Israelis of incoming missiles, and they can take shelter in one of the country's many bomb shelters. In Gaza, there are no sirens or bomb shelters, the Israeli Defense Forces have been using one-minute missile tap warnings on residential houses in this offensive.

Palestine Social tells its 33.1K followers on Twitter Israel should be put on trial in the ICC for its attack on hospitals:

Bahraini doctor Nabeel Tammam, with 20.4K followers, also lends his voice to the campaign saying:

Gaza's poorly equipped over-worked hospitals and medics have had another problem – shelling from Israel during this offensive. The Palestinian Ministry of Health explains:

One of Gaza’s hospitals has been totally destroyed, a paediatric hospital so severely damaged it is unusable, and another six have been severely damaged. Four health professionals have been killed and 14 injured. Two medical clinics and 14 ambulances have been completely destroyed, and seven other clinics have been damaged.

And Palestine Campaigns, which kicked off the move, calls on journalists to pick the cause they were campaigning for:

Meanwhile, Walaa Al Ghussein, from Gaza, laments:

The vast majority of Gazans cannot leave Gaza. The narrow 40-kilometer-long coastal territory is surrounded by fences and concrete walls along its north and east with Israel and on its south border with Egypt. UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 called Gaza “an open-air prison.” Excessive restrictions from Israel in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank is why most of the world and the United Nations considers this territory “occupied.”

by Amira Al Hussaini at July 26, 2014 10:34 PM

Hollaback's AtréveteBA Fights Street Harassment in Buenos Aires
A screenshot of the AtréveteBA website.

A screenshot of the AtréveteBA website.

This story was written in Spanish by Paula Gonzalo and originally published on Periodismo Ciudadano, a website dedicated to citizen journalism. 

AtréveteBA is the Buenos Aires branch of the Hollaback movement, which was created to document and fight street harassment. Its Spanish-language site includes a digital map, blogs, and resources to bring visibility to the problem, giving a voice to more than 150 victims of street harassment in Argentina. Hollaback Buenos Aires is coordinated by Inti Tidball, founder and an activist in the foundation since October 2010.

Hollaback is a nonprofit organization with a presence in 79 cities in 26 countries and in eight different languages. It is an international movement made up of a network of activists whose mission is to end street harassment, encourage social debate, and develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces.

The group has developed a mobile app that enables live tracking and reporting via text messages. User reports of street harassment incidents are compiled on a map. Hollaback also offers free training for those who want to create a site for their own city or neighborhood. To facilitate this, they offer “educational workshops to schools, universities, and community groups, and engage citizens through traditional and social media.” The objective is to build an international movement that breaks the silence surrounding street harassment, which Hollaback considers to be the gateway to sexual violence. The organization provides technical training to support the development of new branches.

sdfdsfsdf

A poster made available by AtréveteBA reads, “A message to women: There's no reason why you have to put up with the comments made about your body in the street. It's okay to tell men to leave you alone. Ask them if they would like it if their sisters or daughters were treated like this. Ask them to have respect. If they touch you or follow you, report them!”

The organization's Buenos Aires website features a wealth of useful resources in Spanish on confronting street harassment, including data on the international fight against street harassment, myths about harassment, information on personal self-defense, statistics and definitions of harassment, support services for victims of violence, and a map that displays areas where harassment is most frequent and features the stories uploaded by site users.

Latin America is already home to Atrévete Bogotá Colombia, Atrévete México DF, Atrévete Puerto Rico, Atrévete Querétaro México, and Atrévete Santiago de Chile.

Verbal harassment has become an important frontier in the fight for gender equality and especially the fight against gender violence. Street harassment, which directly inhibits women's freedom to move safely in public spaces, is already a crime in Belgium, where a pioneering law has made sexist comments and sexual propositions punishable by a fine of 50 to 1,000 euros (about $70 to $1,350) or even up to one year in prison. Approval of this law was spurred by the documentary film “Femme de la rue” by Sofie Peeters, a young resident of Brussels, which shows the quantity of catcalls, vulgar comments, insults, and even insistent sexual propositions that she suffers in her city. 

by Catherine Randall at July 26, 2014 12:00 PM

Indians Are Using Social Media to Tackle Racism Against Northeasterners
A protest in Delhi against attacks on North East Indians in several places of India.  Image by Rajesh Tandon. Copyright Demotix (18/8/2012)

A protest in Delhi against attacks on Indians from the northeastern states in several places of India. Image by Rajesh Tandon. Copyright Demotix (18/8/2012)

In a recent promo for the hugely popular game show “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” India's version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Bollywood superstar and host Amitabh Bachchan asks a contestant from the northeastern states which country the Indian city of Kohima belongs to. The options are China, Nepal, India or Bhutan.

She requests to use a lifeline, and some viewers laugh, thinking the answer is obvious. Bachchan tells her 100 percent of the audience says India. “This is something everyone knows,” he tells her.

“Yes sir, everyone knows about it, but how many believe in it?” she replies.    

Many people from the India's northeastern states, a region called the “Seven Sisters,” face racial discrimination in the rest of the country mainly because of their East Asian features and different culture. One commenter wrote under the video on YouTube:

I think we Indians are racist towards every region or state (of course its wrong), but just because our fellow north eastern people look unique they are easy targets.

Recent cases of hate crime, reported more regularly as people migrate to and from many states, have reawakened the country's debate on racism. Last week, a 30-year-old man from India's northeastern state of Manipur was allegedly beaten to death by a group of men in the Kotla area of South Delhi.

And in January, a student, Nido Taniam, from the northeastern state of Arunanchal Pradesh was also beaten to death by shopkeepers who made fun of his hair.

In response, the government set up the Bezbaruah Committee to explore racism and other issues faced by people from Northeast India. It submitted its report on July 11 and the Ministry of Home Affairs is studying the report but no results or new measures have been announced so far. 

However, awareness about the problem is growing and grassroots activists are trying to address it using social media and Internet.

In one YouTube video, Indian prankster TroubleSeekerTeam conducted a “racism experiment” of a man in a park calling a northeastern woman “chinky” (a derogatory term for a Chinese person) and using racist language. Some passersby ignored the altercation, some intervened on behalf of the woman, and no one sided with the man.

Enxie Nemi Guite, a YouTube user from the northeast, thanked the team for the video: 

I've faced uncountable incidents such like the one in the video, although I have never been defended. It gives me so much pleasure that there are people who care.
I became immune to comments like these from having received it so many times, but now…. I will not be silent.

On Facebook, ‘Stop Discriminating People From the North-East India’, which protests against such racial discrimination, has nearly 63,000 likes and features regular discussion on the page.

Elsewhere, a thread on question-and-answer site Quora looked at why people from the northeast are negatively perceived by other IndiansVijay Singh from India advanced the following causes of discrimination:

Map of Seven Sisters.

Map of the Seven Sisters.

1. Its Geographically separate from mainland India
2. They represent only 3-4% of India’s population
3. Low participation in Indian politics and agenda
4. Features of the Mongolian race – this causes them to be labeled as ‘Chinese’
5. Clothing – despite India’s huge cultural diversity; the traditional dress all over India for women would be either a ‘salwar kameez’ or a ‘saree’. Only in the North Eastern states, the traditional dress is completely different from these two forms.
6. There is also huge linguistic diversity between these states, and the rest of the nation

The ethnic and cultural differences result in a misunderstanding of the northeastern people, captured by this word cloud posted on the thread by Anup Chakraborty:

Screenshot from Quora

Screenshot from Quora

East Asian features are not the only observable traits that lead to discrimination in India. Skin color, weight and accents all play into a person’s social, familial and workplace status. 

For instance, a recent article on IndiaCSR, a sustainable responsibility portal, reported violence against African students in metropolises. Editor of Delhi-based Hardnews magazine Sanjay Kapoor tweeted:

Self-awareness is part of the solution. A broad, introspective examination of Indian racism on ScoopWhoop, a news and opinion portal, has resonated with many on social media:

Through social media and networking, the collective conscience against racism is evolving. But there has to be many more sociopolitical campaigns and discussions from mainstream media and other agencies to tackle this grave issue. The talk has started, and the walk must follow.

by Tejasvini Prasad at July 26, 2014 10:32 AM

July 25, 2014

Global Voices
Russia's 4-Million-Ruble Procurement Order to Crack Tor Is Suddenly Revised
Rewriting a procurement order to hide the scary stuff? Image edited by author.

Rewriting a procurement order to hide the scary stuff? Image edited by author.

The Russian Interior Ministry has revised the language in a procurement order offering 3.9 million rubles (about USD $100,000) for developing a way to decipher user data on the Tor anonymity network.

Federal authorities published the original announcement on July 11, 2014, but Internet users and the media only became widely aware of the tender yesterday, July 24, following a report on the website TheRuNet.com. Earlier today, July 25, government officials changed the description of the procurement order, removing language about breaching individuals’ digital privacy.

The original name of the procurement order read as follows:

«Выполнение НИР «Исследование возможности получения технической информации о пользователях (пользовательском оборудовании) анонимной сети ТОR», шифр «ТОР (Флот)».

Implementation of research: “Researching the possibility of obtaining technical information about the users (the users’ equipment) of the TOR anonymity network,” codename “TOR (Fleet).”

The new description now found on the state procurement website says simply:

Выполнение научно-исследовательской работы, шифр «ТОР (Флот)»

Implementation of research, codename “TOR (Fleet).”

It is unclear why the Russian government codenamed the Tor network “TOR (Fleet).” Perhaps this is because Moscow originally assigned the codename when Tor, originally known as “the onion routing network,” was still sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Perhaps not, however, as the word “fleet” (also translatable as “navy”) appears in other procurement announcements that have nothing to do with Tor or the United States.

What is clear is that someone in Russia’s procurement office thought it wise to soften the language in the Tor decryption order, presumably to make the government in Moscow seem less bent on violating individuals’ privacy.

Tetyana Lokot assisted in the development of this article. Special thanks to Josef Cox for drawing RuNet Echo's attention to the revision online.

by Kevin Rothrock at July 25, 2014 02:57 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Monitorial Citizenship: Projects and Tools

Post by Chelsea Barabas, Rahul Bhargava, Heather Craig, Alexis Hope, & Jude Mwenda

Here at Civic, we have been thinking about ways to promote civic engagement in the periods between elections through monitorial democracy. We’ve noticed that in many places around the world, we have achieved open, fair, and “bad” elections. In democracies, we usually describe elections as one of our primary mechanisms for holding elected officials accountable. If your mayor promises to improve roads and fails, you can elect someone new the next cycle.

The biggest threat to this model of democracy is that elections will be rigged. Election monitoring projects have been successful in policing blatant election fraud through citizen and third-party election monitoring, but the outcomes of these elections are still not closely related to a politician’s performance. We want to extend monitoring activities beyond election cycles, and to use monitoring as a tool for ongoing feedback and dialogue between elected officials and their constituents.

 

We are currently designing a mobile phone tool called Promise Tracker to enable citizens to track government performance between election cycles. In addition to the mobile phone tool, we are developing a complementary set of monitoring and advocacy practices to help make data collection actionable. Ethan has previously written about the broader goals and history of the Promise Tracker project on his blog.

 

In this post, we’ll share some of the projects we’ve found in the space of monitorial democracy, as they have served as inspiration for Promise Tracker and have informed our ongoing work to pilot Promise Tracker in two cities in Brazil. We also want to share a more detailed look at the space of data collection tools that could help support citizen monitoring efforts.

 
Monitoring Government Performance

There are a number of projects that aim to monitor government performance and political promises. MorsiMeter, for example, was a project that evaluated then-recently elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by documenting what he had achieved in his first 100 days, as opposed to his promises. The MorsiMeter project tracked how many promises were in progress, how many promises were achieved, and what the overall satisfaction of the citizenry was for what had been implemented so far. MorsiMeter tracked promises in 5 categories: traffic, security, fuel, bread, and the environment. The evidence for the status of promises came from television, radio, and social networks, and drew from both official and independent sources. At the end of 100 days, the project released a report summarizing in detail the promises for each category.

 

MumbaiVotes is a political accountability project from the Informed Voter Project, a non-partisan non-profit in Mumbai. “We wish to see India transform from just being the largest democracy to also being an evolved one,” the project website states, with “reliable, unbiased, perceptive and performance-based information.” MumbaiVotes collects comprehensive information from many sources to evaluate both elected representatives and candidates. For example, they offer news coverage analysis to determine promises versus performance, legislative attendance records, criminal record analysis, and more. All research is conducted by Journalism students for academic credit at their respective institutions.

 

Truth Tracker, a project operating in Pakistan, was launched by UPI Next, a non-profit media development department of the United Press International news agency. Truth Tracker monitors election pledges by politicians, and categorizes them in one of five categories: broken, fulfilled, underway, not started, or compromised. The Truth Tracker Team is comprised of 25 journalists who look at politician’s manifestos, news articles, and election speeches to develop their list of promises. Cine Ce a Promis, a similar project from Romania, crowd-sources evidence of promises and allows for public discussion on forums, where users can propose concrete actions to take in response to unfulfilled promises.

 

Citizen Monitoring Projects

Citizen monitoring has been the focus of many projects and associated tools, such as Code for America’s Adopt-a-Hydrant program and mySociety’s Fix My Street tool. This technique has been successful to an extent; monitoring is one way to hold administrations accountable for the state of existing infrastructure. However, how do we monitor infrastructure projects that have been proposed, or even promised, but do not yet exist? As an example, a politician could promise during campaign season to build a bridge, or extend a train line to a specific town once they get elected. But after an election, how do citizens hold leaders accountable for these promises? And how can they communicate the pressing infrastructure needs their community may have?

 

Tools like Safecast, a global project with origins in Japan, mobilize citizens to collect data related to environmental or scientific causes. Safecast aims to monitor radiation by creating a static and mobile (human) sensor network. After the earthquake in Japan on March 11th, 2011 and related disaster at Fukushima, people wanted to create a data set about radiation that was not owned by any government entity and provided more information than was publicly available at that time. The Safecast project is compatible with a number of sensor devices, both open-source hardware and commercial, off-the-shelf tools. Citizen monitors can attach Safecast-compatible units to their cars, collecting data as they drive through their environment. The data is presented on their website on various maps, and is also available for download.

 

Other projects focus on creating robust, thorough maps through participatory processes. Map Kibera, a project in Kenya, works with community members to create a free and open map of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi. The purpose of this mapping project is to mobilize community members who are part of existing grassroots movements (like women’s groups or savings groups) to collect data about topic areas that the community cares about (such as Water Sanitation and Education) and use that data for lobbying and advocacy. Map Kibera uses a suite of tools which they call “Voice”, combining Ushahidi (a platform that allows users to crowdsource information using text messages, email, Twitter and the web) with open-source, editable maps from OpenStreetMap.

 

Some civic data collection projects are instigated by governments themselves for the purpose of planning and evaluation. For example, the Nigerian Government partnered with Columbia University’s Earth Institute to equip hundreds of government-hired enumerators with smartphones to visit schools, water points, and health facilities across the country. At these sites, enumerators would take a photo, record the location using GPS, and assess the quality of infrastructure. The purpose of this government-organized monitoring project was to help the government track infrastructure projects being completed by the contractors they hired, and evaluate the country’s progress towards the UN Millenium Development Goals.

 

Data Collection Tools

There are a number of existing tools designed to facilitate data collection by a group of people. Many of these involve creating customized forms using a web tool and deploying data collection on mobile phones, using either a native data collection app or web app. During our research on Promise Tracker, we came across a number of data collection tools and analyzed these tools according to a number of metrics, such as customizability, open-source or proprietary, technical support, sustainability, and security. These tools include:

 

Open Data Kit (ODK) is an open-source data collection tool that came out of the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. ODK allows users to create data collection forms using ODK Build (a web-based form builder) and deploy these forms in the field using ODK Collect (an Android App). With ODK, data is collected on ODK Aggregate, and users can output basic visuals from Aggregate, including pie charts, bar charts, and maps. ODK has a strong user base, ranging from public health data collection to citizen science projects. We used ODK during our initial design workshops in Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, Brazil and found ODK worked well for quickly iterating on forms. ODK Build, however (ODK’s GUI form builder) was a proof of concept for the ODK team and it helps to have some technical skills to use effectively. Others have built on top of the ODK platform, generally to provide more features or create market-specific form builders.

 

MIT’s Mobile Experience Lab developed LoCast, a tool that allows for “rapid deployment of location-based media platforms.” LoCast is open-source and consists of an Android application and a web application. With LoCast, users can collect data in the field, including photos and video, and then this audio-visual content is mapped onto maps or other online visual interfaces. LoCast is particularly strong at creating rich interactive narrative experiences, and various projects have used LoCast to create custom interactive media experiences. One of these examples is Memory Traces, which showcases stories from the Boston Italian community. While LoCast allows for the creation of strong visual narratives, it’s less oriented towards custom form creation and deployment and the aggregation of large amounts of quantitative data.

 

Many projects aim to mobilize citizens to collect civic-oriented data. For example, mySociety’s UK-based Fix My Street project is a website that lets citizens report potholes, broken streetlights, and other problems to the local organization responsible for fixing these problems. MySociety has also developed Fix My Street mobile phone applications that allow citizens to collect and report data. Fix My Street is an open-source project, and has had international reach outside of the UK; versions of Fix My Street are currently in use in Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Tunisia, among many other cities and countries. Fix My Street allows citizens to collect data about any topic, but does not allow users to create data collection forms or surveys that they can share with others.

 

Another data collection platform specifically oriented towards collecting data on water points is Taarifa, an open-source web API being piloted for data collection on water points in Tanzania. Taarifa is a fork of Ushahidi, and they started in 2011 at the London Water Hackathon. Using Taarifa, citizens send updates on infrastructure via SMS (integrated via Twilio), web form, email, or Twitter. The issues are aggregated where they can be followed up on by the appropriate service provider. Ideally, this platforms connects citizen data collectors with decision makers.

 

LocalData is a software-as-a-service data collection web app that runs in the browser of a smartphone or tablet. LocalData aims to empower non-experts to create custom surveys, share them with a group of fellow data collectors, and create visualizations from the resultant data. LocalData, developed as a project for the Detroit chapter of Code for America in 2012, was used in early pilot tests to document the condition of over 9,000 parcels of land around Detroit. Although LocalData is designed for non-experts and may be appropriate for our target audience, it does not have a hard offline data collection mode as does a technology like ODK, which may prove challenging in regions where many people do not have a data plan for their phones. However, LocalData does provide the ability to print paper surveys with a QR code so they can be scanned and uploaded later.

 

A sub-section of data collection tools include tools that integrate SMS. SMS can be used to notify a group of people to collect data at a particular time or location, and it can be used as a data submission tool (like Taarifa). Magpi is one such service, as it allows for data collection via SMS and mass notification via SMS. Other SMS based data collection platforms include RapidSMS and FrontlineSMS. In our initial design and development of Promise Tracker, we won’t integrate SMS based data collection, but focus our efforts on creating an easy-to-use form builder for deployment on mobile phones.     

 

Summary

While the tools we’ve introduced are tremendously useful in different contexts, we see an opportunity to build a data collection tool that guides citizens through the process of collecting data related to political promises and civic issues. Working with our partners in Brazil, we are scaffolding best practices in data collection, visualization, and advocacy by building process into the tool itself. For example, our form builder will guide community organizers through the process of choosing an issue, defining campaign goals, organizing a network of data collectors, and sharing the results of the campaign in order to make a desired political change. Our aim is to build a data collection tool that is easy to use, works in places with no or limited data connection, and is friendly for new audiences that may find existing tools overwhelming. Currently, we plan to integrate our process-oriented form builder tool with existing mobile data collection frameworks like ODK, to leverage the incredible community and support that surrounds the technology.

 

If you’re interested in reading more about our ongoing work in Brazil, we have previously written about some of the participants who attended the workshops we conducted there in January 2014, as well as some of our initial reflections on the project.

 

 

 

by alexishope at July 25, 2014 04:14 AM

July 24, 2014

Global Voices
Shelling of a School Where Gazans Had Taken Shelter Kills Women, Children and UN Staff

All of Kamal's family members with him at shelled UN school died. His mother, 2 brothers, sister and stepmother, tweets @sharifkouddous

“All of [Hussein]‘s family members with him at shelled UN school died. His mother, 2 brothers, sister and stepmother,” tweets @sharifkouddous

A UN-run school in Beit Hanun, serving as a refugee centre for Gazans, was shelled, killing 15 Palestinians and leaving more than 200 injured.

Women, children and UN staff were among those killed, according to a statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A total of 800 Palestinians have so far been killed and more than 5,200 injured since clashes between Israel and Gaza started 18 days ago. 

Israel and the Palestinians are exchanging blame on who hit the school, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. It is the fourth time in four days that a UN school was struck by explosives, according to the agency. As civilian death tolls mount, Israel’s military says it warned Gazans living in targeted areas to leave, but Palestinians have no where to go.

The vast majority of Gazans cannot leave Gaza. The narrow 40-kilometer-long coastal strip is surrounded by fences and concrete walls along its north and east with Israel and on its south border with Egypt.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 called Gaza “an open-air prison.” Excessive restrictions from Israel in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank is why most of the world and the United Nations considers this territory “occupied.”

The UNRWA has 83 shelters across Gaza, where 141,338 Palestinian civilians are currently displaced.

The UNRWA reports on its official Twitter account:

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, who is based in Jerusalem, says Israel knew of where the UNRWA shelter was. In a series of tweets, he explains:

And he adds:

While journalist Kristen Chick, who is in Gaza, tells her more than 19,300 followers what Israeli Defense Forces are saying:

On Twitter, ITN cameraman Sean Swan shares this heart-breaking photograph of children wounded in the attack while a paramedic treats them:

He shares another photograph of a 3-month-old baby being treated after suffering from shrapnel wounds during the attack on the school:

Independent journalist Sharif Kouddous shares this photograph with his more than 76,000 followers on Twitter of a young Palestinian, Hussein, who lost his entire family in the attack:

This photograph has been retweeted more than 1,200 times at the time of writing.

Many journalists have laid the blame on Israel, doubting its version of events that a Hamas projectile fell on the school. Journalist Deema Khatib tells her more than 280,000 followers:

Seriously? Is this what we are supposed to believe? The IDF says it is not sure whether it has hit the UNRWA school or Hamas! Is it possible that Hamas has F16s and similar weapons?

However, according to NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, the UNRWA says it has “no evidence to suggest” the school was being used by militants as human shields — Israel's excuse to bomb facilities.

In a follow-up tweet, Engel wondered:

Meanwhile, the death toll across Gaza continues to pile up.

Ahmed Al-Faraa from Gaza tweets to his 5,121 followers:

Omar Ghraieb tells his more than 22,000 followers:

And WhateverInGaza describes the situation as follows:

by Amira Al Hussaini at July 24, 2014 11:32 PM

Bahrain's Shia Muslims Tense as Politicians and Preachers Pledge Allegiance to ISIS

Photo from the profile of Turky Albinali, a Bahraini scholar who joined ISIS @turky_albinali

For Bahrain's majority Shia Muslim population, five recent events in their small island country ruled by Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa monarchs have them on edge.

These events involved powerful Sunni Muslims openly making dangerous sectarian comments in public without consequence, and swearing allegiance to the anti-Shia extremist group ISIS, which recently declared a caliphate (Islamic state) in Iraq. 

Back in 2011, Bahrainis, the majority of whom are Shia Muslims, complained of political and economic marginalization in the country of 1.3 million people, but recent events suggest a growing trend towards complete marginalization.  

The military cracked down on Shia Muslim-led protests against the Sunni Muslim government in 2011. Since then, Bahrain has been accused of human rights abuses targeting Shia Muslims. Low-level protests have continued to simmer. According to Mark Lynch at Foreign Policy magazine in 2011, ”the Bahraini regime responded not only with violent force, but also by encouraging a nasty sectarianism in order to divide the popular movement and to build domestic and regional support for a crackdown.”

Among the tools used to sow the seeds of sectarianism that led to the following five incidents, empowering preachers from the country's small extremist Salafist population has been at the top of the list. Besides being anti-Shia, Salafi is a puritanical Sunni sect that has inspired extremist militant organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

1. Bahraini preacher pledges allegiance to ISIS

Earlier this month, Turky Albinalim, a Bahraini Sunni preacher, endorsed anti-Shia ISIS, which is accused by Human Rights Watch of abducting, killing and expelling minorities, including Shia Muslims. Albinali appeared in a YouTube video declaring his loyalty to ISIS's new khalifa (head of caliphate) Abubaker Albaghdadi (in Arabic):

 2. Bahrain's top Shia cleric is declared an infidel

Last week at a press conference, powerful former military officer Adel Fulaifel, who has been accused of torture, announced that Bahrain's highest Shia cleric Isa Qassim is an infidel. He added that he “will be hunted like a rat.” He was responding to Isa Qassim's call to start a joint Shia-Sunni cleric council. 

Earlier this year, Bahrain closed the country's main Shia cleric council, a move that started a series of protests around the country.

BahrainMomo tweeted to her 21,000 followers:

استقبال مشايخ تكفيرية و فليفل يكفر ويهدد بقتل علماء الشيعة واليوم اغلاق المجلس العلمائي الشيعي من قبل النظام ! سياسة دولة سلفية داعشية

— أم أحمد البحرينية (@bahrainmomo) July 15, 2014

Welcoming extremists clerics, Fulaifel threatens to kill Shia clerics and today the regime closes the clerics council! A policy of a Salafist state like ISIS.

3. US diplomat kicked out, radical Saudi preacher welcomed

Two days before Fulaifel made his threat, a US diplomat was kicked out of the small oil-rich kingdom, which the US navy has used as a military base for years. A day later, the controversial sectarian and radical Saudi preacher Mohamed Alarefe was welcomed into Bahrain to give a series of sermons to young Bahrainis, despite the outcry of netizens. The Saudi preacher has been classified as a threat to the UK.

4. Politician openly supports ISIS

Former member of parliament Nasser Alfadhala, who will be contesting the next election from the Al-Menbar party (which the UK suspects of links to terrorism), openly supported the ISIS in this YouTube video last month:

«نحن نقف مع هذه الثورة التي صبرت طويلاً وطال انتظارها، لطرد هذا الظلم وهذا الخبث، الذي تدعمه بلاد الفرس، من أجل إذلال بلاد الرشيد، بلاد العزة والكرامة»

We support this revolution [by ISIS] that has been initiated to kick out the injustice and malice supported by the land of Persia to humiliate the land of Rasheed [historic caliphate], the land of glory and dignity.

Twitter user iProtester replied to that by publishing a photo of Alfadhala with flags of ISIS in the background, close to the American embassy:

An authorized gathering with the flags of a non-terrorist organization (sarcasm) in front of the American embassy led by Nasser Alfadhala

Journalist and satirist Faisal Hayyat tweeted:

تمت جرجرة خليل المرزوق بين النيابة والمحاكم بسبب رفع علم الإئتلاف،يا ترى هل سيتم جرجرة ناصر الفضالة بسبب رفع أعلام داعش؟ #مي_مقبولة #البحرين

— رياضيونا رهائن (@FaisalHayyat) July 18, 2014

Khalil Almarzooq was prosecuted and taken to court for raising the flag of the youth coalition. Will Nasser Alfadhala go through the same for raising the flag of ISIS?

Almarzooq is a leading member of the largest opposition group Alwefaq. He was arrested and put to trial for holding a flag of the Bahraini February 14 youth coalition, which led protests in 2011.

5. Bahraini soldier defects

Last week, Sunni Muslim military officer Mohamed Albinali (or Abu Isa Alsalmi as he was dubbed by his fellow soldiers) tweeted:

أنا محمد بن عيسى البنعلي، ملازم في الداخلية البحرينية أعلن عن #انشقاقي عن هذا النظام منذ اكثر من أربعة أشهر #البحرين

— أبو عيسى السلمي (@bu3utbah) July 15, 2014

I Mohamed Isa Albinali, a lieutenant in Bahrain's Ministry of Interior declare my defection from this regime since over four months.

Bahrain's Ministry of Interior has been criticized for its sectarian selection policy and its use of systematic torture.

This month, even though the financial watchdog IMF warned Bahrain it might be unable to pay government employees by 2017, the tourism-dependent country banned three-star hotels from selling alcohol or hosting music bands. Bahrain hosts 2 million tourists every year. 

In 2011, when popular New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof visited Bahrain he described it as a quasi-apartheid state. But as supporters of ISIS and preachers of hate and militancy like Fulaifel, Alfadhala and Alarefe are given more free reign in Bahrain, it increasingly seems like a complete apartheid state, meant to economically, politically and socially marginalize the country's majority Shia Muslims.

by Noor Mattar at July 24, 2014 10:18 PM

Iraq Moves Toward a New Government With Fouad Masoum's Election as President
Kurdish Fouad Masoum has been elected as the new president of Iraq. Source: @RadawEnglish (Twitter)

Kurdish Fouad Masoum has been elected as the new president of Iraq. Source: @RadawEnglish (Twitter)

Iraq finally has a new president. Fouad Masoum, a 76-year-old Kurdish politician, has been elected to the post, following a deadlock over forming a new government since elections in April.

The appointment aims to create a new government to counter the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq, which has been under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since the terrorist group took over Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and its surroundings, last month.

London-based Iraqi Chatham House associate fellow Hayder al-Khoei tweets:

Mustafa Kadhum, also based in London, explains:

Meanwhile, Iraqi journalist Mina Al-Oraibi, who has 19.6K followers on Twitter, comments:

But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt welcomes the move. He tweets to his 307K followers:

The next hurdle for Iraq is an agreement on who the next prime minister for Iraq to replace Nouri Almalki should be.

by Amira Al Hussaini at July 24, 2014 07:37 PM

Video: ISIS Destroys Prophet Jonah's Mosque in Mosul, Iraq

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which took over Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and other territory in western Iraq last month, continues to destroy ancient religious shrines and Shia mosques.

On Twitter, Iraqi Hayder al-Khoei, a Chatham House associate fellow based in London, UK, just tweeted a video showing the destruction of Prophet Jonah's mosque in Mosul:

The video, which is being shared on social media, has been uploaded on YouTube by Murtada Al-Yusuf.

The organisation of Sunni extremists considers the veneration of saints apostasy and Shia Muslims as heretics.

The Daily Mail recently published this report, with photographs and videos sourced from social media, on the destruction of at least 10 ancient shrines and Shia mosques in territories under ISIS control.

by Amira Al Hussaini at July 24, 2014 06:59 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Russia Offers 4 Million Rubles to Crack the Tor Network
Tor logo used with permission. Image remixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Tor logo used with permission. Image remixed by Kevin Rothrock.

The Russian government is offering almost 4 million rubles (about USD $100,000) to anyone who can devise a reliable way to decrypt data sent over the Tor anonymity network. A mounting campaign by the Kremlin against the open Internet, not to mention revelations in the United States about government spying, have made Tor increasingly attractive to Russian Internet users seeking to circumvent state censorship.

Developed as a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory more than a decade ago, Tor anonymizes Internet traffic by sending it through a unique configuration of nodes known as an onion routing system. Now in the hands of a nonprofit group, the project continues to receive federal funding but boasts approximately 4 million users worldwide, among them many tech-savvy digital activists in countries where technical censorship and surveillance are prevalent. Even the U.S. State Department supports programs that train foreign political activists to use Tor to protect themselves from the watchful eyes of authoritarian governments.

Tor has encountered problems in Russia before. Indeed, the country’s principal security agency, the FSB, lobbied the Duma last year to ban Tor. Deputies expressed support for the initiative, but it never got out of committee.

Russian Pirate Party leader Stanislav Sharikov says the Russian government’s renewed interest in cracking Tor might have more to do with genuine police concerns than political repression. The $100,000 contract (a relatively small amount of money by global industry standards) is being offered not by the FSB but the Interior Ministry, which according to Sharikov is more interested in fighting child pornography than anti-Putin dissidents.

Of course, Tor is a “dual-use” technology. By providing people with the means to escape censorship and spying, the network is also used by people engaged in organized crime, drug trafficking, and the exchange and sale of child pornography. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden prove that the U.S. National Security Agency has devoted significant resources to hacking Tor, in order to grab personal data about the people who use it.

The U.S. government cites precisely these worrying uses of Tor when justifying its own efforts to decrypt users’ data. But the anonymous nature of the network makes it difficult to know precisely who uses it, and for what, at a global scale.

Although unlikely, should Russia’s decryption project succeed, it could endanger millions of Internet users whose interest in online anonymity is far from nefarious.

by Kevin Rothrock at July 24, 2014 06:54 PM

Global Voices
Indian Prime Minister Modi's First Budget Promises Lots of Change, Including an Expensive New Statue
Arun Jaithly. Finance Minister of the Narendra Modi lead NDA government in India, arriving at the Parliament house to present the General Budget for the year 2014-15. Image by Ranjan Basu. Demotix (10/7/2014)

New Finance Minister of India Arun Jaithly, in the Narendra Modi-lead NDA government, arriving at Parliament house to present the general budget for the year 2014-15. Image by Ranjan Basu. Demotix (10/7/2014)

Narendra Modi has unveiled his first budget as India’s new prime minister for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. This was India’s first glimpse at the type of leader he intends to become, and while some are applauding his plans for India's development, others aren't happy with the inclusion of a ‘wasteful’ $34-million statue. 

When Modi was first elected to serve as India’s prime minister a few months ago, he promised the country that important political issues would be tackled. These changes included creating jobs for all Indian youth, expanding India's industry, and encouraging foreign investment. With a prediction of 1 million people entering the job market each month over the next 15 years, about 12 million jobs per year, Modi's government has high expectations to significantly increase India's industry in order to allow this growth to occur. 

However, up until July 10, 2014, when his budget was released, the majority of those promises were solely vocalized during Modi’s campaign trail. Mayank Jain at Youth Ki Awaaz opines, “The budget is government’s show of commitment to things which could definitely come much lower in our list of priorities.”

In a nutshell, the budget detailed plans with a general theme of drastically increasing India’s annual growth both economically and agriculturally through practices such as implementing a more uniform national sales tax and increasing the tax-to-GDP ratio (in light of the recent task force created by Modi charged with locating India’s black money). In addition, Modi announced the construction of numerous infrastructure projects such as railways, airports, and roads, which he promised to build during his campaign trial.

The budget showed the world that he intended to bring the change to India that he promised to during the campaign trail. Subsequently, there were numerous mixed reactions throughout social media regarding different aspects of Modi’s budget. Some felt that the budget illustrated the progress that Modi promised during the campaign trail, while others believed that there were certain aspects of the budget which were unnecessary and a waste of funds.

For example, the budget detailed plans to begin the construction of the world's tallest statue in Gujarat, India, where Modi formerly served as governor. The statue, called the “Statue of Unity,” was set to be about 600 feet tall and feature a museum along with an underwater aquarium. While Modi’s budget stated that the construction of the statue would cost about $34 million, a report from Scroll India states that the construction could cost up to $415 million.

According to Modi, “The taller the statue will be, the more India will be known at the global stage.” Half a billion dollars certainly isn't pocket money, and for a country that strives to become more developed, there are a more than a few people who are unhappy with the decision.

Being Indian, a blog which strives to give a firsthand perspective of being from India, feels that the construction of the statue is simply a way for Indian politicians to profit off of its failure: 

The politicians and builders stand to gain though. So who are we to stop them from milking the nation dry?! We all know what’s gonna happen. This monument will take years to build, after which it’ll start cracking or even collapsing due to use of substandard materials. More money will be pumped into the project in the name of repairs. And it won’t stand a chance against the Statues of Liberty and the Eiffel Towers of the world.

However, there are some Indians such as Satvik Patel, a doctor from Mumbai, take pride in the statue. Patel feels that India should learn to respect their own country before others:

Despite the widespread controversy over the construction of the Statue of Unity, there are still many who support Modi's new budget and feel that he is a necessary change in order to transform India into a developed country.

Equinox Logic, a local think tank which aims to provide solutions in city planning, tweeted their support regarding the direction that Modi is taking the country in:

Anurag Singh, a general manager at Ingram Micro, praised Modi’s plans towards tax exemption in India: “The increase in tax exemption and PPF savings is a very good move and it shows that Modi’s government is moving in the right direction.”

Ranjan, and Indian online journalist, also went on to praise Modi’s tax exemptions by comparing his budget to Delhi’s:

While there are many mixed feelings regarding the implications of Modi’s new budget, the world will simply have to wait and see if he will follow through on his campaign promises and transform India into a more developed nation. What do you think? Is Modi’s new 2014 budget as effective as it could be?

by Nikhil Dhingra at July 24, 2014 01:24 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Israel Struggles to Win “Hearts and Minds” in Media War on Palestine
"Infographics: What Would You Do?" by Israel Defense Forces via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Infographics: What Would You Do?” by Israel Defense Forces via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Written and translated by Leila Nachawati. A version of this article appeared on the website of Spanish daily Eldiario.es, in Spanish. 

Israel’s attacks on Gaza in 2009 were the first case of a conflict mediated by social media. Both inside and outside the Gaza strip, citizens and members of Hamas used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to narrate, document and condemn the attacks. But no group’s use of these platforms was as intensive and coordinated as that of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Five years later, while scenes of death and devastation repeat themselves in Gaza, Israel has redoubled its online propaganda in an attempt to show the world its kinder side.

An online struggle for “hearts and minds”

Israeli military operations are always accompanied by robust media reports that seem intended to mitigate their impact on international public opinion. From the sensorial “Cast Lead” in 2009 to the self-explanatory “Protective Edge” in 2014, several fronts of “hasbara” (pro-Israeli propaganda, in Hebrew) have been developed to show the world Israel’s rationale.

In 2008, just before attacks on Gaza began, the Israeli administration decided to replace traditional press conferences of war time with a wide array of initiatives based on social media. Guidelines for the campaign were developed by former army officer Yarden Vatikai, in coordination with the Ministry of Defense and the Jewish Agency.

One of the initiatives consisted of teaching new media workshops to army officers in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.

“In terms of communicating our message, the future is in new media”, Defense Forces spokesman Avi Benayahu said in February 2009. “The IDF has moved online to win hearts and minds.”

YouTube served as the main front for the campaign, rendering Israel’s the first national army to establish its own YouTube channel. The channel includes a videoblog where army spokespersons describe the attacks as “humanitarian self-defense actions.”

The 2009 ‘hasbara’ efforts included direct contact with journalists from all over the world. SMS messages were sent on a daily basis to thousands of journalists, diplomats and influential bloggers, with press notes, informative sessions and visits to the Israeli communities of the Negev, on the border with Gaza.

"When is a House a Home?" visualization by Israel Defense Forces.

“When is a House a Home?” visualization by Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli social media strategist expert Niv Calderon was hired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to the invasion of Gaza. His mission was to create “an unprecedented war room to promote Israeli propaganda internationally.” In the words of Calderon, “There is a media war, and each citizen, each computer user, is a soldier.”

Haneen Zoubi, Director of I’lam Media Center for Arabs and Palestinians in Israel referred to coverage of the 2009 attacks as “a mockery of press freedom.” 

In 2006, during the invasion of Lebanon, she denounced the Israeli press, saying they had “abandoned their journalistic role, without announcement or apology. (…)  It seems that they are no longer capable of performing their professional duty as they have all become subservient to “patriotism”. 

International Press Director for the IDF Avital Leibovich, on the other hand, claimed to be “positively surprised” by international coverage of the conflict, even in media considered to be neutral or not pro-Israel. “Finally, the international community understands that Hamas is the aggressor,” she said.

Hasbara efforts expand

Five years later, the involvement of the army in the documentation and dissemination of propaganda has increased, through YouTube videos and official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, which show a constant flow of messages.

Today’s media strategy includes dozens of infographics and visualizations that attempt to depict Israel’s rationale in a graphic and simple manner similar to that employed by the award-winning Visualizing Palestine project, which focused on visualizing the effects of occupation for Palestinians in Gaza.

One of the most viral visualizations shows how a house in Gaza becomes a target. “When is a house a home and when does it become a military target?”, the image reads, in response to accusations that Israel indiscriminately bombs houses in Gaza. Another one compares “what Israel does to protect civilians” vs. “what Hamas does to endanger its civilians.”

Another powerful visualization (see above) shows rockets falling over several world capitals, including New York, London and Paris. 

The eye-catching graphic urges Internet users to share the image if they “think Israel has the right to self-defense”. 

The 2014 “hasbara” campaign also includes video ads that pop up while a user is watching a YouTube video. The account is managed by Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and contains several anti-Hamas propaganda videos. 

Between 2009 and 2014, efforts expanded to include larger segments of Israeli society in online battles, with a strong focus on universities. According to an article published by Haaretz in August 2013, The Prime Minister's Office was planning to form, in collaboration with the National Union of Israeli Students, “covert units” within Israel's seven universities to engage in online public diplomacy (hasbara). 

Screen capture of YouTube Channel for Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Screen capture of YouTube Channel for Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry.

In 2014, the University of Haifa announced a cyberwar course to fight the delegitimization of Israel online. Other universities coordinating propaganda initiatives are Bar-Ilan, the Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University.

The story told by Israel's official propaganda machine clashes with the images of devastation in Gaza. On July 16 alone, four children were killed by Israeli warplanes as they played on the beach, and Gaza’s Wafa hospital was shelled to pieces by Israeli tanks. So far, 77 percent of the victims are civilians, a dribble that Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has referred to as an “incremental genocide”.

The military's media campaign also pushes a narrative that some Israelis firmly reject. Citizen-led online initiatives such as Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem, along with public protests, articulate a story very different from the official line.

by Leila Nachawati at July 24, 2014 12:49 PM

Global Voices
5 Modern African Thinkers on Identity, Language and Regionalism
Street Philosophy at City Bowl, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, by Anne Fröhlich on Flickr - CC license-NC-2.0

Street Philosophy at City Bowl, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, by Anne Fröhlich on Flickr – CC license-NC-2.0

African philosophy is generally overlooked in the field of philosophy. The reasons for that are unclear. Some argue that it may be because African philosophy is closely tied to its oral traditions, making its extended history difficult to share to a larger audience. Others argue that its Afrocentric nature makes it less palatable to the rest of the world.
 
Nigerian born Philosopher K.C. Anyanwu defines African philosophy as “that which concerns itself with the way in which African people of the past and present make sense of their destiny and of the world in which they live.” Although it remains mostly a mystery to other countries, African philosophy is a well-established discipline, enriched by centuries of research dating back to Ancient Egyptian philosophy to the modern post-colonial thinking. Throughout its history, African philosophy has made important contributions to Greek philosophy, mostly through Egyptian philosopher Plotinus who was instrumental in continuing the Greek tradition of Plato's philosophical academy, and to Christian philosophy via Algerian thinker Augustine of Hippo, who established the notion of the original sin.
 
To further understand the current evolution of contemporary African philosophy, here are five thinkers that you ought to keep track of from the continent:        
 
1. Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux (Côte d'Ivoire) 
 
Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux is an Ivorian writer for magazine Jeune Afrique and the author of “Philosophies africaines” (African Philosophy), in which she reviews the current elite of African philosophers. She writes that modern African philosophy has been usually classified into 4 main groups: ethnophilosophy, philosophical sagacity, nationalistic–ideological philosophy, and professional philosophy. However, Kodjo-Grandvaux believes that the defining trend for modern African philosophy can be summarized in how it has evolved from its colonial influence.    
    
In a discussion of the book, her colleague at Jeune Afrique Nicolas Michel presents a summary of the origin and evolution of comtemporary African philosophy and Kodjo-Grandvaux's theories:     
 

En archéologue des idées, Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux explore les strates d'une épistémologie qui, au cours du dernier siècle, s'est construite essentiellement en réaction à l'Occident. D'abord sous le joug de son influence impérialiste, puis en réaction contre cette emprise [..] avec le mouvement des Indépendances et l'injonction à la décolonisation des esprits, vient le temps d'une pensée cherchant à se replier sur « l'identité africaine », contre le moule occidental. Un « retour au sources » risqué : « Dès lors que la philosophie cherche à se penser de manière « nationalitaire », c'est-à-dire continentale, nationale, ethnique, elle doit éviter plusieurs écueils, notamment celui de l'esprit collectif et celui de la particularisation excessive », écrit l'auteur. L'apport de la philosophie occidentale comme celui des autres courants de pensée ne doit pas être rejeté. 

In her role as an archaeologist of ideas, Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux explores the layers of a discipline which was built mainly in response to the West during the past century. During the colonial period, it moved along under the overarching control of its imperialist colonizers, then it evolved as a counter-reaction against the colonizers’ influence [...] As the Independence movement swept throughout the continent (in the 50′s), the philosophy of trying to return to “the African identity” and move away from the Western mold grew stronger. Kodjo-Grandvaux argues that such a “return to the origins” ideology is a risky proposition. She writes: “As philosophy is trying to fit into a “regional “pattern, [i.e, continental, national or ethnic], it must avoid several pitfalls, including the pitfall of homogeneous thinking and excessive isolation”. The contribution of Western philosophy as well as that of other currents of thought should not be dismissed.

Kodjo-Grandvaux highlights a debate about ethnophilosophy that African philosophers have been grappling with for a long time: the idea that a particular culture or region has specific philosophy that is fundamentally different from the other philosophical trends is controversial in itself. However, many modern African philosophers argue that their work is a critical reflection on African leaderships and how it impacts their compatriots daily lives. As a result, it is paramount that African philosophy develops in the context of the African continent and communicates to an African audience.

2. Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Senegal) 

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Senegalese philosopher and pionner of the new African philosophy scence - Public Domain

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Senegalese philosopher and pionner of the new African philosophy scence – Public Domain

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, a Senegalese philosopher and professor at Columbia University, believes that African philosophers must make their work more accessible to their compatriots. He opines:  

Nous devons produire nous-mêmes des textes en langues africaines et un de mes anciens élèves américain travaille en ce sens à une anthologie de textes de philosophes africains auxquels il a demandé d’écrire des articles dans leur propre langue. Des locuteurs de cette langue sont ensuite chargés de les traduire en anglais. 

We need to produce our own texts in African languages​​ and one of my former American students is working towards making an anthology of texts written by African philosophers who were asked to write articles in their own language. Then, native speakers will translate them to English. 

African Ubuntu philosophy via Pencils for Africa - Public Domain

African Ubuntu philosophy via Pencils for Africa – Public Domain

3. Léonce Ndikumana (Burundi) 

In addition to the importance of addressing their African constituents better, there are other trending ideas that are coming forth today from African philosophers. Léonce Ndikumana grew up in Burundi and is now a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In his book, “Africa's Odious Debt: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent“, Ndikumana strives to combat many of the common narratives about Africa that are held as facts worldwide, such as the thinking that foreign aid subsidizes the African continent. In fact, capital flights from the African continent (1.44 trillion disappears without a trace from African countries, ending up in tax havens or rich countries) largely exceeds that of foreign aid (50 billion to Africa). 

Ndikumana is also one of they key opinion leaders in Africa pushing back against international agency guidelines that often go against the will of African citizens. 

4. Kwasi Wiredu (Ghana)  

Countering false narratives is a growing trend among African intellectuals. Kwasi Wiredu, a Ghanaian philosopher, is one of those trying to do just that. He argues that a multiparty political system, often regarded as the base of democracy, is not always conducive to unity and stability. Instead, a democracy of consensus is a better suited to the African context:

Given that democracy is government by consent, the question is whether a less adversarial system than the party system, which is bound up with majoritarian decision-making, cannot be devised. It is an important fact that reasonable human beings can come to an agreement about what is to be done by virtue of compromise without agreeing on issues of truth or morality.

5. Kwame Anthony Appiah (Ghana)

However, another Ghanaian philosopher, Kwame Anthony Appiah, who currently teaches at New York University, is bucking the trend of Afrocentrism from African philosophers.  He argues that Afrocentrism is an outdated concept. He believes one should encourage more trans-cultural conversation and less “regionalism”:

[Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes] rejected the conventional view that every civilized person belonged to a community among communities [...] A global community of cosmopolitans will want to learn about other ways of life on radio, on television shows, through anthropology and history, through novels movies, news stories and newspapers, and on the Web.    

by Rakotomalala at July 24, 2014 08:29 AM

July 23, 2014

Global Voices
Malaysia's Government, Opposition and People Unite to Demand Justice For MH17 Crash
Malaysian protesters gather during a rally demanding justice for the victims of MH17 crash. Photo by Hafzi Mohamed, Copyright @Demotix (7/22/2014)

Malaysian protesters gather during a rally demanding justice for the victims of MH17 crash. Photo by Hafzi Mohamed, Copyright @Demotix (7/22/2014)

Malaysia’s Parliament held an emergency session and unanimously approved a motion condemning those who are responsible for shooting down the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which killed 298 passengers and crew members. The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile in the eastern part of Ukraine on July 17.

The motion also urged for a “comprehensive investigation to be carried out to bring those responsible to justice.” In a rare moment in Malaysian politics, leaders of the ruling and opposition parties have set aside partisan politics to pass this resolution.

The opposition also praised Prime Minister Najib Razak for his success in clinching a deal with east Ukraine rebels that allowed Malaysia to secure the MH17 black box and the remains of the victims. On his Facebook page, Najib defended his secret negotiations with the rebels:

These were extraordinary circumstances which called for extraordinary measures. There were risks involved in pursuing this agreement. But we felt an obligation to explore all avenues to break the impasse, and secure the return of the remains and the black boxes. After meeting the families, I felt that we owed it to them to act.

Wee Choo Keong, Member of Parliament for Wangsa Maju, appreciated how Najib has refused to accuse any nation or government for the fatal shooting of MH17:

Under normal circumstances, the “popular” or easiest way out for any PM was to go along with the power that be by condemning another nation on the shooting down of MH17 but our PM did not embark on such irresponsible act.

But Stanley Isaacs feels that the government’s reaction has been “too mild and inadequate”:

The government's reaction is diplomatic, too mild and inadequate against such a horrible crime as this against innocent civilians being transported in its national airline.

Ordinary Malaysians have been holding protest actions demanding justice for the victims of the MH17 crash.

No party has claimed responsibility for the MH17 crash although Ukraine and Russia have been accusing each other of being the guilty perpetrators of the fatal shooting of the plane.

Dzulkefly Ahmad, a former MP from Kuala Selangor, advised the government not to be influenced by the ‘big powers’:

A small nation like ours shouldn’t be cowed into submission by bigger powers through aggression or subversion. Remain independent and genuinely sovereign.

Law teacher Azmi Sharom wants those who fired the missile to be brought to justice. On the leading Malaysian English-language news site The Star, the columnist writes:

This is what I know. A missile shot down MH17.

Somewhere out there, someone or a group of people have killed close to three hundred people. I also know that the scene of the crime has been tainted, probably beyond any salvation, by a group of thugs with automatic rifles.

But the tragedy has also united Malaysia. This was noted by V Shuman on the popular Malaysian citizen media site The Daily Ant:

This tragedy has united Malaysians in grieving, across racial and religious divide as well as political leanings. We see, after a long time, a rare occasion where politicians and their supporters, and even racial and religious bigots, have stopped spouting nonsense and bickering among themselves.

The MH17 crash took place just four months after Malaysian Airlines MH370, which was carrying 237 passengers, disappeared from radar during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

by Mong Palatino at July 23, 2014 10:26 PM

Kuwait, the Gulf's Poster Child of Democracy, Strips Opposition Members of Citizenship

The Kuwaiti Cabinet revoked the Kuwaiti citizenship of two pro-opposition members and their families on July 21. This development rings serious alarm bells across the region, as Kuwait is often cited as the most democratic state in the Gulf region.

The move follows a threat by the government last week that it will take all necessary procedures against those suspected of trying to “destabilise” the country in the wake of protests which erupted last month demanding the release of Kuwait opposition and former National Assembly member Musallam Albarrak. He has since been released on bail.

The root of this saga goes to events that took place a few months ago, when Albarrak gave an hour long speech at a gathering where he made allegations of rigged elections, coup attempts and government corruption that led to billions of dollars of public money being wasted. Documents that support his claims were leaked in what some called “Kuwaitgate”. Among the documents were details of money transfers to a few judges, which led to a lawsuit being lodged against Albarrak for insulting the judiciary.

On July 2, @BarlamanNews a Twitter account that publishes news about Kuwait tweeted to its 17.3K followers this breaking news:

The public prosecution office orders the arrest of Musallam Albarak in the complaint filed against him by the head of the Supreme Judicial Council

Since then Kuwait witnessed a series of protests and confrontations that were closely followed and documented on social media, particularly Twitter.

POMED (Project on Middle East Democracy) issued a statement and tweeted:

Albarrak was released on bail following those protests but many others were detained for protesting.

Musalam Albarak raised above the shoulders of his supporters in Alkaramah roundabout after his release on bail this afternoon

The government said last week that it will strike with an “iron fist” to defend the state's “prestige” and commissioned the Interior Ministry to take all necessary measures to fulfill the royal commands. (Details in this AlRai newspaper article in Arabic)

Among those named in the decision to revoke their nationalities is an opposition former MP Abdullah al-Barghash and three members of his family.

The government also revoked the nationality of Ahmad al-Shemmeri, owner of the independent Al-Youm television station and Alam Al-Yawm newspaper. His newspaper was ordered to temporarily shut down twice this year by a court for defying a prosecutor-ordered media blackout about an investigation into claims of the attempted coup that Albarak spoke about in one of his speeches. With his nationality revoked, it is expected that the channel and newspaper will be ordered to be shutdown as well.

The action raised concern all over the Gulf. Bahraini journalist Faisal Hayyat tweeted:

Why would a nationality be revoked? Where are the laws if any dissident should be held accountable? Revoking nationalities is terrorism and blackmail. It speaks of helplessness

Saudi former journalist who turned academic Dr Omar Ualymany tweeted:

The case of revoking nationalities in Kuwait stirs reactions and threatens the structure of the Kuwaiti community

Twitter user abo3asam, who has more than 113K followers, noted:

They're anticipating your reactions so if today they scare you by revoking nationalities and you remained silent, tomorrow they will take away from you rights that are bigger than citizenship

Kuwait is an oil rich country, where individual income is among the highest worldwide. It is considered the most politically developed state in the Gulf. Therefore such developments are important and ring serious alarm bells because as blogger Ahmed Alomran tweets to his 85.5k followers:

by Noor Mattar at July 23, 2014 08:59 PM

Three Anti-World Cup Activists Accuse Brazil of Political Persecution, Unsuccessfully Seek Asylum From Uruguay

Layer Eloisa Samy Politically Persecuted Brazilian asylum seeker at the consulate of uruguay We are all [being] persecuted

“Lawyer Eloisa Samy, politically persecuted Brazilian asylum seeker at the Consulate of Uruguay. We are all persecuted”

Brazil traded a military dictatorship for democracy nearly 30 years ago, but some are accusing the country, fresh off hosting the World Cup, of creating political refugees all the same. 

The Uruguayan consulate in Brazil has denied a request for asylum from three Brazilians who are accused of “forming an armed gang” related to anti-World Cup protests and wanted for arrest based on what activists and alternative media are calling false evidence.

The day before the final match, police “preemptively” arrested 28 people opposed to hosting the tournament in Brazil because the activists had participated in past protests and police suspected they would engage in violent acts during a demonstration scheduled during the final.

Eloisa Samy, a lawyer who has defended imprisoned activists since anti-government protests rocked Brazil in June 2013, was one of those arrested on July 12. Formal charges weren't filed, and on July 15, most of the group, including Samy, were released after filing a habeas corpus petition.  

Three days later, police, who said they had been investigating the activists since September 2013, turned over their 2,000-page investigation to the public prosecutor's office. In less than two hours after receiving it, the office filed charges of forming an armed gang against 23 activists, citing a bus arson and an attempt to set the Rio de Janeiro city council on fire.

Lucas Sada of the Institute of Human Rights Defenders criticized the public prosecutor's speed:

Essa velocidade incrível com que a denúncia foi apresentada e recebida pela Justiça só reforça que há um movimento articulado entre os poderes de criminalização dos grupos

This incredible speed with which the complaint was submitted and received by Justice only reinforces that there is clear movement among the powers for the criminalization of the groups

Moreover, the activists are accused of supporting or being part of the Black Blocs, a protest tactic of wearing black clothing and covering the face with a mask or bandanna seen at demonstrations since 2013. Some protesters dressed this way have vandalized property or committed arson. 

They have denied engaging in any violence or belonging to the Black Blocs. Journalist Igor Natusch pointed out on Twitter that Brazilian authorities appear to confused the tactic for some sort of organized group:

Em privado, um amigo dá a morta: Brasil é primeiro país do mundo a tratar Black Bloc como organização e não método. Que pioneirismo deprê.

— Igor Natusch (@igornatusch) 21 julho 2014

In private, a friend jokes: Brazil is the first country in the world to treat Black Bloc as an organization and not method. What depressing pioneering

Some of the political prisoners and refugees since June 2013

Sketches of some of the activists who have been jailed since June 2013.

Samy, her son David Paixão and his girlfriend Camila Nascimento were ordered arrested. The three sought refuge in the Uruguayan consulate in Rio de Janeiro on July 21, saying that they were facing political persecution. The defense lawyers of those arrested have found it difficult to access the proceedings, including Judge Siro Darlan, who released many of the activists after the preemptive arrests.

Once authorities realized the three were there, military police arrived and tried to enter the consulate. An employee prevented their entry in what could have become a serious diplomatic incident, according to Idelber Avelar, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans:

Eloisa se encontra agora no Consulado do Uruguai, no Rio de Janeiro (Praia de Botafogo, 201), que a Polícia Militar tentou invadir — coisa que não aconteceu nem na ditadura militar.

Eloisa is now in the Consulate of Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro (Praia de Botafogo, 201), which the military police tried to break in — something that didn't even happen during the military dictatorship.

"The state intends to sue me because of my activism as a lawyer in popular protests. Most likely the prosecution will be to integrate a criminal organization" Eloisa Samy in 21 april, 214

“The state intends to prosecute me because of my activism as a lawyer in popular protests. Most likely the prosecution will be to link me to a criminal organization” Eloisa Samy on 21 April, 2014

The Institute of Human Rights Defenders reported that military police with motorcycles surrounded the building while the three were inside.

In a video posted on YouTube with English subtitles, Samy denounces her situation and the situation of all the others who she calls “political prisoners” and asks for amnesty:

The Collective Mariachi interviewed her inside the consulate as well as lawyer Rodrigo Mondego from the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Association. In the video, Samy says that one of the reasons that led her to seek asylum in Uruguay was the story of its president, Pepe Mujica, who spent seven years in solitary confinement as a political prisoner during the dictatorship of his country:

On the evening of the same day, the Consul of Uruguay Myriam Fraschini Chalar denied them asylum. Journalist Fernando Rodrigues posted on his blog the official position of the Foreign Ministry of Uruguay, sent to him:

O [Brasil] é um Estado de Direito, não persegue ninguém por razões políticas, e o Uruguai não interfere em decisões judiciais.

In [Brazil] there's a rule of law, [it] does not persecute anyone for political reasons, and Uruguay does not interfere in judicial decisions.

The decision was criticized by international law professor Daisy Ventura on her Facebook and Twitter account:

As I commented yesterday, any decision of Uruguay would be criticized. But the government's response, if indeed this is it, is very unfortunate.

O Brasil é uma democracia, não caberia asilo. Já esqueceram Assange? Alguém acha que a Inglaterra não é uma democracia? E quando o Brasil abrigou um Senador boliviano por cerca de um ano em nossa missão em La Paz, ele pretendeu questionar o Executivo ou o Judiciário da Bolívia? Claro que não, pois Morales é aliado político do governo brasileiro.

Brazil is a democracy, an asylum wouldn't fit. Have you forgotten [Julian] Assange? Does anyone think that England is not a democracy? And when Brazil hosted a Bolivian senator for about a year in its mission in La Paz, did [Brazil] intend to question the Executive or the Judiciary of Bolivia? Of course not, because [Bolivian President Evo] Morales is a political ally of the Brazilian government.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was granted asylum from Ecuador in 2012. He is wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges, but fears he will be extradited to the U.S. because of his site's release of state secrets, so he has remained in Ecuador's London consulate.

Former Bolivian Senator Roger Pinto Molina was one of the main opposition members to the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales. Molina, who was accused of a litany of crimes including corruption by the government, he sought and was granted asylum from Brazil in June 2012 claiming he was politically persecuted. But Bolivia refused to allow him passage out of the country, so he lived in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz for a year. Then, Molina received the help of the temporary ambassador Eduardo Saboia to escape, creating a major diplomatic incident.

According to various media sources, Samy, her son and her son's girlfriend escaped the consulate with the help of Deputy Janira Rock of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), who accompanied them throughout the day there. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Activists like professor Eduardo Sterzi soon pointed fingers at who they thought was the responsible for persecuting the 23 activists in Rio:

Tristeza imensa por nossos governantes terem nos empurrado novamente para esse tempo podre. Vergonha enorme de ter votado toda a vida no PT, um dos maiores responsáveis pela criminalização de manifestantes políticos.

Immense sadness for our rulers who pushed us back to that rotten time [of dictatorship]. Huge shame to have voted all my life for the PT [Workers Party], one of the main parties responsible for the criminalization of political protesters.

On Twitter, others were also critical of President Dilma Rousseff and her PT government:

Now the authoritarianism of the Dilma government is internationally known, with political prisoners seeking asylum in consulates. I lived to see this.

Will ex-political prisoner Dilma Rousseff and her Ministry of Justice speak on the request for political asylum in full “democracy”? #EloisaSamy

On July 24 judge Siro Darlan granted an habeas corpus for all the refugees and political prisoners.

by Raphael Tsavkko Garcia at July 23, 2014 07:12 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Censorship and Social Media Sneakiness Abound in Southeast Asia
Coup protest, Thailand, May 2014. Photo by Prachatai via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Coup protest, Thailand, May 2014. Photo by Prachatai via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hae-in Lim, Mong Palatino, Bojan PerkovEllery Roberts Biddle, and Sarah Myers West 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 Southeast Asia, where writers and activists across the region are feeling the chill of government restrictions on digital expression.

The Thai military junta has escalated its media war, now banning media organizations from publishing anything that “could create resistance against the junta” — the order specifically prohibited interviews with academics and civil servants who might distort the junta’s image. News organizations that defy the order could face immediate suspension. After a meeting with military officials, Thai media executives expressed guarded optimism that the edict would be toned down.

Adding to the growing trend of censorship of Facebook in Southeast Asia, the accounts of at least 30 leading political activists in Vietnam have been suspended — not by a widespread ban, but due to the alleged exploitation of Facebook’s “report abuse” function by Vietnamese government “opinion shapers”. The government appears to have abandoned its failed attempts at a total ban in favor of a more targeted approach. 

And a new Brunei-based chat application Chrends (a hybrid of “chat” and “trends”) claims to provide an anonymized platform for discussion of topics that may be considered taboo for citizens in the country, which recently implemented Sharia law. 

Free Expression: Comment is not free in Colombia

A Colombian man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for posting a comment on ElPais.com mocking an administrative bureau of the federal government. In a post on Fundacion Karisma’s blog, free expression advocate and lawyer Carolina Botero expressed concern that if courts continue to process cases like this under the penal code, they will overshadow the tensions between fundamental rights in play.

Thuggery: Zone 9 bloggers charged with terrorism in unfair trial

Ethiopia’s Lideta High Court charged nine bloggers and journalists, including four members of Global Voices, with terrorism and related activities. The bloggers, who were arrested on April 25 and 26, had no legal representation present when the charges were issued and their attorneys and families were given no prior notice about the hearing. The anti-terrorism law under which they have been charged was also used to jail journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu, who have been in prison since 2011. In the lead-up to their trial, set for August 4, the Zone9ers’ Trial Tracker blog will post updates and provide a platform for those who wish to give support.

In response to last week’s sentencing of eight young people to a combined term of 127 years in prison for their activities on Facebook, Global Voices’ Mahsa Alimardani and Fred Petrossian appealed to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to “respect Iranian citizens, and condemn the unjust arrests and punishments of its netizens.”

Omani activists Noah Saad and Muawiyah Al-Rawahi were arrested for blogging about human rights violations in their country. Saad, who was arrested in 2011 for similar “offenses,” was arbitrarily detained by Oman’s national security intelligence agency and is reportedly being held incommunicado. Observers believe Al-Rawahi was targeted over a recent blog post in which he criticized the repressive practices of Omani authorities in response to a teacher strike in late 2013. 

Former Panamanian president Manuel Noriega sued Activision Blizzard, the developer of the game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, for using his image in the game without his permission. 

Internet Governance: African NGOs lead regional Internet Rights declaration

A group of civil society organizations across Africa are sourcing contributions to a proposed African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms. The process is now in a public consultation phase, which will run until August 4.

Surveillance: In Snowden’s wake, new laws reassert state security powers

The UK House of Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, approved the emergency Data Retention Investigative Powers bill that will allow Britain’s security agencies to access citizens’ phone and electronic communication records, despite the European Court of Justice’s ruling against data retention last April. The bill was strongly opposed by civil liberties organizations, Internet law academic experts and the Global Network Initiative. Several members of the House of Lords criticized the decision to rush this kind of legislation through the Parliament.   

Australia’s attorney general proposed a new bill that would increase the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The law extends criminal penalties for leaks of sensitive state information to private contractors. A leading criminal lawyer and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance worried openly about what he called the “Snowden/Assange/Guardian/New York Times clause,” which could make journalists reporting on intelligence leaks liable for criminal prosecution and up to ten years in prison. Even worse, the bill effectively condones illegal conduct by intelligence officers by granting them legal immunity for any actions taken during so-called “special intelligence operations.” The bill will be debated in the Australian Parliament in September.

Public records reveal links between the daughters of Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and the country’s largest mobile phone business, Azercell, raising serious concerns about surveillance, free expression and communications security within the country. The Aliyev family now appears to control nearly three-quarters of all mobile communication providers in the country, and thus has widespread capacity to monitor phone calls and Internet traffic. 

Privacy: Europe Wrestles with Right-to-Be-Forgotten Fallout and Food Blogger Blues 

Microsoft joined Google in removing links upon request from its Bing search engine, which holds 2.5 percent of the search market in Europe, under the new “right to be forgotten” ruling, which allows individuals to request that search engines remove certain kinds of results that are outdated or portray them in a negative light. 

A new website called “Hidden from Googleis archiving links removed from Google due to the ruling.

A French court ordered food blogger Caroline Doudet to change the title of a negative restaurant review she had written, with the goal of diminishing its prominence in search results. Ms. Doudet said the decision established a “new crime of being too highly ranked [on a search engine].” Bloggers in France believe the judge presiding over the case unfairly favored the plaintiff in the case. 

Industry: Apple and China — hypocrites without borders?

China’s CCTV labeled the iPhone a threat to national security for its invasive location-tracking features. Apple responded with a statement detailing the iPhone’s privacy attributes.

Apple launched improved encryption measures in its iCloud e-mail services this week. Though it has yet to make a formal announcement, the changes can be seen via Google’s transparency website. German-language publication Heise claims the company is using the minimally secure RC4 encryption, which is believed to have already been cracked by state security services. 

Cool Things

Photographer Deni Bechard provides a close look at Kabul’s multi-million dollar surveillance system, which includes 108 high resolution camera feeds that are monitored 24 hours a day — a modern version of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon.  

Publications and Studies

 

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by Netizen Report Team at July 23, 2014 07:02 PM

Lawrence Lessig
MAYDAY.US and transparency

Great news about MAYDAY.US data (for the very hungry data-mavens). Read the announcement just sent…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at July 23, 2014 05:42 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Emoji Karaoke at the Boston Internet Research Party

Two weeks ago, Kate Miltner, Amy Johnson and I organized the first Boston Internet Researchers Party, hosted by the Center for Civic Media, Microsoft Research, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Over 80 researchers, from students to faculty, spent two hours sharing their favorite Internet videos and playing Emoji Karaoke. Partiers joined us from UC Irvine, University of Hawai, UW-Madison, Wellesley, Northeastern, RPI, the Berkman Center, Microsoft, MIT (you can see the list of attendees on Eventbrite).

YouTube Party

What are your favorite Internet videos? The Berkman and Civic Media communities crowdsourced a fantastic playlist: see and extend our list of favorite Internet videos on this Etherpad.

Emoji Karaoke

Kate facilitated a round of Emoji Karaoke, a game where contestants create emoji versions of famous pop songs. Kate tried it out first at re:publica and wanted to share it with the Boston crowd before moving to USC Annenberg this fall, inspired by this awesome Katy Perry music video:

How to Play Emoji Karaoke

In Kate's rules for the game, contestants listen to a soundtrack or music video and send in emoji that describe lyrics. In the easy version, you're allowed to use words. In more advanced levels, only emoji are allowed. After a time limit, contestants text in their final emoji lyrics, which are judged on accuracy, creativity, multi-layeredness, and (of course!) social critique. Here's Kate's example:

Rising Up To the Challenge of our Rivals

Our warmup round started off light, with this classic by Survivor.

Put Your Hands Up!

This entry won extra points for social critique

History: Quickly Crashing Through Your Veins

Sometimes the expression of complex ideas requires figurative liberties. The judges also appreciated the variation and progression in the symbols used to express the idea of the growing rainstorm:

We Know the Game and We're Gonna Play It

This entry won extra points from the judges for its use of phonetic spelling.Let's hope the Internet never sees the video of Kate, Amy, Mary Gray, and I recreating Rick Astley's dance style. In other news, the original Rickrolling video has been REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE due to a DMCA takedown. The Internet reacted, and it's now back up.

JOIN US!

After a great first party, we're excited to hold more Boston-wide gatherings of Internet Researchers. If you or your department are interested in participating, send me an email at natematias@gmail.com.

by natematias at July 23, 2014 05:09 PM

Global Voices
Burmese Reporters Get Ten Years in Jail Plus Hard Labor for Reporting About Myanmar's Chemical Weapons Factory
Journalists protesting in front of Myanmar Peace Center. Photo by  Kyaw Zaw Win, Kyaw Lwin Oo. From the Facebook page of RFA Burmese

Journalists protesting in front of Myanmar Peace Center. Photo by Kyaw Zaw Win, Kyaw Lwin Oo. From the Facebook page of RFA Burmese

Four Burmese journalists and the CEO of the Unity Journal were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour on July 10, 2014 for violating a colonial era secrecy law in Myanmar.

Unity Journal's CEO Tin Hsan, 52, and journalists Lu Maw Naing, 28, Sithu Soe, 22, The Yazar Oo, 28, and Aung Thura, 25 were found guilty of violating the State Secrets Act after they published a story revealing a hidden chemical weapons factory in central Myanmar last January.

The case of the Unity journalists has received national and even global attention. Protest actions were organized by journalists in major cities including Yangon and Mandalay. Supporters and free press advocates have also conducted prayer events in Yangon, Pathein and Sittwe for the release of the Unity journalists. Unfortunately, 50 journalists who protested during President Thein Sein’s visit to the Myanmar Peace Center on July 13 have been charged for protesting without permission.

Various press associations and interim press councils are planning to send an appeal letter to the president for the release of the Unity journalists. The opposition National League for Democracy has also released a statement condemning the government's suppression of the media. Burma News International warned that media freedom is still under threat.

The government is claiming that the chemical weapons factory reported by Unity Journal is actually a defense weapon factory.

But writer Wai Mu Thwin questioned the verdict and the harsh punishment given to the journalists:

If they are convicted for revealing national secrets, it means the government actually has the chemical weapons factory. So they (government) are breaking the Southeast Asian treaty against Weapons of Mass Destruction, which puts a restriction on the production of chemical, bio and nuclear weapons. Also, Myanmar has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993.

However, the president's spokesperson has defended the court's decision and insisted that it is not an issue of press freedom but national security:

Any nation, any government, must control secret issues for their national security. Information that harms national security is not even tolerated in the United States. We don’t think this case is about press freedom.

Many prominent writers and journalists in Myanmar have expressed concern about the harsh punishment given to the journalists. The poet Saw Wai thinks that it is not fair especially since the country is moving towards the path of democracy. U Than Htay from the Myanmar Journalists Network believes that the conviction is an example of media intimidation by the government which is preparing for the coming 2015 elections.

The government has not changed, according to U Aung Thu:

When their secrets are revealed, they arrest and charge people. Media is always the scapegoat. Democracy is only just a show. The president is no different. Actually our country is still under military dictatorship.

U Win Myint, the spokesperson of the opposition, demands that there must be transparency in the case:

If government is (serious in) moving towards democracy, then it should respect press freedom. There must be transparency. Reporter's job is to write. The punishment must be fair in relation to the violation. It wasn't even a secret or restricted area.

The government has been aggressive in the past year in prosecuting journalists. Last December, a local reporter from Eleven Media was sentenced to three months in jail for trespassing, criminal defamation and using obscene language. Last April, a correspondent from the alternative site Democratic Voice of Burma was handed out a one year prison term for trespassing and disturbing a civil servant. Later that month, a reporter for Mizzima magazine was arrested for organising a rally in the town of Pyay to call for the release of six journalists currently imprisoned in Myanmar.

The case of Unity Journal should remind us about the continuing detention of journalists and the worsening media repression in Myanmar.

by Thant Sin at July 23, 2014 02:46 PM

The Purple House, a Collective in Colombia's Medellín ‘To Create, Enjoy and Find Ourselves’
entrada_morada

Casa Morada. Photo by the organization, used with permission.

In a quiet part of Comuna 13 San Javier in the Colombian city of Medellín sits a bustling house painted in many shades of purple appropriately called Morada or Casa Morada (Purple House). The house is located in a very quiet spot in the neighborhood, known for its social problems related with violence and poverty. It is home to a collective that promotes art and culture through various projects, including a radio station and urban farming. 

The house, itself a project of the Fundación Casa de las Estrategias and other organizations, hosts different activities each day of the week. On Mondays, there are usually computer workshops and research; on Tuesdays, writing workshops and introduction of new authors; on Wednesdays, poetry and music; singing lessons on Thursdays; on Fridays, radio and drawing workshops; and on Saturdays, Agroarte, an education and farming program, and graffiti school. People from all over the city — mostly young people, but also adults — come to Morada to attend.

The collective says it has “no desire to do business, nor to formalize or incorporate ourselves”:

Somos un colectivo con emisora, con un espacio (o morada material), con actividades, con alianzas para crear, para disfrutar, para encontrarnos.

Nos mueve el placer, nos unen unas sensaciones.

Nos movemos en red por el voz a voz, tejiendo uno a uno, no somos un espacio público, ni una sede cultural del gobierno.

Si tiene un proyecto artístico, cultural, periodistico, investigativo y necesita un lugar para crear, para el intercambio, ¡Bienvenido!

We are a collective with a radio station, a space (or physical dwelling), activities, partnerships, to create, enjoy and find ourselves.

Pleasure moves us, sensations unite us.

We move as a network by word of mouth, weaving one with another, we are not a public space or a cultural seat of the government.

If you have an artistic, cultural, journalistic, or investigative project and need a place to create, to share, you are welcome!

In an interview for the daily El Colombiano to mark the first year of Morada, active since 2012, Lucas Jaramillo, a leading member of the collective, commented:

Aquí venimos a crear. Desde la libertad del hacer queremos sentar una posición crítica hacia una ciudad que despierta amores y odios.

We came here to create. From the freedom to ‘do', we want to establish a critical position towards a city that awakens love and hate.

Throughout its existence, the house has given shelter to various cultural and urban art projects, such as the hip-hopper and cultural promotor Jeihhco, which somehow also made them unwitting witnesses to the violence still present in the city, as recorded in a note from 2012 about the murders of rappers in the area, one of them known as Duke:

En la Casa Morada del barrio San Javier se respiraba silencio, se respiraba miedo. El ambiente que se vivía, a tan sólo 3 días de la muerte de “El Duke” (conocido cantante de hip hop de la zona), asesinado el martes 30 de octubre, era de tensión. Al parecer, los líderes y raperos allí reunidos buscaban la intervención de un sacerdote que buscara una solución al problema de seguridad tras las amenazas recibidas el día anterior. [...] El motivo de la visita a la Casa Morada, [...] era conocer más de cerca el pasado de Élider Varela, (conocido como) “El Duke”, como rapero y líder comunitario.

At Casa Morada in the San Javier quarter, silence and fear was breathed. The atmosphere that existed, only three days after the death of “The Duke” [a well-known hip-hop artist the neighborhood], murdered on October 30, was full of tension. Apparently the leaders and rappers assembled there were seeking the intervention of a priest to look for a solution to the problem of security after threats were received the day before. […] The reason for the visit to the Casa Morada […] was to learn more about the past of Élider Varela, [known as] “The Duke,” as rapper and community leader.

Far from intimidating the group, this experience prompted them to respond with creativity and solidarity to these unfortunate events. Carlos Mario Cano, writing for darioadn.co, relates:

dos actos simbólicos de ciudad fueron gestados desde Morada: una semana después de las amenazas en contra de 25 raperos en la 13, en noviembre del año pasado (2012), la emisora salió a las calles para dar un ‘Abrazo morado’: encuentro con la gente para recordarles que todos debían acoger a estos jóvenes a quienes les vulneraron sus derechos.

El segundo acto nació luego del asesinato del mimo Julián Taborda en el corregimiento de Altavista. En esa ocasión, a principios de febrero de este año (2013), la Federación Parcharte –también nacida en Morada– decidió hacer un evento con diversas expresiones culturales en este corregimiento azotado por la violencia.

two symbolic acts for the city were born from Morada: a week after threats against rappers in [district] 13, in November of last year (2012), the station took to the streets to give “purple hugs”: meetings with the people to remind them that everyone should welcome these young people whose rights had been violated.

The second act was born after the murder of the mime Julián Taborda in the village of Altavista. On that occasion, in early February of this year (2013), the Parcharte [‘mending’ in English] Federation — also born from Morada — decided to put on an event with various cultural expressions in this district plagued by violence.

The station mentioned in the above paragraph is Morada Estéreo (Stereo Morada), one of the most popular projects at Morada. In its own words:

Con Morada Estéreo estamos apostando a un medio independiente, completamente libre, sin censura. Encontramos la identidad y la línea editorial desde las personas con las que nos juntamos, por sus búsquedas, por lo que crean, por cómo ayudan. [...] Sin voces impostadas, sin guiones insulsos, sin brutalidad, sin prisa somos una red de locutores y realizadores que vibramos. Aquí encontrará gente proponiendo, muchos de ellos inconformes, siempre explorando con la generosidad del intercambio.

Intentamos también prestarle la voz a los que no tienen voz, estamos en contra de la discriminación y la segregación, contribuyendo a abrir una Medellín que muchos hacen, sin fronteras, en trueque con el mundo.

With Stereo Morada, we are trying for an independent media, completely free, uncensored. We discovered the identity and editorial line from the people we met, through their searches, their creations, their help. […] No unnatural voices, bland without scripts, without brutality, unrushed, we are a vibrating network of broadcasters and filmmakers. Here one will find people proposing, many of them dissatisfied, always exploring the generosity of the exchange.

We also try to give voice to those who have none, we are against discrimination and segregation, contributing to open a Medellin that many are creating, without borders, exchanging with the world.

I had the opportunity to talk with Walter González about the radio project, where he shares that the goal of the radio station is to open spaces for the people of the area. The station has be on air for two years and as a virtual radio, they have listeners almost everywhere:

&

Another of Morada’s projects is Agroarte, a project that combines agriculture, land, education and the social fabric of the city. On Stereo Morada’s YouTube channel, there is an interview with @agroarte, the rapper who leads this project, where explains that an individual spends their whole life learning and relearning and getting involved with others, even with the environment surrounding them:

&

To learn more about Morada, visit them on their website, their Facebook page and Twitter. Apart from listening to Morada Estéreo, you can follow them on Facebook, visit their YouTube channel and on Mixcloud.

by Betsy Galbreath at July 23, 2014 01:29 PM

Lawrence Lessig
If this is true, then the Governor should resign

The NYTimes has an incredible story today about Governor Cuomo and his ethics…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at July 23, 2014 12:56 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Court Ruling Against Restaurant Reviewer Leaves French Bloggers Reeling
"Please don't feed the writers.” Photo by Flickr user Michelle. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Please don't feed the writers.” Photo by Flickr user Michelle. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If a blogger writes a scathing review of a restaurant, it's natural that the headline would match the tone of the article. After all, a unique, accurate title is part of Google's official advice for improving the positioning of a webpage in its search results.

But a blogger in France called “L'Irrégulière” was ordered to pay damages and court fees totaling 2,500 euros (3,400 U.S. dollars) for doing just that after the restaurant filed a complaint.

Appalled by what she considered to be unwelcoming staff and poor service during a meal at the end of August 2013 in Cap Ferret, the blogger published a biting review of Il Giardino on her French-language literary blog Cultur'elle. The article, titled “The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il Giardino”, ranked highly in the results of a Google search for the eatery. 

This angered the restaurant owner, so she took the blogger to court. The Bordeaux High Court ruled in the owner's favour on 30 June 2014 during an emergency hearing not because of the review itself, which “falls within the scope of freedom of expression” according to the judgement, but because of its title, which was considered to be defamatory.

The blogger, who had no lawyer, withdrew the review on her own accord, although the court did not request her to do so. However, it can be read on tuxicoman's blog here or as a cached version. Reeling from the experience, “L'Irrégulière” decided not to appeal.

Under the French system for emergency hearings, the court rules chiefly on the basis of whether the plaintiff suffered wrongdoing as a result of the actions of the defendant — in this case, an emergency measure was issued, but could be overturned if a full hearing is to take place. Why did the case merit an emergency hearing in the first place? Well-known lawyer and blogger Maître Eolas, who has 142,000 followers on Twitter, offered one answer:

Newsflash: restaurants are suing customers who dare to criticise them. And it has to be said, they are finding judges who will decide in their favour.

He went on to analyse the case in further detail for L'Express magazine:

Il ne faut pas donner à cette décision une portée plus large qu'elle n'a [...] Le droit de critique existe. Il peut être sanctionné en cas d'abus. La distinction classique est quand il y a intention de nuire ou concurrence déloyale si le dénigrement est fait par un concurrent. Ainsi, si cet article avait été publié par quelqu'un qui tient un autre restaurant de pizza du Cap Ferret, on aurait été dans le cas de la concurrence déloyale puisqu'il y aurait volonté de dénigrer pour faire fuir le client. Or ici, c'est une cliente mécontente qui raconte une expérience malheureuse. On a tout à fait le droit d'expliquer pourquoi on n'est pas satisfaits, en mettant le titre que l'on veut.

This ruling should not be given more significance than it actually has [...] There is such a thing as a right to criticise. This criticism can be penalised, however, if it becomes abusive. Usually, the distinction lies in whether there is intention to cause harm or, in the case of defamation by a competitor, the creation of unfair competition. So, had this article been published by someone who runs another pizza restaurant in Cap Ferret, it would have been a matter of unfair competition. This is because there would have been intention to defame in order to drive customers away. But in this case, it is a dissatisfied customer describing an unhappy experience. People have every right to explain why they are not satisfied, using whatever title they like.

When other bloggers heard about the matter, they pointed out this type of legal action could overload the justice system. Lady Waterloo, for instance, wrote:

Les juges ont donc condamné cette malheureuse blogueuse, pour L'endroit à éviter au Cap Ferret: Il Giardinocela en valait il la peine? Je ne le pense pas. Si les juges commencent à s'occuper des blogs qui dénoncent des apéros servis avec du retard sans cacahuètes et du vin trop froid ou trop chaud, j'ai oublié, la Justice sera complètement paralysée.

So the courts have ruled against this poor blogger, for The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il GiardinoWas it worth the trouble? I don't think so. If judges start getting involved with blogs criticising delays in serving aperitifs with no peanuts, and wine that's too cold or too warm (I can't remember which), the justice system will grind to a complete halt.

Others referred to the frequent misunderstandings between tourists, restaurateurs and the Internet, like Le Parisien libéral:

La vérité, c'est que désormais, tout resto, tout hôtel, doit faire avec l'existence du Net. Au lieu de faire une pub monstrueuse pour l'Irrégulière, pourquoi Il Giardino n'a pas crée son propre site web, ou fait le dos rond en attendant que ses clients qui ont aimé le resto s'expriment, comme Berthomeau.

The truth of the matter is that from now on, every restaurant and hotel must take account of the existence of the Internet. Instead of creating massive publicity for l'Irrégulière, why didn't Il Giardino create its own website, or weather the storm while waiting for favourable customers to give their opinions, like Berthomeau.

recherche Google

Google search result for “Il Giardino Cap-Ferret”, 18 July 2014: post still visible – screenshot taken by author

Can Google results be used to attack a blogger? The owner of the restaurant justified herself, saying the article was doing her business harm. “People are allowed to criticise, but there is a way of doing it, with respect, and that was not the case here. Now the court has made a decision and as far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed,” she said.

In fact, the article and the controversy over the judgement still have a high position in the Google search results. SEO expert Tubbydev was amazed at the lack of knowledge of how a search engines work:

Mais surtout, le vrai scandale à notre humble avis est tout entier dans le bout de phrase de la restauratrice: Mais cet article montait dans les résultats Google ..C'est Google qui montre le résultat, avec et par ses algorithmes mais c'est le contenu initial qui est “puni”. Personne ne demande à Google de corriger .. Et a priori aucune demande n'a été faite à Google. [...]

Google est devenu un Dieu ou tout du moins un des éléments de la nature…Non seulement, il est donc IRRESPONSABLE mais en plus, sa force est telle qu'il attise encore plus la censure et les problèmes contre les malheureux qui y sont bien considérés .. Le monde à l'envers non ?

But the real scandal, in our humble opinion, lies in the remark made by the restaurant owner: “But this article was rising in the Google search results.” It's Google that displays the result, with and through its algorithms, and yet it is the original content that gets “punished”. Nobody asks Google to make corrections. And, a priori, no request has been made to Google. [...]

Google has turned into some kind of god, or force of nature. Not only is it IRRESPONSIBLE, but its power is such that it encourages more censorship and creates problems for those unfortunate enough to be well regarded. The world has turned upside down, no?

While efficacitic.fr advises caution when it comes to reviews, Elisabeth Porteneuve, a self-described “Internet veteran,” anticipates that businesses may begin exploiting the so-called “right to be forgotten“.

The next step: the right to be forgotten, removal of the review from Google with the help of the [French data privacy authority] National Commission on Informatics and Liberty … the judges and the legislators!

The European Court of Justice ruled in May that individuals may request that search engines delete certain search results if they are found to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.” Google, the plaintiff in the case before the court, has now implemented systems for reviewing and enacting requests. Modifications to search results will be implemented only within the EU.

While the implications of this case regarding freedom of expression on the Internet are still a matter for debate, the publicity continues to have a detrimental effect on the restaurant. Although it is no longer readable on Culturelle, the controversial post title remains visible in Google.fr search results.

by Global Voices at July 23, 2014 12:45 PM

Global Voices
Jokowi Is Indonesia's Third President to Be Elected by a Direct Vote
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo or Jokowi is Indonesia's president-elect. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (7/9/2014)

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo or Jokowi is Indonesia's president-elect. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (7/9/2014)

Indonesia's election officials have declared that Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi), a popular politician from the city of Solo, will be the country's seventh president after completing the vote count late Tuesday.

Widodo, who took 53.15 percent of the nearly 130 million votes cast, is the country's third president to be elected by a direct vote. 

Indonesia, the world's third largest democracy, held its presidential elections on July 9. The main candidates were Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, a former military man who is praised as a strong and courageous leader by his supporters, but who has faced accusations of human rights abuses during the three-decade-long rule of authoritarian Suharto.

Some Indonesian Twitter users immediately expressed relief and approval over the finalization of the counting:

The election result will put Indonesia on par with the world's leading democratic countries.

Our new President is Jokowi. Congratulations, we believe that you will bring change to Indonesia.

But earlier today, Subianto announced that he intends to ignore the Indonesia's General Elections Committee (KPU) result. Instead, he said he will mount a legal challenge to protest the alleged fraud in the voting process. However, his running mate Hatta Rajasa has distanced himself from Subianto's decision. Twitter users responded:

Indonesia's stock market reacted negatively after Subianto made his announcement. This reflected the concern of many people about the impact on Indonesia's political stability if one of the candidates, Subianto in particular, rejected the results:

On his Twitter account, Former Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Professor Yusril Izra Mahendra wrote about what would happen if the presidential election failed:

In the presidential election law, similar to legislative election and provincial election laws, a confirmed candidate isn't allowed to resign, whatever reason he might have.

If today's president election fails, then there will be an absence of government because the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) can't extend [current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's] tenure.

The government's ‘absence’ will jeopardize the nation and state, therefore the survival of the state remains a priority.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users also acknowledged President Yudhoyono, known by his initials SBY, for his work in maintaining a peaceful democratic transition:

Thank you SBY for assistance in creating a safe and peaceful election.

Widodo will be sworn in as president on Oct. 20, 2014.

by Carolina at July 23, 2014 10:59 AM

Rising Voices
A One-Sided Story: Bosnia and Herzegovina's Media Landscape

Mainstream media in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is highly polarized along ethnic and political lines and often serves to exacerbate already existing ethnic divisions. Media often focus on events related to the war in the 1990s and exploit information to promote ethnic stereotypes and even stir up inter-ethnic tensions. Such reporting instills fear and mistrust between ethnic groups and greatly influences negative perceptions and attitudes towards members of other ethnic groups. Despite criticism and widespread beliefs that the media in BiH is poor in quality, many lack the knowledge or necessary tools to approach the information they receive critically or objectively. This can be especially true regarding Bosnian youth who are among those most vulnerable to the rhetoric of irresponsible leaders.

An Introduction to Bosnia’s Media Landscape

The signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) in 1995 was successful in its efforts to end war in Bosnia, but it’s use as a permanent constitutional framework has resulted in the institutionalization of ethnic divisions. This division is made visible through the physical boundaries created by the allocation of territory as well as through the complex power-sharing arrangements set up between the country’s three constituent ethnic groups: the Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Croats and Serbs. The country’s complex political structure operates on the three primary levels of state, entity and canton, where the entity takes precedence. BiH is split into two semi-independent constituent entities: the Federation of BiH, consisting of a Bosniak and Bosnian Croat majority, and the Republika Srpska (RS), whose population predominantly consists of Bosnian Serbs. The Federation entity is further divided into 10 cantons, and there also exists the District of Brčko, which is an independent unit that does not belong to either of the two entities. For a more detailed breakdown of Bosnia’s political system visit the K-143 website.

Bosnia’s convoluted political system has dictated the structure and nature of the country’s media landscape, and each entity has its own public broadcaster, private media, and political parties. The majority of Bosnian media is under political party control, and politicians actively manipulate the media, both for political gain and personal enrichment. They often promote antagonistic propaganda and divisive messages to maintain the status quo, which allows them to profit without being held accountable to Bosnia's citizens.

Journalists are subject to the pressures of the political parties and media owners (many of whom are political figures or affiliates). Ethnic and political pressures and loyalties influence media reporting and editorial decisions, including the time and space allocated to different news topics, especially those that are “sensitive” in nature—coverage of war crimes trials and rulings, genocide commemorations, and matters regarding contested histories. Such an atmosphere makes it difficult for journalists to apply proper investigative journalism techniques and deters them from speaking out publicly in an effort to hold those in power accountable for their actions and policies. Consequently, media coverage often fails to present more than one side of a story, and press ethnics need not apply as media representatives fail to distinguish between assumptions and facts or to provide a proper analysis of events. Journalists are not only pressured from the top-down, but also from the bottom-up. Ethnicity strongly influences the way people in Bosnia consume media: many Bosniaks rely on Sarajevo-based TV, radio and print media; the majority of Bosnian Serbs are geared towards RS- and Belgrade-based media; and Bosnian Croats tend to lean towards media from Croatia. Finally, when the media's boards of decision-makers, editors, and producers lack cultural, political, and ethnic diversity, their products become inherently biased.

Media has a strong influence on the Bosnian population, and many lack the tools necessary to approach the information they receive via the media critically and objectively. Youth are especially vulnerable to propaganda and media manipulation. Many youth often do not travel outside of their local towns and communities, which results in limited interaction with members from other ethnic groups. This significantly increases the likelihood that youth will form their opinions based on the messages and information they receive via the media. The media has and continues to leave a deep imprint on the collective opinion and on inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia, and problem of media manipulation must be addressed in order for this country to truly move towards reconciliation and renewed inter-ethnic cooperation.

PCRC’s Approach to Media Manipulation in Bosnia
Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 3.35.47 PM
Step 1: The “Balkandiskurs” Multimedia Platform
The Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) is taking steps to address the issue of media manipulation in Bosnia with its project “Media Literacy and Resisting Manipulation”. The first phase of this project involves the development of the multimedia web platform “Balkandiskurs”. Balkandiskurs is a regional network of writers, bloggers, multimedia artists, and activists who have come together in response to the lack of objective, relevant, invigorating, and independent regional media. The works published on this site will connect themes across borders and provide fresh and independent views on issues that matter to people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans. The founders of Balkandiskurs have extensive experience in journalism, activism, video and multimedia production, and the NGO sector. Support for Balkandiskurs has been provided by the European Union Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) through the Center for Independent Journalism Budapest (CIJ). This support included the provision of a network of regional partners, which includes the Human Rights House of Zagreb, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina.

The platform will be dedicated to the effort of challenging stereotypes and providing a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives that can be found all in one place. Works will be published from a diverse group of contributors, including journalists, media experts, ordinary citizens, and youth to name a few. Some regular topics will include transitional justice, inequality, corruption, and human rights. Balkandiskurs will strive to make its content accessible and understandable for both local and international audiences. The Balkandiskurs site will go live in August of this year.

10295136_661530433922192_8614635412781992613_o
Step 2: Media Literacy & Resisting Manipulation Youth Workshops
PCRC recognizes that youth are not given the space to express their viewpoints or share their concerns, ideas, and opinions about the issues that directly affect them. We also believe it's extremely important that the youth’s voices are heard and that they are taken seriously as stakeholders and decision-makers in Bosnia’s transition and peacebuilding processes. PCRC has developed a youth training workshop that will combine investigative journalism with creative methods of storytelling to shed light on the consequences lack of integrity and transparency in the media have on society. We will be providing Bosnian youth participants with an opportunity to develop their skills journalism, fair and balanced reporting, and multimedia. This fall, PCRC will select 10 young Bosnians from across the country to participate in this 3-day workshop taking place in Sarajevo. Participants will have access to experts from a number of different fields during their time in Sarajevo. Once the participants have completed training, they will be given space to publish and promote their work on the Balkandiskurs platform about the topics that matter most to them, and without fear of censorship. PCRC will release an official call to apply in August, so stay tuned!

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

by Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) at July 23, 2014 10:45 AM

July 22, 2014

Global Voices
Court Ruling Against Restaurant Reviewer Leaves French Bloggers Reeling
"Please don't feed the writers.” Photo by Flickr user Michelle. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Please don't feed the writers.” Photo by Flickr user Michelle. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If a blogger writes a scathing review of a restaurant, it's natural that the headline would match the tone of the article. After all, a unique, accurate title is part of Google's official advice for improving the positioning of a webpage in its search results.

But a blogger in France called “L'Irrégulière” was ordered to pay damages and court fees totaling 2,500 euros (3,400 U.S. dollars) for doing just that after the restaurant filed a complaint.

Appalled by what she considered to be unwelcoming staff and poor service during a meal at the end of August 2013 in Cap Ferret, the blogger published a biting review of Il Giardino on her French-language literary blog Cultur'elle. The article, titled “The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il Giardino”, ranked highly in the results of a Google search for the eatery. 

This angered the restaurant owner, so she took the blogger to court. The Bordeaux High Court ruled in the owner's favour on 30 June 2014 during an emergency hearing not because of the review itself, which “falls within the scope of freedom of expression” according to the judgement, but because of its title, which was considered to be defamatory.

The blogger, who had no lawyer, withdrew the review on her own accord, although the court did not request her to do so. However, it can be read on tuxicoman's blog here or as a cached version. Reeling from the experience, “L'Irrégulière” decided not to appeal.

Under the French system for emergency hearings, the court rules chiefly on the basis of whether the plaintiff suffered wrongdoing as a result of the actions of the defendant — in this case, an emergency measure was issued, but could be overturned if a full hearing is to take place. Why did the case merit an emergency hearing in the first place? Well-known lawyer and blogger Maître Eolas, who has 142,000 followers on Twitter, offered one answer:

Newsflash: restaurants are suing customers who dare to criticise them. And it has to be said, they are finding judges who will decide in their favour.

He went on to analyse the case in further detail for L'Express magazine:

Il ne faut pas donner à cette décision une portée plus large qu'elle n'a [...] Le droit de critique existe. Il peut être sanctionné en cas d'abus. La distinction classique est quand il y a intention de nuire ou concurrence déloyale si le dénigrement est fait par un concurrent. Ainsi, si cet article avait été publié par quelqu'un qui tient un autre restaurant de pizza du Cap Ferret, on aurait été dans le cas de la concurrence déloyale puisqu'il y aurait volonté de dénigrer pour faire fuir le client. Or ici, c'est une cliente mécontente qui raconte une expérience malheureuse. On a tout à fait le droit d'expliquer pourquoi on n'est pas satisfaits, en mettant le titre que l'on veut.

This ruling should not be given more significance than it actually has [...] There is such a thing as a right to criticise. This criticism can be penalised, however, if it becomes abusive. Usually, the distinction lies in whether there is intention to cause harm or, in the case of defamation by a competitor, the creation of unfair competition. So, had this article been published by someone who runs another pizza restaurant in Cap Ferret, it would have been a matter of unfair competition. This is because there would have been intention to defame in order to drive customers away. But in this case, it is a dissatisfied customer describing an unhappy experience. People have every right to explain why they are not satisfied, using whatever title they like.

When other bloggers heard about the matter, they pointed out this type of legal action could overload the justice system. Lady Waterloo, for instance, wrote:

Les juges ont donc condamné cette malheureuse blogueuse, pour L'endroit à éviter au Cap Ferret: Il Giardinocela en valait il la peine? Je ne le pense pas. Si les juges commencent à s'occuper des blogs qui dénoncent des apéros servis avec du retard sans cacahuètes et du vin trop froid ou trop chaud, j'ai oublié, la Justice sera complètement paralysée.

So the courts have ruled against this poor blogger, for The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il GiardinoWas it worth the trouble? I don't think so. If judges start getting involved with blogs criticising delays in serving aperitifs with no peanuts, and wine that's too cold or too warm (I can't remember which), the justice system will grind to a complete halt.

Others referred to the frequent misunderstandings between tourists, restaurateurs and the Internet, like Le Parisien libéral:

La vérité, c'est que désormais, tout resto, tout hôtel, doit faire avec l'existence du Net. Au lieu de faire une pub monstrueuse pour l'Irrégulière, pourquoi Il Giardino n'a pas crée son propre site web, ou fait le dos rond en attendant que ses clients qui ont aimé le resto s'expriment, comme Berthomeau.

The truth of the matter is that from now on, every restaurant and hotel must take account of the existence of the Internet. Instead of creating massive publicity for l'Irrégulière, why didn't Il Giardino create its own website, or weather the storm while waiting for favourable customers to give their opinions, like Berthomeau.

recherche Google

Google search result for “Il Giardino Cap-Ferret”, 18 July 2014: post still visible – screenshot taken by author

Can Google results be used to attack a blogger? The owner of the restaurant justified herself, saying the article was doing her business harm. “People are allowed to criticise, but there is a way of doing it, with respect, and that was not the case here. Now the court has made a decision and as far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed,” she said.

In fact, the article and the controversy over the judgement still have a high position in the Google search results. SEO expert Tubbydev was amazed at the lack of knowledge of how a search engines work:

Mais surtout, le vrai scandale à notre humble avis est tout entier dans le bout de phrase de la restauratrice: Mais cet article montait dans les résultats Google ..C'est Google qui montre le résultat, avec et par ses algorithmes mais c'est le contenu initial qui est “puni”. Personne ne demande à Google de corriger .. Et a priori aucune demande n'a été faite à Google. [...]

Google est devenu un Dieu ou tout du moins un des éléments de la nature…Non seulement, il est donc IRRESPONSABLE mais en plus, sa force est telle qu'il attise encore plus la censure et les problèmes contre les malheureux qui y sont bien considérés .. Le monde à l'envers non ?

But the real scandal, in our humble opinion, lies in the remark made by the restaurant owner: “But this article was rising in the Google search results.” It's Google that displays the result, with and through its algorithms, and yet it is the original content that gets “punished”. Nobody asks Google to make corrections. And, a priori, no request has been made to Google. [...]

Google has turned into some kind of god, or force of nature. Not only is it IRRESPONSIBLE, but its power is such that it encourages more censorship and creates problems for those unfortunate enough to be well regarded. The world has turned upside down, no?

While efficacitic.fr advises caution when it comes to reviews, Elisabeth Porteneuve, a self-described “Internet veteran,” anticipates that businesses may begin exploiting the so-called “right to be forgotten“.

 

The next step: the right to be forgotten, removal of the review from Google with the help of the [French data privacy authority] National Commission on Informatics and Liberty … the judges and the legislators!

The European Court of Justice ruled in May that individuals may request that search engines delete certain search results if they are found to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.” Google, the plaintiff in the case before the court, has now implemented systems for reviewing and enacting requests. Modifications to search results will be implemented only within the EU.

While the implications of this case regarding freedom of expression on the Internet are still a matter for debate, the publicity continues to have a detrimental effect on the restaurant. Although it is no longer readable on Culturelle, the controversial post title remains visible in Google.fr search results.

by Elizabeth Tamblin at July 22, 2014 11:08 PM

Global Voices Welcomes Juanita Leon to Board of Directors
Juanita Leon, the newest member of the Global Voices board

Juanita Leon, the newest member of the Global Voices board

We are very pleased to introduce our newest board member, Juanita León to the Global Voices family.

Juanita is the founder of Lasillavacia.com, a news site about power in Colombia. She is a lawyer with an MS in journalism from the Columbia Journalism School. She was a Harvard Nieman Fellow `06. She was launch editor of Flypmedia.com in New York and editor-in-chief of Semana.com. She is the author of Country of Bullets, about the war in Colombia, among other books. She taught Guerrilla News in the New York University Journalism School and now lives in Colombia.

“Global Voices takes to another level the idea that journalism is increasingly not so much — or at least not only — about information but about conversation,” says Juanita. “This is the platform where the smartest and most interesting voices around the world are curated and aggregated with the result that the whole is much better than the parts. Global Voices is a lab about the future of journalism, where the theory of the Internet gurus is made real. As a digital journalist and as digital entrepreneur, Global Voices is an example for me and I´m very proud to now be part of it.” 

Juanita replaces one of our original board members, Rosental Alves. Rosental rotated off our board after eight years of service. We'll miss his warmth and wisdom.

 Global Voices’ nine-member board meets four times per year, and has been an active, engaged and vital part of the GV community since its inception. Our board is composed of our two founders, three community representatives, and four external members.

 

 

 

by Ivan Sigal at July 22, 2014 10:52 PM

Creative Commons
“Why Open?” course now open for sign-up

Project 365 #303: 301009 Blink And You'll Miss It!
Project 365 #303: 301009 Blink And You’ll Miss It! / Pete / CC BY

Another run of School of Open courses is starting up in August, September and October! The first course to kick things off is a second iteration of “Why Open?” “Why Open?” was collaboratively developed and facilitated one year ago in August 2013; now the facilitators are back to run it a second time from 10 August to 5 September 2014. What is “Why Open?” From its About page,

Why Open? What does open mean? Does it mean free? Does it mean without restriction? What is the role of the producer? What is the role of the consumer? Why is open important? How does open relate to you and your area of expertise?

In this course, we will discuss and answer these questions. With your help, we will explore the different meanings of open in various contexts as well as its benefits and issues. Participants will use open practices to complete a series of open activities that builds into a final project.

Facilitators include Christina Hendricks (Philosophy lecturer at the University of British Columbia), Simeon Oriko (School of Open Kenya Initiative), Jeanette Lee (English lit and writing teacher), and myself.

Read more about the course over at the School of Open blog.

Sign-up is open now through 10 August; to join, simply click the ‘Start Course’ button on the lower left of the course page.

by Jane Park at July 22, 2014 10:04 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Uncovering Algorithms: Looking Inside the Facebook News Feed

How can the public learn the role of algorithms in their daily lives, evaluating the law and ethicality of systems like the Facebook NewsFeed, search engines, or airline booking systems? Today, the Berkman Center hosted a conversation about the idea of social science audits of algorithms. Presenting were:

  • Christian Sandvig is a Research Professor and Associate Professor in Communication Studies and at the School of Information at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in research investigating the development of Internet infrastructure and public policy. His current research involves the study of information infrastructures that depend upon the algorithmic selection of content.
  • Karrie Karahalios is an associate professor in computer science at the University of Illinois where she heads the Social Spaces Group. Her work focuses on the interaction between people and the social cues they emit and perceive in face-to-face and mediated electronic spaces.
  • Cedric Langbort is an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and a member of the Information Trust Institute and the Decision and Control Group of the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

Christian tells us teh story of SABRE system, from the 1960s, one of the first large scale applications of commercial computing. It was the largest non-governmental computer network in the world, and it managed airline bookings. American Airlines distributed terminals to ticket agents and travel agents -- allowing people to book flights on other airlines. American Airlines, who paid for SABRE, was led by Bob Crandall, who was controversial because the SABRE system seemed to privilege American Airlines flights over other flights. This launched a famous anti-trust investigation against AA. When Crandall testified before congress about the system, he said:

"The preferential display of our flights, and the corresponding increase in our market share, is the competitive raison d'etre for having created the [SABRE] system in the first place"

In the Crandall theory of algorithmic material, one expects the system to be rigged. With Facebook, we're seeing that people expect it the algorithm to be fair. Our world is now awash in algorithmically created content, says Christian, and we often have uncertainty about what these systems are doing. A chorus of scholarship is now claiming that algorithmic content is important, and we need to know more about how these algorithms work. Although many of us want to know how it works, it's hard to find out because we all have a personalized experience.

Gillespie, Nissenbaum, Zittrain, Barocas, Pasquale and others have been writing and saying what should we do? Christian and his colleagues offer to answer the following questions:

1. How can research on algorithms proceed without access to the algorithm?

Then, initial results from a study about the Facebook news feed, investigating:

2. What is the algorithm doing for a particular person?
3. How should we usefully visualize it?
4. How do people make sense of the algorithm?

In a nutshell, Sandvig and his colleagues propose the idea of Social Science Audits of Algorithms. The Social Science audit was pioneered in the housing sector to detect racial discrimination. In these contexts, you send testers to rent and buy apartments to see if it's successful.

One famous recent audit is the "Professors are Prejudiced Too" study that requested meetings with professors and varied the name on the message. They found that if you were a woman or a member of a racial minority, you were less likely to get a response.

What's an algorithm audit? Sandvig offers five illustrative research designs, with Facebook as an example but not the focus.

The first approach is to get the code, which Pasquale tends to argue for. Once you have the code however, what would you do with it? It changes all the time, it's lengthy, we might agree what certain parts of the algorithm are doing, but we couldn't use it to predict outcomes unless we had all of Google's data. There are some instances where it might be useful, but generally having a public algorithm isn't an answer to the concerns. Code for some platforms, like Reddit, or the Netflix prize winners are public. Unfortunately, publicizing the algorithm might help people we don't want to help, like spammers and hackers.

A second approach is to ask the users themselves. Services like consumer reports used to send surveys to car owners, asking them when their car broke down. We might think of an interesting algorithmic investigation that would find users and ask questions. One advantage is that it might be important to know what the users think the algorithm is doing, especially if users are modifying their behaviour based on what they think the algorithm is doing. The disadvantage with a platform like Facebook, it's difficult to ask very large numbers of people very specific questions like "seven days ago, did your news feed have fewer words"?


The Floor Planers, by Gustave Caillebotte

Thirdly, you could try to scrape everything. The major problem with this is that audit studies have an adversarial relationship, and this might break the terms of service and also be prosecuted under computer fraud laws. Legal advisors told Christian's team that they should avoid this approach.

Fourthly, auditors could use sock puppets, user accounts that the researcher inserts into the system, testing interventions. This approach also faces the possibility of prosecution under computer fraud laws. It also may not be ethical, since you're inserting fake data into the site.

Christian argues for a Collaborative Audit. He points us to Bidding for Travel, a site where people collaborate to understand how Priceline works to get the best deals. Sandvig suggests that a software assisted technology could organize a large number of users to collaborate on an audit of social media.

Designing a Collaborative Audit

To start, Karrie Karahalios and her team organized a small group to test Facebook in a series of pilot studies to test the Facebook metrics system. They then tested a visualization that showed gradstudents how the Facebook News Feed showed. Even gradstudents didn't realie that they weren't seeing everyone's feeds. Borrowing from Kevin Lynch research on "Wayfinding" which studied invisible processes in urban design, they created surveys for users that would expose hidden algorithmic processes with social media prompts and the Facebook API.

The team brought 40 people into the lab, gave them a pre-interview to show them Facebook usage, showed them a prompt, and then did a followup interview. People really wanted to talk about their experience. The study ran from April - November 2013, with a followup in June 2014. They collected basic demographic information and asked them about their behaviour on Facebook.

The FeedVis project shows users on the left all posts by friends on your specific network. On the right are the posts that actually appear on your newsfeed. The projects that appear in both are highlighted. Users were astonished by how long the left column was and how many things are hidden from Facebook. For most subjects, this was the first time they were aware of the existence of an algorithm. 37.5% of participants were aware, and 62.5% were not aware or uncertain.

FeedVis also showed users how many posts they saw from each user-- seeing which people appear commonly on their feed and whose posts are hidden. Often, people became very upset when posts from family members and loved ones were hidden.

Aggregating these lists, the users were invited to move people around to indicate who they wanted to see more from, and then show posts that might have been shown otherwise. They asked those users if they would have preferred to see those posts or not.

When reacting to FeedVis, some participants thought that the filtered NewsFeed was a necessity-- they had too many friends to keep track of them. Another group of comments focused on discrepancies between the newsfeed and all the posts. A further group reflected on what they might have needed to see more from a person. Many users assumed they might have needed to scroll down further. Among those who weren't familiar with the algorithm, many just assumed that their friends had stopped posting.

Other users thought that membership duration, seen content, or friendship network size might influence people's awareness. They didn't. Factors that did influence awareness were usage frequency and whether someone had used the analytics packages on Facebook Pages.

Over the course of the study and visual narrative, participants were initially very shocked and angry. Over time, they started reflecting on the nature of the algorithms, creating theories for how the feed might have filtered their information. Some people looked outside Facebook, wondering if their reading behavior on other sites might influence their reading behavior.

In the FeedVis system, users were content with with the information on their news feed, but they did shift users into more

After learning about the algorithm, when users went back to Facebook, they reported using Facebook's features more, switching more often between top stories and most recent stories features, being more circumspect about their likes, and even dropping friends. Since that time, some users became more involved and spent more time on Facebook.

Next up is Cedric Langbort, who summarizes the findings and future of algorithmic audits. The FeedVis system had a greater impact. The team is now scaling up FeedVis to more users, and they're hoping to do machine learning to test the Facebook algorithm. Along the way, they'll have to figure out how to deal with their own issues around privacy and data sharing -- with the payoff as a broad view of how the Facebook News Feed algorithm performs.

Is it good or bad to give users insight into how their data is being used? This practice is gaining traction across companies: Both Google and Facebook now have features that explain what goes into a particular algorithm. Might the motive for this disclosure also matter? If companies like Facebook ask people to question algorithms, is this just a ploy to get more data, he asks.

Cedric ends with a question, an admonishment, and a call to arms. He poses the following:

  • What do users really need to know about algorithms? There's value in telling people about these systems, but it may not be necessary to release the code. Perhaps a test drive could be more meaningful
  • Transparency Alone is not enough, says Cedric. It's more important to hold companies accountable on their auditability
  • Create infrastructures for algorithm auditing, urges Cedric in his talk
  • Questions
    A participant asks about the ethics of this research -can anyone have access to the raw, unfiltered stream? Karrie explains that every participant came into the lab, signed a consent form, and then used a Facebook application created by the researchers, that accessed all the data of them and their friends. The questioner asks if all of us can use an app to see their raw feed. Karrie answers: yes, and they're planning to release the software soon.

    Chris Peterson asks: what is the "all" in the all? It doesn't include things that have been caught by Facebook's spam filter, things that have been reported or marked as spam, and that have been pulled from the feed. If Top News is a subset of All, we still don't know what All is a subset of -- can this collaborative audit approach answer this question? Christian replies that it's not possible to get that.

    Judith Donath replies that Facebook is more open than most algorithms. Even if the API disappeared, you could still recreate the "all" feed. Since most of these things have no accessible version of "all"-- how could this technique apply elsewhere? Karrie replies that they chose a specific feature that they can focus on. For different tools and sites, it might be possible for companies to expose specific features, to give users the idea that an algorithm is under the hood. Christian replies that you could do the same collaborative audit on other systems like Twitter. In the case of Google, there's a big SEO community who try to understand how the algorithm works.

    Tarleton Gillespie, after noting that he's sympathetic to the questions, wonders if the metaphor of the audit might be tricky. Isn't the classic social science audit more of a sockpuppet approach. Sometimes, it can depend on the API, sometimes there won't be an API and you end up working with people. Might the truly collaborative audit involve setting a system into the wild, so that people might learn about the algorithm using that system, and then offer feedback. Karrie talks about a game that gives people feedback on their Facebook behavior. At the same time, it's hard to know what to expect-- in a previous attempt to do this in Mechanical Turk.

    Christian notes that although it's not the perfect metaphor, it offers a direction for us to start answering questions raised by people like Latanya Sweeney in her work on racism in ad placement. Cedric points out that the approach also has the advantage of avoiding the label of reverse engineering.

    A participant asks about whether these systems could offer insight into the role of advertising? Christian notes that this could benefit the public and also serve the advertising profit motive as well.

    A participant asks about the issue of consent around research on Facebook? Karrie notes that this project, which brought people into the lab, was more on the consent side of things. This group has been as consent-ey as possible. As the project moves towards a collective approach, they might start using online consent. Christian notes that a collaborative audit would be collaborative -- people would like to collaborate with researchers to figure out their news feed.

    I asked what work the team has done to develop protections for research happening in gray areas of the law. Christian notes that there's not that much debate that the CFAA sucks. Researchers struggle in these areas because there are legal institutions that get in the way of doing the right thing. Audits are also in trouble when it comes to IRB -- because the researchers are in an adversarial relationship with institutions. The research community should stand up to reform these laws.

    Is there any person at Facebook who knows how the algorithm works? Karrie notes that any complex system with many people, the chief architect in that team often knows. Christian argues that it's not important to assign blame to individuals -- whether Mark Zuckerberg is a nice man or not isn't the point -- what matters is the structure.

    Amy Johnson notes that the study taught people to be more aware of an "algorithmic gaze" with interesting and complicated qualities. Did people think that their choices in their relationships led to their results, and did people think about how they might manage their relationships on Facebook? Karrie replies that in many cases, people who spoke frequently with each other face-to-face didn't expect to see that person on Facebook. The main explanations people gave were clicking behaviours, inbox behaviours, and even imaginings about algorithms like topic analysis, and which pages they read online. Christian replies that people could read the NewsFeed as a reflection of their own choices. Sandvig prefers to think about the NewsFeed as an arbitrary system we need to understand.

    Nick Seaver at UC Irvine notes that most of these theories are Folk Theories. If you sit next to someone who's working on a personalization algorithm, you get similarly informed explanations that may not have anything to do with how the system works under the hood. Nick notes that by sampling the algorithm collaboratively, it may be possible to learn more about "what the algorithm is really up to" -- what happens if all theories, including ones developed collaboratively, are folk theories. Karrie used to describe people's understanding of algorithms in terms of "mental maps" but many people didn't actually have mental maps. One path forward is to collect folk theories and try to understand the common denominators. Another is to construct collaborative tasks: if I do this, what will happen? Christian notes. Sandvig mentions Edelman's work conducting queries that raise concerns about fraud on a variety of platforms.

    A participant notes that the data is highly dimensional -- since there are only seven billion people and trillions of inputs, does it matter if an algorithm could be doing something like discrimination matter (could be doing something illegal, is doing something illegal, or has unethical consequences). Cedric replies that assuming we could come up with a model that suggests a company is discriminating, a court of law might be able to subpoena a company. You might never be able to assign intent from an audit, saying that for sure, you are using race as part of your model. But you could use suggestive data to subpoena. In France, it's illegal to hold data about religion, and you can't ask about religion. You can take surrogates, but if you constructed an object that could predict religion, you might get in trouble.

    by natematias at July 22, 2014 07:08 PM

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