On our radar

last 30 days

6 Aug

Reuters' Rich McKay reports that Apple, YouTube, and others drop conspiracy theorist Alex Jones because the Infowars author 'had broken community standards'. McKay quoted Facebook as saying it removed Alex Jones'  pages 'for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies'. In response to the takedown, CNN published We need to talk about Alex Joneswith LZ Granderson saying 'I don't like what Alex Jones says, but I like that I can call him an idiot'. Kelly Hawes in the Rushville Republican also highlights freedom of expression, starting his article Free speech should apply to everyone by writing 'The solution to our broken public discourse is not to ban guys like Alex Jones from social media.' A similar debate is ongoing with the British case of Tommy Robinson, released from jail after what The Atlantic called The British Trial That Became a Free-Speech Crusade for the Right.

4 Aug

Following the enactment of the Law on Virtual Financial Assets by the Maltese Government, by October, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) is expected to start processing and issuing licences for Issuers of Virtual Financial Assets. The MFSA is currently holding a consultation aimed at transcribing financial regulation standards to cryptocurrency.

3 Aug

The UN High-Level Political Forum took place in New York earlier this month. DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform covered all sessions related to data and digital policy. Certain sessions also addressed the issue of capacity building, noting that it requires financial resources and knowledge sharing. While the additional amount of money needed to fund SDG data - annually about USD$ 200 million - is relatively small compared to the sum needed for SDG implementation, there is an important funding gap. To close this gap, there is a need for political support and awareness, and a change of the perception about the utility of official statistics among policymakers. This also requires smoothening the relation between policymakers and data producers, with NSIs demonstrating the power of data; ‘unless data is made valuable, we won’t get the wallets to open up’. Finally, partnerships with civil society, academia, and the private sector will be key. These sectors could address gaps in data and methodologies, and share the burden of work.

2 Aug

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Edison Lanza condemned US President Donald Trump's attacks on the free press, saying 'His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts'. The experts went on to point out that 'These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law' and to express that 'We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence'. As one example, a New York Post article reported 'Trump keeps up attacks against media: "They can also cause War!"'

1 Aug

The Intercept reports, based on leaked documents, that Google plans to launch a censored search engine called Dragonfly, in China. In the article, author Ryan Gallagher states that the app 'will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest'. Gallagher reports that this represents a clear shift in Google's China policy, opening a path for the first Google search engine in China in almost a decade. According to the article, websites blocked by the Great Firewall will be removed from the first page of results, although a disclaimer will explain that 'some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements'. In their commentary Google’s Dragonfly: A Bellwether for Human Rights in the Digital Age, Sarah McKune and Ronald Deibert do not find Google's 'change of heart' surprising, citing forces such as 'the entrenchment of digital authoritarianism, among both democratic and non-democratic countries, and the rollback of human rights'. McKune and Deibert conclude by warning 'A digitized world increasingly looks like a surveilled and censored world; options for engagement that do not compromise human rights in some form are dwindling'.

30 Jul

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter announced an open-source collaboration hosted on Github, called the ‘Data Transfer Project’ (DTP). It is a service-to-service data portability platform designed with the aim to help ‘all individuals across the web to easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want’. It a blog post, Microsoft noted that ‘Creating these tools in an open-source, inclusive, multi-stakeholder community-driven ecosystem will also help service providers understand and enable data portability more effectively.’ Among the key development principles around interoperability and portability are: Build for users, Use strong privacy and security standards, Focus on a user’s data, not enterprise data, and Respect everyone. In its separate blog post, Google looks back in history. In 2007, a group of engineers formed the Data Liberation Front, that ‘believed consumers should have better tools to put their data where they want, when they want, and even move it to a different service’. In 2011, the ’Takeout’ was launched as a platform where all users’ data is in portable and open formats which makes it easy to import to other services quickly as well. Today, the Takeout goes under the ‘Download Your Data’ name, and ‘users can download a machine-readable copy of the data they have stored in 50+ Google products, with more on the way’. In relation to the DTP, Microsoft emphasised the importance of data security and privacy as a foundation to the design, stating: ‘All credentials and user data will be encrypted both in transit and at rest. The protocol uses a form of perfect forward secrecy where a new unique key is generated for each transfer. Additionally, the framework allows partners to support any authorization mechanism they choose. This enables partners to leverage their existing security infrastructure when authorizing accounts.’. The DTP’s website notes that the project is in its ‘very active development’ and are continuously working on improvements of the ‘code that works, which might cause things to break occasionally’.


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