digitaLiberties https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19013/all en Child safeguarding cloaks state surveillance and data exploitation https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jen-persson/children-are-at-forefront-of-state-surveillance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Child safeguarding is being used to get away with 24/7 surveillance. The government must not misuse 'child safeguarding' as a false flag in data protection, and apply new rules to everyone but itself.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/9059161502_2b3820faa6_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/9059161502_2b3820faa6_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>iPad play. Aikawa Ke/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Queen’s Speech promised new laws to ensure that the United Kingdom retains its world-class regime protecting personal data. And the government proposes a new digital charter to make the United Kingdom the safest place to be online for children.</p><p>It sounds good. But government must not misuse the child safeguarding label as a false flag in data protection, and apply new rules to everyone but itself.</p><p>While pointing the finger at big social media platforms the government may hope we don’t look too closely at how their own national policies undermine children’s rights, and make children less safe.</p><p>How is the government safeguarding young people on the internet in schools today?</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Every search, every screen, is&nbsp;recorded, &nbsp;<span>every second.</span></p><p>New guidance has resulted in schools imposing online filtering and monitoring software on pupil and staff devices. Every search, every screen, is recorded, every second.</p><p>One provider told the Education Select Committee in 2016, "the behaviours we detect are not confined to the school bell starting in the morning and ringing in the afternoon; it is 24/7 and it is every day of the year.”</p><p>These tools can have serious technical flaws, and expose millions of children to malicious hacking. The use of watchword lists includes treating children as potential terrorists. Their innocently intended web search can trigger a permanent record “of interest”, and families have no way to know, or delete it, or a clear course of redress. Cases we know of include children wrongly flagged as at risk of suicide, and gang membership. Mislabeled for life.</p><p>There is an emerging narrative that suggests national security is on one side opposing information security and human rights on the other. And children are stuck in the middle in the no-man’s-land of online safeguarding.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The use of watchword lists includes treating children as potential terrorists.</p><p>In the Prime Minister’s passion to regulate the internet, she has vowed to tear up human rights laws if they get in her way. But information security, safe technology, children’s rights to online information, and the right to privacy, are not enemies of the state – despite being dragged into the war-on-terror.</p><p>‘Something must be done’ is no surrogate for a real solution. We need genuine and informed debate how online safety should be solved, not policies that increase risk, while saying they do the opposite.</p><p>And as for the claim to want a world-class regime protecting personal data?</p><p>The government ignored independent expert advice as it passed the Digital Economy Act in April this year. Rather than focussing on protecting personal data, it increased government powers at the expense of citizens’ control over our personal confidential data.</p><p>Education ministers claimed in the press and to parliament last year that a new law to collect children’s nationality data was "about making sure we have the right data and evidence to develop strong policy.” They said there were “no plans" to pass children’s data from the census to other government departments. Meanwhile the secret agreement to hand over nationality data (once collected) to the Border Force Removals Casework team had already been in place since July 2015.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Two years on, there is no transparent oversight of the use of pupil data for immigration enforcement.</p><p>Two years on, there is no transparent oversight of the use of pupil data for immigration enforcement. There is no public accountability for the well-being of children affected. Parents and teachers are right to ask: "did ministers even consider what the consequences of their actions would be? Or have they decided that the threat to children’s safety is a price worth paying so they can look tough on immigration?”</p><p>If handing out personal confidential data to other government departments in secret was not bad enough, our government is pimping out all our children’s privacy to third-party commercial companies too. After ignoring advice from experts in 2012 about how to keep 23 million pupils’ data safe, the Department for Education now hands out identifying personal data about individual pupils to charities, journalists and data resellers.</p><p>Outsourcing the government's responsibility for data security exposes our children to greater risk of identity fraud, data loss, theft or onward selling, and potentially real physical harm.&nbsp;</p><p>Parents entrust children’s personal data to schools for the purposes of their education, not for commercial exploitation to profit a private tutoring company or data intermediary. It is not enough to say, 'the companies will keep it safe'. Without our consent, they should not keep it at all. This government data policy has a&nbsp;reckless disregard for the right to privacy.&nbsp;</p><p>Rather than improving things, the stripping down of our personal data rights seems set to continue in this parliament.&nbsp;</p><p>Take the plan to make social media platforms delete information they hold about us on request, at the age of 18. If it’s only from age 18, it’s a con. The new EU data protection law gives us all that right, at any age from 26 May 2018. Will the government snatch it away from children?</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Let’s fix children’s digital literacy and equality of access.</p><p>Reducing our information rights in the name of security&nbsp;flies in the face of informed expertise in the tech industry. Politicians who insist on poking holes in secure encryption technology makes us all less safe including our online banking. It’s not ok not to understand how that works, and nod along from the back benches.&nbsp;</p><p>Let’s fix children’s digital literacy and equality of access.&nbsp;Let’s put privacy-by-design at the heart of transparent, accountable public data policy. There must be no surprises how our personal data are collected and used.&nbsp;</p><p>Our <a href="http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheEmperorsNewClothes_e.html">emperors</a> may wear the mantle of safeguarding children as they parade a call for change, but they are trampling our digital rights underfoot. It’s time we all see through it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/rebecca-vincent/theresa-may-britain-proposed-new-espionage-act-is-alarming">In Theresa May’s Britain, a proposed new ‘espionage act’ is alarming, but hardly surprising</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/theresa-may-s-counter-extremism-plan-will-create-incompetent-p">Theresa May’s counter-extremism plan will create an incompetent police state </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/waking-up-to-uk-s-investigatory-powers-act">Waking up to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/julianne-tveten/myth-of-online-privacy-apathy-why-users-do-care-about-data-collection">Apathy about privacy is a myth: why users do care about data collection </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/phoebe-braithwaite/refuse-retract-resist-boycott-schools-census">Refuse, retract, resist: boycott the schools census </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties uk Jen Persson Mon, 26 Jun 2017 21:53:55 +0000 Jen Persson 111906 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May’s counter-extremism plan will create an incompetent police state https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/theresa-may-s-counter-extremism-plan-will-create-incompetent-p <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park, the Tories proposed a series of policies that would effectively police and criminalise thoughts. This will do nothing whatsoever to address what incubates violent extremism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31745745.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31745745.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police investigate at the scene of the crime in Finsbury Park, 19 June 2017. Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Theresa May’s response to the upsurge of violence that has hit Britain since the beginning of 2017 will fail for one fundamental reason: she refuses to hold her own government to account for its systematic incubation of extremism.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">"As I said here two weeks ago, there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia,” said the Prime Minister, hours after a 47-aged man, Darren Osborne, ploughed a van into Muslim worshippers outside the Finsbury Park mosque.</p><p dir="ltr">This was the fourth terrorist attack in the UK over the last three months. The first was the attack outside parliament; the second was the Manchester suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert; the third came in the form of van and knife attacks in London Bridge.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">May’s welcome recognition that Islamophobia is a form of extremism was muddied by her proposed solutions.</p><p dir="ltr">May’s welcome recognition that Islamophobia is a form of extremism was muddied by her proposed solutions: a package of draconian powers including new anti-terror powers for police and security services; the creation of a new statutory body, a Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE); and more stringent internet controls.</p><p dir="ltr">Conservative Party sources familiar with the proposals have <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4539844/New-laws-target-Islamist-hate-preachers.html">said</a> that the new anti-terror offences would allow police to target extremists who endorse “radical views but stop short of advocating violence”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In other words, the Tories want the power to police our thoughts so they can criminalise ‘extremist’ ideas which don’t endorse violence.</p><p dir="ltr">But the absurd consequences of such amorphous definitions of ‘non-violent extremism’ have already occurred under Prevent, the government’s domestic counter-extremism programme. Even <a href="https://newint.org/blog/2014/07/29/student-activist-prevent-extremism/">normal students</a> have been labelled by police as being ‘at risk’ of “domestic extremism” just for “attending protests, sympathising with occupations and making&nbsp;demands&nbsp;on issues such as a living wage for university staff and an ethical investment policy.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The CEE, whose planned role would be to identify extremists, counter their messages and promote pluralistic values, would be hopelessly hobbled under such an amorphous conception of extremism.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The Tories want the power to police our thoughts so they can criminalise ‘extremist’ ideas.</p><p dir="ltr">And extending such thinking into internet regulation threatens forms of censorship that could empower an already unaccountable security establishment – the result would be expanded mass surveillance that would <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/preventing-dissent-27efd26191a9">routinely red-flag</a> people sceptical of government, but be useless in identifying real terrorists.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Yet the unsuspecting British public is largely unaware of the fact that Theresa May’s proposals will do nothing – literally nothing – to address the fundamental drivers behind the incubation of violent extremism in Britain.</p><h2>Our hate preacher</h2><p dir="ltr">Tory Party sources <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4539844/New-laws-target-Islamist-hate-preachers.html">claim</a> that the proposed new anti-terror powers would have made it easier to prosecute the likes of Anjem Choudary and his followers.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It is a convenient mythology promoted by officialdom that Choudary, the firebrand pro-ISIS hate preacher who presided over the banned extremist network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, only received his terrorism conviction last year because our laws are too weak.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Choudary is reported to have been the key radicaliser for the London Bridge attackers, who had been recruited into his al-Muhajiroun network. Muslim community sources I <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/isis-recruiter-who-radicalised-london-bridge-attackers-was-protected-by-mi5-232998ab6421">spoke to</a> on the ground told me that the London Bridge terrorists were widely known as open ISIS supporters. One of them had fought with an Islamist militia group in Libya, and another had attempted to join the jihad in Syria.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Choudary was not arrested during this period... because he was useful to MI5.</p><p dir="ltr">Choudary himself was Britain’s top ISIS recruiter according to police sources, siphoning as many as 500 Britons to join ISIS groups in foreign theatres like Syria since 2011.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">According to a senior Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer who had investigated Choudary, Choudary was not arrested during this period not because he was ingenious at staying within the bounds of the law, but because he was useful to MI5. The truth, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/21/mi5-stopped-scotland-yard-taking-choudary-down-sources-claim/">said</a> the officer, is that police had overwhelming evidence sufficient to prosecute the ISIS recruiter – but were constantly prevented from doing so by Britain’s security services.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">So this has never been about the police and security services having inadequate powers to prosecute hate preachers. The man who radicalised and recruited the London Bridge attackers was himself protected by MI5 for short-sighted intelligence purposes.&nbsp;</p><h2>A very British jihad</h2><p dir="ltr">One of those purposes, according to former counter-terrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, was to augment British support for the rebellions against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Britain had supplied extensive weapons and military training to rebel groups in Libya and Syria with direct ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda.</p><p dir="ltr">When I interviewed him in 2014, Shoebridge had <a href="https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/fighting-isis/">warned with startling prescience</a> that the MI5/MI6 green light to Britons to join various rebel groups in Syria would likely backfire when they returned home. Many of them had gone on to join <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/how-end-216384012">dangerous jihadist groups</a> linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda – and would bring that ideology back with them.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This year, he was tragically proven right.</p><p dir="ltr">Not only did the British government <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/isis-recruiter-who-radicalised-london-bridge-attackers-was-protected-by-mi5-232998ab6421">allow</a> Britons to travel abroad to foreign theatres from 2011 to 2013, where they received military training, with some becoming radicalised by violent Islamist militias – they were then allowed to return to Britain with few repercussions. As many as a third of British foreign fighters reportedly arrived back home this February, just before the spate of ISIS-inspired violence kicked off.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In a <a href="http://markcurtis.info/2017/06/03/the-manchester-bombing-as-blowback-the-latest-evidence/">briefing</a> I co-authored with UK foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis, we showed that Britain had also supplied extensive weapons and military training to rebel groups in Libya and Syria with direct ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda. And Britain did so in partnership with the very countries, such as the Gulf states and Turkey, accused by our own intelligence agencies of sponsoring Islamist terrorism.</p><h2>Courting Islamophobes&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">But it is not just Islamist terror that the British state has ended up facilitating.</p><p dir="ltr">To her credit, Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote an op-ed in The Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/19/british-muslims-full-protection-finsbury-park-attack">making clear</a> that the Finsbury Park mosque attack was terrorism, and promising to act “in solidarity with the Muslim community.”</p><p dir="ltr">The message, though much-needed, is at odds with Rudd’s own past affiliations.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">It is not just Islamist terror that the British state has ended up facilitating.</p><p dir="ltr">Rudd along with several other senior Tory cabinet members under Theresa May have for several years <a href="https://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/20/theresa-mays-cabinet-scrambles-disassociate-extremist-think-tank-tied-donald-trump/">sat on the Political Council</a> of the Henry Jackson Society (HJS): namely, Brexit minister David Davis and international development secretary Priti Patel – while Trade secretary Liam Fox has spoken at a HJS event on the Iran nuclear deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet the HJS is a London-based think tank that has come under <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/the-american-far-right-s-trojan-horse-in-westminster-6799f442d6ce">heavy criticism</a> for the openly anti-Muslim views of its associate director, Douglas Murray.</p><p dir="ltr">Murray has, long before Donald Trump, <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/white-supremacists-heart-whitehall-789183852">called</a> for a ban on all Muslim immigration to Europe; demanded that “conditions for Muslims in Europe… be made harder across the board”; complained that “there aren’t enough white people around”, because they are “losing their country” to the “startling rise in Muslim infants”; and after the Manchester bombing, <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3722649/never-mind-singing-john-lennon-songs-if-we-want-peace-then-we-need-one-thing-less-islam/">demanded</a> “less Islam” and fewer Muslims in Britain as the basic solution to terrorism.</p><p dir="ltr">Rudd and Patel sat on the HJS political council without any objections to Murray’s anti-Muslim bigotry. In fact, they only resigned from the HJS after I contacted the British government to ask how they remain affiliated to a group that openly promotes anti-Muslim extremism – exactly the sort of Islamophobia that Rudd rightly but belatedly condemned in The Guardian on Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">David Davis was the only cabinet minister who refused to rescind his HJS role. Since then, HJS has <a href="http://henryjacksonsociety.org/people/council-members/">conveniently removed</a> all reference to its political council from its website.</p><p dir="ltr">And yet, this is the tip of the iceberg.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, I was commissioned by the hate crime charity Tell MAMA UK to <a href="https://medium.com/return-of-the-reich">investigate</a> the network dynamics of the far-right. Our report, 'Return of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far-Right Power', uncovered a vast array of connections between the incumbent Conservative Party and far-right extremists on both sides of the Atlantic.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Tory Party has, for instance, fostered self-serving <a href="https://medium.com/return-of-the-reich/the-powerful-neo-nazi-network-destroying-the-european-union-from-within-4d3f4493fb71">alliances</a> in the European Parliament with far-right political parties such as the Danish People’s Party (DPP), the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the True Finns (PS) party, and the Independent Greeks – parties with alarming neo-Nazi affiliations and sympathies.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">My Tell MAMA investigation also revealed that many senior politicians in these parties have direct connections to the anti-Muslim ‘counter-jihad’ movement. The same movement which inspired the likes of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who massacred 77 people in 2011; and Thomas Mair, who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.</p><h2>Promoting Extremism</h2><p dir="ltr">All of which begs the question as to how the proposed Commission for Countering Extremism can really work, when set-up by a government which has systematically allied itself with both Islamist and far-right extremists.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">What we really need is an independent public inquiry into the government policies that have contributed to the unprecedented upsurge in extremist violence this year.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Will the commission pinpoint extremists in the Tory Party who have vilified Muslims – such as Zac Goldsmith, whose abhorrent campaign relentlessly demonised London Mayor Sadiq Khan?&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Will it identify how hate preachers like Choudary have operated with impunity in Britain because they were being effectively protected by MI5 for narrow geopolitical goals?</p><p dir="ltr">Will it highlight the hate preaching of people like Douglas Murray and Katie Hopkins, who shamelessly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/may/26/katie-hopkins-leaves-lbc-radio-final-solution-tweet-manchester-attack">urged</a> the need for a “final solution” after the Manchester attack?</p><p dir="ltr">Will it crack down on Theresa May’s efforts to court repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/how-end-216384012#sthash.CenIICbL.dpuf">described</a> by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one leaked document based on US intelligence sources as “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups in the region”?</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than a phony politicised ‘commission’ blind to the extremism of its own protagonists, what we really need is an independent public inquiry into the government policies that have contributed to the unprecedented upsurge in extremist violence this year.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ideologies of hate fester the most within a supportive material infrastructure. Theresa May’s grand plan to defeat extremism will fail, because it refuses to reform an institution whose policies have incubated that infrastructure: the British state.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties uk Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed Sat, 24 Jun 2017 01:11:20 +0000 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed 111860 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What does ‘mainstream media bias’ mean in a digital age? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/mitchell-labiak/what-does-mainstream-media-bias-mean-in-digital-age <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The internet should mean that everyone has access to the same information, yet people still talk of a “mainstream media bias”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Craig_Benzine_(7486834826).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Craig_Benzine_(7486834826).jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Craig Benzine speaking at VidCon 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Wikicommons/ Gage Skidmore. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>30 years ago, it was easy to silence ideas. Not reporting on something could guarantee its obscurity. The internet changed all that by allowing almost anyone to start up a blog, vlog, or website and do their own reporting.</p> <p>By lowering the barrier to entry, would-be journalists and political commentators have emerged from every corner of the internet. As global internet access has increased, so too has our collective ability to make the media our own.</p> <p>This scares dictators. It’s why countries such as <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/09/21/north-koreas-internet-revealed-to-have-just-28-websites/">North Korea</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/chinese-internet-censorship-uses-distraction">China</a>, and <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/whatsapp-facebook-youtube-twitter-down-turkey-internet-outage-problems-a7396856.html">Turkey</a> have a censored internet, an extension of the other kinds of media censorship in those countries. As <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/19/xi-jinping-tours-chinas-top-state-media-outlets-to-boost-loyalty">Xi Jinping put it</a>, the media must “love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.”</p><p>So far, so fascist. But what about in functioning democracies? Why is it that countries like the UK and the US talk of a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-media-bias-labour-mainstream-press-lse-study-misrepresentation-we-cant-ignore-bias-a7144381.html">mainstream media bias</a> when, in theory at least, the media belongs to everyone?</p> <h2><strong>Mainstream media bias in the UK</strong></h2><p> In the UK, there’s no denying that print media leans right. Of <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/246077/reach-of-selected-national-newspapers-in-the-uk/">the seven biggest selling newspapers in the UK</a>, the two most popular (The Daily Mail and The Sun) are right-wing, the Guardian and The Mirror are left-wing, and the rest are all right-wing. By sheer numbers, there are simply more right-wing newspapers being sold in the UK. For every one left-wing newspaper that gets sold, more than two right-wing newspapers get sold.</p> <p>Online, things are more complicated. When news websites are ranked by <a href="https://www.similarweb.com/blog/uk-media-publications-ranking-february-2017">the number of pageviews from the UK they received in February 2017</a>, the biggest is the BBC. It’s not even close. The BBC received over 1.7 billion pageviews that month, 35% of all the traffic for the top 100 news sites in the UK. The BBC is followed by The Guardian, The Daily Mail, MSN, and the Daily Telegraph. Those sites received 331 million, 318 million, 293 million, and 169 million views respectively. </p><p>MSN is not a publication based in the UK. However, that’s what the internet does; it erodes borders. As such, over 318 million British people clicked onto MSN to get their news in February 2017. </p><p>So at first glance, it looks as if the internet eliminates media bias in the UK. With the assumption that the BBC is a neutral publication, the left-wing and right-wing publications for the top 100 biggest news sites in the UK get around 600 million pageviews each for the month of February 2017. The rest of the views go to business, tech, and local news publications which don’t lean one way or the other. </p><p>Except that local news <em>does</em> have a tendency to lean one way or the other depending on the politics of the city. What is more, you could argue that all those tech publications tend to lean left, espousing a pro-science, pro-equality <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/05/10/facebook-executive-admits-silicon-valley-has-left-wing-bias/">Silicon Valley rhetoric</a>. You could just as easily argue that all those business publications tend to lean right, espousing a pro-capitalist, pro-business <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-abrams/right-wing-politics-business_b_5341926.html">economically liberal rhetoric</a>. </p><p>Still, most of that cancels itself out with pageviews for those local, business, and tech publications shifting and changing month by month. What’s more, the issue pales in comparison to the elephant in the room: the BBC’s widely disputed neutrality.</p> <h2><strong>The BBC leans...</strong></h2><p> For as long as there has been a BBC, there have been worries about BBC bias. More often than not, these accusations come from the government, with <a href="https://www.transdiffusion.org/2005/04/01/bbcthatcher">every Prime Minister since the BBC’s inception</a> grumbling about its anti-government bias. This worrying reached fever pitch during Thatcher’s reign when the Tories did much more than grumble. They claimed, publicly and repeatedly, that the organisation had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2001/sep/23/business.broadcasting">a left-wing anti-government bias</a>. Conversely, there are those who claim that — during the Wilson era — <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9876437/Harold-Wilson-Night-the-PM-who-lived-and-died-by-television.html">the BBC had a pro-government bias</a>. </p><p>Jump ahead to the modern day and the question of which way the BBC leans depends on who you ask. If you ask the left-wing Owen Jones of the left-leaning Guardian, he’ll tell you that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/17/bbc-leftwing-bias-non-existent-myth">the BBC leans right</a>. If you ask Tory MP and current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, he’ll tell you that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/sep/24/bbc-news-tories-jeremy-hunt">the BBC leans left</a>. The left-leaning New Statesman refers to a study claiming that <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/broadcast/2013/08/hard-evidence-how-biased-bbc">the Tories get more coverage than Labour</a>. The right-leaning Telegraph refers to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10235967/BBC-is-biased-toward-the-left-study-finds.html">a study claiming that left-wing policies get more coverage than conservative ones</a>.</p> <p>The problem with talking about political bias is that you inevitably run into political bias. With publications like the Guardian or the Telegraph, this isn’t a problem. Both publications are openly left-wing and right-wing respectively. As such, there is no debate. With regards to the BBC, this is a problem as the organisation claims to be neutral. And there is a debate.</p><h2> <strong>Mainstream media bias in the US</strong></h2><p><strong> </strong>Print media in the US has the opposite problem to the UK. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/272790/circulation-of-the-biggest-daily-newspapers-in-the-us/">the four biggest selling newspapers in the US</a>. The Wall Street Journal is right-leaning, but <a href="http://www.journalism.org/interactives/media-polarization/table/consume/">the Washington Post and the New York Times lean left</a>. So too does <a href="https://www.allsides.com/news-source/los-angeles-times">the Los Angeles Times</a>. As such, it’s fair to say that more left-leaning newspapers get sold in the US than right-leaning ones. </p><p>Online, the four biggest news websites in <a href="https://www.similarweb.com/blog/us-media-publications-ranking-april-2017">the US according to pageviews in April 2017</a> were MSN, ESPN, Drudge Report, and Google News. Three of those are news aggregator sites which link out to other news sources and one of them is a sports news site. Discounting those, the next biggest website is CNN. This is followed by Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sport (which can be discounted as well), Fox News, and then the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed. </p><p>The only openly conservative news site on that list is Fox News. The others are either aggregators, sports news websites, neutral, or liberal. None of this should be surprising considering that since 1971 journalists in the US have <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/05/06/just-7-percent-of-journalists-are-republicans-thats-far-less-than-even-a-decade-ago/?utm_term=.26e68c5d3c43">more often identified as liberal than conservative</a>. In 2013, just seven per cent of journalists identified as Republican compared to over a quarter of journalists identifying as Democrat. </p><h2> <strong>Are news aggregators neutral?</strong></h2><p><strong> </strong>In the US and the UK, news aggregators receive huge numbers of pageviews. Unlike the BBC, these sites don’t produce their own content. All they do is link to other news sources. Still, it’s perfectly possible for a news aggregator website to express bias through the news it chooses to link to and how it presents this news.<br /> This further complicates the question of online media bias in the US. <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/08/more-than-two-decades-old-the-drudge-report-hits-a-new-traffic-high-227008">Drudge Report</a> has a clear pro-Trump bias, being run by the <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/326849-matt-drudge-congress-deliberately-sabotaging-trump">openly pro-Trump Matt Drudge</a>. Yet, with Google News it’s not as black and white and, just as with the BBC, it depends on who you ask. </p><p>The left-leaning Guardian has accused the search engine of having <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/16/google-autocomplete-rightwing-bias-algorithm-political-propaganda">a right-leaning bias with its autocomplete function</a>. The right-leaning Wall Street Journal has accused the search engine of <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-search-results-can-lean-liberal-study-finds-1479760691">a left-leaning bias with its results</a>. The left-leaning Independent argues that <a href="https://www.indy100.com/article/what-happens-when-you-google-three-black-teenagers-and-why-its-a-problem--WJN9D1V1EZ">Google’s image search has a race bias</a>. The right-leaning Washington Times argues that <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/13/facebook-reddit-censorship-reignites-conservative-/">Google is run by a bunch of liberals</a>.</p> <h2><strong>The new news</strong></h2> <p>If rigorous analysis of online news media and news aggregators reveals anything it’s that digital news is fractured. What’s more, besides some enormous organisations, there isn’t really any such thing as a ‘mainstream news media’ online. </p> <p>Though just because news media is free from an overall bias it doesn’t mean that social media is. And just because there isn’t political ideology bias doesn’t mean that there isn’t bias. For social media, it’s not so much a matter of left and right but a matter of what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not. Google does have a bias. Though, as with all of the other social media giants, it may be a different breed of bias. </p><p>In 2016, a survey revealed that <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/26/most-people-get-their-news-from-social-media-says-report/">62% of Americans get their news from social media sites</a>. Online news is important, but it’s evidently not where the vast majority of web users spend their time and less and fewer people are getting their information directly from news sites.</p> <p>YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, Google: these are <a href="http://www.alexa.com/topsites">some of the biggest websites in the world</a>. News websites don’t even come close in terms of usage and influence. And, while there is no one person or political group who controls these sites, if there is one thing that none of them like, it’s “controversial” or “offensive” content.</p><p>This dislike of ideas which upset the status quo has helped to <a href="https://www.cjr.org/analysis/censorship_in_the_social_media_age.php">censor people from all over the political spectrum</a>. So whether it’s because you are <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38165435">pro-Trump</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/20/lgbt-community-anger-over-youtube-restrictions-which-make-their-videos-invisible">pro-LGBT</a>, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/instagram-deletes-womans-period-photos-but-her-response-is-amazing/">pro-menstruation</a>, or even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/19/facebook-removes-breast-cancer-survivors-double-mastectomy-tattoo-picture_n_2716057.html">pro-breast cancer awareness</a>, your ideas are going to be suppressed by huge organisations who would rather that your ideas were a little less disruptive. None of this is done in the name of pushing a particular political agenda. It’s done in the name of pleasing advertisers, who like it when things are vanilla, and keeping as many people on their websites as possible. </p><p>This is censorship, and it is worrying, and it is something that those who value freedom of speech should protest against. However, it would be too simplistic to call it a right-wing or a left-wing bias. While it’s true that both conservatives and radicals have reason to be critical of <a href="http://gizmodo.com/former-facebook-workers-we-routinely-suppressed-conser-1775461006">Facebook’s neutrality</a>, the real issue is the way in which all <a href="https://www.wired.com/2016/11/filter-bubble-destroying-democracy/">social media algorithms</a> try to feed us information which is uncontroversial and already confirms our existing biases.&nbsp; </p><p>Across all social media sites, news feeds are personalised. As such, if you lean politically one way or the other then your experience on that site will lean with you. Prominent American YouTuber Craig Benzine noted the true extent of this after the 2016 US election. Despite his massive social media reach, he recalls how <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haTlHHJh3oE">almost every post he saw in relation to Trump’s victory</a> was negative.</p> <h2><strong>Never let the truth get in the way of a good story</strong></h2><p><strong> </strong>There is a media bias online, but it’s not a media bias which fits into the narrative of the left or the right. According to openly right-wing Fox News, alliances such as the “Deep State” are <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/05/17/sean-hannity-trump-faces-alliance-haters.html">fueling an anti-Trump media conspiracy</a>. The story is half-correct. The media is overwhelmingly critical of Trump, but it’s also half-incorrect. After all, the British left just as easily argues that there is <a href="http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.mx/2016/07/the-mainstream-media-propaganda-war.html">an anti-Corbyn media conspiracy</a>.</p><p>It’s true that ‘the establishment’ is often against both men. But the idea that the ‘establishment’ is one entity is wrong. Different countries are filled with different establishments, each with their own interests. Moreover universities, banks, medical research bodies, international trade associations are made up of a range of experts with a range of ideas. When <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/22/science/march-for-science.html?_r=0">scientists unite against Trump</a> or <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11840928/Jeremy-Corbyns-economic-policies-could-be-highly-damaging-economists-warn.html">economists unite against Corbyn</a>, that’s not a conspiracy: it’s a difference of opinion.</p> <p>The bad news is that, while the people are more than willing to call out the political biases of others, they are terrible at recognising their own political biases. Reactionist right and reactionist left are <a href="https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/PolarizationIn2016.pdf">becoming increasingly polarised</a> by their own social media bubbles. The good news is that the increase of free and open internet access across the world has handed the media to the people. The result is a change in grammar. The old media was singular; the new media are plural.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties United States UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government Internet Mitchell Labiak Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:50:57 +0000 Mitchell Labiak 111846 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What the Romans did for us: on the age-old art of propaganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jemimah-steinfeld/what-romans-did-for-us-on-age-old-art-of-propaganda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People see propaganda as a modern problem – manipulation by mass media. But the story is far older, and the tactics are timeless. While the game has moved on, the rules remain the same.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/4213621570_e0fc5f2332_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/4213621570_e0fc5f2332_b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Octavian, the Emperor Augustus in a toga. david__jones/Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>The EU’s police agency, Europol, recently revealed evidence that Isis is creating its own social media platform for the purpose of disseminating propaganda. It may be connected to Facebook and Google ramping up efforts to curb extremist material and “fake news”. In May, according to Reuters, Europol director Rob Wainwright said it showed "some members of Daesh, at least, continue to innovate in this space". But while technological innovation might still be possible, will there be anything original on this new platform?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right">Until the reign of Augustus, no one in Rome had come close to creating a personality cult.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>&nbsp;</span>A striking image, a catchy phrase, shocking material – these are the bread and butter of propaganda. It turns out these tactics stretch right the way back through history. From etchings in caves to the Bayeux Tapestry, pushing out messages that seek to persuade and influence – the basic definition of propaganda – is as old as mankind. There was one figure, though, who really cracked it.</p><p dir="ltr">“Augustus is probably the supreme master of the art of propaganda in the entire history of the West. No one has rivalled him and everyone has since been in his shadow,” said historian Tom Holland, author of bestselling books on Rome, in an interview with <a href="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/magazine/">Index on Censorship magazine.</a></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/magazine/"></a></p><p dir="ltr">Until the reign of Augustus, no one in Rome had come close to creating a personality cult. Rome was built on the idea that it was a republic and that no single man should dominate all others. When Caesar’s vanity led to his face appearing on coins, his demise quickly followed. Augustus, coming straight after Caesar, used hindsight to his advantage. He cast himself as essentially a normal person, even adopting the title princeps (first citizen), and would partake in entertainment with the masses, like racing, boxing and watching gladiators. But he also positioned himself as exceptional, using the title divi filius (son of the god), and his portraits echoed those of Apollo. Augustus’s face was everywhere, from statues, friezes and coins to writings and poems, and most famously in his appearance in Virgil’s Aeneid.</p><p dir="ltr">“He promotes himself with absolute genius,” Holland said. “He is simultaneously a figure who is an everyday guy and a figure of supernatural potency… he appeals to every aspect.”</p><p dir="ltr">Augustus perfected propaganda and his influence can be seen clearly in Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler. The careful crafting of Mao’s image – clad in a simple “Mao suit”, with sunbeams resonating off his body – was straight out of the Roman ruler’s playbook.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/8392118357_550a48d941_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/8392118357_550a48d941_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Bayeux tapestry: the death of King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings, 1066. Trevor Huxham/Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>So Augustus provided the template, but technological change has undoubtedly improved the means. The birth of the modern printing press was a godsend for propaganda. It was during World War I, when there was a need to recruit, that Wellington House in London established a secret propaganda bureau, and from this the political poster was born. Driven by similar motives, President Woodrow Wilson in the USA formed the Committee of Public Information, which produced posters, films and other material that sought to champion home security and democracy against a foreign enemy. The committee attempted to convince millions of people that they should support the war, and those that still rallied against it, such as socialist publications, were silenced in the process.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The demands of the Russian Revolution quickly gave birth to a whole new genre, socialist realism or constructivism (“production art”), in which smiling peasants and strident factory workers were portrayed in bold colours and geometric shapes, pithy slogans slapped on top. Anatoly Lunacharsky, who was in charge of the People’s Commissariat for Education shortly after the Bolsheviks took charge, believed that by depicting the perfect Soviet man, art could create perfect Soviets.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Propaganda did not work just on what was shown; it worked also on what was omitted.</p><p dir="ltr">Propaganda did not work just on what was shown; it worked also on what was omitted. Stalin was a master of this. Long before the advent of Photoshop, technicians in Russia manipulated photos so much that they became outright lies. David King, in The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia, wrote that during the Great Purges, in the 1930s, “a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin’s political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence”. The book highlights classic cases of “now you see me, now you don’t”. It includes a series of images featuring the same backdrops but with rotating casts, depending on who was or wasn’t in favour at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">“At the heart of authoritarian propaganda is the manipulating of reality. The authoritarian must undermine this,” said Yale philosophy professor <a href="http://philosophy.yale.edu/people/jason-stanley">Jason Stanley</a>, author of How Propaganda Works, in an interview with Index.</p><p dir="ltr">The birth of mass media meant that propaganda didn’t need to confine itself to unmoving imagery. Instead, people’s minds could be influenced in a far more interactive way. Lenin called the radio “a newspaper without paper… and without boundaries” and used it to promote the Bolshevik message. And the revolution was televised, first at the cinema and then on TV. Sergei Eisenstein’s most famous films – <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001178/">October</a>, Battleship Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky – were huge successes precisely because they fused technical brilliance with politically correct storylines.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The myriad possibilities of propaganda were not lost on Hitler, either. He devoted two chapters of Mein Kampf to it and, once in power, recruited a minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who declared that with enough repetition and understanding of the human psyche, people could be convinced that a square was a circle.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Though the game has moved on, the rules remain the same.</p><p dir="ltr">Propaganda once again changed with the advent of the internet as information, or misinformation, could be spread with a simple click. Yet even though the game has moved on, the rules remain the same. Whether it’s a fabricated blog post, a viral video of North Korea bombing Washington or tirades of tweets telling everyone you’re going to Make America Great Again, these are all timeless tactics repackaged for the modern day.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Everything you read in the newspapers, it’s age-old,” said Stanley, who added that “tech people” see this as a modern problem that they can solve. People are misinformed about the past, he said.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Misinformed, yes, but also manipulated by people and industries that can look to history’s masterminds for best practice when it comes to propaganda.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-alyukov/how-does-russian-tv-propaganda-really-work">How does Russian TV propaganda really work?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jeremy-druker/is-counterpropaganda-only-antidote-to-propaganda">Is counter-propaganda the only antidote to propaganda?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Jemimah Steinfeld Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:20:30 +0000 Jemimah Steinfeld 111727 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Creatives need to get political. And quick. https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/matt-saunders/creatives-need-to-get-political-and-quick <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of just doing and enjoying the work they get paid for, creatives should be aware of their potential societal impact and be more outspoken in their political choices.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563365/Pasted image at 2017_06_13 04_21 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563365/Pasted image at 2017_06_13 04_21 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="385" height="384" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Deep riches. Credit: skyvegas.com. Public domain.</span></span></span>For as far back as I can recall, I have been making things. From Aardman-inspired clay model animations as a child, to music as a teenager and web apps as an adult; creating things has always been “my thing”. </p><p dir="ltr">Politics, on the other hand, was never really “my thing” until about seven years ago. In the UK, we had just elected a coalition government and as is usually the case around election time newspapers, TV, workplaces and bars were abuzz with political debate. Everyone was interested, myself included.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time I had recently begun a contract at a rather large, international betting company, working as part of their digital team to deliver creative online gambling solutions. I remember the first day clearly. I was shown around the sprawling open-plan office and introduced from afar to various different departments. One section struck me with some significance because it was described to me as “the team who call up people who’ve not gambled for a while, and try to get them to gamble again”. </p><p dir="ltr">I remember being a little shocked. Not because I’m naive enough to think that gambling companies don’t have sales teams, but to hear it so earnestly described in the open by a member of staff.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">My contract was three months and during that time I worked with some exceptionally talented people. In gambling, the good thing about working for the house is that the house always wins. And because of this they can pay big bucks. The gambling industry is highly competitive, so it is in the business’s interest to buy the best hardware and software, and hire talented people. This made for an environment which fostered a culture of creativity because it offered freedom to experiment, test and iterate. </p><p dir="ltr">So the designers and developers were happy, and the work being produced was of a great standard (much better than I had seen elsewhere, at the time). But it is at this point I have to ask: at what cost?</p><p dir="ltr">I like to think that my moral compass has always been on point, but like many people in business I’ve often pushed aside my personal feelings on such matters because the benefits of doing so vastly outweigh the alternative. Keep your head down, do the work you get paid for, and - as we’re told is so important - enjoy it.</p><p dir="ltr">But as creative designers - the powerhouse of modern commerce - how do we resolve our often liberal worldviews with our work, which can sometimes demands we stretch into areas outside that which we find personally, and politically comfortable?</p><h2>The gamble</h2><p dir="ltr">At the betting company I was on a good day rate and got to work with some great people on some innovative projects. But it was about devising software that made gambling more frictionless. This, in and of itself, is not bad because you get to learn new things about UX and performance that can be applied to other projects. The problem manifests when you stop to consider your product out in the wild, for real, and not just as a cool toy you built with the team.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The problem manifests when you stop to consider your product out in the wild, for real, and not just as a cool toy you built with the team.</p><p dir="ltr">I did not engage in, or was privy to, any particularly unethical practices (certainly no more so than any other big-money business). Lifecycle emails which tempted people back into the loop should they drop out. Free bets. That sort of thing. But as I have become more politically engaged and socially aware over the years, and frankly, have seen poverty with my own eyes, I have to question the meaning in this work. Is it worth it? </p><p dir="ltr">The answer for me has to be “no”. And this is a topic I’d like to see more energetically discussed with my fellow designers, writers, programmers and artists. There is often a fear of rocking the boat, or of feeling sanctimonious when discussing ethics in business. Ethics as a concept is nebulous, and each person has his or her own views on the matter, but irrespective of viewpoint we should at least be talking about it.&nbsp;</p><h2>We can do better</h2><p dir="ltr">Thankfully, I am not alone in this thinking. There are a number of great resources, frameworks and groups which exist to promote ethics in design. Perhaps the most prolific is the <a href="http://www.aiga.org/about/">AIGA</a>, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, who “advance design as a professional craft, strategic advantage, and vital cultural force”, but smaller associations such as <a href="http://designproacademy.org/code-of-professional-conduct.html">The Academy of Design Professionals</a> and the <a href="https://graphicartistsguild.org/tools_resources/the-code-of-fair-practice-for-the-graphic-communications-industry1">Graphic Artists Guild</a> impart similar advice. The <a href="http://designispolitical.com/">magazine</a> I edit covers a number of topics designed to get people thinking, and to hopefully spur on debate.</p><p dir="ltr">Together, creative designers, who hold such a powerful influence in the world, can help to shape it in more meaningful ways. Perhaps, even, in ways as meaningful as they originally set out to.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/engin-bozdag/how-do-we-break-filter-bubble-and-design-for-democracy">How do we break the filter bubble, and design for democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mana-farooghi/internet-can-spread-hate-but-it-can-also-help-to-tackle-it">The internet can spread hate, but it can also help to tackle it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Human stories amidst the algorithms Matt Saunders Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:47:07 +0000 Matt Saunders 111649 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A new digital trade agenda: are we giving away the Internet? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/renata-avila-burcu-kilic/new-digital-trade-agenda-are-we-giving-away-internet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Will this foster digital rights, or leave us with even lower standards and a concentrated, quasi-monopolistic market benefiting from public infrastructure?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30817511.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30817511.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Trump holding up a chart of regulation at a CEO town hall on the American business climate, April, 2017. Olivier Douliery/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>As we enter the uncertain Trump era with respect to trade policies, one can only guess that big trade players will come back to the multilateral fora, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), as a reliable vehicle to foster their global trade agenda, especially as the free trade agreement (FTA) model fell apart after President Trump took office. Since the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) are on hold, a return to the multilateral WTO offers the best chance of progress on e-commerce rules. </p> <p>E-commerce will be one of the key issues at this year’s WTO's Ministerial Conference in Argentina, December 2017 (MC11). The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina – host nation of the MC11 in December and G20 meeting in 2018 – has <a href="https://dig.watch/resources/launch-etrade-all-online-platform">described e-commerce as </a>“an essential part of the future of global trade, to bridge the inequality gap, improve gender equality” and “leapfrog into the twenty first century”. He has urged member states to renew their commitment and mandate to work on e-commerce. </p> <p>In fact, the US and other major developed countries have been promoting the e-commerce agenda since July 2016, by effectively dictating the terms and asking WTO members to remove any so-called regulatory barriers in the global e-commerce market. &nbsp;Along with some developing countries, they are determined to secure a mandate on e-commerce in Argentina despite opposition from many, including African countries and India. ( See the latest discussion in Euro-DIG <a href="https://eurodigwiki.org/wiki/International_trade_agreements_and_Internet_governance_%E2%80%93_Pl_04_2017">here</a>).</p> <p>If they succeed in Buenos Aires, the WTO’s 164 members will negotiate a new agreement on e-commerce. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>One must wonder whether this will be an opportunity to foster digital rights or leave us with even lower standards and a concentrated, quasi-monopolistic market benefiting from public infrastructure? The rhetoric of opportunities for the excluded – connecting the next billion – sounds great, but only if we disconnect it from the current realities of the global economy, where trade deals push for deregulation, for lower standards of protection for the data and privacy of citizens, where aggressive copyright enforcement risks the security of devices, and when distributing the benefits, where big monopolies, tech giants (so called GAFA) based mostly in the US,&nbsp;to put it bluntly, take them all. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, developing countries and civil society actors, while opposing this negotiation, don't have their own digital agenda sorted out. E-commerce markets in developing countries are unprepared, lagging behind in terms of competitiveness and skill. &nbsp;Trade policy-makers in those countries are not yet sufficiently informed on highly technical digital issues. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and digital right activists are unprepared to meet the challenges of a highly technical trade negotiations on e-commerce, with nuances directly affecting the way digital rights and safeguards are deployed.</p> <p>The WTO e-commerce agenda is inevitably complex: it includes far-reaching provisions on the cross-border delivery of services affecting privacy, data protection, consumer protection, cybersecurity and net neutrality, and new Internet-related IP rights in a digital context. These raise significant concerns for the Internet, its global infrastructure, and the right of governments to develop policies and laws that best preserve the free and open internet.</p> <p>There are many unknowns regarding the technological advances ahead, and therefore the digital economy. Given the uncertainty in the policy landscape, devising rules at the WTO that place binding commercial protections above digital rights and public interests could be devastating for global internet law and policy,<strong> </strong>leaving the developing countries with eroded rights and limited freedoms. </p> <p>Never before has a trade negotiation had such a limited number of beneficiaries. Make no mistake, what will be discussed there, with the South arriving unprepared, will affect each and every space, from government to health, from development to innovation going well beyond just trade. Data is the new oil – and we need to start organising ourselves for the fourth industrial revolution. The data lords, those who have the computational power to develop superior products and services from machine learning and artificial intelligence, want to make sure that no domestic regulation, no competition laws, privacy or consumer protection would interfere with their plans.</p> <p>Disguised as support for access and affordability, they want everyone to connect as fast as they can. Pretending to offer opportunities to grow, they want to deploy and concentrate their platforms, systems and content everywhere in the world. Enforcement measures will be coded in technology, borders for data extraction will be blurred, the ability to regulate and protect the data of citizens will be disputed by supranational courts, as local industries cannot compete and local jobs soar. &nbsp;If we are not vigilant, we will rapidly consolidate this digital colonisation, a neo-feudal regime where all the rules are dictated by the technology giants, to be obeyed by the rest of us. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Argentina </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties hri Argentina United States rest of the world Renata Avila Burcu Kilic Tue, 13 Jun 2017 08:54:57 +0000 Burcu Kilic and Renata Avila 111618 at https://www.opendemocracy.net First, admit we have a problem https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/matthew-d-ancona/first-admit-we-have-problem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In December 2016, an Ipsos poll for BuzzFeed of more than 3,000 Americans found that 75 per cent of those who saw fake news headlines judged them to be accurate. <em>Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back</em>, Ebury. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 14.41.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 14.41.02.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot of Andrew Tyrie, chair of the UK's Treasury Cttee. grilling Dominic Cummings on the NHS VoteLeave poster and 'the economic and financial costs and benefits of UK's EU membership.'</span></span></span>But surely this is nothing new? So say many people when confronted with the phenomenon of Post Truth. Haven’t human beings been lying to each other since they could communicate? What about Watergate, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the Iraq dossiers, “spin” and – to go back a little further – Machiavelli’s advice to the prince to be “a great pretender and dissembler”?</p> <p>To all of which I say: yes, mendacity is as old as language. Falsehood has always been a feature of the human condition. You can tell a politician is lying because… well, you know the joke.</p> <p>But Post Truth is something else, and something new. The novelty is to be found not in the lies but in our response to them.&nbsp; It is about us, not them.</p> <p>In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries selected ‘Post-Truth’ as its word of the year, defining it as shorthand for “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. And this gets right to the heart of the matter.</p> <p>Take last year’s Brexit referendum. Arron Banks, the sharp-witted businessman who bankrolled the Leave.EU campaign, was correct in his analysis of the referendum outcome: “The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You’ve got to connect with people emotionally.”</p> <p>Those pressing for Britain’s continued EU membership bombarded the public with statistics: leaving would cost 950,000 UK jobs, the average wage would fall by £38 a week, each family would pay an average of £350 a year more on basic goods, £66 million invested by EU countries in the UK would be at risk, the cost of leaving would be £4,300 per household…and so on, and so on. It became easy to caricature this torrent of indigestible data as no more than a series of arbitrary claims.</p> <p>What the Brexiteers understood was the need for simplicity and emotional resonance: a narrative that would give visceral meaning to a decision that might otherwise appear technical and abstract. As Dominic Cummings, campaign director of Vote Leave, argued at the time, the case for departure had to be clear <em>and</em> cleave to the specific grievances of the public. <span class="mag-quote-center">As Dominic Cummings, campaign director of Vote Leave, argued at the time, the case for departure had to be clear <em>and</em> cleave to the specific grievances of the public.</span></p> <p>A message based upon the trade opportunities of Brexit – “Go Global” – might be intellectually defensible but it would not win votes. Earlier research by Cummings on Britain’s membership of the euro had revealed the potential traction of a pledge to “take back control”.&nbsp; And he was proved right.</p> <p>After considering a run at the presidency for decades, Donald Trump intuited the same shift in popular behaviour. Let’s face it: he was never a <em>sympathetic </em>candidate. The opinion polls showed that the American people were perfectly aware of his character flaws. But he communicated a brutal empathy to them, rooted not in statistics, empiricism or meticulously-acquired information, but an uninhibited talent for rage, impatience and the attribution of blame. The assertion that he was “plain-speaking” did not mean – as it might have in the past – “he is speaking the truth”. In 2016, it meant: “this candidate is different and might just address my anxieties and hopes.”</p> <p>When Kellyanne Conway, senior aide to the President, spoke of “alternative facts”, she captured perfectly this new epistemology. In the Post Truth era, what used to be called reality is absolutely fungible. The point is not to determine the truth by a process of rational evaluation, assessment and conclusion. You choose your own reality, as if from a buffet.</p> <p>How has this happened? The social basis of Post Truth is the collapse of trust in traditional institutions: all else flows from this single, poisonous source. <span class="mag-quote-center">The financial crisis of 2008 took the global economy to the brink of meltdown, averted only by eye-wateringly huge state bailouts for the very banks that were responsible for the disastrous collapse.</span></p> <p>The financial crisis of 2008 took the global economy to the brink of meltdown, averted only by eye-wateringly huge state bailouts for the very banks that were responsible for the disastrous collapse. In Britain, this was followed by the humiliation of the political class in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal. In a series of remarkable articles, the <em>Daily Telegraph </em>exposed the sharp practices that enabled MPs to supplement their official salary by charging the taxpayer for everything from moat-clearing and a £1600 duck house to a bath-plug and pornographic films. </p> <p>Meanwhile, scandals in showbusiness – especially the monstrous sexual crimes of Jimmy Savile – dragged the BBC and other institutions through the mire. For print journalism, the hacking controversy was no less a disaster, forcing the closure of the <em>News of the World</em>, the resignation of its former editor, Andy Coulson, as Number Ten’s director of communications, and Lord Leveson’s sweeping inquiry of 2011-12 into the conduct of the press.</p> <h2><strong>Institutional fragility</strong></h2> <p>In other words: we live in an age of institutional fragility. A society’s institutions act as guard-rails, the bodies that incarnate its values and continuities. To shine a bright light on their failures, decadence and outright collapse is intrinsically unsettling. But that is not all. Post-Truth has flourished in this context, as the firewalls and antibodies (to mix metaphors) have weakened. When the putative guarantors of honesty falter, so does truth itself.</p> <p>Second, digital technology has become the all-important, primary, indispensable engine of this change. In the early years of the online revolution, it was optimistically assumed by many that the Internet would inevitably smooth the path to sustainable cooperation and pluralism. In practice, the new technology has done at least as much to foster balkanisation and a general retreat into echo chambers. </p> <p>As Barack Obama put it in his farewell address: “We become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.” For all its wonders, the web tends to amplify the shrill and to dismiss complexity. For many – perhaps most – it encourages confirmation bias rather than a quest for accurate disclosure. <span class="mag-quote-center">As Eric S. Raymond famously predicted, the Cathedral is yielding place to the Bazaar.</span></p> <p>As Eric S. Raymond famously predicted, the Cathedral is yielding place to the Bazaar. And there are profits to be made from the production line of clickbait hoaxes – unscientific medical claims, crackpot theories, fictional sightings of UFOs or Jesus. The disincentives to publication are (to date) marginal, and the ease of production enticing. For those on social media, anonymity dramatically reduces accountability. The buzz of the hive sends the falsehood fizzing into cyberspace to do its work. Never has the old adage – that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes – seemed so timely. </p> <p>In the consequent cacophony, the flow of information is increasingly dominated by peer-to-peer interaction rather than the imprimatur of the traditional press. We consume what we already like, and shy away from the unfamiliar. The ultimate generator of novelty has also become the curator of hearsay, folklore, and prejudice. </p> <h2><strong>Self-deception</strong></h2> <p>This, it should be emphasised, is not a design flaw. It is what the algorithms are meant to do: to connect us with the things we like, or might like. They are fantastically responsive to personal taste and – to date – fantastically blind to veracity. The web is the definitive vector of Post-Truth precisely because it is indifferent to falsehood, honesty and the difference between the two. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is what the algorithms are meant to do: to connect us with the things we like, or might like.</span></p> <p>This is why “fake news” has become such an issue, especially on Facebook. Among the most-read hoax stories of 2016 were the following: the claim that Obama had banned the Pledge of Allegiance in schools; “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement”; a report that Trump was “Offering Free One-Way Tickets to Africa &amp; Mexico for Those Who Wanna Leave America”; &nbsp;and “ISIS Leader Calls for American Muslim Voters to Support Hillary Clinton.” As ludicrous as these stories may seem, they command belief: in December 2016, an Ipsos poll for BuzzFeed of more than 3,000 Americans found that 75 per cent of those who saw fake news headlines judged them to be accurate.</p> <p>If digital technology is the hardware, Post Truth has proven to be a mighty software. It reduces political discourse to a video game in which endless play, on multiple levels, is the sole point of the exercise. Conspiracy theories, pseudo-science, Holocaust denial: all are enjoying a new lease of life and unprecedented circulation.</p> <p>Depressed? Don’t be. There is much that can be done to address this crisis in the information environment – in education, in fact-checking, in a new social contract with the tech giants, through civic collaboration. </p> <p>But things will not get better until we face up to the scale of the problem. Nothing nourishes Post Truth so much as self-deception.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back</em><br />Published: May 2017 by Ebury press.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Internet Matthew d’Ancona Wed, 07 Jun 2017 07:48:58 +0000 Matthew d’Ancona 111454 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The cold intimacy that comes when the TV calls your name https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-beer/cold-intimacy-that-comes-when-tv-calls-your-name <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This pretence of being friendly and of knowing us is a well-worn tool of capitalism – as noises crowd our lives, it becomes harder to find peace.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/6307693414_3d58a288b1_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/6307693414_3d58a288b1_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="353" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Siri knows your name. Rami Mohsen/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Yesterday, whilst using an on-demand service to catch up with one of the recent political debates, I was caught off guard by a ‘personalised’ TV advert. This was not something I’d seen before. The advert for Ronseal Fence Life began by saying my name. As far as I could tell it was only personalised insofar as it opened by addressing me directly, it wasn’t, for instance, personalised enough to know that I don’t own a fence.</p> <p>It turns out that <a href="http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/channel-4-launches-worlds-first-audio-personalised-tv-ads">Channel 4</a>, the channel I was watching at the time, introduced what it calls “the world’s first audio personalised TV ads” on the 25th of April this year. Developed by the media company Innovid, the three partners for this launch were Fosters, 20th Century Fox and Ronseal. Quoted in the press release, James Smith, Ronseal’s Marketing Director, suggested that “this new technology provides us with the ideal platform to get personal so we can motivate people to finally get on with their DIY”.</p> <p>A bit of motivation is always welcome. It would seem though that the change in the adverts is more directly connected to the possibilities for capturing our attention. <a href="http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/channel-4-launches-worlds-first-audio-personalised-tv-ads">David Amodio</a>, Channel 4’s ‘Digital and Creative Leader’, indicated in the same press statement that “the most attention grabbing word for anyone to hear is without doubt one’s own name, so to be able to offer advertisers the chance to speak directly to our millions of viewers is not just unique, but an immensely powerful marketing tool”.</p> <p>It seems that calling out someone’s name is seen to represent an opportunity to monopolise attention. It’s almost as if someone in advertising has got hold of Louis Althusser’s 1969 essay&nbsp;‘<a href="https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm">Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses</a>’. In that essay Althusser uses the metaphor of being hailed in the street to explain his concept of interpellation. When shouted we can’t help but look, he points out, in that moment we are exposed to culture and its embedded ideologies. These ideologies call to us all the time. Althusser was pointing to what he saw as the inescapability of being subsumed into ideologies, whether we choose to resist or not. There is a kind of gravitational pull to being hailed.</p> <p>In the case of these personalised TV adverts we have a kind of consumerist hailing going on. It seems that the aim of using the viewer’s name, drawn from their account details, is to try to make it impossible for you not to look. This change is presented, with the adverts opening ‘personalised advert’ message, as being about shaping content to the needs of the user. It’s obvious though that this is not really about personalisation, it’s about hailing. It’s about shouting to us to catch our attention.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Technology has put itself on first name terms with us.</p><p>As Althusser pointed out, when shouted it is hard not to look. Saying your name is a more powerful way of grabbing your attention than simply including it as text. The problem is that this now adds to the cacophony of hailing that comes at us, incessantly. They’ve just discovered that sonic hailing is a way to be heard over the rest of the calls for our attention. Sound cuts through, plus our name is an attention-grabbing audio signal.</p> <p>The problem is the feeling that this personalisation produces. It got my attention but it felt like a stranger saying my name at me, producing a feeling of uneasiness rather than providing any warm sense of a knowing dialogue. These personalised TV adverts have the desperation of Alan Partridge, in a car park, repeatedly shouting ‘Dan’ to try to get the attention of what he hopes is his new best friend.</p> <p>This type of faux intimacy is quite common. These can be placed within the broader ‘<a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745639054.html">cold intimacies</a>’ of capitalism described by Eva Illouz – hollow gestures that suggest a caring presence. This pretence of being friendly and of knowing us is a well-worn tool of capitalism. Birthday and Christmas cards and messages from bands and corporations, recommendations and suggestions sent to us with personalised messages and a familiar tone. There are lots of ways that, as <a href="http://reallifemag.com/the-mismanaged-heart/">Will Davies</a> has described, “technology has put itself on first name terms” with us.</p> <p>Sound is not only now at the forefront of <a href="https://medium.com/@davidgbeer/the-sound-of-surveillance-ac09efcf8876">surveillance</a>, with questions about how microphones embedded in phones and voice-activated consumables generate sonic data; it is also being used within the attention economy. Listening without speaking in the former case and speaking without listening in the latter. There is a kind of inescapability to being hailed by your name.</p> <p>The tailoring of the soundscape is not to cater to our needs it is to call our attention, to hail us in a way that can’t easily be ignored or that cuts through the information bombarding us. In the pursuit of attention, which is a rare commodity within the context of what the media theorist Mark Andrejevic has called the ‘<a href="https://www.routledge.com/Infoglut-How-Too-Much-Information-Is-Changing-the-Way-We-Think-and-Know/Andrejevic/p/book/9780415659086">infoglut</a>’, sound is being used to create new opportunities to limit our spaces of escape and to channel our focus towards desired objects. This adds a sonic dimension to this ‘infoglut’.</p> <p>The danger is that our soundscapes become as cluttered with attempts to grab our attention as our visual lines of sight already are. This will give us even less space or peace in which to escape, think and reflect. Imagine what it will be like if our media suddenly start constantly saying our name to us, hailing us in lots of directions, constantly calling for our attention.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/leighton-andrews/we-need-european-regulation-of-facebook-and-google">We need European regulation of Facebook and Google</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/smiling-into-abyss-what-is-facebook-doing-to-our-mental-health">Smiling into the abyss: what is Facebook doing to our mental health?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jonathan-hardy/sponsored-content-is-blurring-line-between-advertising-and-editorial">Sponsored content is compromising media integrity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties David Beer Fri, 02 Jun 2017 18:03:07 +0000 David Beer 111373 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Global connectivity and personal disconnect: filter bubbles and the collapse of public discourse https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/richard-raber-francesco-fanti-rovetta/richard-raber-francesco-fanti-rovetta <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The individualisation of our exposure to information through ‘filter bubbles’ facilitates the atomisation of society and pushes dissenting voices to the margins.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563443/2586261582_4818d2f795_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563443/2586261582_4818d2f795_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bubbles. Kari Haley/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>People you may know. Pages you may like.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Our online lives may be more insular than we recognise, which negatively affects our civic life. The great amount of attention given to issues such as ‘fake news’ reflects a larger problem, the collapse of public discourse. We lack a common platform and understanding of what constitutes meaningful public discussion, which leaves public life on shaky grounds. Our current predicament is often framed as a function of the neoliberal age, resulting in increasingly atomised societies;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/12/neoliberalism-creating-loneliness-wrenching-society-apart">loneliness is up</a>&nbsp;while the emotional connections underpinning collectivist politics is down. Rapid technological advancement facilitates our increasing isolation from each other and the amorality of technology demands that instruments both reflect and further the user’s values – this is embodied by the rise of the so-called ‘bubble filter’ and its creation by neoliberal companies such as Amazon or Facebook.</p> <p>Aptly named, the bubble filter is the effect created from tools, used by most major websites and social media platforms, to personalise the cyber experience. This effect is demonstrated, by users finding recommended resources and google results tailored to their previous activity. The ever-present barrage of personalised advertisements reflects capitalism’s tightening of the noose around the internet’s emancipatory potential; in a space where all information should be accessible, resources not deemed to match a user’s profile or previous activity are placed at the back of the proverbial line. The bubble filter both explains and creates a climate conducive to the rise of fake news. For the user, fake news is deemed trustworthy, as it is compatible with narratives and information previously presented to them within their insular online experience.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"><em>Amazon tells us what to buy, Facebook tells us who to befriend.</em></p> <p>In showing us products or services that logarithmically match our listed preferences in terms of consumption as well as ideology, bubble filters sift through ideas that are determined to be incompatible with our desires and worldviews. In doing so, not only do bubble filters adhere to the neoliberal dictates of customer satisfaction but conveniently provide an informational escape from the contradictions of modern, capitalist life:&nbsp;<em>Amazon tells us what to buy, Facebook tells us who to befriend.</em>&nbsp;Without exposure to competing ideas and values, the neoliberal citizen lacks a platform for debate and remains in the shelter of his own personalised intellectual comfort zone.</p> <p>The bubble filter is the logical extension of capitalism’s influence on the way we perceive the internet. Just as capital has created zones of comfort for consumption, reflected by malls and urban policies that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jul/29/new-york-homeless-ticket-voucher">relocate the homeless</a>, the unpleasant or discomforting is made absent from daily experience online as well. Accordingly, just as homeless persons (as opposed to homelessness) have become conceived of as a solvable&nbsp;<em>problem</em>, so to have narratives that differ from our own understandings of the world. Material not personally tailored for us is pushed to the peripheries.</p> <p>The bubble filter demonstrates the internet as shifting from a tool of global connectivity to individual disconnect; personal opinion becomes fossilised while public discourse withers away. Without meaningful public discourse, the internet exposes us to competing opinions only through (often anonymous) trolling. This is dangerous. With little to no space for productive debate, ideological conflicts are carried out institutionally – as evinced by the onslaught of fake news accusations that characterised the final American presidential debate.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a <em>civil </em>manner.</p> <p>As a product of the neoliberal project, the bubble filter caters to our perceived demands for constant personalised stimulation and to the commodification of the digital experience. We find ourselves further removed from neighbours to whom we occupy distant ideological worlds; we cease to understand each other as we increasingly lack basic exposure to each other. When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a&nbsp;<em>civil</em>&nbsp;manner. This situation has the potential to normalise extreme polarity and reactionary populism. Left without public forums to negotiate competing worldviews and engage with each other, we should not be surprised if ideological conflicts start to increasingly escalate in violent ways.</p><p><em>The piece orginally appeared on the Daily Maverick.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/smiling-into-abyss-what-is-facebook-doing-to-our-mental-health">Smiling into the abyss: what is Facebook doing to our mental health?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/david-beer/algorithms-villains-and-heroes-of-post-truth-era">Algorithms: the villains and heroes of the ‘post-truth’ era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitalliberties/truth-about-algorithms">The truth about algorithms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/charles-bradley/why-facebook-s-fake-news-filter-won-t-work">Why Facebook’s fake news filter won’t work</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hugh-mclachlan/prophecy-versus-prediction-when-experts-are-no-longer-experts">Prophecy versus prediction: when experts are no longer experts </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Francesco Fanti Rovetta Richard Raber Wed, 24 May 2017 19:49:15 +0000 Richard Raber and Francesco Fanti Rovetta 111080 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is language as we know it still relevant for the digital age? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/pavlo-shopin/meaning-of-language-why-do-arts-and-sciences-need-language <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>According to a number of neuroscientists and philosophers, language might not be the ultimate medium for the transmission of ideas. In the digital age, it is essential to understand its role and explore the new possibilities technology creates.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563494/1459055735_3480b4050e_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563494/1459055735_3480b4050e_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="369" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Watercolour blobs from a paint trial sheet, masked with one of my drawings —collected in the book 1000 Heads". Joan M. Ma/Flickr/Some Rights Reserved</span></span></span>In analytic philosophy, any meaning can be expressed in language. In his book&nbsp;<em>Expression and Meaning&nbsp;</em>(1979), UC Berkeley philosopher John Searle calls this idea ‘the principle of expressibility, the principle that whatever can be meant can be said’. Moreover, in the&nbsp;<em>Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus&nbsp;</em>(1921), Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests that ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Outside the hermetically sealed field of analytic philosophy, the limits of natural language when it comes to meaning-making have long been recognised in both the arts and sciences. Psychology and linguistics acknowledge that language is not a perfect medium. It is generally accepted that much of our thought is non-verbal, and at least some of it might be inexpressible in language. Notably, language often cannot express the concrete experiences engendered by contemporary art and fails to formulate the kind of abstract thought characteristic of much modern science. Language is not a flawless vehicle for conveying thought and feelings.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In the field of artificial intelligence, technology can be incomprehensible even to experts. In the essay&nbsp;<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/40/learning/is-artificial-intelligence-permanently-inscrutable" target="_blank">‘Is Artificial Intelligence Permanently Inscrutable?’</a>, Princeton neuroscientist Aaron Bornstein discusses this problem with regard to artificial neural networks (computational models): "nobody knows quite how they work. And that means no one can predict when they might fail." This could harm people if, for example, doctors relied on this technology to assess whether patients might develop complications.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Bornstein says organisations sometimes choose less efficient but more transparent tools for data analysis and "even governments are starting to show concern about the increasing influence of inscrutable neural-network oracles". He suggests that "the requirement for interpretability can be seen as another set of constraints, preventing a model from a 'pure' solution that pays attention only to the input and output data it is given, and potentially reducing accuracy". The mind is a limitation for artificial intelligence: "interpretability could keep such models from reaching their full potential". Since the work of such technology cannot be fully understood, it is virtually impossible to explain in language.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Language is not a flawless vehicle for conveying thought and feelings.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Ryota Kanai, neuroscientist and CEO of Araya, a Tokyo-based startup,&nbsp;<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/we-need-conscious-robots" target="_blank">acknowledges</a>&nbsp;that "given the complexity of contemporary neural networks, we have trouble discerning how AIs produce decisions, much less translating the process into a language humans can make sense of." To that end, Kanai and his colleagues are "trying to implement metacognition in neural networks so that they can communicate their internal states".</p><p class="MsoNormal">Their ambition is to give a voice to the machine: "we want our machines to explain how and why they do what they do." This form of communication is to be developed by the machines themselves. With this feedback, researchers will serve as translators who can explain to the public decisions made by the machines. As for human language, Kanai refers to it as "the additional difficulty of teaching AIs to express themselves". (Incidentally, this assumes that computational models have ‘selves’.) Language is a challenge for artificial intelligence.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Elon Musk advances the idea ‘<a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604254/with-neuralink-elon-musk-promises-human-to-human-telepathy-dont-believe-it" target="_blank">that we should augment the slow, imprecise communication of our voices with a direct brain-to-computer linkup</a>’. He has founded the company Neuralink that will allegedly connect people to the network in which they will exchange thoughts without wasting their time and energy on language. As Christopher Markou, Cambridge PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Law <a href="https://theconversation.com/neuralink-wants-to-wire-your-brain-to-the-internet-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-76180" target="_blank">describes it</a>&nbsp;in his essay for&nbsp;<em>The Conversation</em>, "it would enable us to share our thoughts, fears, hopes and anxieties without demeaning ourselves with written or spoken language".</p><p class="MsoNormal">Tim Urban, blogger and cartoonist at&nbsp;<em>Wait But Why</em>, presents Musk’s vision of thought communication and&nbsp;<a href="http://waitbutwhy.com/2017/04/neuralink.html" target="_blank">argues</a>&nbsp;that "when you consider the 'lost in transmission' phenomenon that happens with language, you realise how much more effective group thinking would be". This project makes sinister assumptions: instead of enhancing verbal communication, Musk suggests abandoning it as an inadequate means of social interaction. People generally appreciate improvement of the communication networks that transmit language, but instead, they are offered a corporate utopian future of technotelepathy and an eerily dystopian present where language is an impediment to cooperation. It is both ironic and reassuring that such criticism of language can be successfully communicated by language.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In his recent&nbsp;<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/the-kekul-problem" target="_blank">essay</a>&nbsp;‘The Kekulé Problem’, American writer Cormac McCarthy discusses the origins of language and is sceptical about its fundamental role in cognition: "problems, in general, are often well posed in terms of language and language remains a handy tool for explaining them. But the actual process of thinking — in any discipline — is largely an unconscious affair." He defines the unconscious as "a machine for operating an animal".</p><p class="MsoNormal">McCarthy regards language as a relatively recent invention and compares it to a virus that rapidly spread among humans about a hundred thousand years ago. His vision of language is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. First, language is a human faculty developed due to the gradual evolution of communication; it is problematic to conceive of it as a virus or the result of a sudden invention. Second, thought does not need to be unconscious to be non-verbal. Much conscious thought does not rely on language. Finally, humans may be facing problems that are difficult to convey through language. This might be the key challenge for both the arts and sciences in the immediate future.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">While&nbsp;language&nbsp;may not be a perfect medium for thought, it is the most important means of communication that makes possible modern societies.</p><p class="MsoNormal">While language may not be a perfect medium for thought, it is the most important means of communication that makes possible modern societies, institutions, states, and cultures. Its resourcefulness allows humans to establish social relationships and design new forms of cooperation. It is a robust and highly optimised form of communication, developed through gradual change. For thousands of years, language has been a tool for social interaction. This interaction is facing existential threats (authoritarianism, isolationism, conflict...) because the subjective experiences (think of the limits of empathy when it comes to migrants) and the knowledge (think of the complexity of global warming) that are engaged in the arts and sciences appear to have gone beyond the expressive power of language.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Humanity depends on the capacity of language to communicate complex, new ideas and thus integrate them into culture. If people fail to understand and discuss emerging global problems, they will not be able to address them in solidarity with one another. In&nbsp;<a href="https://aeon.co/essays/the-complexity-of-social-problems-is-outsmarting-the-human-brain" target="_blank">his essay</a>&nbsp;‘Our World Outsmarts Us’ for the&nbsp;<em>Aeon</em>&nbsp;magazine, Robert Burton, the former associate director of the department of neurosciences at the UCSF Medical Center at Mt Zion, highlights this conundrum when he asks: "if we are not up to the cognitive task, how might we be expected to respond?" Individuals alone cannot stop climate change or curb the rising inequality of income distribution. These goals can only be achieved by concerted efforts. To work together, people need language.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In the arts, it is felt that subjective experiences are not always transmittable by language. Artists confront the limits of concrete expression. Scientists, in their turn, understand that language is a crude tool incapable of conveying abstract ideas. Science thus probes the limits of abstract thought. Both the arts and sciences are dissatisfied with verbal communication. To induce wonder, artists may forego language. To obtain knowledge, scientists often leave language behind.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In his aptly titled&nbsp;<a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/science-has-outgrown-the-human-mind-and-its-limited-capacities" target="_blank">essay</a>&nbsp;‘Science Has Outgrown the Human Mind and Its Limited Capacities’, Ahmed Alkhateeb, a molecular cancer biologist at Harvard Medical School, suggests outsourcing research to artificial intelligence because "human minds simply cannot reconstruct highly complex natural phenomena efficiently enough in the age of big data". The problem is that language is a tool for the gathering of knowledge and appreciation of beauty by the whole society.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Without language, the arts and sciences lose cultural significance and political clout: there is less hope for the arts to move people’s hearts and less opportunity for sciences to enlighten the public.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Abandoning language marginalises the arts and sciences. Wonder and knowledge become inaccessible for the community at large. When people make decisions about the future, political processes may fail to register what is happening at the forefront of human thought. Without language, the arts and sciences lose cultural significance and political clout: there is less hope for the arts to move people’s hearts and less opportunity for sciences to enlighten the public. With the arts and sciences on the margins, humanity undermines its cultural safeguards. Today’s dominant narratives foreground the progress of science and the democratisation of art, but global challenges necessitate an even more active engagement with scientific, moral, and aesthetic dilemmas on the part of humanity. Language is one of the key tools that can realise this ambition.</p><p class="MsoNormal">It is important to strike a balance between pushing the limits of language and using it as a tool to communicate and collaborate. Artists and scientists might approach the public with ideas that cannot be easily understood and yet need to be conveyed by language. In&nbsp;<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/to-fix-the-climate-tell-better-stories" target="_blank">his essay</a>&nbsp;‘To Fix the Climate, Tell Better Stories’, Michael Segal, editor-in-chief at&nbsp;<em>Nautilus</em>, argues that science needs narratives to become culture. He posits that narratives can help humanity solve global problems. This potential is revealed to us if we look at how ‘<a href="https://aeon.co/essays/indigenous-myths-carry-warning-signals-about-natural-disasters" target="_blank">indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters</a>’. Today people can construct helpful narratives based on an expert understanding of the world. These stories can relate unfathomable dangers to the frail human body, and language is the best political vehicle for this task.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In his 2017 New York Times bestseller ‘On Tyranny’, Yale historian Timothy Snyder, for example, draws from the history of the twentieth century to relate the rise of authoritarian regimes to concrete threats to human life, encouraging his readers to stand up to tyranny. He asks them to take responsibility for the face of the world, defend institutions, remember professional ethics, believe in truth, and challenge the status quo. His language is powerful and clear. Such narratives can help address complex social and environmental problems by using human-scale categories of language.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Ultimately, the arts and sciences grasp critically important knowledge and engage significant experiences, but often fail to express them in language. As Wittgenstein says, "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent". This silence might lead to dire consequences for humanity. It is crucial to break the silence. The arts and sciences need to talk to the public and to advance language and culture.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/david-korten/for-automation-to-benefit-society-it-must-serve-human-beings-not-replace">For automation to benefit society it must serve human beings—not replace them</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jonathan-drake/beyond-science-fiction-artificial-intelligence-and-human-rights">Beyond science fiction: Artificial Intelligence and human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Ideas Pavlo Shopin Wed, 24 May 2017 18:35:25 +0000 Pavlo Shopin 110973 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The quiet revolution that could transform lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/rachael-mpashi-marx/quiet-revolution-that-could-transform-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Most people can't afford a transcript from their own trial even when it's the only thing that could prove their innocence. We need to move beyond the status quo.</p><p class="normal"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Overturning wrongful convictions can rely on efficient and affordable court transcription services. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ivan Bandura. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="normal">For many people, campaigning to change the legal system conjures up images of high profile cases in the Supreme Court and photo opportunities on the steps of the Court of Appeal. Such public moments are important achievements for activists trying to bring about change in the way the law operates. However, they are not the only place where revolutions can happen.</p> <p class="normal">Behind the scenes there are a whole range of processes and procedures that unobtrusively take place every day which, if left unchecked and unchanged, allow inequalities to persist.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Embracing change across the system</h2> <p class="normal">The legal profession generally is beginning to understand the role new technology can have in eliminating inefficiencies. Lawyers are increasingly comfortable with e-discovery&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;the process of identifying electronic evidence for a case, and document automation&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;in which a smart piece of software automatically populates forms from information provided by clients.</p> <p class="normal">And there is much excitement about the potential of online courts. It is easy to understand why. They have the potential to streamline certain simple cases, freeing up time and resources, and offering a more efficient experience. However, lost in the excitement are the many, far more easily achievable changes that can be made to the processes and systems that deliver the administration of justice. Updating these does not rely on the computer literacy of vulnerable individuals, or the irreversible selling off of valuable assets, such as court buildings.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">By taking care of seemingly mundane, administrative tasks, services can free up the experts’ time to focus on the things that really need their attention. This is something that has yet to be embraced so enthusiastically by the judiciary and the court system.</p> <p class="normal">Take the production of court transcriptions. Not something that anyone, not even most lawyers, gives much thought to. And yet, it presents an incredible opportunity for behind-the-scenes change that has the potential to profoundly improve the justice system.</p> <p class="normal">In my work at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/" target="_blank">Centre for Criminal Appeals</a>&nbsp;we saw many clients for whom the transcript of the court hearing was a pivotal document. Mark (not his real name) was just 17 when he was convicted of joint enterprise murder. He is legally blind, and played no role in the fatal attack by two of his acquaintances that led to his conviction. His mother immediately began to fight for an appeal. She struggled to find a lawyer to take the case on. In the process, the original solicitors lost Mark’s case file. The transcript became the only potential record of what had happened in his case. The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A client serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript.</p> <h2>Understanding the status quo</h2> <p class="normal">Currently, the Ministry of Justice contracts with private providers of transcription once every few years. The resulting service is relatively and inconsistently expensive and inefficient and too often results in poor quality transcripts with gaps and inaccuracies. The process has changed very little over the years. It still involves hard copy request forms and CDs being couriered around the country to teams of typists who laboriously hand type everything.</p> <p class="normal">The intellectual property for the transcripts sits with the private providers, as do the recordings. Many of these audio files languish in disparate storage units gathering dust until they are destroyed seven years later.</p> <p class="normal">Transcripts in this country can cost thousands of pounds to access. A client of the Centre for Criminal Appeals serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript. There is little barrier to accessing them for those who have money - commercial clients regularly pay for their own stenographer to come to court and create a daily record of proceedings for them. Legal publishers commission transcripts of the judge’s summing up in major cases for their document libraries. These are available to those who can pay for a subscription.</p> <p class="normal">And yet, these arrangements preclude most normal people from being able to access the transcript of their own court hearing, even where it is an essential document for their case.</p> <p class="normal">As a result of seeing the impact of these arrangements, I teamed up with a lawyer and a developer to create a more efficient, more cost effective alternative which takes advantage of recent advances in technology. <a href="http://www.just-transcription.com" target="_blank">Just: Transcription</a> is speech-to-text tool that automates the creation of court transcripts and spoken legal advice records to promote more equal access. We bid during the most recent Ministry of Justice procurement rounds for one of the new transcript contracts. The process presented no real opportunity for change to the status quo, and as a result, the contracts have all been awarded to the same small group of private for-profit companies and the inequality of access continues.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts.</p> <h2>Considering the opportunity cost</h2> <p class="normal">One of the most striking aspects of this situation, however, is not just that barriers to accessing court documents are adding to delays and expense to the public purse. There is a huge opportunity cost in not having better systems in place for capturing and analysing the information that is held within and among these transcripts. Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts. There is little doubt that if the Ministry of Justice had this level of awareness about what is going on, it would have a wealth of evidence-based new ideas about improvements that could be made.</p> <p class="normal">For an institution on the scale of the justice system, achieving these kinds of changes requires a certain degree of culture change. Outside the system itself, however, there are many individuals and organisations with the skills and experience necessary to support this, and a real willingness to help. Much of the technology that would be required already exists, and has been proven in other settings. Together, such change is well within reach.</p> <p class="normal">It is easy to be attracted by the big ideas. The exciting, high profile initiatives, like online courts, no doubt have a role to play. And yet chances are being lost to improve the way the justice system administers itself. This is not a matter of mere bureaucracy. What is at stake are the fundamental principles of our world-renowned legal system - its fairness and equality. Technology is irrefutably part of the justice of the future - now is the time to seize all the opportunities it offers, and make them work for everyone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/katherine-sirrell/what-would-true-court-modernisation-look-like">What would true court modernisation look like?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice digitaLiberties uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Rachael Mpashi-Marx Wed, 24 May 2017 14:34:48 +0000 Rachael Mpashi-Marx 110945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Commons-sense? Contemporary challenges and prospects of community shared resources https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-bollier-yavor-tarinski-antonis-brumas/commons-sense-contemporary-challenges-an <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How could shared resources and self-organized citizen systems create new paradigms of economics, politics and culture possible?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><strong><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Horn_of_Plenty_in_Markthal.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Horn_of_Plenty_in_Markthal.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"The future is a pluriverse": the fruits of the commons – a cornucopia in Rotterdam's Markthal. Timelezz/Wikimedia commons. Public domain.</span></span></span>Antonis Brumas (AB): Some believe that the commons are incompatible with commodity markets. Others claim that markets and commons may form mutually beneficial relations with each other. What are your own views on this issue?</strong></strong></strong></p><p><strong>David Bollier (DB):</strong>&nbsp;I think it is entirely possible for markets and commons to “play nicely together,” but only if commoners can have “value sovereignty” over their resources and community governance. Market players such as businesses and investors cannot be able to freely appropriate the fruits of a commons for themselves without the express authorization of commoners. Nor should markets be allowed to use their power to force commoners to assume market and money-based roles such as “consumers” and “employees.” In short, a commons must have the capacity to self-regulate its relations with the market and to assure that significant aspects of its common wealth and social relationships remain inalienable – not for sale via market exchange.&nbsp;</p><p>A commons must be able to develop “semi-permeable boundaries” that enable it to safely interact with markets on its own terms.&nbsp; So, for example, a coastal fishery functioning as a commons may sell some of its fish to markets, but the goals of earning money and maximizing profit cannot be allowed to become so foundational that it crowds out commons governance and respect for ecological limits.</p><p>Of course, market/commons relations are easier when it comes to digital commons and their shared wealth such as code, text, music, images and other immateiral resources. Such digital resources can be reproduced and shared at virtually no cost. Therefore there are no “subtractability” or depletion problems. In such cases, the problem for commons is less about preventing “free riding” than in intelligently curating digital information and preventing mischievous disruptions. In digital spaces, the principle of “the more, the merrier” generally prevails.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A commons must have the capacity to self-regulate its relations with the market and to assure&nbsp;that significant aspects&nbsp;of its&nbsp;common wealth&nbsp;and social relationships remain inalienable.</p><p>That said, even digital commoners must be able to prevent powerful market players from simply appropriating their work for commercial purposes, at no cost. Digital commoners should not simply generate “free resources” for larger market players to exploit for private gain. That is why some digital communities are exploring the use of the newly created Peer Production License, which authorizes free usage of digital material for noncommercial and commons-based people, but requires commercial users to pay a fee.&nbsp; Other communities are exploring the potential of “platform co-operatives,” in which a networked platform is owned and managed by the group for the benefit of its members.</p><p>The terms by which a commons protects its shared wealth and community ethos will vary immensely from one commons to another, but assuring a stable, benign relationship with markets is a major and sometimes tricky challenge.</p><p><strong>Yavor Tarinski (YT): In recent years we saw a boom in digital commons, developed in urban areas by collectives and hack labs. What are the potentialities for non-digital commoning in the city in its present form – heavily urbanized and under constant surveillance? Are its proportions incompatible with the logic of the commons or is the social right to the city still achievable?</strong></p><p><strong>DB:</strong>&nbsp;There has been an explosion of urban commons in the past several years, or at least a keen awareness of the need and potential of self-organized citizen projects and systems, going well beyond what either markets or city governments can provide. To be sure, digital commons such as makerspaces and fablabs are more salient and familiar types of urban commons. And there is growing interest, as mentioned, in platform co-operatives – mutually owned and managed platforms – to counter the extractive, sometimes predatory behaviors of proprietary platforms such as Uber, Airbnb, Taskrabbit and others.&nbsp;</p><p>But there are many types of urban commons that&nbsp;already exist and that could expand, if given sufficient support. Urban agriculture and community gardens, for example, are important ways to re-localize food production and lower the carbon footprint. They also provide a way to improve the quality of food and invigorate the local economy. As fuel and transport costs rise with the approach of Peak Oil, these types of urban commons will become more important.&nbsp;</p><p>I might add, it is not just about growing food but about the distribution, storage and retailing of food along the whole value chain. There is no reason for regional food systems not to be re-invented to mutualize costs, limit transport costs and ecological harm, and improve wages, working conditions, food quality, and affordability of food through commons-based food systems. Jose Luis Vivero Pol has explored the idea of “food commons” to help achieve such results, and cities like Fresno, California, are engaged with re-inventing their local agricultal systems.</p><p>Other important urban commons are social in character, such as timebanks<em>&nbsp;</em>for bartering one’s time and services when money is scarce;&nbsp;urban gardens and parks&nbsp;managed by residents of the nearby neighborhoods, such as the Nidiaci garden in Florence, Italy;&nbsp;telcommunications infrastructures&nbsp;such as Guifi.net in Barcelona; and&nbsp;alternative currencies,&nbsp;such as the BerkShares in western Massachusetts in the US, which help regions retain more of the value they generate, rather than allowing it to be siphoned away via conventional finance and banking systems.&nbsp;</p><p>There are also new types of partnerships between states and commons, such as the Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons. This model of post-bureaucratic governance actively invites citizen groups to take responsibility for urban spaces and gardens, kindergartens and eldercare. The state remains the more powerful partner, but instead of the usual public/private partnerships that can be blatant rip-offs of the public treasury, the Bologna regulation enlists citizens to take active responsibility for some aspect of the city. It’s not just government&nbsp;<em>on behalf of</em>&nbsp;citizens, but governance&nbsp;<em>with&nbsp;</em>citizens.&nbsp;It’s based on the idea of “horizontal subsidiarity” – that all levels of governments must find ways to share their powers and cooperate with single or associated citizens willing to exercise their constitutional right to carry out activities of general interest.&nbsp;</p><p>In France and the US, there are growing&nbsp;<em>“</em>community chartering<em>”&nbsp;</em>movements that give communities the ability to express their own interests and needs, often in the face of hostile pressures by corporations and governments. There are also efforts to develop&nbsp;data commons&nbsp;that will give ordinary people greater control over their data from mobile devices, computers and other equipment, and prevent tech companies from asserting proprietary control over data that has important uses, such as public health, transport and planning. Another important form of urban commons is&nbsp;urban land trusts, which enable the de-commodification of urban land so that the buildings built upon it can be more affordable to ordinary people. This is a particularly important approach as more “global cities” becomes sites of speculative investment and Airbnb-style rentals; ordinary city dwellers are being priced out of their own cities.&nbsp; Commons-based approaches offer some help in recovering the city for its residents.</p><p>Why bring the commons to the management and governance of a city? Urban commons can also reduce costs paid by cities and their citizens. They do this by mutualizing the costs of infrastructure, by sharing the benefits and by inviting self-organized initiatives to contribute to the city’s needs. Urban commons enliven social life simply by bringing people together for a common purpose, whether social or civic, going beyond shopping and consumerism. And urban commons can empower people and build a sense of fairness. In a time of political alienation, this is a significant achievement.</p><p>Urban commons can unleash creative social energies of ordinary citizens, who have a range of talents and the passion to share them. They can produce artworks and music, murals and neighborhood self-improvement, data collections and stewardship of public spaces, among other things. Finally, as international and national governance structures become less effective and less trusted, cities and urban regions are likely to become the most appropriately scaled governance systems, and more receptive to the constructive role that commons can play.</p><p><strong>YT: Contemporary struggles for protection of commons seem to be strongly intertwined with ecological matters. We can clearly see this in struggles like the one that is currently taking place in North Dakota. Is there a direct link between the commons and ecology?</strong>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>DB:</strong>&nbsp;Historically, commoning has been the dominant mode of managing land and even today, in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America, it is arguably the default norm, despite the efforts of governments and investors to commodify land and natural resources.&nbsp; According to the International Land Alliance, an estimated 2 billion people in the world still depend upon forests, fisheries, farmland, water, wild game and other natural resources for their everyday survival.</p><p>This is a huge number of people, yet conventional economists still regard this “subsistence” economy and indigenous societies as uninteresting because there is little market exchange going on. Yet these communities are surely more ecologically mindful of their relations to the land than agribusinesses that rely upon monoculture crops and pesticides, or which exploit a plot of land purely for its commercial potential without regard for biodiversity or long-term effects, such as the massive palm oil plantations in tropical regions.</p><p>Commoning is a way of re-integrating our social and commercial practices into the fundamental imperatives of nature. By honoring specific local landscapes, the situated knowledge of commoners, the principle of inalienability, and the evolving social practices of commoning, the commons can be a powerful force for ecological improvement.</p><p><strong>AB: What should be the role of the state in relation to the commons?</strong>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>DB:&nbsp;</strong>This is a very complex subject, but in general, one can say that the state has very different ideas than commoners about how power, governance and accountability should be structured. The state is also far more eager to strike tight, cozy alliances with investors, businesses and financial institutions because of its own desires to share in the benefits of markets, and particularly, tax revenues. I call our system the market/state system because the alliance – and collusion – between the two are so extensive, and their goals and worldview so similar despite their different roles, that commoners often don’t have the freedom or choice to enact commons. Indeed, the state often criminalizes commoning – think of seed sharing, file sharing or cultural re-use – because it “competes” with market forms of production and stands as a “bad example” of alternative modes of provisioning.</p><p>Having said this, state power could play many useful roles in supporting commoning, if it could be properly deployed. For example, the state could provide greater legal recognition to commoning, and not insist upon strict forms of private property and monetization. State law is generally so hostile or indifferent to commoning that commoners often have to develop their own legal hacks or workarounds to achieve some measure of protection for their shared wealth. Think about the General Public license for software, the Creative Commons licenses, and land trusts. Each amounts to an ingenious re-purposing of property law to serve the interests of sharing and intergenerational access.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The state has very different ideas than commoners about how power, governance and accountability should be structured.</p><p>The state could also be more supportive of bottom-up infrastructures developed by commoners, whether they be wifi systems, energy co-operatives, community solar grids, or platform co-operatives. If city governments were to develop municipal platforms, for example for ride-hailing or apartment rentals, they could begin to mutualize the benefits or such services and better protect the interests of workers, consumers and the general public.&nbsp;</p><p>The state could also help develop better forms of finance and banking to help commoning expand. The state provides all sorts of subsidies to the banking industry despite its intense commitment to private extraction of value. Why not use “quantitative easing” or&nbsp;<em>seignorage&nbsp;</em>(the state’s right to create money without it being considered public debt) to finance the building of infrastructure, environmental remediation, and social needs? Commoners could benefit from new sources of credit for social or ecological purposes – or a transition to a more climate-friendly economy – (however not likely as…?) that would not likely be as remunerative as conventional market activity.&nbsp;</p><p>For more on these topics, I recommend two reports by the Commons Strategies Group:&nbsp;<em>Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons: Strategies for Transforming Neoliberal Finance through Commons-based Alternatives,&nbsp;</em>about new types of commons-based finance and banking (http://commonsstrategies.org/democratic-money-and-capital-for-the-commons-2/); and&nbsp;<em>State Power and Commoning: Transcending a Problematic Relationship,</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong>a report about how we might reconceptualize state power so that it could foster commoning as a post-capitalist, post-growth means of provisioning and governance. (http://commonsstrategies.org/state-power-commoning-transcending-problematic-relationship)</p><p><strong>YT: How essential is, in your opinion, direct user participation for practices of commoning? Can the management of the commons be delegated to structures like the state or are the commons essentially connected to genuine grassroots democracy?</strong></p><p>Direct participation in commoning is preferred and often essential. However, each of us has only so many hours in the day, and we can remember the complaint that “the trouble with socialism is that it takes too many evenings.” Still, there are many systems, particularly in digital commons, for assuring bottom-up opportunities for participation along with accountable governance and transparency. And there are ways in which commons values can be embedded in the design of infrastructures and institutions,as much as(?) internet protocols favor a distributed egalitarianism. Building commons principles into the&nbsp;<em>structures</em>&nbsp;of larger institutions can help prevent or impede the private capture of them or a betrayal of their collective purposes.</p><p>That said, neither legal forms nor organizational forms are a guarantee that the integrity of a commons and its shared wealth will remain intact. Consider how some larger co-operatives resemble conventional corporations. That is why some elemental forms of commoning remain important for assuring the cultural and ethical integrity of a commons.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>YT: We are entering an age of aggressive privatization and degradation of commons: from privatization of water resources, through internet surveillance, to extreme air pollution. What should be the priorities of the movements fighting for protection of the commons? What about their organizational structure?</strong></p><p><strong>DB:&nbsp;</strong>Besides securing their own commons against the threats of enclosure, commons should begin to federate and cooperate as a way to build a more self-aware commons sector as a viable alternative to both the state and market. We can see rudimentary forms of this in the “assemblies of the commons” that have self-organized in some cities, and in the recently formed European Commons Assembly.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The future is a “pluriverse,” and the new&nbsp;organizational&nbsp;forms will need to&nbsp;recognize&nbsp;this reality in operational ways.</p><p>I am agnostic about the best organizational structure for such work because I think it will be emergent; the participants themselves must decide what will be most suitable at that time. Of course, in this digital age, I have a predisposition to think that the forms will consist of many disparate types of players loosely joined; it won’t be a centralized, hierarchical organization. The future is a “pluriverse,” and the new organizational forms will need to recognize this reality in operational ways.</p><p><strong>AB: What is your vision of a commons-based society? What would it look like?</strong></p><p>I don’t have a grand vision. I stand by core values and learn from ongoing practical lessons. We don’t know the developmental evolution that will occur in the future, or for that matter, what our own imaginations and capacities might be able to actualize.&nbsp; Emergence happens. Yet I do believe that commoning is far more of a default talent of the human species than&nbsp;<em>homo economicus.&nbsp;</em>We are hard-wired to cooperate, coordinate and co-evolve together. Especially as the grand, centralized market/state systems of the 20th century begin to implode through their own dysfunctionality, the commons will more swiftly step into the breach by offering more local, convivial and trusted systems of survival.&nbsp;</p><p>The transition of “commonification” will likely be bumpy, if only because the current masters of the universe will not readily cede their power and prerogatives. They will be incapable of recognizing a “competing” worldview and social order. But the costs of maintaining the antiquated old order are becoming increasingly prohibitive. The capital expense, coercion, organizational complexities, and ecological instability are growing even as popular trust in the market/state and its political legitimacy is declining.&nbsp;</p><p>Rather than propose a glowing vision of a commons-based society, I am content to point to hundreds of smaller-scale projects and movements. As they find each other, replicate their innovations, and federate into a more coordinated, self-aware polity – if we dare call it that! – well, that’s when things will get very interesting.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dan-hind/welcome-to-digital-commons">Welcome to the digital commons</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties diy world Yavor Tarinski David Bollier Antonis Broumas Wed, 17 May 2017 20:00:20 +0000 Antonis Broumas, David Bollier and Yavor Tarinski 110909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The debate the media won't have: government snooping made NHS hacking easier https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/debate-media-still-wont-have-government-snooping-has-made-hacking-easier <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even Microsoft now admits that government snooping has made it much easier for hackers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/nhs.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/nhs.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>NHS workers. Flickr/Emanueletudisco photography. Some rights reserved</span></span></span>On Friday IT systems in Britain and across the world were hit by a devastating hacking attack. </p><p>Dubbed 'WannaCrypt' - it locked users out of their computer system unless they paid a $300 ransom using Bitcoin. Such '<em>ransomware' </em>attacks have become increasingly common across cyberspace as an earner for hackers.</p><p>There is little doubt ensuring government IT systems, especially in critical areas such as the NHS, need to be kept up-to-date. Most of the media attention has largely focused on this area since. In particular, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-cyber-attack-jeremy-hunt-tories-accused-ignoring-extensive-warning-signs-outdated-computers-a7734961.html">ignoring repeated warnings</a> that NHS IT systems were underfunded and vulnerable.</p><p>But one largely ignored area is how government-mandated backdoor exploits have made it easier for hackers.</p><p>Yesterday evening, Microsoft, the software company whose Windows system was the target of the attack, published a blog-post imploring system users to keep their software up to date. But it <a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/05/14/need-urgent-collective-action-keep-people-safe-online-lessons-last-weeks-cyberattack/">also lashed out at</a> government snooping:</p><p>"Finally, this attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage.<span>"</span></p><p><span>The blog-post by Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer<a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/05/14/need-urgent-collective-action-keep-people-safe-online-lessons-last-weeks-cyberattack/"> went on to say</a>: "</span>We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.<span>"</span></p><p><span>In other words, Microsoft is warning governments that their desire for snooping makes it easier for criminals to exploit those systems and hack people's data.</span></p><p><span>This is relevant to Britain since both the Conservative government and Labour MPs have called on technology companies to give them access to encrypted mobile technologies such as Whatsapp and iMessage. Every terror attack across the US or Europe has been followed by a deman by western governments to have a way to snoop on messages. </span></p><p><span>But tech companies stress that opening encrypted systems to government snooping would eventually end up helping hackers. And the latest cyberattack underscores their point.</span></p><p><span></span>If we allow governments backdoor access to encrypted apps, next time it could be your phone demanding a ransom.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties uk ourNHS Sunny Hundal Mon, 15 May 2017 11:25:37 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110892 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Changing the world without taking power? Bitcoin and the challenges of consensus https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/nozomi-hayase/changing-world-without-taking-power-bitcoin-and-challenges-of-consensus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Bitcoin could provide a more democratic alternative for managing the economy, relying on objective mathematical tools, rather than economists with a free market bias. But there are obstacles along the way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/13402568155_fd1612050d_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/13402568155_fd1612050d_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bitcoin. Tiger Pixel/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In its 8th year of existence, Bitcoin has made lots of news headlines. From wild volatility in the markets, hacks in exchanges, to the identity of the supposed self-proclaimed mysterious anonymous creator, events surrounding this disruptive technology have had no shortage of drama. Now, the latest is a civil war happening in the Bitcoin community. The solutions for this technology’s scaling problem have created a challenge of consensus. With disagreements on technical changes turning into a contentious debate on social media, the ecosystem growing around this technology has started to resemble the craziness of party politics.</p><p dir="ltr">We have seen repeated fiascos in national politics. From the 2008 financial meltdown and bank bailouts to cycles of austerity, unprecedented levels of corruption have spawned a global crisis of legitimacy of institutions and governments. This only seems to have gotten worse. The 2016 US presidential election – magnified by <a href="https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/">WikiLeaks DNC leaks</a>&nbsp;– has presented the world with an escalation of the 'lesser of two evils' political model, and electoral politics as a charade sponsored by oligarchs.</p><p dir="ltr">As the system of representation is increasingly failing, Bitcoin presented an alternative. The core of this innovation is its apolitical nature. This is what makes Bitcoin censorship resistant, unseizable and permissionless. As politics in the community seems to be creating setbacks or posing what some perceive as an existential crisis, questions once again arise: what is Bitcoin? How is this apolitical money different from existing national currency?</p><h2>Politics as systems of power</h2><p dir="ltr">First, let’s explore politics. What are the characteristics of governance it has designed? The Oxford Dictionary <a href="https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/politics">defines</a> politics as “activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.” Politics is inherently associated with power and is a means to organise society through leaders gaining control over the majority.</p><p dir="ltr">Western liberal democracy is politically engineered governance. Its fundamental feature is centralisation. Rules are made and enforced from the top and any changes in the system require permission from those who are in positions of authority. Historian Howard Zinn (1970) <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Politics-History-Howard-Zinn/dp/0252061225">noted</a> how:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“In modern times, when social control rests on ‘the consent of the governed’, force is kept in abeyance for emergencies, and everyday control is exercised by a set of rules, a fabric of values passed on from one generation to another by the priests and teachers of the society.”</p><p dir="ltr">This command-control style of governance works in hierarchies and is antithetical to democratic values. The integrity of the system depends on the success of rulers to foster obedience of those in the network and prevent people from dissenting. For this, managing perception and public opinion through mass media becomes necessary and the system operates under the appearance of democracy, making force of control covert and invisible.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/55yet2gg9780252029752.html">Democracy INC: The Press and Law in the Corporate Rationalization of the Public Sphere, </a>professor of journalism David S. Allen (2005) described the role of professionals in facilitating this managed democracy. He noted how the creation of expert knowledge is essential in this machination. Science has become a methodology to back professional legitimacy, as “individuals began to regard professional judgments, often supported by scientific data as unquestionable”.</p><h2>The creed of objectivity</h2><p dir="ltr">Professionals with expert knowledge perform the role of trusted third parties who are supposed to represent the interests of citizens and make decisions on their behalf. Here, the knowledge produced in social science, such as economics, political science and psychology is often used to maintain the status quo of power structures.</p><p dir="ltr">From Alan Greenspan to Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen, economists who are appointed by the US President as chair of the Federal Reserve get to decide monetary policy for the country and exercise influence through central banks around the world. What validates their expert knowledge is an epistemological foundation called the creed of objectivity.</p><p dir="ltr">Social science has incorporated empirical and positivist methodology of natural science and claimed the ability to form knowledge in a similar way as physical science. With this, researchers assert neutrality as if he or she transcends race, class or any personal bias. Yet, they are embedded within cultural values and their purported value-free objectivity is not actually possible. A person's subjective agendas and personal views do not magically disappear by simply claiming it to be so.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">A person's subjective agendas and personal views do not magically disappear by simply claiming it to be so.</p><p dir="ltr">Without transparency that ensures disclosure of researchers’ bias, this creed of objectivity becomes a cloak that hides their motivations. This stance of objectivity closes off any feedback and the assertions that are not tested are promoted as universally applicable truth.</p><p dir="ltr">Money in this representative democracy becomes political money, legitimised by state authority and tied to monetary policies of investment banks and corporations that run government behind the scenes. It enables a small number of powerful and rich to enact the ideology of neoliberalism and hijack a whole economy. Under the banner of the ‘free market’, they justify their plunder as a crusade for progress.</p><h2>Replacing politics with maths</h2><p dir="ltr">Now, a breakthrough in computer science has found a way to crack this closed logic of control. Bitcoin opens what sociologist John Holloway <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Change-World-Without-Taking-Power/dp/0745318630">described</a> as a path of “changing the world without taking power”. <a href="https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf">The whitepaper</a> published in 2008 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto put forward a vision of a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash”, based on cryptographic proof, rather than relying on a trusted third party. The underpinning of this innovation was a science of asymmetrical security that provides a strong armoury against violence, exploitation and extreme selfishness through the mechanism of consensus.</p><p dir="ltr">Richard Feynman, a theoretical physicist, once said that scientific integrity is learning to not fool ourselves. He noted, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool”. In natural science, researchers are given honest feedback from the real world and nature through observation, repeated testing and experiments. On the other hand, social scientists explore dimensions more divorced from physical reality, and in their claim of neutrality, they can become blind to their own bias. This would influence the outcome of their studies and they more easily distort facts with personal opinions and emotions.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.</p><p dir="ltr">This creed of objectivity in social science has shown itself to be vulnerable to tendencies towards deception, while math is a property that is impervious to manipulation. Math cannot be fooled, as it does not respond to lies and threats. Computer science relies on solid data, rigorous testing and peer-review. This gives each person an opportunity to engage in honest work to overcome self-deception and build strong security, even as strong as the laws in the physical world.</p><h2>Cypherpunks: scientists with a moral code</h2><p dir="ltr">In the existing model of governance, the inherent weakness of the creed of objectivity made the system vulnerable to tyranny of the few. Economic incentives set up by a professional class made the right to free speech exclusive for the beneficiaries of this managed democracy, suppressing any views that challenge this authority by calling them subjective, relegating them to mere opinion. This doctrine of false objectivity that has been predominant in academia has conditioned researchers to remain impartial. This turned the populace into passive observers, preventing them from fully connecting with their passion and values.</p><p dir="ltr">In the foundation of Bitcoin development, there lies a particular philosophy that revolts against this restriction of free speech imposed by central authority. In the <a href="http://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/papers/moral-fn.pdf">paper</a>&nbsp;'The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work', published in 2015, eminent computer scientist Phillip Rogaway brought forward the moral obligation of cryptographers and their importance, especially in the post-Snowden era. In this, he described a group that emerged in the late 1980s who saw the potential of cryptography in shifting power relations between the individual and the state. These are the cypherpunks who held a belief that “cryptography can be a key tool for protecting individual autonomy threatened by power”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Cryptography can be a key tool for protecting individual autonomy threatened by power.</p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with Trace Mayer, applied cryptographer and inventor of Hashcash, Adam Back who was cited in Satoshi’s whitepaper, <a href="https://youtu.be/0VboMe_2fnc?t=4m11s">talked about</a> the “positive social implications arising from cryptography”. He described the ethos of cypherpunks as writing code to bring the rights we enjoy offline into the online world. The idea is that lobbying politicians and promoting issues through the press would be a slow uphill battle. So, instead of engaging in legal and political systems, Back noted that they could simply “deploy technology and help people do what they consider to be their legal right” and society would later adjust itself to reflect these values.</p><p dir="ltr">Unlike politicians who make promises that are rarely delivered, the cypherpunks write codes. With their adamant claim of subjective domains, they apply real objective knowledge that comes from maths to bring change.</p><h2>Imagination from computer science</h2><p>As the forced network effect of petrodollar hegemony begins to loosen, the empire fuels aggression, with more wars and sanctions. While this system of representation weakens, the logic of control from the old world began infiltrating the Bitcoin ecosystem. Regulators try to reach cryptocurrency through exchanges, and by <a href="http://bitcoinist.com/bitcoin-exchanges-china-identity-users/">enforcing</a> KYC (Know Your Customer) create a fertile soil for government surveillance and privacy erosion. Centralisation creeps in through industrial mining and patents on hardware, creating a trend toward state and corporate backed monopolies. All the while, established media keep writing <a href="https://99bitcoins.com/obituary-stats/">obituaries</a> on Bitcoin, wishing to declare the death of this new money they can’t understand.</p><p dir="ltr">Politics that spread through the crypto-community have been hijacking discussions on technical development. The divide created in this community appears to be moving the technology away from its original vision. With PR and name-calling, a vocal minority engages in social engineering, distracting developers who are engineering security.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Computer science gives you far more leverage to change the world than any other study in our age.</p><p dir="ltr">As legal scholar and inventor of bit-gold Nick Szabo once <a href="https://twitter.com/nickszabo4/status/653974694563938304">noted</a>, "computer science gives you far more leverage to change the world than any other study in our age". Social issues and questions of democracy have been a philosophical quandary that are generally tackled politically. They were not considered to be the purview of science. Now, imagination from computer science has come forward to help us work on solving these problems. It opened a door for a new future, where our engagement in honest scientific endeavours can show the world that equality, fraternity and freedom are not just ideals, but unshakable universal truths.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, the challenge of consensus that the Bitcoin community is facing is a test for all of us. Bitcoin has responded to the crisis of legitimacy and security that are inherent in political systems. Where politicians and leaders have failed, Bitcoin succeeds. As the price goes up, crypto-enthusiasts proclaim the rise and rise of Bitcoin.</p><p dir="ltr">Can our imagination rise with the power of decentralisation that this technology brings and let go of this urge to play politics? By moving from a system of power to a consensus of equal peers, together we can work toward realising promises enshrined in this code of a-political money. Our surrender to scientific processes can accelerate the development of this protocol and give this innovation a chance for humanity to save itself from the mess we all have created.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nozomi-hayase/blockchain-versus-vulture-capitalism">Blockchain versus vulture capitalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/matthew-slater/conflict-at-heart-of-modern-money">The conflict at the heart of modern money</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Nozomi Hayase Mon, 15 May 2017 10:52:08 +0000 Nozomi Hayase 110886 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/chenchen-zhang/curious-rise-of-white-left-as-chinese-internet-insult <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Meet the Chinese netizens who combine a hatred for the ‘white left’ with a love of US president Donald Trump.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/140068806_b8cac11154_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Internet cafe, Beijing, Flickr/Kai Hendry. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/140068806_b8cac11154_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="Internet cafe, Beijing, Flickr/Kai Hendry. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Internet cafe, Beijing, Flickr/Kai Hendry. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term <em>baizuo&nbsp;(白左)</em>, or literally, the ‘white left’.&nbsp;It first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates.&nbsp;<em></em></p> <p><em>So what</em> does ‘white left’ mean in the Chinese context, and what’s behind the rise of its (negative) popularity? It might not be an easy task to define the term, for as a social media buzzword and very often an instrument for&nbsp;<em>ad hominem</em><em>&nbsp;</em>attack, it could mean different things for different people. A thread on “<a href="https://www.zhihu.com/question/51331837">why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve “white left” in China</a>” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.&nbsp;</p> <p>The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the 'white left'. Although the emphasis varies,&nbsp;<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from some anti-hegemonic sentiments, the connotations of ‘white left’ in the Chinese context clearly resemble terms such as ‘<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/khwaja-khusro-tariq/regressive-liberals-the-n_b_8597284.html">regressive liberals</a>’ or ‘libtards’ in the United States. In a way the demonization of the ‘white left’ in Chinese social media may also reflect the resurgence of right-wing populism globally. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Chinese netizens’ fierce attacks against the ‘white left’ seem curiously devoid of experiential motivation, since all these problems that conservatives in the west are concerned about – immigration, multiculturalism, minority rights, and affirmative actions – are largely unknown to Chinese society. This is not to say that discrimination against women and ethnic, religious and sexual minorities do not exist in China. They are no less serious or structural here than in any other societies. But cultural and identity politics has never gained much salience as political issues under an authoritarian regime, although feminist activists have received increased attention&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">recently</a>. Overall, there has been ‘too little’, rather than ‘too much’ political correctness as perceived by conservatives in the west. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Chinese netizens’ fierce attacks against the ‘white left’ seem curiously devoid of experiential motivation.</p> <p>In fact, heated discussions about&nbsp;<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;on Chinese social media websites rarely make reference to domestic issues, except for occasionally and unsurprisingly insulting Chinese Muslims for being “unintegrated” or “complicit in the spread of Islam extremism”. The stigmatization of the ‘white left’ is driven first and foremost by Chinese netizens’ understanding of ‘western’ problems. It is a symptom and weakness of the Other.&nbsp;</p> <p>The term first became influential amidst the European refugee crisis, and Angela Merkel was the first western politician to be labelled as a <em>baizuo</em> for her open-door refugee policy. Hungary, on the other hand, was praised by Chinese netizens for its hard line on refugees, if not for its authoritarian leader. Around the same time another derogatory name that was often used alongside&nbsp;<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;was&nbsp;<em>shengmu</em>&nbsp;(圣母) – literally the ‘holy mother’ – which according to its users refers to those who are ‘overemotional’, ‘hypocritical’ and ‘have too much empathy’. The criticisms of&nbsp;<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>shengmu</em>&nbsp;soon became an online smear campaign targeted at not only public figures such as J. K. Rowling and Emma Watson, but also volunteers, social workers and all other ordinary citizens, whether in Europe or China, who express any sympathy with international refugees.</p> <p>In May 2016, Amnesty International published their survey results indicating that the most welcoming country for refugees was China. Leaving the&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/687518/is-china-really-the-most-welcoming-country-for-refugees/">reliability</a>&nbsp;of its sample and methodology aside, this finding was not at all taken as a compliment in the Chinese media. <em>Global Times</em> conducted their own&nbsp;<a href="http://opinion.huanqiu.com/survey/2016-05/8952416.html">online survey</a>&nbsp;in response to Amnesty’s claim, and the results were quite the opposite: 90.3% said ‘no’ to the question ‘would you accept refugees in your own household?’ and 79.6% said ‘no’ to the question ‘would you accept refugees in your city, or would you like to be neighbours with refugees?’. Ironically, Amnesty’s portrayal of China as a welcoming country for displaced people was even read by some netizens as part of a foreign conspiracy, intended to pressure the Chinese government to accept more refugees. A senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences&nbsp;<a href="http://www.guancha.cn/society/2016_05_20_360998.shtml">commented</a>&nbsp;that this survey was “weird” and seemed to “incite citizens against the government”. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>The anti-<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;discourse in Chinese social media gained stronger momentum during the US presidential election campaign. If criticisms of the ‘white left’ in the context of the refugee crisis were mainly about disapproval of ‘moralist humanitarianism’ mixed with Islamophobia, they became politically more elaborate as Chinese critics of the ‘white left’ discovered Donald J. Trump, whom they both identify with and take inspiration from. Following the debates in the US, a number of other issues such as welfare reforms, affirmative action and minority rights were introduced into online discussions on the ‘white left’.&nbsp;<em>Baizuo</em>&nbsp;critics now began to identify Obama and Clinton as the new epitome of the ‘white left’, despite the fact that they were neither particularly humanitarian&nbsp;<a href="http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/obama-record-deportations-deporter-chief-or-not">nor particularly kind</a>&nbsp;to migrants. Trump was taken as the champion of everything the ‘white left’ were against, and <em>baizuo</em> critics naturally became his&nbsp;<a href="http://thediplomat.com/2017/03/why-do-chinese-netizens-love-donald-trump/">enthusiastic supporters</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>To be sure, and fortunately, not all in Chinese cyberspace talk about the ‘white left’ in a derogatory way, just as not all appreciate the views and style of Trump. Rao Yi, a renowned neurobiologist and public intellectual, was one of the few to publically criticize the demonization of&nbsp;<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;and Chinese netizens’ support for Trump on television. His statement stirred up a great deal of controversy online. An overwhelming majority of Zhihu users&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zhihu.com/question/52235082">thought</a>&nbsp;that Rao had only proved that he was typical of the ‘white left’: biased, elitist, ignorant of social reality and constantly applying double standards. &nbsp;</p> <p>What are the possible explanations of the prevailing hostility to the ‘white left’ in Chinese social media? Only a fraction of the arguments can be considered interests-based, and they are made by established and newly arrived overseas Chinese in Europe and North America. Many students and job-seekers in Europe, for example, argue that it is simply unfair that they “have to work so hard to stay, whereas these refugees can simply come and claim asylum”. More or less established Chinese immigrants in the United States often make the case that affirmative action policies put Chinese-Americans in a disadvantageous position, and “Chinese should not pay the price for the wrongs white Americans have done”. It isn’t the place to analyse the pitfalls of these claims here; my focus is rather on why mainland Chinese people adopt such a strong and emotionally charged view on issues they do not have direct experience with. The following ideological, instead of interest-based factors might be at play in both domestic and international contexts. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>From a domestic perspective, the proliferation of anti-<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;sentiment is clearly in line with the dominance of a kind of brutal, demoralized pragmatism in post-socialist China. Many of the attacks on the welfare state and the idea that states have obligations towards international refugees appeal to the same social Darwinist logic of ‘survival of the fittest’. It is assumed that individuals should take responsibility for their own misery, whether it is war or poverty, and should not be helped by others. The rationale goes hand in hand with the view that inequality is inevitable in a market-economy-cum-Hobbesian-society. Although economic disparity in China has been worsening in recent years, sociologist Yu Xie&nbsp;<a href="https://www.google.dk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwij5rqv77PTAhUJkiwKHblwD8oQFggzMAI&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ios.sinica.edu.tw%2Fios%2Fmsg%2Ffriday%2FXie2010-Inequality-Chinese.pdf&amp;usg=AFQjCNGc7aEMpXxXZK-5Ws-KTUjaCKC3-g&amp;sig2=6JEhh5I1v-XCjhSAlfBfXg">found</a>&nbsp;that most Chinese people regard it as an inevitable consequence of economic growth, and that inequality is unlikely to give rise to political or social unrest.</p><p>Pragmatism with an emphasis on self-responsibility seems to be the ideology of our post-ideological times. It is, in UK prime minister Theresa May’s words, ‘living within our means’. This is combined with a general indifference towards race issues, or even worth, with certain social Darwinist beliefs that some races are superior to others, leading many mainland Chinese netizens to dismiss struggles against structural discriminations as naïve, pretentious or demanding undeserved privileges.</p> <p>Seen from the perspective of international relations, the anti-<em>baizuo</em>&nbsp;discourse can be understood as part of what William A. Callahan calls ‘<a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9256.12088/abstract">negative soft power</a>’, that is, constructing the Chinese self through ‘the deliberate creation and then exclusion’ of Others as ‘barbarians’ or otherwise inferior. Criticisms of the ‘white left’ against the background of the European refugee crisis fit especially well with the ‘rising China’ versus ‘Europe in decline’ narrative. According to Baidu Trends, one of the most related keywords to <em>baizuo</em> was <em>huimie</em>: “to destroy”. Articles with titles such as ‘the white left are destroying Europe’ were widely circulated.&nbsp;</p> <p>In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404046501243429255">an academic-style essay</a>&nbsp;that was retweeted more than 7000 times on Weibo, a user named ‘fantasy lover Mr. Liu’ ‘reviewed’ European philosophy from Voltaire and Marx to Adorno and Foucault, concluding that the ‘white left’ as a 'spiritual epidemic' is on its way to self-destruction. He then stated that Trump’s win was only “a small victory over this spiritual epidemic of humankind”, but “western civilization is still far from its self-redemption”. However ridiculous it may appear, the post is illustrative of how a demonized Other is projected onto seemingly objective or academic criticisms of the ‘white left’. Ultimately, the more the ‘white left’ – whatever it means – represent the fatal weakness of democracy, the more institutional and normative security the Chinese regime enjoys. The grassroots campaign against the ‘white left’ thus echoes the officially-sanctioned campaign against ‘universal values’, providing a negative evidence for the superiority of the Chinese self.&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, it should to be noted that the internet in China is subject to strict censorship. The Chinese government has been known to hire a large number of ‘internet commentators’ (known as the 50 cent party) to fabricate social media posts. According to a recent research conducted by scholars at Harvard University, 29% of the ‘accused 50 cent posts’ they investigated fall into the category of ‘taunting of foreign countries. It is nonetheless impossible to know whether these accused posts are indeed written by government employees. Similarly, it is hard to tell whether some of the criticisms of <em>baizuo</em> are coming from fabricated commentators-for-hire. However, given the strict censorship regime, criticizing democratic values such as pluralism, tolerance, and solidarity is certainly one of the safest ‘critical’ opinions ordinary citizens can express online. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/cyber-feminism-china-expression-and-oppression">Cyber-feminism in China: between expression and oppression</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Chenchen Zhang Thu, 11 May 2017 22:09:03 +0000 Chenchen Zhang 110823 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Pokéwalking while black: Pokémon GO and America’s ‘e-quality’ of life https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/anna-everett-corrigan-e-vaughan/pok-walking-while-black-pok-mon-go-and-america-s-e-q <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pokémon Go may be a silly diversion, but it’s still one in which the dynamics of systemic racism and spaces of colour come into play.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-28238451.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-28238451.jpg" alt="" title="Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 6 July 2016, San Francisco-based software developers Niantic, Inc. released the unexpected smash-hit game of the summer, Pokémon GO (PoGo). Its success was instant, even as its unexpectedly overburdened servers made gameplay lag, became unpredictable, and, often, frustrating. Since its inception in 1996, the Pokémon franchise of games, television shows, movies, and manga had counted children as its primary demographic, but this new PoGo app was met with surprising intergenerational appeal, drawing into the streets everyone from school-age kids on summer break to gen-Xers and millennials looking for a post-work activity. </p> <p>On the one hand, it is easy to reduce PoGo’s phenomenal success to its high brand visibility and the game’s ability to connect people’s favourite mobile devices (smartphones) to a favourite multi-platform franchise (Pokémon) through a timely and fun killer app. But any view of the game’s impact that takes into consideration aspects of race and space in American civil society raises a number of serious concerns that we should not ignore. We cannot celebrate PoGo’s success without also examining its limitations – the ways in which the app itself both inherently excludes poor communities of colour and reinforces racial discourses that contrast ‘safe’, white spaces with ‘dangerous’, minority ghettos.</p> <p>Throughout the summer of 2016, discussions of PoGo dominated social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and Periscope, for instance), with fans and foes of the phenomenon weighing in from utopian and dystopian perspectives. For some, the PoGo app offered: a unique opportunity for exploration of one’s hometown, a practical solution to obesity among gamers, a means of alleviating mental illness symptoms like depression and agoraphobia, or simply an entertaining diversion. For others, the game represented the worst elements of American culture: phone-obsessed zombies wandering into busy traffic without looking up, friends staring at their phones in lieu of talking to each other, or a mass hive mind of followers more interested in silly distractions than in facing the real world.</p> <p>It was not long before urban legends began to arise, and fake news and satire sites began circulating stories of multi-car pileups caused by distracted PoGo players, murders sparked by game-rage, accusations of drug dealers luring children through the app, and so on.</p> <p>These rumours were compounded by the existence of a few shocking true stories: <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-francisco-shooting-pokemon-go-20160807-snap-story.html">a man shot and killed in San Francisco</a> while playing the game, players in California, Wyoming, and New Hampshire reportedly <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-diego-dead-body-pokemon-go-20160715-snap-story.html">finding corpses during Pokéwalks</a>, and a player <a href="http://www.ocregister.com/articles/attackers-722320-multiple-anaheim.html">stabbed in an Anaheim, CA park</a>. That last story is among the most telling examples of the fraught racial component of Pokémon GO. A man wanders into a park after dark in a city known for its minority population and is stabbed. What else could he expect? It is a cautionary tale. Police urged people to use discernment and be aware of their surroundings. Like a teenager wandering into traffic, he allowed the game to lead him into the perilous space of a neighbourhood inhabited by people of colour – something he presumably would not have done had he not been mesmerised by the game.</p> <p>The problem of hapless white folk stumbling into ‘bad’ neighbourhoods while playing is almost a moot point, of course, as predominately poor, minority communities are hardly hubs of Pokémon activity. This is a relic of the app’s origins in a previous augmented reality game from Niantic called Ingress. In Pokémon GO, players rely on specified locations called “Pokéstops” and “gyms” to replenish their in-game supplies, to battle other players, and to place “lures”, which attract Pokémon to the immediate area. These Pokéstops correlate to what are called “portals” in the Ingress game. Portals are generally comprised of spaces of large gatherings or social significance such as museums, monuments, parks, churches, and tourist attractions. The portal locations were largely crowdsourced by Ingress players and users of the online Historical Marker Database, rather than generated by the game’s developers.</p> <p><a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article89562297.html">When the Miami Herald examined the locations of the Ingress portals</a>, they found what black people had noticed anecdotally to be empirically true: the number of portals and Pokéstops tended to be sparser in predominately black neighbourhoods. And while neither Ingress nor the Historical Marker Database takes detailed demographic information from its crowdsourcing volunteers, informal surveys showed them to “skew male, young, and English-speaking,” further possessing the expendable income to spend an average of about 80 dollars on in-app purchases.</p> <p>Player Jack Thompson told the <em>Miami Herald</em>, “[Ingress’s] players weren’t diverse and crowdsourcing is only as representative as the crowd doing the sourcing. So instead of a representative map, you get a map drawn, basically, by people with smartphones, tech knowledge, and spare time – high school kids, college students, nerds, and people with desk jobs.”</p> <p>In addition, for those outside the privileged male demographic wanting to get in on the PoGo craze, there is the YouTube channel <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWegwTO2plk">GameXplain’s tutorial “How to Play Pokémon Go-Tips and &amp; Tricks (Guide)”</a>, which garnered 3,119,104 views. It explains on a basic level that: “Pokémon Go is a free, augmented reality mobile game on IOS and Android where the main goal is to catch Pokémon in your neighbourhood…However, what’s available to catch is dependent on their location. While catching Pokémon is the main focus there are other goals as well, such as visiting Pokéstops and gyms, strengthening and evolving your Pokémon, and hatching eggs.” The concept seems fun and straightforward enough. In GameXplain’s section entitled, “How do I find Pokémon?,” the tutorial clarifies, “…Pokémon will appear on the game’s GPS map, and your phone will buzz to indicate when a new Pokémon is nearby…and increase the chances of a Pokémon appearance while walking.”</p> <p>To this plain, straightforward and banal observation, we want to address the often under-acknowledged and unanticipated complexities of the PoGo phenomenon – in particular, where it intersects with race and tech access in America. Any search on YouTube makes the point with numerous hits related to the game. In fact, PoGo videos on YouTube can garner such staggering numbers of views as 9,226,842 (“How to Play Pokémon Go”) and 8,195,084 (“Creative Ways People Are Cheating in Pokémon Go”), among others. This is a clear testament to the popular game’s remarkable scope and reach. At the same time, another side of this socially significant story gets marginalised in large measure because of what it says and reveals about racial injustice that persists in America, and throughout the globe. We ignore its lessons at our peril.</p> <p>Nothing makes the case more powerfully and convincingly than Omari Akil’s blog post <a href="https://medium.com/mobile-lifestyle/warning-pokemon-go-is-a-death-sentence-if-you-are-a-black-man-acacb4bdae7f">“Pokémon No: Warning – Pokémon Go is a Death Sentence if you are a Black Man”</a>. Akil reminds us of the crucial temporal connection between the game and the newsworthy hashtag activism in the social media community that drives the Black Lives Matter Movement. Akil begins his heartfelt reflections on his own Pokémon Go fandom and play by invoking the tragic and unjust murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile within 24 hours of each other by white police officers. The bottom line for Akil is attempting to reconcile the incommensurability of his avowed ‘geekish’ humanity and inexplicable excitement over the game “even in the wake of such sadness” as the Sterling and Castile murders.&nbsp;</p> <p>Akil discusses being distracted by painful thoughts or racial scripts about the dangers of trespassing appropriate space, place and belonging for a black man, while roaming the streets in a state of PoGo gameplay euphoria. “When my brain started combining the complexity of being Black in America with the real world proposal of wandering and exploration that is designed into the gameplay of Pokémon Go, there was only one conclusion. <em>I might die if I keep playing</em>” (original emphasis). Akil concludes: “Let’s just go ahead and add Pokémon GO to the extremely long list of things white people can do without fear of being killed, while Black people have to realistically be wary. <em>Honestly, I wish this was a joke or a satire of some sort. It isn’t</em> (original emphasis)<strong>. </strong>Something needs to change . . . like yesterday.” &nbsp;</p> <p>At the root of Akil’s honest and palpable vulnerability is an important testament to <em>the</em> primal socializing activity that white people can avoid that black people dare not. And as Akil’s own self-disclosure makes plain, the magic circle of gameplay is apparently deactivated for gamers of colour in some spaces.&nbsp; Moreover, it is as a result of black people’s necessary internalisation of the nation’s racialization of spaces in most ‘desirable’ neighbourhoods and communities that motivate some to find strategic (even poignant) ways to play PoGo while black. For example, in the aftermath of the high-profile shootings of black people by predominately white police officers and other armed civilian white citizens (including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, and too many others to name here), Americans across the racial divides have become familiar with what ‘the Talk’ means in African American communities. ‘The Talk’, of course, means preparing to survive deadly encounters with police as a unique but necessary rite of passage experienced between African American youths and their anxious parents.</p> <p>To further illustrate the disparate experience of playing Pokémon Go while black, let us turn to how a young African American woman conveyed her negotiation of PoGo play. In her own inimitable style, the YouTuber posting as <em>allofdestiny</em> gives us another first person account of PoGo playing while black. Its significance is both its strategic tactical move and the fact that it is recorded in real time for her YouTube channel. And like Akil, her recent post entitled <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGcQzYMcWlE">“Summer Vlog 2016 #4: Pokémon Go Trespassing, Getting THE RING Sized!”</a> is striking for its ability to reveal yet another instance of social spatialisation of race and access, even as it proceeds in such a mundane way. Captured in the familiar car-cam video frame, <em>allofdestiny</em> and her sister/passenger are driving on an errand to resize <em>allofdestiny</em>’s new ring when her sister, in the passenger seat, receives a Pokéstop buzz. The PoGo alert takes them slightly off course. Attempting to navigate through traffic to catch the Pokémon, <em>allofdestiny</em> remarks offhandedly and with deadly humour:</p> <p>“I’m stopping with my sister at this place because it’s a Pokéstop. Where does it want you to pull to? This is crazy! This was not in the plans! Where am I ‘posed to go? This crazy! When you make detours, folks gonna be extra late getting everywhere – ‘Hey, sorry I’m late. I had to make a stop at the Pokéstop’ – I’m still too far away? . . . <em>folks gonna get arrested for going places they’re not supposed to go</em> (emphasis added). That’s what I’m saying. These folks having an event, y’all!! And she got me pullin’ up here because it’s a Pokéstop…You are gonna have to get out and walk to it (the Pokéstop). We are all on these folks’ property. It’s a church, so…”</p> <p>Her sister chimes in: “It’s gonna be okay. They have a lot of Pokémon over here, though.” Adjusting her rear-view mirror, <em>allofdestiny</em> ends this segment of the 30-minute vlog stating: “She’s got a Pokémon. That’s why we’re stopping over here. The whole time we’ve been on the E-way (expressway) she’s been lookin’ for Pokémons. I think she got it. She’s going to show y’all.” (The sister holds up her phone to the car-cam, exposing their Pokémon-hunting strategy: driving as opposed to walking around the game’s magic circle, with PoGo monsters appearing in Portal places and spaces.) On the video, we hear the PoGo jingle indicating success. At that point, <em>allofdestiny</em> fades out of the segment with, “Ok. We’re leaving now, she’s got her Pokémon . . . Ok, bye, bye!”</p> <p>A couple of brief points need to be made here. In the case of <em>allofdestiny’s</em> support of her sister’s PoGo playing while black, we learn that the two young women are Pokémon hunting while en route to the shopping center to resize the ring.&nbsp; Based upon many of her posts, we assume the shopping center is adjacent to the young women’s black neighbourhood. This is important because, evidently it squares with the research on the game’s so-called “pokéstop redlining” discussed by <a href="http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/pokemon-go-changing-how-cities-use-public-space-could-it-be-more-inclusive">Shiva Kooragayala and Tanaya Srini in their study “Pokémon Go is changing how cities public space, but could it be more inclusive?” </a>&nbsp;While Kooragayala and Srini, <a href="http://fusion.net/story/328205/pokemon-go-pokestops-ingress-portals/">Christian Sandvig, and Kashmir Hill and Daniel McLaughlin</a>, among others, call attention to Christopher Huffaker’s charge that gaming companies’ practice of redlining neighbourhoods in minority and lower-income communities, not all researchers and observers agree that hard-to-find Pokéstops are racially determined.&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, <a href="http://www.bnd.com/news/nation-world/national/article89562297.html">Huffaker’s eye-opening study of where Pokestops are located</a> across the nation is convincing in its findings that the game’s “Portals are densest in majority white and Asian neighborhoods.” In fact, <em>allofdestiny</em>’s PoGo experience is similar to one of Huffaker’s sources, Kendra James, a PoGo-playing black blogger who tweeted out, “Given how much of a mental bump Pokémon Go has been to so many of us, it REALLY SUCKS to know that kids in Irvington…Can’t really participate as easily as the rest of us” (quoted in Huffaker). With this clear mapping of PoGo portals and its racial dimensions pointed out by Huffaker, and others, <em>allofdestiny</em>’s sister’s comment, “They have a lot of Pokémon over here, though,” betrays both her own resignation to this disparate reality of PoGo play, and the potential risks involved when blacks from certain urban areas decide to play Pokémon Go while black.</p> <p>Furthermore, in terms of Niantic’s <em>de facto</em> redlining of black neighbourhoods, it is particularly telling when a forum such as GameXplain takes for granted that by simply strolling through one’s neighbourhood, one will be able to, as the Pokémon television series theme song put it, “catch ‘em all.” As the <em>Miami Herald</em> demonstrated, this race-neutral view is less true of people living outside of the areas frequented by the app’s reportedly young, white, middle-class, male crowdsourcers. In fact, in areas without nearby Pokéstops and gyms, it is not unusual to find that there are no Pokémon ‘spawning’ (appearing) in the vicinity at all for long periods of time. And as <em>allofdestiny</em> and her sister discover, this forces anyone who wants to play the game anyway to venture further from their home than typical users. Or it requires them to make in-app purchases like incenses, which attract Pokémon to the player’s location, or eggs, which hatch Pokémon after the player has walked distances of two, five, or ten kilometers. This renders the ostensibly ‘free’ app cost-prohibitive in practice for those outside of the area determined by its privileged crowdsourcers.</p> <p>The exclusion of black communities from standard gameplay is emblematic of a larger problem of access in technology, and points to the ways in which the tech industry suffers from a myopia rooted in a lack of diversity within its ranks. It was less than five years ago that Microsoft faced accusations of redlining communities of colour through a GPS app that would provide walking instructions that avoided supposedly ‘unsafe’ areas. While at the surface level, the app’s aim to keep people safe was laudable, its developers failed to take into account the effect that stopping people from walking through areas seen as ghettos would actually have on those ghettos. No traffic through such areas means economic depression for businesses located in them, as well as fewer people on the streets to prevent criminal activity, which thrives where it goes unseen.</p> <p>Furthermore, “unsafe” being code for “black” or “minority” reinforces perceptions of black inferiority and criminality, resulting in the maintenance of structural inequalities and <em>de facto</em> segregation. While it might seem hyperbolic to attribute redlining practices to an app essentially made for children and college students, it is important to acknowledge how the dearth of landmarks considered socially significant or safe to travel to in minority areas perpetuates the idea that “the ghetto” is no place for children. One must be cautious in chasing pocket monsters, or one might run into a real one on the unsafe streets of the inner city.</p> <p>The problem extends beyond the disparity of access in minority and urban communities, however, and takes a similar but different shape as players of colour weigh the risks of venturing into predominately white areas to participate – even if those areas are their actual home neighbourhoods. For black Americans, the limitations of the summer game are ones of which they are acutely aware. Neighbourhoods in which they are the majority are Pokéstop deserts, regarded as socially insignificant to the people designing these programmes. For blacks living in predominately white areas, or who ventured beyond their minority communities in order to play, an extra level of caution unnecessary for their white gamer counterparts was immediately obvious. As Akil and <em>allofdestiny</em> know, it is dangerous to be a black person – especially a black male – aimlessly circling parks and residential areas and shopping centers without a clear purpose. Even in a silly diversion, the dangerous dynamics of institutional and systemic racism are alive and well.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/carolyn-s-stevens/pokemon-go-jean-baudrillard-hyper-mediated-society">‘The map precedes the territory’: Pokémon Go through the eyes of Jean Baudrillard</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Corrigan E. Vaughan Anna Everett Fri, 05 May 2017 23:12:47 +0000 Anna Everett and Corrigan E. Vaughan 110660 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This is how you can leverage social media to uncover wrongdoing https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/exposing-invisible/this-is-how-you-can-leverage-social-media-to-uncover-wrongdoing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Investigative platform Exposing the Invisible has released a pack of resources for citizen journalists and activists to learn how to use social media information for their investigations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 23.44.59.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 23.44.59.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="233" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Leveraging information posted to social media platforms is an essential part of an investigators toolbox when uncovering wrongdoings. At investigative platform, Exposing the Invisible, we recently released a series of resources on finding, collecting and using information from social media platforms.</p> <p class="normal">Exposing the Invisible has been operating for the past three years with the aim to explore and investigate the data traces that are being left behind by those in positions of power suspected of wrongdoings. This approach to finding and leveraging publicly available information is mirrored by the wider organisation, Tactical Tech, who works with activists or interested individuals to minimise their digital shadow and provides practical advice for tools and tactics to increase their digital and physical security. The organisation takes various approaches to this work including producing guides, resources, documentaries, exhibitions, trainings, interactive art spaces. Through publishing all content under creative commons we have some of our resources translated into 16 languages and promote non-commercial tools over their commercial, closed source equivalent.</p> <p class="normal">These resources on social media are not only an essential resource to expose wrongdoings but also to highlight the ease with which individuals can be exposed, something we address in each resource. Exposing the Invisible not only sets out to demonstrate how these techniques work against, for example, corrupt officials, but also how the same techniques are used against activists and campaigners themselves.</p> <p class="normal">The methods, tools and techniques featured below are designed to be replicated by anyone, from activists, campaigners, citizen journalists, artists or armchair investigators with questions such as; Who is at the head of a company? Has your government official been going on too many expensive holidays in comparison to their salary? Is your government commissioning an army of bots to distort public opinion? Can you monitor the movement of weapons through YouTube videos? These are some of the questions that those featured on Exposing the Invisible have looked at but the techniques and tools can be used by anyone who has a question to which they seek an answer to.</p> <h2><strong>Pushing boundaries</strong></h2> <p class="normal">With all technologies, there are those practitioners who take the services or hardware offered, and push the boundaries beyond what was originally intended, stretching the original purpose and sometimes re-appropriating it so that it morphs into something else entirely.</p> <p class="normal">Take, for example, the case of Marc Owen Jones, who successfully lobbied Twitter to take down 1,800 'fake' profiles who were showing spam-like activity in the Persian Gulf. Many of these accounts were promoting content that lionised the Saudi government or Saudi foreign policy. Twitter, once heralded for enabling social movements, is being used in this context to silence real conversations in order to dilute marginalised voices and distort public opinion. Marc <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/resources/obtainingevidence/automated-sectarianism">describes</a> for us how he identified these 'fake' accounts, collected the tweets, analysed the patterns between them to identify the suspicious accounts, and lastly how he visualised&nbsp;the data to highlight the polluting nature of these fake profiles. Through a simple word-cloud Marc presented a visual analysis of the Twitter bios of accounts spreading sectarian propaganda. By visualising the Twitter bios of the fake accounts he was able to see what words they were using to describe themselves and their views and what personal characteristics they were adopting as bots to convince others of their sectarian values. In another visualisation Jones shows the difference between bots and actual accounts through demonstrating the non-interactive nature of bots and their repetitive content on a targeted hashtag.</p> <p class="normal">Continuing that train of thought, the how-to resource <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/resources/obtainingevidence/disclosures-of-a-hashtag">Disclosures of a #Hashtag</a><em> </em>investigates alternative uses for Twitter's hashtag. The hashtag serves as an efficient feature to file, pool and find information along with promoting events and relaying information in real time from conferences to demonstrations. We aim to showcase the possibilities of using hashtags for investigations, and also raise awareness around possible threats so users can make informed choices about how to use Twitter. We focus on two security conferences in early August 2016. Through extracting a sample of tweets posted with the conference hashtags, we analysed the accounts of the users who attended the conference, mapping their locations and networks using Twitter's API, the mapping tool Carto and the visualisation platform Gephi. From the 550 tweets collected we could infer which representatives from which companies were present at the conference, who was following and talking to who on Twitter and have a good idea as to which countries the participants were based. The focus of this investigation was to collect data, the next step being to filter and analyse it to better understand this network of individuals.</p> <h2><strong>What is considered closed is, in fact, open</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Often, social media platforms are considered by their users to be closed spaces in which everything they share is accessible to users they have granted viewing permission. For example, the project IC Watch found and copied 409,820 LinkedIn resumes of people working in the US intelligence sector and placed them in a searchable database. This database is then used to find information about the intelligence community, surveillance programmes and other information that is very much private, but has been posted publicly via the professional networking platform, LinkedIn. We interviewed this project’s founder <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/films/group/mc-mcgrath/">MC McGrath</a> earlier this year.</p> <p class="normal">This investigation is one of the most controversial we feature on Exposing the Invisible<em> </em>as it goes to the outer reaches of what is considered 'public data' and raises various ethical considerations. McGrath told us: “All the data that we use is public data. Some people have sent us emails saying, ‘Posting this personal information online threatens my family’, but really mostly we're using data about people in their professional context. I stick to the people themselves who have outed themselves online already. There's even more information you can get publicly. You can get most personal data publicly if people post about it freely enough online.”</p> <p class="normal">Joana Moll and Cédric Parizot took a similar approach when they gained access to a Facebook group and monitored conversations between people who were <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/resources/obtaining-evidence/the-virtual-watchers">surveilling</a> the US/ Mexico border as a hobby. The project draws its content from a public-private partnership, launched in 2008, to deploy participatory surveillance. The initiative consisted of an 24/7 online platform called RedServant and a network of 200 cameras and sensors located in strategic areas along the US/Mexico border that allowed users to report anonymously if they noticed any suspicious activity on the border. Since its launch in 2008, RedServant had 203,633 volunteer users which resulted in 5331 interdictions, and overall “represents almost one million hours of free labour for the Sheriff.” The programme ended in 2012 due to lack of financial support.</p> <p class="normal">The Virtual Watchers, the research project set up by Moll and Parizot, focuses on the exchanges that occurred within the RedServant Facebook group between 2010 and 2013. Moll joined the Facebook group of those participating in the initiative and recorded all the interactions held in it since 2010. She tells us that “the watchers were considerably more identifiable and trackable than any of the individuals that they were watching over. During the course of our investigation inside Facebook, we didn't need to ask for any “friend requests” in order to access personal information kept within most of the profiles of the members of the RedServant group, as most of their profiles were completely unprotected.”</p> <p class="normal">We also wanted to delve into website ownership. You might expect things like payment contact details or registration information that contain names, addresses and phone numbers, to be very much hidden or protected, but they are freely available from many online and offline tools. Corporate structures are often confusing or intentionally obfuscated, which can make it difficult to understand who might own a particular company, how long it might have existed or where it might be based. Research into website registrant details is often a good first step to gather an indication of who owns a particular service or company and where they are based. &nbsp;Another example, for those interested in looking at fake companies set up by criminal organisations, WHOIS searches can be used to uncover fake online identities and company representation. In <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/resources/obtaining-evidence/whois">Who is WHOIS?</a><em> </em>we reviewed existing tools to see who has registered a particular website, and how this can be useful knowledge to gain.</p> <h2><strong>The consequences of living in quantified society</strong></h2> <p class="normal">With each of these case studies and how-tos comes a cautionary tale. Where investigators can look into hashtags, so can law enforcement or any other third parties. Where an interested individual can look up who owns a particular website, so can a state or a competitor. Not only does living in a data society affect our autonomy, but it can also mean that incorrect information can spread like wild-fire.</p> <p class="normal">In times when news moves faster than ever in an increasingly polarised world, where ‘viral’ rules over facts – from state propaganda, news blown out of proportion, fabricated statistics, misplaced images, wrongfully attributed videos, and twisted facts masqueraded as studies – accuracy is key for many facing life-or-death situations.</p> <p class="normal">In our piece Busting the Viral we interviewed three organisations working on fact-checking: Africa Check (South Africa), Verify Syria and Stop Fake (Ukraine). The three organisations highlighted the challenges faced within the fact-checking sphere. Apart from lack of sufficient funding in certain cases, and for some groups the lack of access to tools and technical resources, fact-checking remains under the challenge of time and a race against the viral spread the unchecked original receives.</p> <p class="normal">In this race against the viral, the three organisations have active websites where the public can fact-check news and submit threads to be investigated. One of the many cases Africa Check has worked on is that where two people died and 20 were hospitalised over the unfounded yet widely-spread information around a cure for Ebola spread via Blackberry messages (BBM) in Nigeria. Among other tasks, Verify Syria keeps an eye on images used in news pieces which are presented as visual evidence. In one instance they revealed an image portrayed as evidence of Turkish soldiers helping Syrian women and children in Jarabulus, a town in Syria when in fact the image was taken from an event two years prior in Turkey. Stop fake Ukraine has accumulated a list of websites known for spreading fake news and regularly monitor them. This puts the focus not only random fabricated links spread here and there, but rather a premeditated plan and a set structure to disseminate fake and misleading information.</p> <p class="normal">It is estimated that 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. While we live in public and are surrounded by data it also has a certain fragility. The Syrian Archive project underlines how fragile this data is and how easily it can disappear. Hadi Al Khatib, the founder of <a href="https://exposingtheinvisible.org/films/group/syrian-archive">The Syrian Archive</a>, became aware that thousands of hours of YouTube videos depicting violations by all parties in the Syrian conflict were not only available on YouTube but also being taken offline, both by YouTube for violating terms and services of the platform, and by users who feared possible retaliation. The archive works towards taking these videos from YouTube and uploading and categorising them onto an open-source platform. This project preserves this vital content for future investigations and legal proceedings by storing, indexing and analysing it, as well as preserving the authorship of the footage, while putting an enormous effort into the verification and classification of these videos.</p> <p class="normal">We need to move on from the debate about whether social media is good or evil. Instead, we should accept the fact that these platforms and apps are tools, to which users and owners can attribute certain values based on their intentions and actual use of them. A hashtag is both a great tool with which to advocate a cause, and expropriate a debate. It can be as helpful for networking and outreach as it is for surveilling and social mapping. Even social mapping can be a beneficial tool to map questionable networks of the status quo, or to expose activists. In the end, it all boils down to understanding the platforms and the tools at hand. As much as it is often exciting to explore their possibilities, it is important to look at the threats they might bring, to make not only an informed choice, but also the best of what we can make with the technology available to us.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gabi-sobliye/exposing-invisible">Exposing the invisible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/en-liang-khong/storming-digital-barricades">Storming the digital barricades</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Exposing the Invisible Fri, 05 May 2017 22:55:41 +0000 Exposing the Invisible 110658 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Facebook needs to face up to the new political reality https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/facebook-needs-to-face-up-to-new-political-reality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Facebook should disclose data on how campaigns are using the platform for political advertising. This general election might be an opportunity to bring that ideal closer.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/2321568327_727114d53c_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/2321568327_727114d53c_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Feinberg/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The big question in any general election is which party will win. Not this time: it’s going to be the Tories. Any other outcome will be be the result of events so unpredictable that they aren’t worth speculating about. What is contested in this election is the political landscape in which the next one will take place, in which one prize that might be up for grabs is getting Facebook to do something about disclosing political ad spending (see wise @steiny on the same cause <a href="https://civichall.org/civicist/all-i-want-for-the-uks-general-election-this-year/">here</a>).</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK parties cannot buy TV advertising, instead TV stations are obliged schedule – at no cost – party political broadcasts. Billboard advertising and the like is at least public – we can see what messages parties are using. Facebook has no such civic niceties. We simply have no idea what party political message is being targeted to whom through Facebook ads, and journalists seem indifferent. Dominic Cummings, who ran the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum says: "there was not a single report anywhere (and very little curiosity) on how the official Vote Leave campaign spent 98% of its marketing budget. There was a lot of coverage of a few tactical posters." Vote Leave spent 98% of its budget on <a href="https://dominiccummings.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/on-the-referendum-21-branching-histories-of-the-2016-referendum-and-the-frogs-before-the-storm-2/">Facebook</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Vote Leave spent 98% of its budget on&nbsp;Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">Social media consultancy Cambridge Analytica has, probably accidentally, done the most to promote discussion of this issue, by claiming it got Trump elected with Facebook ads. If you <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Dd5aVXLCc">watch the spine-chilling video</a>, you’ll see their unrepentant cartoon-robo-villian CEO trying explain away their failure in the Cruz campaign, followed by his lauding absolutely mundane psychological survey techniques as though he’s discovered perpetual motion. Whatever Cambridge Analytica’s contribution, it’s clear that ZuckBook could have an impact.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact we know that Facebook changes voting behaviour. Their ‘I voted’ button has demonstrably <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834737/">increased</a> <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12236/full">turnout</a>. That’s obviously a good thing – but what other effects does Facebook have? What messages are political parties sneaking under the radar? (The full nature of the connection between voter behaviour and social media is extremely unclear, and I hope to post on it in the future… but there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.)</p><p dir="ltr">Facebook ought to tell us – but it won’t. So we should find out for ourselves. <a href="https://whotargets.me/">https://whotargets.me/</a> is a plugin that will automatically collect data from your Facebook about which parties are targeting you – though the surprise election means that it’s currently being developed post-haste. Democracy Club’s <a href="https://electionleaflets.org/">https://electionleaflets.org/</a> is a tool for monitoring the leaflets parties post through your letterbox – and a similar approach might be combined with screen grabs to get some purchase on what parties are up to on Facebook.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What messages are political parties sneaking under the radar?</p><p dir="ltr">The effort is bound to fail – it’s going to be almost impossible to get a comprehensive picture of what parties are doing with their ad spend. But it might succeed in the sense that it can raise awareness of the FB advertising blind spot, perhaps by picking out the most egregious cases where parties are targeting particularly inflammatory or dubious messages, or where they are simultaneously running contradictory messages. Everything helps in building the case for transparency – one big story would be a huge victory.</p><p>It’s likely to be an uphill battle. Everything Facebook does has to scale so massively that even relatively trivial obligations might be rejected as too onerous. More importantly, every time Facebook makes a civic gesture it demonstrates what an obvious candidate for regulation it is; how powerful its mindshare and data can be, and how reminiscent it is of a public utility. These are not things it wants to loom large in the public consciousness. We should be optimistic though – the argument for disclosing political advertising is practically irrefutable.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/leighton-andrews/we-need-european-regulation-of-facebook-and-google">We need European regulation of Facebook and Google</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/facebook-has-become-public-service-it-needs-to-start-acting-like-one">Facebook has become a public service. It needs to start acting like one.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open2017/jimmy-tidey/what-would-twitter-be-with-wikipedia-politics">What would Twitter be if it adopted Wikipedia’s politics?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Jimmy Tidey Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:35:42 +0000 Jimmy Tidey 110440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Smiling into the abyss: what is Facebook doing to our mental health? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/smiling-into-abyss-what-is-facebook-doing-to-our-mental-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Lazy and unconcerned, or buckling under the strains of late capitalism? A manifesto for the selfie generation asks whether we can break our addiction to social media. Book review.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30682420.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Instagram Star Pamela Reif. Jan Woitas/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30682420.jpg" alt="lead " title="Instagram Star Pamela Reif. Jan Woitas/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Instagram Star Pamela Reif. Jan Woitas/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In January, an interview with marketing consultant<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU&amp;t=162s"> Simon Sinek</a> went viral on Facebook. Raising the hackles of millennials everywhere, he branded them “tough to manage, entitled, narcissistic, self-interested [and] unfocused.” You can imagine my delight when my mum sent the video to me: “this might explain why you have so many problems,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Sinek puts the pathologies of Generation Y down to “failed parenting strategies”, the nasty shock of realising you can’t have something just because you want it, and the unhappy pairing of entitlement and low self-esteem millennials carry about with them. According to Sinek, these problems have been compounded by growing up in a Facebook and Instagram world: “we’re good at showing people that ‘life is amazing – even though I’m depressed’.” Absent from Sinek’s account is the<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va6eJJoMjYU"> politics</a> of why millennials might feel this way. Are we just sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned? Or, as Marcus Gilroy-Ware argues in his new book <em>Filling the Void</em>, are we buckling under the strains of late capitalism?</p><p dir="ltr">Social media monetise our distraction. We let them burrow into our lives, and now we’re hooked. These platforms are designed to bypass all impulses to self-control. 1.79 billion of us log onto Facebook each month, Gilroy-Ware reports. According to the digital agency <a href="https://wearesocial.com/uk/blog/2017/01/digital-in-2017-global-overview">We Are Social</a>, the average social media user spends two hours and thirteen minutes on social media every day – nearly 15% of our waking hours.</p><p>But technology is amazing! We keep in touch with our friends and family all over the world; we can do a million new convenient things like swap unwanted possessions, read the news all the time and order takeaways; we can make our mums bitmoji avatars and fashion grandpa an elf costume, just in time for Christmas. And memes are really funny and, damn it, sometimes they stem the tears for a minute. You can even get an app called Moment which <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/21/irresistible-by-adam-alter-review-technology-addiction">monitors your screen time</a> and encourages you to log off (it has in-app purchases).</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Filling the Void</em> offers a broad account of the ills of social media: how Facebook and Twitter are corroding journalism and the dissemination of news, their algorithms mysteriously determining the reach of content, their cynical advertorial interests censoring videos from Black Lives Matter and the <a href="https://bdsmovement.net/">BDS movement</a> alike. We are addicted. Our phones are interrupting our sleep, distracting us while we’re driving, and even, in a few unlucky instances, causing us to fall off cliffs mid-selfie.</p><p>Corporations are creaming off our data for nefarious purposes, namely their own enrichment, and we can’t seem to whip up the energy to stop them. Indeed, we gleefully comply with every new function Facebook introduces (“Love”, “Haha!”, “Angry”) oblivious to the new powers it provides, enabling sites to bore deep into our preferences, personalities and personal relationships, while we believe ourselves to be in the business of pure self-expression: “this illusion is exactly what gives the timeline its power”, says Gilroy-Ware.</p><p><em>Filling the Void</em> gathers urgency in its discussion of what social media is doing to our mental health. Here, it owes much to the late Mark Fisher, whose 2009 book <em>Capitalist Realism</em>&nbsp;has become to many an urtext about how capitalism is harming our culture and our brains. Borrowing Fisher’s concept of “depressive hedonia”, Gilroy-Ware transposes this analysis, which describes a more pervasive state, onto the specific context of digital technology, where it is of course at home.</p><p>Fisher says: “Depression is usually characterised as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle.”</p><p dir="ltr">This will resonate with those of us habituated into the practice of compulsively scrolling through an Instagram or Facebook feed – a dribble of dopamine just keeping you aroused, yet not perhaps fully conscious. Gilroy-Ware calls this an “emotional hamster wheel”: “whereas chemicals known as opioids are responsible for the feeling of pleasure itself,” he writes, “dopamine is responsible for the motivation to seek pleasurable rewards.” This bit of pop science is important: it tells us that social media, much as we had long suspected, can engage but not ever fulfil us.</p><p>A note of poignancy underwrites <em>Filling the Void</em><em>:</em><em>&nbsp;a&nbsp;</em>reminder that the happy, syrupy scenes filling our social media feeds are becoming more absent from our actual lives than ever, as the roots of loneliness, depression and social atomisation grow deeper. “It was like the person was looking for something that was not really on offer...”</p><p>Gilroy-Ware is making a case for de-habituation – arguing that the proper place of writing in our culture is in jolting us out of any dazed assent, and, in this instance, refusing to accept widespread addiction to social media as normal. “Herbert Marcuse spoke of an artistic alienation, born of making “romantic” artistic work in a society that is at odds with the truth that the art expresses; but my young students...are alienated in yet another way: rather than expressing themselves, or some otherwise inexpressible truth, they want to do creative work that is almost entirely in keeping with the dominant values of society. This is entirely understandable given the cultural pressures to which they are subjected...”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It was like the person was looking for something that was not really on offer...</p><p>Gilroy-Ware’s observations cut to the heart of his crucial claim: that capitalism, more than simply influencing culture, has become culture: “to achieve its ultimate ends, capitalism must be the culture of those that live under it”, he says. That we are immersed in the culture of capitalism, which invariably short-circuits our attempts at resistance, begins to communicate something of how stuck we are – a feeling which is all the more acute when you find yourself knee-deep at 1am in the backwaters of a stranger’s timeline.</p><p>There is, still, something uncomfortable about the use of “young students” which, while well-meant, implies the author’s apartness. Gilroy-Ware is clearly appalled at the ever greater co-option of creativity for pumping out capital, and is distressed that we youngsters are so readily complicit in this dilapidation. And I sympathise. But what are the options? Though the capitalistic tendencies of the young are mediated through new filters, are they any more mercenary or naively uncritical than their forebears? The proliferation in “creative industries” is just the latest iteration of a process by which our economies are reorganised around the needs and whims of finance capital. It’s not the young who let this come to pass – but boy are we paying the price.</p><p>If smartphones and social media are bad for our health, they are especially bad for women. People talk of the uberification of social services, and the memefication of culture; but what social media enable is the pornification of swathes of experience, the completion of a process by which the objectification of women becomes internal, and we learn to see our bodies not as the means of carrying out our lives but as products to be constantly modelled and made.</p><p>If, as Gilroy-Ware argues, “pornography is the site at which patriarchal capitalism extracts value from sexual objectification”, this process started long before the advent of social media, but he sidesteps some of the bogeyman sensationalism that often dogs debates about new media by discussing technologies as “a reflection of the cultures in which they are used, rather than determinant of those cultures”. In other words, the social media phenomenon is not some singular thing that is frying our brains and corrupting our culture, but the extension of longer trends and trajectories, and these channels must be discussed in terms of the exacerbating force they exert.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Filling the Void</em> offers a series of practical recommendations about how we can reprise control, from deleting our apps to deliberately scrambling the data social media sites are harnessing. While these recommendations could easily become a little admonishing, in Gilroy-Ware’s hands they are more often imploring and sincere, sneaking past our defences to insist we can do better. I followed some of his advice, and I’m glad I now spend less of my day looking at Kylie Jenner's butt. Maybe I’m a bad case, but I’m still addicted to scrolling, and I waste hours of my life looking at (side-splitting) memes I've already seen. And I wonder, fatalistically, whether a culture shift on this most compulsive of habits is really likely to take hold.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, Gilroy-Ware reminds us of Mark Fisher’s belief that: “emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a “natural order”, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously impossible seem attainable.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/dead-name-why-facebook-doesnt-know-who-we-really-are">Dead name: why Facebook is wrong about who we are</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/katherine-thorson/can-facebook-damage-your-mental-health">Can Facebook damage your mental health? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Phoebe Braithwaite Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:01:27 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite 110393 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transatlantic data transfers and privacy protection: an ongoing battle https://www.opendemocracy.net/valsamis-mitsilegas-niovi-vavoula/transatlantic-data-transfers-and-privacy-protection-ongoing-battle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A meaningful legal response would be the establishment of global privacy standards – a ‘new universal law on surveillance’. Undoubtedly, EU law and case law could provide a guiding light.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/JAC_Passport.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/JAC_Passport.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="581" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Joseph Cannataci: the new UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy.</span></span></span>In an era of ‘big data’ and mass surveillance revelations, it appears that everything is data and data is everything. </p> <p>Everyday activities, such as traveling or using different means of communication, may be accessed by law enforcement authorities, not only within the EU, but also shared with the US officials on the other side of the Atlantic. </p> <p>It goes without saying that this ‘collect-it-all’ mentality, as <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surveillance-After-Snowden-David-Lyon/dp/0745690858">Lyon</a> puts it, places an enormous burden on the fundamental right to privacy, as enshrined in Articles 7 EUCFR and Article 8 ECHR), which according to some skeptics is already dead anyway. </p> <p>In this context, we aim to highlight two main points: the emergence of a global level-playing field on privacy through the development of transatlantic agreements; and the challenges to such developments, including US efforts to circumvent data protection provisions with a view to expanding their extraterritorial reach.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2><strong>Transatlantic data exchanges: towards a global level-playing field on privacy</strong></h2> <p>The long-standing viewpoint of the EU, now entrenched in Article 45 of the <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32016R0679&amp;from=EN">General Data Protection Regulation</a>, is that transfers of personal data from the EU to third countries may take place solely if that country provides an <em>adequate</em> level of privacy protection. </p> <p>With regard to the US, the traditional approach has been one of presumed trust, whereby both the EU and the US mutually recognise their privacy standards. </p> <p>Nevertheless, this declaration of trust was challenged in <a href="http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=c-362/14"><em>Schrems</em></a>, where the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Justice_of_the_European_Union">CJEU</a> declared the invalidity of the EU-US Safe Harbor Agreement (EU-US Safe Harbor Commission Decision), which explicitly asserted that US data protection rules provide an adequate level of protection. Whilst not referring to the NSA revelations as such, the concerns stemming from the possibility of mass surveillance on behalf of the US underpin the Court’s reasoning. Firstly, the Grand Chamber provided a definition of the meaning of adequacy in EU law and by identifying the means of its assessment. It required a particularly high threshold in relation to the transfers of data, by proclaiming that the requirement of adequacy should be understood as requiring the third country to ensure a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that guaranteed under EU law (para 73). <span class="mag-quote-center">The Court of Justice of the European Union clarified that generalised, mass, and unlimited surveillance is contrary to privacy and data protection.</span></p> <p>The Court explained that if there were no such requirement, the objective of ensuring a high level of data protection would be disregarded, and this high level of data protection could easily be circumvented by transfers of personal data from the EU to third countries for processing in those countries. Secondly, it affirmed that the adequacy decisions are subject to a rigorous periodical review, particularly if evidence gives rise to doubts that the level of protection remains adequate (para 76). </p> <p>Of particular importance in this respect are any circumstances that may have arisen after the adoption of the decision (para 77). Based on these general principles, the Grand Chamber found that the level of protection in the US is inadequate, because public authorities could have access on a generalised basis to the content of electronic communications of all persons whose data has been transferred from the EU to the US without any differentiation, limitation or exception, which compromises the essence of privacy, as guaranteed by Article&nbsp;7 of the Charter. By reiterating and expanding its <em>Digital Rights Ireland</em> proclamations, the CJEU clarified that generalised, mass, and unlimited surveillance is contrary to privacy and data protection.</p> <h2><strong>Privacy Shield</strong></h2> <p>The judgment in <em>Schrems</em> has made its way into jurisprudential history as a privacy victory resulting in the Safe Harbor Agreement being replaced by the substantially more detailed Privacy Shield, which was adopted<em> </em>on 12 July 2016. </p> <p>The new framework brings more clarity as regards the data protection obligations on companies importing data from the EU (such as notice obligations, data retention limits, access rights and security requirements) and contains additional safeguards on US access to the data, as well as more effective protection and redress for individuals (to the companies or EU Data Protection Authorities) and annual joint review to monitor compliance with the Agreement that will be conducted by the Commission and the Department of Commerce. Whilst the Privacy Shield constitutes a significant improvement in comparison to the previous regime, privacy challenges remain. As the <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/press-material/press-release/art29_press_material/2016/20160726_wp29_wp_statement_eu_us_privacy_shield_en.pdf">Article 29 Working Party</a> has pointed out, specific rules on automated decisions and of a general right to object are missing, and stricter guarantees concerning the independence and the powers of the Ombudsperson mechanism would have been appropriate. </p> <p>Importantly, the key aspect of the Schrems judgment regarding bulk data access and indiscriminate surveillance has not been adequately addressed, due to a lack of concrete assurances on behalf of US officials. <span class="mag-quote-center">The key aspect of the Schrems judgment regarding bulk data access and indiscriminate surveillance has not been adequately addressed, due to a lack of concrete assurances on behalf of US officials.</span></p> <h2><strong>Umbrella Agreement</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p>The adoption of the Privacy Shield was not the sole development of last year in this field. The first text of a transatlantic agreement on privacy, known as the <a href="http://statewatch.org/news/2015/sep/eu-us-umbrella-agreement-full-text.pdf">‘Umbrella Agreement’</a>, was concluded in December 2016 and entered into force on 1 February 2017, after four years of lively discussions. </p> <p>The Agreement prescribes data protection standards for the transatlantic exchange of personal information in relation to the prevention, detection, or prosecution of criminal offences, including terrorism, with a view to ensuring ‘a high level of protection of personal information ΄whilst enhancing cooperation between the US and the EU and its Member States (Article 2). <span class="mag-quote-center">EU citizens will be entitled to seek the enforcement of their privacy rights before US Courts (Article 19).</span></p> <p>A series of data protection safeguards are included such as a prohibition of data transfer to third parties without the consent of the relevant EU body (Article 7), and limits to the retention periods of the transferred data (Article 12). However, perhaps the most important safeguard – and one much negotiated – is the fact that EU citizens will be entitled to seek the enforcement of their privacy rights before US Courts (Article 19). </p> <p>Although originally the US refused to grant judicial redress and insisted on administrative redress only, the Judicial Redress Bill successfully passed in October 2015. Even so, the ‘Umbrella Agreement’ seems to disregard the CJEU’s pronouncements in <em>Digital Rights Ireland</em> and <em>Schrems</em>, not only by maintaining the presumption that the US data protection regime complies with the EU one, but also by allowing the onward transfer of data with ‘other authorities’ including ‘authorities of constituent territorial entities of the Parties not covered by this Agreement’ (Articles 6(2), 14(1) and (2) and 20(1)(b)). </p> <p>Furthermore, even though the Agreement refers to ‘effective oversight’, the US will meet this requirement ‘cumulatively’ – that is through more than one authority, which does not meet the independent supervision requirements of EU law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 21(3)). </p> <p>As for judicial redress, its availability is subject to any requirements that administrative redress first be exhausted (Article 19) and only to address violations of the Agreement, not to challenge the lawfulness of data processing as a whole. Besides, judicial redress is applicable only to citizens of the parties to the agreement, which falls short of the ECHR.</p> <h2><strong>Mass surveillance moves in</strong></h2> <p>The aforementioned developments highlight three interrelated issues; first, the emergence of the CJEU as a quasi-constitutional court and a guardian of privacy and data protection rights, with a key role in establishing a global privacy regime embracing high-standard characteristics; secondly, be that as it may, the role of the Court is not enough, since the legislation adopted in the aftermath of judgments such as <em>Schrems</em>, though constituting a noticeable improvement, still falls short of EU privacy standards; and third, a recurring competition between the EU and the US to impose their privacy standards has resulted in the EU privacy regime being sidelined in <em>lieu</em> of the US model which is based on mass surveillance and bulk processing of data in a generalised manner. </p> <p>This highly permissive model is also highlighted by the US practice to bypass existing arrangements in order to have direct access to personal data held by private entities in the EU.</p> <h2><strong>Extraterritorial access to private companies’ data by law enforcement authorities</strong></h2> <p>A key case for understanding how the US authorities have attempted to bypass the already relaxed data protection provisions with a view to having access to private data is the <a href="http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca2/14-2985/14-2985-2017-01-24.html"><em>Microsoft Corp. v United States</em></a> saga. </p> <p>The case arose in 2013 when Microsoft refused to disclose the contents of an email account to the US authorities, despite being mandated by a search warrant, on the basis that the US court could not compel Microsoft to do so because the data were stored in Ireland and in any case the data were owned by the email user, rather than the company as such. </p> <p>The US government argued that there was no conflict of laws and that the US retains the authority to order an entity within its jurisdiction to repatriate records. According to this view, Microsoft, as a US-based company, enjoys a “corporate citizenship” which involves some responsibilities, including the duty to comply with a disclosure order issued by a US court. In May 2014, a federal magistrate judge disagreed with Microsoft and ordered it to turn over the emails, but Microsoft won the appeal before the District Court for the Southern District of New York. Although the Government requested a second hearing, the end of the Microsoft saga was marked in January 2017 with the denial of the request. </p> <p>Undoubtedly, the fundamental problem with the US approach lies in the fact that it completely disregards and circumvents the formal and mandatory procedure of a mutual legal assistance request, as prescribed in the dedicated legal instrument, the EU-US Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), signed in 2003 alongside a parallel transatlantic Agreement on extradition, which must be interpreted in conformity with the Charter and the Court's case-law in <em>Digital Rights Ireland, Schrems</em> and <em>Watson</em>. </p> <p>As Digital Rights Ireland Limited has eloquently <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/250254939/Amicus-Brief-Digital-Rights-Ireland-Liberty-and-ORG-in-Microsoft-v-USA">pointed out</a>: &nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>‘[a]dopting the US position would allow the US government unilaterally to substitute US court compulsion for the balancing process represented by the MLAT information request procedures’. </p></blockquote> <p>The US counter-arguments in this respect are that using MLATs would not be effective, as the data could quickly be moved to a different country and because mutual legal assistance procedures are lengthy and do not result in a prompt disclosure of records. </p> <p>Remarkably, by opting for direct access to the data, the US authorities wish to circumvent an agreement which is problematic on its own merit, with rather weak provisions on data protection and privacy. For example, Article 9 aims at facilitating the exchange of data between the US and the EU to the broadest extent possible, despite their differences in privacy protection. Furthermore, key principles of data protection law, such as the purpose limitation, are nullified due to the broadly worded purpose of the Agreement. Another point of concern involves Article 9(4), which allows a State to apply the use limitation provision of the applicable bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty instead of Article 9 of the Agreement, when doing so will result in less restriction on the use of information. </p> <h2><strong>To </strong><strong>conclude</strong></h2> <p>This briefing attempts to highlight the ongoing tension between the need to ensure effective law enforcement whilst safeguarding the privacy of individuals to the greatest extent possible on the basis of the high EU standards. </p> <p>We want to draw attention not only to the legitimisation of the American model of surveillance through transatlantic cooperation, but to the current struggle taking place – even with a little help from the Courts – to provide an effective protection of privacy. </p> <p>A meaningful legal response in this respect would be <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/valsamis-mitsilegas/developing-global-privacy-regime-in-age-of-mass-surveillance-four-key-principles">the establishment of global privacy standards</a>, in the form of a ‘new universal law on surveillance’<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in a Digital Age, Joseph Cannataci, frames it. Undoubtedly, EU law and case law could provide a guiding light in this respect, by requiring the prohibition of mass and indiscriminate surveillance already from the stage of data collection, and mandating a comprehensive legal framework regarding the extraterritorial reach of the State and the extraterritorial application of human rights.</p><p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/24/we-need-geneva-convention-for-the-internet-says-new-un-privacy-chief"> </a><em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/24/we-need-geneva-convention-for-the-internet-says-new-un-privacy-chief">Digital Surveillance ‘worse than Orwell</a>’, says new UN privacy chief, </em>the Guardian, 24 August 2015.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See <a href="https://www.ceps.eu/content/ceps-ideas-lab-2017-reconstructing-union">CEPS Ideas Lab 2017 - Reconstructing the Union</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ideaslab2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/CEPS-Armband.jpg" width="100%" style="margin-bottom:10px;" /></a> <div style="90%;"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ian-borg/migration-policies-effective-ways-to-address-smuggling">Migration policies: effective ways to address smuggling</a><br />IAN BORG <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/karolina-babicka/refugee-crisis-and-central-and-eastern-europe-what-solidarity-do-we-need">Refugee crisis and Central and Eastern Europe: what solidarity do we need?</a><br />KAROLINA BABICKA <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jean-pierre-schembri/tomorrow-s-agency-for-asylum">Tomorrow’s Agency for Asylum</a><br />JEAN-PIERRE SCHEMBRI <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/brian-donald/migrant-smuggling-to-eu-need-for-coordinated-response">Migrant smuggling to the EU – the need for a coordinated response</a><br />BRIAN DONALD <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/regina-catrambone/three-humanitarian-proposals">Three humanitarian proposals</a><br />REGINA CATRAMBONE <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/m-rio-marques/challenges-of-mediterranean-illegal-migration-crisis">Challenges of the Mediterranean illegal migration crisis</a><br />MÁRIO MARQUES <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anneliese-baldaccini/it-is-time-to-move-beyond-dublin-logic">It is time to move beyond the Dublin logic</a><br />ANNELIESE BALDACCINI <hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/kamil-matuszczyk/migration-crisis-in-2017-challenges-for-eu-solidarity">Migration crisis in 2017 – challenges for EU solidarity</a><br />KAMIL MATUSZCZYK </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/elspeth-guild-didier-bigo-sergio-carrera/method-in-trump-s-madness">Method in Trump’s madness?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/david-krivanek-dia-kayyali/street-surveillance-and-skyrocketing-self-defence">Street surveillance and skyrocketing self-defence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/valsamis-mitsilegas/developing-global-privacy-regime-in-age-of-mass-surveillance-four-key-principles">Developing a global privacy regime in the age of mass surveillance: four key principles</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? United States EU CEPS 2017 Niovi Vavoula Valsamis Mitsilegas Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:35 +0000 Valsamis Mitsilegas and Niovi Vavoula 110318 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Method in Trump’s madness? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/elspeth-guild-didier-bigo-sergio-carrera/method-in-trump-s-madness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A look at Donald Trump’s 'travel bans' with an eye to the harvesting of personal data, and the EU-US Privacy Shield, now on life support.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31017672.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31017672.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Trump looks over Executive Orders on April 21, 2017. Ron Sachs/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On January 27, 2017, the US President issued an Executive Order entitled “<em>Protecting the nation from foreign terrorists’ entry into the United States</em>”.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> The order suspended the admission to the US of nationals from seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for a 90-day period. In addition, the order suspended the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and placed a cap on the number of arrivals permitted in the fiscal year 2017. In another important move, the order requires the Department of Homeland Security together with the Attorney General to collect and publish, every 180 days, statistics on the number of foreign nationals charged with terrorism-related offences (or radicalised). The first travel ban also included a number of other grounds, which were removed from the second version.</p> <p>The implementation of the Executive Order immediately resulted in substantial chaos in the travel industry as companies aligned their practices to the new reality of ‘non-admission’. It also sparked controversy in many parts of the country owing to the questionable legality of separating families and the constitutionality of the order itself. Several legal challenges were successfully waged in US trial courts, leading to a decision of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on February 9, which upheld the original decisions and refused to reverse the lower courts. The first plaintiffs in the matters were two states: Washington and Minnesota. </p> <p>On March 6, the US President issued a new Executive Order<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> once again barring from entry into the US nationals of six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Iraq had been taken off the list, a fact we will come back to shortly). Similarly to its predecessor, it suspended the refugee programme and ordered statistics on foreign offenders to be collected, but this time the argumentation for the selection of the six countries was (marginally) more sophisticated. A judge in Hawaii has already suspended the new Executive Order and at the time of writing it is not clear how far the US Government will appeal the matter.<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a></p> <p class="p1">Despite the very considerable media coverage of the impact, effects and fate of the Executive Orders, there has been surprising silence about the core objective of the orders, as if the terminology ‘Muslim ban’, focusing on identity politics, has successfully distracted attention from the data harvesting objective of the order. </p> <p class="p1">In fact, all countries which refuse to deliver the personal data of their citizens to the US could be put on the list. Therefore the objective is not to struggle against the state sponsors of terrorism, but to have an advantage regarding the harvesting of personal data in the world, in order to feed US intelligence agencies for many uses which may go far beyond the struggle against terrorism. <span class="mag-quote-center">Therefore the objective is not to struggle against the state sponsors of terrorism, but to have an advantage regarding the harvesting of personal data in the world.</span></p> <p class="p1">Section 3 of the January 27 order and Section 2 of the March 6 order are substantially the same. They state the purpose of the Executive Order and what the President seeks by these rather dramatic actions. The purpose is simple: <em>to require foreign countries to provide information about their citizens as requested by the US authorities.</em> The information that the US authorities seek about nationals of foreign countries is for the purpose of adjudicating an application by the person for a visa, admission or other benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Specifically, it is to determine <em>“whether the presence of an alien in the country or area increases the likelihood that the alien is a credible threat to the national security of the United States</em>”. </p> <p class="p1">It is not specified what information that may be, but it is information that is <em>additional</em> to what is already available to the US authorities. The purpose of the adjudication is to determine that the person is not a security or public-safety threat. The objective is to assess the credibility of the alien not on the basis of his or her actions, but through <em>a correlation of travel undertaken by the individual and a profile generated by an algorithm</em>, which the US authorities call a “threat assessment”. </p> <p class="p1">What this means is that the individual becomes a part of a class of persons with whom he or she has no connection at all except that which the algorithm has determined. There is no question of a presumption of innocent behaviour here but rather the production of an algorithm of suspicion accumulating in different watchlists the number of persons to flag or to refuse at the borders, as subjects who are “potentially dangerous” and almost guilty by association without any efficient causality. The section in addition permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to require certain information from particular countries about their nationals but not from others (no equality among countries is required).</p> <h2><strong>What do they want to know?</strong></h2> <p>Nowhere in the Executive Order is it made clear <em>what</em> information the US authorities want states to provide to them about their own citizens. We know, however, that the US Congress amended the Visa Waiver Program on 18 December 2015 (under the Obama Presidency) and required all travellers of Visa Waiver Program countries (which includes most EU citizens) travelling to the US after 21 January 2016 who had been present in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan or Yemen at any time on or after 1 March 2011 to obtain a visa before travelling to the US.<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a> The Commission also noted this change in its report on visa reciprocity in April 2016.<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> </p> <p>Perhaps some of the additional information that the US authorities seek relates to the travel activities of other citizens. However it is not evident that states are aware of their citizens’ travel histories. It may be that governments become aware of where their citizens have been in the process of renewing or replacing their passports. Yet this is not always necessarily the case. <em>Only travel agencies and airlines through their shared passenger name record (PNR) systems have solid evidence of where people have been.</em> According to experts, there are only three major companies that process and store PNR: Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport (the latter consisting essentially of Worldspan and Galileo, both of which are part of Travelport but with separate operations).<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a> Amadeus is based in Spain, and the other two are US companies. </p> <p>Perhaps the US has in mind achieving with other countries a similar kind of cooperation as the one established by its authorities, under a 2013 agreement, between the UK, Northern Ireland and the US,<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a> in which the UK shares all data on all persons (except US nationals) seeking authorisation to transit through, travel to, work in the UK or take up UK citizenship, including data from admissibility, immigration and nationality compliance actions. This includes personal data, statistical data or both. Via an exchange of notes on 29 September 2016,<a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a> the scope of the agreement was enlarged to include British citizens (EU citizens had already been included in the original 2013 agreement). <span class="mag-quote-center">It may simply be that the US has decided that negotiating such agreements requires too much time and has the disadvantage of requiring reciprocity.</span></p> <p>While citizens generally are not required to provide much in the way of documentation other than a passport to enter their own state, they may have to provide substantial amounts of personal data to sponsor third-country national family members or visitors. This information is also now freely available to the US authorities (on a reciprocal basis of course). But the US only has two such agreements in force: with Canada and the UK. Although in principle such agreements were to be concluded between the so-called ‘Five Eye countries’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA), no agreement with the latter two countries has yet been concluded. It may simply be that the US has decided that negotiating such agreements requires too much time and has the disadvantage of requiring reciprocity, prompting the authorities to seek a more coercive way to encourage the “sharing” of personal data.</p> <h2><strong>Convincing Iraq</strong></h2> <p>Given that the objective of the first and second Executive Orders is to encourage states to provide the US with personal data about their citizens, have they been successful in achieving this objective? It seems so with the weakest. Between the first and the second Executive Order, the Iraqi government took steps to enhance travel documentation, information sharing and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to removal orders from the US (section 1(g) Executive Order 6 March 2017). This would seem to indicate that the <em>threat of a blanket US travel ban based on citizenship has had the desired effect of convincing the Iraqi authorities to share more personal data about their citizens with the US</em>. The order does not specify what additional information is now being shared that was not before. </p> <p>Both the first and second Executive Orders provide that the governments of the countries whose nationals are subject to these bans will be requested to provide information within 60 days of notification or be subject to an extension of the ban (Section 2(d)). Furthermore, the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence will conduct a worldwide review to identify what <em>additional information</em> is needed from each country in order to determine that its citizens are not a security or public-safety threat (Section 2(a)). Failure to provide the information results in inclusion in the list of countries whose citizens are banned from entry to the US (Section 2). At any time the President can add more countries to the list (Section 2(f)). </p> <h2><strong>Conflicting with the EU</strong></h2> <p class="mag-quote-center">Mass or bulk surveillance of EU citizens is not consistent with EU data protection rules as well as the legal principles of proportionality and necessity.</p> <p>There is no consideration in the Executive Orders of the consequences for other countries of revealing personal data about their citizens to a foreign state. The assumption is that <em>if the law of a country or jurisdiction presents an obstacle to personal data sharing, it is for the country concerned to change the law or accept a no-entry ban for its citizens to the US</em>. This poses substantial conflicts with European Union laws which rely on a solid <em>data protection and privacy legal framework</em>. </p> <p>In addition to the 2016 General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 and the Data Protection Directive for police and criminal justice authorities 2016/680,<a href="#_ftn9">[9]</a> the Court of Justice of the EU has handed down a series of landmark judgments requiring the European institutions and Member States to refrain from permitting the transfer of personal data to third countries except where EU privacy standards are complied with.<a href="#_ftn10">[10]</a> In brief, the main EU rules on data protection essentially require the following legal standards to be effectively protected:</p> <ol><li>a clear limit on the use of data to the purpose for which it has been collected (purpose limitation principle);</li><li>time limits on retention of data consistent with the purpose;</li><li>deletion of personal data as soon as it is no longer needed;</li><li>limitation on access to data only to those specifically authorised;</li><li>a prohibition on onward transfer and use unless specifically authorised; and</li><li>the entitlement of the data subject to control of his or her personal data, correction and deletion as well as effective remedies and judicial redress rights.</li></ol> <p>In the 2015 <em>Schrems</em> case the Court of Justice concluded that access on a generalised basis to electronic communications is tantamount to compromising the essence of the EU fundamental right to respect for private life laid down in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a> This effectively means that mass or bulk surveillance of EU citizens is not consistent with EU data protection rules as well as the legal principles of proportionality and necessity. The Luxembourg Court held that access on a generalised basis to the context of electronic communications is tantamount to profoundly compromising the essence of the fundamental right to respect for private life.<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a> The Court also found that ensuring access to effective remedies and independent judicial review of the derogations or interferences by state and national security authorities of the rights of privacy and data protection in the name of national security, constitute key conditions for ensuring the rule of law.<a href="#_ftn13">[13]</a> <span class="mag-quote-center">Access on a generalised basis to the context of electronic communications is tantamount to profoundly compromising the essence of the fundamental right to respect for private life.</span></p> <h2><strong>Does the data subject have rights?</strong></h2> <p>Access to EU citizens’ personal data has been much discussed in the context of EU-USA transatlantic data flows by commercial enterprises. The issue of the protection of EU fundamental rights of the data subject was a matter of controversy and some complexity in light of the US approach to personal data as belonging to the agency or entity which has collected it rather than the data subject, and persisting US practices of bulk surveillance. After the invalidation by the Court of Justice of the EU of the previous Safe Harbour decision in the above-mentioned <em>Schrems</em> Case C-362/14 in October 2015, a rather convoluted solution to the EU – US difference was found in order to enable companies to send persons data between the EU and the US, under the guise of the so-called ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’.<a href="#_ftn14">[14]</a> </p> <p>The legality and adequacy of the EU-US Privacy Shield as sufficiently protective of EU personal data legal standards has since then been disputed.<a href="#_ftn15">[15]</a> The adoption on January 3, 2017 of yet another Executive Order 12333 by the US Attorney General on ‘<em>Procedures for the availability or dissemination of raw signals intelligence information by the National Security Agency under Section 2.3</em>’ puts the sustainability of the Privacy Shield and the EU right to privacy under increasing strain.<a href="#_ftn16">[16]</a> The Executive Order basically allows the US NSA ever greater and direct access and processing of raw data and communications of EU citizens and residents without any clear and effective democratic supervision, judicial guarantees and effective remedies. <span class="mag-quote-center">The Executive Order basically allows the US NSA ever greater and direct access and processing of raw data and communications of EU citizens and residents without any clear and effective democratic supervision.</span></p> <h2><strong>An explosive EU-US cocktail</strong></h2> <p>This Executive Order takes US security practices into yet another major step away from EU data protection rules, and when combined with the previously mentioned Executive Order aimed at ‘<em>Protecting the nation from foreign terrorists’ entry into the United States</em>’ the resulting cocktail is nothing but explosive. Consequently, the ‘adequacy decision’ that the European Commission conducts regarding the legality of transfer of data between commercial organisations from the EU to the US (in particular the extent to which the level of protection of the right to privacy and data protection in the US is <em>essentially equivalent</em> to the one in the EU) is simply bound to fall apart. <span class="mag-quote-center">All these Executive Orders constitute evidence that the US is effectively non-compliant.</span></p> <p>All these Executive Orders constitute evidence that the US is effectively non-compliant. A similar conclusion has been reached by the European Parliament. In a Motion for a Resolution adopted on March 29, 2017 the Parliament expresses deep concerns about these developments in the US and calls on the European Commission to independently and transparently examine the compatibility of these new US orders and practices with the commitments by the EU under the Privacy Shield.<a href="#_ftn17">[17]</a> </p> <p>The European Parliament is also calling on the Commission to re-consider its current decision about the adequacy, effectiveness and feasibility of the privacy and data protection granted by the US in the upcoming first joint annual review of the Privacy Shield,<a href="#_ftn18">[18]</a> in particular in the context of law enforcement activities and national security authorities. </p> <p>The Parliament also reminds EU data protection authorities (EU DPAs) to closely monitor these latest developments and effectively exercise their envisaged powers, including the possibility of temporarily suspending or definitely banning personal data transfers to the US.</p> <h2><strong>Sweetener or threat</strong></h2> <p>The US approach in the 6 March 2017 Executive Order appears to be to require states to provide personal data about their citizens to the US or to face blanket travel bans against their citizens entering the US. This means that any concerns which states may have about the protection of the personal data of their citizens are by and large overridden. The negotiation of an agreement with the US which seeks to satisfy these requirements, such as the EU-US Privacy Shield, is no longer the US model. Instead, access to US territory is the sweetener or the threat which is being used to extract from states personal data about their citizens. <span class="mag-quote-center">Access to US territory is the sweetener or the threat which is being used to extract from states personal data about their citizens.</span></p> <p>As the European Commissioner has recently stated, "The commitments the US has taken must be respected".<a href="#_ftn19">[19]</a> EU-USA Transatlantic data transfers can only happen under effective rule of law and fundamental rights protection. The European Commission should seek written clarification by US authorities about the intention and impact of all these recent US Executive Orders and closely engage the European Parliament in the follow-up process. </p> <p>The evidence on inadequacy of protection in the US cannot be more solid. A Commission decision suspending the EU-US Privacy Shield would be an inevitable and welcomed step forward in ensuring more legal certainty for companies, citizens and authorities in the EU.</p> <p>A clear message which must inform this new phase of transatlantic relations is that unilateral actions exclude the possibility of diplomacy and prevent a balanced weighing of different perspectives, costs and interests in complex times for international relations. </p> <h2><strong>Let’s talk about this<br /></strong></h2> <p>The US Executive Orders examined in this paper reveal however a profound lack of consultation with the relevant actors affected by these decisions, chiefly the authorities of other states and supranational organisations such as the EU, but also the private sector, all of which have legitimate and critical interests in these matters. </p> <p>More mistrust has inevitably followed, which calls in our view for <em>more diplomacy and democratic rule of law with fundamental rights guarantees and cooperation</em> as the most effective antidotes. One way to move this forward would be for the European Parliament to boost and further strengthen existing efforts under the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue<a href="#_ftn20">[20]</a> in an attempt to substantially reinforce a regular and structured venue for inter-parliamentary dialogue with their relevant counterparts in the US Congress and Senate. </p> <p>This could constitute a new democratic scrutiny framework for sharing information and cooperating more closely on relevant US and EU legal and policy developments which like the recent US Executive Orders have profound repercussions on transatlantic relations covering Justice and Home Affairs policies.</p><p><em>This briefing was <a href="https://www.ceps.eu/publications/trump%E2%80%99s-travel-bans-harvesting-personal-data-and-requiem-eu-us-privacy-shield">first published </a>by the Centre for European Policy Studies on April 5, 2017.</em></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> The White House, Office of Press Department, Executive Order ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’, 27th January 2017. Retrievable from <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states">https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 6th March 2017, Available at <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states">https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> The New York Times, Hawaii Judge Extends Order Blocking Trump’s Travel Ban, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/us/politics/travel-ban-trump-judge-hawaii.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/us/politics/travel-ban-trump-judge-hawaii.html</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (<a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr158/summary">https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr158/summary</a>) accessed 17 March 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> European Commission, Communication on the “State of play and the possible ways forward as regards the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy”, COM(2016)221, 12 April 2016.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Edward Hasbrouck, “What's in a Passenger Name Record (PNR)?”, The Practical Nomad (<a href="https://hasbrouck.org/articles/PNR.html">https://hasbrouck.org/articles/PNR.html</a>) accessed 17 March 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America for the Sharing of Visa, Immigration, and Nationality Information 18 April 2013.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Treaty Series No. 35 (2016).</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC, OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1; Directive (EU) 2016/680 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> Refer to C‑362/14 <em>Schrems,</em> 6 October 2015.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> For an analysis see S. Carrera and E. Guild (2015), Safe Harbour or into the Storm? EU-US Data Transfers after the Schrems Judgment, CEPS Liberty and Security in Europe Papers, Brussels, November 2015.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> Refer to paragraph paragraphs 94 and 95 of the judgment.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref13">[13]</a> Paragraph 95 of the <em>Schrems</em> judgement. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref14">[14]</a> Refer to <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2461_en.htm">http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2461_en.htm</a> See also European Commission, Communication Transatlantic Data Flows: Restoring Trust through Strong Safeguards, COM(2016) 117 final, 29.2.2016.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref15">[15]</a> See for instance <a href="http://www.alstonprivacy.com/eu-u-s-privacy-shield-faces-judicial-attack/">http://www.alstonprivacy.com/eu-u-s-privacy-shield-faces-judicial-attack/</a> accessed 30 March 2017. For an overview of the Privacy Shield Programme visit <a href="https://www.privacyshield.gov/Program-Overview">https://www.privacyshield.gov/Program-Overview</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref16">[16]</a> The full text of this Executive Order is available in the New York Times article ‘N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications’, 12 January 2017, retrievable from <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/us/politics/nsa-gets-more-latitude-to-share-intercepted-communications.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/us/politics/nsa-gets-more-latitude-to-share-intercepted-communications.html</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref17">[17]</a> European Parliament, Motion for a Resolution, on the adequacy of the protection afforded by the EU-US Privacy Shield&nbsp;(2016/3018(RSP)), 29. March 2017, accessible at <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&amp;reference=B8-2017-0235&amp;format=XML&amp;language=EN">http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&amp;reference=B8-2017-0235&amp;format=XML&amp;language=EN</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref18">[18]</a> European Commission, Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/1250 of 12 July 2016 pursuant to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the adequacy of the protection provided by the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, C(2016) 4176, OJ L 207/1, 1.8.2016.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref19">[19]</a> EUobserver, EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy, 30 March 2017, available at <a href="https://euobserver.com/justice/137438">https://euobserver.com/justice/137438</a> See also EUobserver, Trump's anti-privacy order stirs EU angst, 27 January 2017, retrievable from <a href="https://euobserver.com/justice/136699">https://euobserver.com/justice/136699</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref20">[20]</a> For more information see <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/intcoop/tld/default_en.htm">http://www.europarl.europa.eu/intcoop/tld/default_en.htm</a> </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Australia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Canada </div> <div class="field-item odd"> New Zealand </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> South Sudan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Yemen Syria South Sudan Somalia Libya Iran New Zealand Canada Australia Iraq UK United States EU Sergio Carrera Didier Bigo Elspeth Guild Sat, 22 Apr 2017 13:20:04 +0000 Elspeth Guild, Didier Bigo and Sergio Carrera 110316 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Apathy about privacy is a myth: why users do care about data collection https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/julianne-tveten/myth-of-online-privacy-apathy-why-users-do-care-about-data-collection <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The burden of protecting online privacy should be placed on corporations and governments, not on citizens.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563365/10501901123_63e956d650_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563365/10501901123_63e956d650_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rally in Washington DC Against Mass Surveillance. Susan Melkisethian. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In recent weeks, two events have deviled the digital-privacy community and online commentariat. In March, Wikileaks released <a href="https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/">Vault7</a>, a series of leaks detailing the CIA’s comprehensive program to surveil American citizens through such devices as smart TVs, Web browsers, and operating systems. Later that month, Congress voted in favor of <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/34">S.J. Res. 34</a>, a bill repudiating the late-Obama-era regulations of surreptitious user-data collection by internet service providers (ISPs) for commercial gain. In the wake of these developments, the matter of online privacy has reached the forefront of political discourse, lightly evoking the fevered concerns of Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA revelations.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">What can explain this dissonance between Americans’ supposed apathy toward online privacy and security, versus their actual, documented concerns about it?</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, it isn’t always this way. Discussions of online privacy within mainstream media occur periodically, following Congress’s lists of priorities. In the cybersecurity off-season, when no leaks have occurred within the last two weeks, and the House of Representatives has no privacy bill on which to vote any time soon, the notion of digital protection is relegated to a vaguely dystopian unpleasantry lying latent in the political conscious. </p><p dir="ltr">Since Snowden’s leaks surfaced, Americans have learned that use of the 21st-century internet poses a continuous, tacit threat: an ISP like Verizon, AT&amp;T, or Comcast has a tremendous capacity to deliver user information and browsing habits to governments and advertisers alike. Websites like Google or Facebook, so-called “edge providers”, can do the same, but only--ostensibly, at least--when users are logged into their services. Yet most of the instances in which users are explicitly reminded of this threat are reactionary: the data exploitation they learn of is either long-established, or, in the case of S.J. Res. 34, conditions surrounding said exploitation have suddenly grown worse.</p><h2>Who cares?</h2><p dir="ltr">It’s easy, then, to dismiss the issue of online privacy as one that simply flies under most Americans’ proverbial radars. <a href="https://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/09/13/do-we-really-care-about-our-online-privacy/#.tnw_l6VwOKc4">The Next Web</a> did so in 2011 in an article entitled “Do we really care about our online privacy?” (Based on the content of the article, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headlines">Betteridge’s Law</a> applies.) <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/online-privacy-who-cares-2012-2">Business Insider</a> followed suit with 2012’s hot take “THE TRUTH ABOUT ONLINE PRIVACY: Who Cares?,” as did <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/12/01/lets-face-it-we-dont-really-care-about-privacy/#47f3c3e15698">Forbes</a> in a post-Snowden 2014 with “Let’s Face It, We Don’t Really Care About Privacy.” The central conceit: Americans are more than willing to relinquish their personal data in exchange for the conveniences of photo storage, auto-populated search, and artificial-intelligence “assistants” like Siri or Amazon Echo. And because there are often no perceived tangible consequences, they’re not motivated to care.</p><p dir="ltr">Though the theory may seem valid anecdotally, it’s not airtight. According to <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/11/12/public-privacy-perceptions/">Pew research</a> from late 2014, 46% of the 607 adults surveyed felt insecure sharing private information over their cell phones, 58% felt insecure texting private information, and 81% felt “not very” or “not at all secure” using social media to share private information. “Most say they want to do more to protect their privacy, but many believe it is not possible to be anonymous online,” the center concluded. A <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/">subsequent survey</a> found that 90% of polled Americans valued controlling what information is collected about them, while 93% said being in control of who has access to their information is “important.” Echoing its 2014 conclusion, Pew noted, “Few feel they have ‘a lot’ of control over how much information is collected about them in daily life and how it is used.”</p><p dir="ltr">What, then, can explain this dissonance between Americans’ supposed apathy toward online privacy and security, versus their actual, documented concerns about it? </p><h2>What citizens can and can't do</h2><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">If civilians don't seem concerned about their digital security, it's because what's at stake... isn't made apparent to them.</p><p dir="ltr">If civilians don't seem concerned about their digital security, it's because what's at stake, and how to protect themselves, aren't made apparent to them. To state the obvious: the internet is an invisible, nonphysical entity. Users can’t see the mechanisms that spy on them, and most can’t escape them. Those who enjoy high levels of technological literacy--whether from a university education or a penchant for autodidacticism--may use their knowledge for greater protections, but for the layperson, cybersecurity is likely to be opaque and labyrinthine.</p><p dir="ltr">Consider, for example, Google’s ad and user-tracking settings. By default, users’ activity across all Google applications--Gmail, YouTube, Google Chrome, Google Maps, and of course, the search engine--is tracked, soon metamorphosing into targeted advertising. In order not to see personalized ads, or to delete location history, or to clear YouTube search history, a user must navigate through a series of steps in their account settings to opt out. For many, this is neither instinctive nor urgent. (Navigating to, say, the DAA’s Consumer Choice page to <a href="http://www.aboutads.info/choices/">opt out of personalized ads</a> within a browser is, to be generous, unintuitive.) Similarly, users must sift through fine print to understand the security benefits an iOS software update confers or to decipher the latest change to Facebook’s privacy policy.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">When users don’t know the internal contours of surveillance and data-harvesting campaigns, they won’t know how to obstruct them.</p><p dir="ltr">While these measures are within a user’s control, it’s hard not to suspect that their convoluted nature is by design. <span class="direction-rtl">It’s this type of confusing framework that governments and advertisers can so easily capitalize on; when users don’t know the internal contours of surveillance and data-harvesting campaigns, they won’t know how to obstruct them.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class="direction-rtl">It’s this type of confusing framework that governments and advertisers can so easily capitalize on; when users don’t know the internal contours of surveillance and data-harvesting campaigns, they won’t know how to obstruct them.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Increasing user protections on an individual basis is at least a temporary solution to this problem. A number of digital-rights organizations have sought to address the issue. <a href="https://www.torproject.org/">The Tor Project</a> offers an encrypted operating system, Tails, and the web browser Tor, among other services, to aid online anonymity. Last year, the nonprofit <a href="https://hackblossom.org/">HACK*BLOSSOM</a> released the “<a href="https://hackblossom.org/cybersecurity/">DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity</a>,” which outlines strategies to avoid attacks ranging from harassment to phishing. Even Mozilla, the corporation behind the Firefox browser, <a href="https://internethealthreport.org/v01/">has hopped</a> on the cybersecurity-education bandwagon.</p><h2>Government efforts and policy</h2><p>While these efforts are of monumental importance, they’re merely Band-Aids covering the wounds of privatization. Even before Trump’s ascent to the presidency, the nature of internet oversight was historically laissez-faire, rendering the web an often predatory place ripe for commercial takeover. Governments have failed to regulate the internet as a public utility, furnishing it with unchecked invasive potential. </p><p>Though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) technically <a href="https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-strong-sustainable-rules-protect-open-internet">classified</a>&nbsp;internet as a utility in 2015, it wasn’t until late 2016 that the government <a href="https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-broadband-consumer-privacy-rules">barred ISPs</a> from collecting such sensitive data as social-security numbers and healthcare information without explicit user consent--a law Americans now won’t see come to fruition any time in the near future. The loss of such regulation is foreboding: these requirements were protocol for a communications utility; were a phone company to eavesdrop on a user’s call without that person’s knowledge, it would be violating the law. Now, however, such strictures don’t apply to internet providers. </p><p dir="ltr">Historically, these companies’ unfettered powers have behooved governmental bodies pushing forward mass-surveillance programs. As the aforementioned leaks have demonstrated, federal agencies have colluded with talent from the privatized internet’s most powerful data beneficiaries--Google, Facebook, and the liketo clandestinely monitor their constituents’ activity. The executive branch’s prodigious surveillance powers, bolstered in large part thanks to the Obama administration, have ushered users into an era of unparalleled digital fragility.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The burden of establishing online privacy has fallen on the individual civilian.</p><p dir="ltr">And yet, ever since internet use became a staple of daily life, the burden of establishing online privacy has fallen on the individual civilian. Internet corporations justify their mass data acquisition with meticulously PR-veiled jargon about making the user experience “relevant” and “personal.” Similarly, governments do so with “anti-terrorism” propaganda, suggesting no real threat is posed if a citizen has “nothing to hide.” Both forces present themselves as serving the best interests of a public of law-abiding consumers; what they do is legitimate, worthy of being the default, they contend, and users who don’t accept that can fend for themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">The narrative of privacy apathy furthers this notion, betraying the idea that intrusive digital paradigms aren’t ultimately that bad, that the stakes aren’t actually that high, that there are no real, palpable effects to fear. Far too many Americans, however, can’t afford to feel this way. Poor populations living in food deserts are <a href="https://www.democraticmedia.org/sites/default/files/field/public-files/2016/ispbigdatamarch2016.pdf">marketed soda and cigarettes</a> online. Law enforcement <a href="https://www.aclunc.org/blog/facebook-instagram-and-twitter-provided-data-access-surveillance-product-marketed-target">disrupts protests</a> based on social-media updates. Domestic-violence survivors are stalked by abusers who can use the internet to find their locations. The suggestion that users simply disregard the concept of online privacy ignores the ills created by powerful circles, both public and private, and the people who are most vulnerable to them.</p><p dir="ltr">The broadband-privacy regulations instituted last year were a glimmer of hope for ethical internet policy. In requiring ISPs to receive express user consent before collecting highly personal data and allowing them to opt out of less “sensitive” data collection, the FCC acknowledged the need to transparently present users with the risks they incur whenever they go online. It placed the burden on companies, not individuals, to prevent sub rosa data collection and protect user privacy. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s time for this to continue, for the onus to shift from the individuals who “don’t care” to the behemoths that deliberately confuse and prey upon them. Only then will the internet begin to have any semblance of the democracy we once expected of it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/mel-kelly/google-and-skyhook-internet-privacy-invasion-0">Google and Skyhook: the internet privacy invasion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/lucy-purdon/cybersecurity-should-protect-us-not-control-us">Cybersecurity should protect us – not control us</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Internet Julianne Tveten Thu, 13 Apr 2017 16:11:20 +0000 Julianne Tveten 110097 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Facebook and the New York Times corporatised 'fake news' https://www.opendemocracy.net/mara-einstein/facebook-new-york-times-corporatised-fake-news-advertising <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We often talk about far-right US publishers or Macedonia’s fake news industry plaguing our media landscape. But there’s another fraud that too often goes unseen: ‘black ops advertising’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30372802.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Facebook&#039;s advertising expert Andrew Bosworth, 2017. Christian Charisius/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30372802.jpg" alt="lead " title="Facebook&#039;s advertising expert Andrew Bosworth, 2017. Christian Charisius/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook's advertising expert Andrew Bosworth, 2017. Christian Charisius/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There’s been a lot of talk about fake news lately. The truth is that fake news isn’t new.</p> <p>What is new is the extent to which fake news has overtaken the media landscape and the forms that this misinformation takes. News pieces from far-right ideologues like Alex Jones’ <em>Infowars</em> or <em>Breitbart</em> or <em>Fox News</em> constitute one type of propaganda. Another propagator of deception are Macedonians pumping out stories through politically named websites, more to generate personal income than to push a particular agenda. But the third – and perhaps surprising source – are the mainstream marketers.</p> <p>In the last few years, a new marketing trend – what I call “Black Ops Advertising” – has overtaken the digital landscape. Black ops, or covert, advertising is commercial content that has been obscured so as to appear to be editorial content. These hidden sales messages primarily take two forms: native advertising and content marketing. </p> <p>Native advertising is any type of sponsored content that has been created to be indigenous to the site within which it appears. You are likely most aware of this in the form of the ads that appear within your newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter. These in-feed native ads look like anything else that a friend or family member might send to you, but with some limited indicators that there is an advertiser attached – such as “sponsored” or “promoted” in faded gray type. An increasingly popular form of this is ‘custom native’: advertising produced by the publisher for the marketer. </p> <p>Meanwhile, content marketing is information or entertainment created by an advertiser that has no sales message attached. For example, a website called Van Winkle’s presents stories about the science, health, and cultural aspects of sleep <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2015/06/09/mattress-company-casper-launches-sleep-focused-publication-van-winkles/">and is produced</a> by a mattress and bedding company called Casper. Consumers are unlikely to know this because the company’s name is not readily evident on the site. In truth, though, that hardly matters. Whether native advertising or content marketing, these sales messages are most likely to be viewed through social media. So rather than the advertiser promoting the product or service, your friend or family member has ‘shared’ the content with you, thereby providing an implied endorsement.</p> <p>While industry people I interviewed said that readers, notably young, digitally savvy millennials, were aware of the ads, I was leery. An increasing number of academic studies now refute those industry claims. <a href="http://www.the7eye.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/00913367.2015.pdf">Wojdynski and Evans (2015)</a> found that 17% of readers did not recognize native ads, and more recent research confirms their findings (<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21670811.2017.1293488">Amazeen and Muddiman, <em>Digital Journalism</em>, 2017</a>). The <a href="https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf">Stanford History Education Group (2016)</a> found that 82% of middle schoolers – a cohort particularly versed in digital media – could not differentiate ads from news.</p> <p>Why so confused? First, there is no uniformity in labeling. Some sites say ‘promoted’, some say ‘sponsored’, some say ‘partner content’. How is anyone supposed to decipher that? Second, in terms of ‘custom native’, the ads are typically produced by either former journalists or the editorial staff itself. Across the world, <a href="https://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/magazines-use-own-editorial-staff-in-native-ad-solutions/">68% of publishers</a> say that their editorial staff are now producing the commercial content. And who better to make the commercial content look like the editorial that surrounds it, if the point is to utterly disguise commercial bias? If you take a look at <a href="https://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/10-examples-buzzfeed-native-advertising/">listicles</a> on <em>BuzzFeed</em> or <a href="https://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/the-new-york-times-makes-some-of-the-best-native-advertising-and-here-is-why/">‘articles’</a> on the <em>New York Times</em> website, replete with headlines and bylines, one thing is clear: the cues through which we understand that something is advertising are fast disappearing. </p> <p>Regulation is severely lacking. 37% of advertisers were not in compliance in <a href="https://resources.mediaradar.com/newsroom/mediaradar-report-reveals-37-percent-of-publishers-not-native-compliant">a recent study</a> of over 12,000 online advertising campaigns. One advertiser successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was the department store Lord &amp; Taylor, who used ‘online influencers’ to promote a new line of clothing without requiring that the fashion bloggers promote the fact that they were being paid. Influencers who do not disclose their connections to advertisers have become a rampant form of deceptive promotion. </p> <p>Notably, <a href="http://variety.com/2016/digital/news/kardashians-instagram-paid-ads-product-placements-1201842072/">Kim Kardashian</a> was targeted by the FTC for exactly these misleading practices. The FTC’s remedy is to insert the ‘#ad’ hashtag into posts on social media platforms like Instagram. But this is too obscure, and an unlikely deterrent for her followers, many of whom are young girls like those studied by the Stanford researchers.</p> <p>Social media and its concomitant big data drive this marketing format. Social media is designed to get us to share, particularly those things that generate strong emotions. The technology itself fuels the sharing because it is designed for us to spend increasing amounts of time with it. Between 2015 and 2016, Americans spent <a href="http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/us-adults-consume-entire-hour-more-media-day-they-did-just-last-year-172218/">one hour more a day</a> with media and that increase was driven by time spent on mobile devices. </p> <p>What makes this particularly insidious are the growing number of marketing and data companies that manipulate the content we see. <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lukebailey/the-social-chain?utm_term=.tdRz1qZb1L#.fcAbjK6DjQ">Social Chain</a>, for example, uses their own feeds and those of ‘associates’ to drive what is trending on Twitter. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/04/nigel-oakes-cambridge-analytica-what-role-brexit-trump">Cambridge Analytica</a>, the company touted as the powerhouse behind the success of the Trump campaign, uses information from Facebook such as our ‘likes’ to create psychographic profiles that can be used to target readers with highly specific commercial content. And what they have done for politics is also done for advertisers.</p> <p>It is the economic structure of our media environment, reliant on advertising dollars, that has allowed this situation to arise. The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38168281">teenagers in Macedonia</a> would not have had any interest in setting up a fake news industry if they could not make a substantial living from it. Facebook could have shut them down, but they had no incentive to do so. And on Twitter, the current US president continues to post, even while he violates their terms of use almost every time.</p> <p>The tacit agreement between publishers and their audiences has been that media outlets would provide content, as long as we agreed to watch the advertising. The problem is that we have become so good at avoiding advertising. And so the marketers have had to come up with new ways to get their sales message in front of us, without letting us recognise the advertising. First it was DVRs, and now increasingly ad blockers have enabled us to avoid huge swathes of commercial messages. Traditionally, the way to compensate for that was to be as in-your-face as possible: huge golden arches, oversized swooshes, and so on. Today, the tactic is to make the advertising so obscured that we won’t quickly click to the next page. Unless something is done by regulators and consumers, these ads will become even more covert, as they are increasingly viewed on mobile devices and through video formats.</p><p> If ads will no longer support content, then the money has to come from somewhere. It will come out of the pocket of consumers in the form of subscriptions for apps and access to websites. And what about people who cannot afford to pay? Publishers won’t want them and advertisers are not interested in them. We will not just have a digital divide; we will have an information divide.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">Why I have resigned from the Telegraph</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/daniel-mccarthy-matthew-fluck/leaky-politics">Leaky politics: the false promise of transparency </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/charles-bradley/why-facebook-s-fake-news-filter-won-t-work">Why Facebook’s fake news filter won’t work</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Mara Einstein Wed, 12 Apr 2017 16:18:23 +0000 Mara Einstein 110098 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Facebook’s fake news filter won’t work https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/charles-bradley/why-facebook-s-fake-news-filter-won-t-work <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A range of solutions  –  including stronger independent media organisations  –  is going to be needed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Powell-anthrax-vial.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Powell-anthrax-vial.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="410" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the UN, Colin Powell holds a model vial of anthrax, while arguing that Iraq is likely to possess WMDs, 2003. Wikicommons/ United States Government. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last week, Facebook made a significant intervention into the debate around ‘fake news’,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/22/facebook-fact-checking-tool-fake-news">trialling a new feature</a>&nbsp;(for now, just in the US) which both alerts users when an article they are trying to share has been disputed by fact checkers, and appends a disclaimer if the user decides to share it.</p> <p>This is a significant escalation from Facebook’s previous response to the issue, a community-led reporting feature which was widely praised as an example of responsible practice by a tech company. So far, the new feature has not received much scrutiny from the digital rights community. It should; the implications are troubling.</p> <p>Before we go into why, it’s useful to think first about where the concept of fake news comes from. The phrase came to prominence in the context of the US election, as part of a broader story of Russian interference. Fears over Russia have continued to frame the debate in the US  –  see the (now <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-propaganda-about-russian-propaganda">debunked</a>) PropOrNot list, and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2017/03/senator-introduces-bill-to-investigate-russian-site-rt-news-236033">recently introduced bill</a>&nbsp;to investigate RT America  –  but fake news has since become&nbsp;a <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-13/how-fake-news-is-used-and-abused-in-southeast-asia/8334692">global phenomenon</a>.</p> <p>Despite this, pinning down what fake news actually refers to can be difficult. In December last year, Hillary Clinton memorably&nbsp;<a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/hillary-clinton-fake-news-trump-election-2016-12?r=US&amp;amp;IR=T">described&nbsp;</a>an “epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda”, a confusing elision of different types of media which points to a wider definitional instability. Anything and everything can now be described as ‘fake news’, whether that’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/trump-cnn-fake-news-polls-236250">polls</a>,&nbsp;the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/02/trump-lashes-out-negative-media-coverage-cpac-speech">entire media</a>,&nbsp;or even&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/news/318794-cnn-host-fake-news-the-n-word-for-journalists">individual people</a>. Acknowledging this, one of the producers behind the recent CBS 60 Minutes special on fake news&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-fake-news-60-minutes-producers-investigate/">took pains to clarify</a>&nbsp;that the programme’s focus was “not the ‘fake news’ that is invoked by politicians against the media for stories that they don’t like”, but rather “stories that are provably false, have enormous traction in the culture, and are consumed by millions of people.”</p> <h2><strong>Bilge?</strong></h2> <p>What is only hinted at in this formulation (with the phrase ‘enormous traction’) is the role of the digital environment  ­–  and social media in particular – which is often posited as the key driver of fake news and the related phenomenon of ‘post-truth politics’. In a Guardian interview on this topic, the editor of Snopes – one of the four fact-checking outfits which will power Facebook’s new tool  –&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/01/snopes-com-internet-fact-checker-post-truth-david-mikkelson">described social media</a>&nbsp;in terms of an “opening of the sluice-gate”; “the bilge”, as he put it, “keeps coming faster than you can pump.” Like Clinton’s description of an “epidemic of malicious fake news”, social media is presented here as uncontrollable, riddled with infection — and toxic.</p> <p>If only we could close the gates again! Before social networks, so the story goes, news  –&nbsp; at least in open media markets like the US – was real and authoritative, based on fact rather than hysteria. “We all know that politicians have lied before,”&nbsp;an <a href="https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2016/church-state/humanists-rise-post-truth-america">op-ed</a>&nbsp;in The Humanist acknowledged in 2015, “Yet I sense a shift in the landscape of post-truth America. We’ve crossed some kind of frontier.” </p> <p>When considering these arguments, it is important to remember that in 2003, several years before the advent of Facebook, virtually every US newspaper, including the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/21/world/aftereffects-prohibited-weapons-illicit-arms-kept-till-eve-war-iraqi-scientist.html">New York Times</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/eleven-years-how-washington-post-helped-give-us-iraq-war/">Washington Post</a>, published articles vouching for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq  – claims which were later comprehensively debunked. Does this qualify as fake news? If not  – why not?</p> <h2><strong>When is a fact checker a fake?</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-30693564.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-30693564.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists rally in Bryant Park in New York prior to marching to the New York Times building in midtown Manhattan on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Richard B. Levine/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>To be clear, I am not trying to argue that the digital environment cannot, in some cases, exacerbate the spread of misinformation, or facilitate its transmission. The internet’s radical empowerment of freedom of expression and access to information, while overwhelmingly positive for democracy and participation, also of course carries the potential for abuse. Facebook and other businesses have a role in making sure that their platforms are secure, healthy spaces for debate, freedom of expression and assembly. This requires thoughtful product design and user policies, which may include measures to deal with deliberate misinformation.</p> <p>But there are clear problems with the approach Facebook is currently trialling. First of all, its very premise — that it is possible to unproblematically assess the veracity of news using fact checkers  –  does not stand up to any scrutiny. Fact checkers are not themselves immune to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2016/12/22/the-daily-mail-snopes-story-and-fact-checking-the-fact-checkers/&amp;refURL=&amp;referrer=">accusations of partisan bias</a>. And even if they were, an obvious philosophical problem remains: is there even such a thing as objective truth? What we understand as fact is inextricable from questions of power, representation, geography and time. It’s important to remember, when considering the implementation of a fake news filter on the world’s largest communications platform, that people used to think the earth was flat, and doctors&nbsp;used to <a href="http://www.healio.com/hematology-oncology/news/print/hemonc-today/%7B241d62a7-fe6e-4c5b-9fed-a33cc6e4bd7c%7D/cigarettes-were-once-physician-tested-approved">recommend smoking&nbsp;</a>to patients.</p> <p>To some this might seem like an academic, abstract problem, especially since most of the articles affected by Facebook’s filter would probably be egregious and offensive  –  like the article used in the feature’s US trial,&nbsp;which claims <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/22/facebook-fact-checking-tool-fake-news">Irish people</a> were brought to America as slaves.</p> <p>But consider how a fake news filter might shape the way a user experiences their timeline; if, for instance, one in every ten articles were to appear with a disclaimer. Perhaps this would discourage that user from reading, or sharing, an inaccurate story; or would give them, at least, a more critical framework through which to assess it. Undoubtedly this is the outcome that Facebook would like to see.</p> <p>But what about the stories which aren’t flagged up by the fact checkers? Mistakes  –  whether minor or serious  – are not uncommon, even among highly respected media organisations, and are often only discovered after publication; the Washington Post, for example, had to quietly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.4164fa5e4fa1">qualify</a> or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russian-government-hackers-do-not-appear-to-have-targeted-vermont-utility-say-people-close-to-investigation/2017/01/02/70c25956-d12c-11e6-945a-76f69a399dd5_story.html?postshare=6521483443804621&amp;tid=ss_tw">withdraw</a>&nbsp;two of its biggest stories last year. A fact checker would be of little use here. Indeed, the silence of Facebook’s fact-checking feature on a given article could even subconsciously encourage a user to let their guard down when reading it, and suspend their critical faculties. It is hard to see how this would improve or enrich political and intellectual culture.</p> <p>Fake news, and the anxieties and structural problems for which it serves as a proxy, isn’t going anywhere. Facebook’s initiative is just one of many in the pipeline; in Germany,&nbsp;a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/facebook-fake-news-article-fine-germany-fake-news-article-thomas-oppermann-sdp-chairman-a7484166.html">draft law</a>&nbsp;currently under consideration would impose fines of up to €50 million on platforms found to host fake news; while&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/17/fake-news-google-funding-fact-checking-us-election">Factmata</a>, a Google-backed startup, aims to apply a Facebook-style fact-checking system to search engines.</p> <h2><strong>Developing a critical faculty</strong></h2> <p>It’s beyond the scope of this article, brief and speculative as it is, to offer solutions, other than to suggest that, rather than seeking a silver bullet, we need a more holistic view of the phenomenon  –  one which centres the critical faculties of people, and attends to the structural factors which make people turn to ‘fake news’ in the first place.</p> <p>A&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/18/teach-schoolchildren-spot-fake-news-says-oecd">recent statement</a>&nbsp;by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), suggesting schools should teach children how to spot fake news in schools, potentially offers a useful starting point, and warrants further discussion. The Democracy Fund’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/announcing-a-new-fund-to-fight-misinformation">announcement</a>&nbsp;of a $1 million fund to tackle misinformation is also welcome, particularly in its acknowledgement that a range of solutions  –  including stronger independent media organisations  –  is going to be needed.</p> <p>Above all, we need a much broader conversation on this issue. All of us – businesses, civil society, media organisations and technical communities  –  have a role to play in this debate. It would be unwise to leave it just to the fact checkers.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Charles Bradley Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:53:10 +0000 Charles Bradley 109770 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ethics, technology and human rights: navigating new roads https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/danna-ingleton/ethics-technology-and-human-rights-navigating-new-roads <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img width="140" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/technology-512210_1920.jpg" style="float: right;" /></p><p dir="ltr">When we incorporate new technologies into human rights work, we need to be acutely aware of agency, participation and consent. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on <a target="_blank" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/data-and-human-rights">data and human rights</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">If there is one thing that social justice practitioners should care about, it is the wellbeing of the individuals for whom their work is designed. And for the most part, they do. But we work in big institutions that are often difficult ships to turn, and working in such cumbersome environments does not mesh well with needs and issues that are changing faster than ever. The proliferation of technologies and the availability of increasingly large and diverse data sets are changing the way we interact with people, where and how we get data (read: personal information) and the vulnerabilities for keeping that data safe. What principles do we need in order to be ethical in our present environment?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">&nbsp;We are not using technology enough to better our advocacy, to make our research outputs stronger, to track our theories of change and to prove our effectiveness.</p><p dir="ltr">Certainly, as a human rights community we are already proving that the use of new technology helps us “do better research”, but we are not using it enough to better our advocacy, to make our research outputs stronger, to track our theories of change and to prove our effectiveness. More specifically, we need to address the issues around agency (i.e., what is the role of the people we claim to represent?) and consent (i.e., whose permission do we have, whose data are we using, and what are we using it for?). These issues have always existed in our work and have often been criticized as being based in power dichotomies: us/them, north/south, or extractive/participatory research methods.</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/technology-512210_1920.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Pixabay/BenjaminNelan (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> The caption could be: The use and experimentation with new technologies and data have much promise in creating social change.</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr">In fact, we often end up forsaking some hard won ethical considerations for the sake of experimentation with new technologies and data. Sometimes by wanting to do something innovative to change the way the systems work, we end up causing harm. Or, at the very least, we create risks for harm that have not existed before, or have not existed at this scale before. For example: an app that was developed to help gather information about a sensitive subject that was not secure, or a website that was meant to gather crowd sourced data that ended up revealing the location of communities facing numerous vulnerabilities. &nbsp;The reality is that when innovating new ways of working some risk and harm will be inevitable. What is important is that our sector learns from these experiences and is therefore constantly improving our collective ethics. &nbsp;The <a href="https://responsibledata.io/" target="_blank">Responsible Data Forum</a> has helpfully published a number of “<a href="https://responsibledata.io/reflection-stories/" target="_blank">Reflection Stories</a>”, which helpfully explore nine technology and data related projects where unforeseen harm materialized, and how the organizations addressed it. These types of resources are critical to create more consideration of these rapidly evolving issues.</p><p dir="ltr">How, then, can the human rights community use new technology and data not just to better our research methods, but to better know how we actually go about doing our work? &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Recognizing the agency of the people that we work with means centralizing the experience of those people in our work. For so long, social justice and development sectors have been criticized for failing to truly understand the needs they are addressing or for appropriating the stories of the individuals for whom they claim to be campaigning. &nbsp;“Agency”—understood here as the basic understanding that every individual has the interest and ability to make the best decisions for their own lives—has been the vehicle through which institutions have tried learning from these criticisms and re-orienting their work. But have we spent enough time thinking about what agency means in our evolving technological and data-centric contexts? When developing new projects that will employ innovative uses of technology, do we assess whether this will bring us closer or farther from understanding the experiences of the people involved? And, most importantly, do we ever try to develop new apps, new data flows or new methods that are specific to our institution’s agency practices? </p><p dir="ltr">In general, the human rights community also needs to better address consent. The consent discussion is incredibly broad in scope and has been sparking some fascinating discussions with the technology and feminist movements. We make strong arguments about consent in terms of distributing revenge porn, and the privacy community is making great strides in pushing back against (monopolized) user agreements that actually provide us with no choice. But we still do not think critically enough about taking a radical and empowering stance towards consent in our human rights work—in how we, as human rights workers, interact with and handle personal information. </p><p dir="ltr"> The definition of informed consent varies in different fields, though it can be generally understood as the process of getting prior permission from a subject before taking an action that will or could affect their lives or wellbeing. Further, consent needs to have four main components: disclosure, voluntariness, comprehension and capacity. To have these four elements, there must be some human interaction. Yes, that interaction may be over the Internet or though some sort of mobile technology, but the interaction does have to be there. If it isn't, then it is not consent.</p><p dir="ltr">What does this mean for the work of social change organizations? First, it means that wherever possible we need to build consent into all of our projects, but in particular our tech projects. For example, if the tech is facilitating data collection where face-to-face interaction is not possible, then are we building consent mechanisms into the tech to sufficiently satisfy consent criteria? &nbsp;What about when we can’t get consent, or when the tech doesn’t allow for the kind of interaction necessary? What happens when we are accessing data sets that were collected by third parties or for different purposes? </p><p dir="ltr">It seems that there is a general tendency to shoehorn some version of consent into these situations. But this may just be because consent has been our ethical framework for so long. Perhaps we should no longer force it and instead, when there is no possibility of consent, we need to shift to a duty of care towards that data because it represents people—we should never assume a free-for-all use of any form of data. </p><p dir="ltr">The use and experimentation with new technologies and data have much promise in creating social change. But we need to move beyond the immediately interesting or flashy. Let’s put the same energies into baking hard won ethics considerations into each and every technology and data-related project we do. Let’s explore new technologies and data to get better at institutionalizing agency and consent overall. In general, we need to be more thoughtful and responsive to ethics issues as they, and our working contexts, evolve. &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><i style="font-size: 13px;">***This piece is based on a speech given at the 2016 <a href="http://merltech.org/" target="_blank">MerlTech</a> conference on. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and not attributable to Amnesty International.</i></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="imgupl_floating_none"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="imgupl_floating_none" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a onmouseout="document.Imgs.src=' https://opendemocracy.net/files/Data_Inset_1 .png'" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src=' https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Data_Inset_2.png'" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/data-and-human-rights"> <img alt="“Data" border="0" name="Imgs" width="140" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Data_Inset_1 .png" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/zara-rahman/fine-print-seeing-beyond-hype-in-technology-for-human-rights">The fine print: seeing beyond the hype in technology for human rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/k-chad-clay/no-single-dataset-is-sufficient-for-understanding-human-rights-nor-shou">No single dataset is sufficient for understanding human rights, nor should it be</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/todd-landman/yes-human-rights-scholars-conceal-social-wrongs-when-they-miss-point">Yes, human rights scholars conceal social wrongs—when they miss the point </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/steffen-jensen-tobias-kelly/missing-torture-amongst-poor">Missing torture amongst the poor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/katie-kraska/cohesion-in-chaos-uniting-human-rights-methodologies">Cohesion in the chaos: uniting human rights methodologies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/will-h-moore/quantitative-data-in-human-rights-what-do-numbers-really-mean">Quantitative data in human rights: what do the numbers really mean? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/neve-gordon-nitza-berkovitch/how-human-rights-scholars-conceal-social-wrongs">How human rights scholars conceal social wrongs</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights digitaLiberties openGlobalRights Danna Ingleton Data and Human Rights Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:30:00 +0000 Danna Ingleton 109690 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Taking the battle for civic space online https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marte-hellema/taking-battle-for-civic-space-online <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HellemaMarch.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p> <p dir="ltr">As online spaces become increasingly restricted, human rights activists must stay aware of the risks and benefits of technological developments. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/closing-space-for-civil-society" target="_blank">closing space for civil society debate.</a>&nbsp;<em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marte-hellema/llevemos-la-batalla-por-el-espacio-c-vico-internet" target="_blank">Español</a>.</strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">What happens online can have very real consequences offline. For some people, these consequences might seem minor, even though content is easily taken out of context or manipulated. But for human rights activists trying to claim freedom of expression and civic space, the risks are very serious and at times can be fatal. In April 2016, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35983979" target="_blank">Nazimuddin Samad</a>, a young Bangladeshi law student, who was known for expressing secular views online, was hacked and then shot to death by unknown assailants in Dhaka. Earlier, in 2013, his name had appeared on a hit list of 84 atheist bloggers published by a group of radical Islamists. Several other bloggers on the list had been killed already the year before. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident: in Bangladesh, Asia and the rest of the world, people are being harassed, threatened, arrested or killed for what they say or post online.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Across Asia, governments are realising the power of online spaces and are adopting policies and laws that effectively criminalise online dissent and expression.</p><p dir="ltr">Across Asia, governments are realising the power of online spaces and are adopting policies and laws that effectively criminalise online dissent and expression, as Thailand’s new “<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/21/thailand-cyber-crime-act-tightens-internet-control" target="_blank">Computer-Related Crime Act</a> (CCA)” demonstrates. The CCA was adopted on 16 December 2016, and gives broad powers to the government to restrict free speech, enforce surveillance and censorship, and retaliate against activists. For example, Articles 14(1) and (2) of the new law gives the government the ability to prosecute anything they designate as “false” and—in the case of article 14(1)—“distorted” information, vague terms which are easily abused.</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HellemaMarch.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Pixabay (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> As we are in a battle for civic space in the real world, we also need to fight for our space online. </p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p>Internet use, nonetheless, is expanding exponentially. According to <a href="https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/misr2016/MISR2016-w4.pdf">the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)</a>, 15.8% of the global population had access to the Internet in 2005. By 2016 this had risen to 47.1%. For Asia Pacific, this number jumped from 9.4% in 2005 to 41.9% in 2016. Yet <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2016" target="_blank">Freedom House reports</a> that two-thirds of all Internet users (67%) live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family is subject to censorship. Of the countries in Asia included in the report, Myanmar, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam and China are ranked as “not free”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the different challenges in Asia, online spaces offer platforms for activists to circumvent the shrinking of civil society spaces that they face in their struggle to promote and protect human rights, and to speak out against governments or non-state actors. In recent years, social media has become particularly useful to organise and coordinate public protests and advocacy campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, Maria Chin Abdullah was arrested on 18 November 2016 and detained for 11 days, on the eve of a Bersih protest that called for governmental reform and transparency in Malaysia. From the moment she was arrested to the day she was released, her fellow human rights activists utilised online tools, especially Twitter, to campaign for her release. They even reached out directly to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, who responded by calling on the Malaysian Government through Twitter himself for Ms. Abdullah’s release.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, cases such as these also reveal how our online devices, particularly those with GPS capability, make it increasingly easy for us to be tracked, traced and followed. Anything we post, even when deleted, remains online in some way or another forever. In several cases, governments are utilising this to their advantage for purposes of surveillance and tracking. In Singapore, for example, <a href="https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=20773" target="_blank">Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung</a> are currently under police investigation for allegedly breaching the election law by posting election-related content on their Facebook account the day before the polling on 6 May 2016, widely known as “Cooling-off Day”.</p><p dir="ltr">Another rising trend across Asia has been the misuse of social media to spread hate speech, distort facts, spread misinformation and in general spark a rise in sensationalism, extremism and polarising narratives. One prominent example is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is generally heralded as inspirational, brave and heroic. However, in her own country of Pakistan views of her are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-do-pakistanis-hate-malala_us_56174cede4b0e66ad4c74739" target="_blank">a lot more complicated</a>, in great part due to unjustified rumours and intentional misinformation <a href="http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/28302/what-has-malala-done-for-pakistan-8-popular-anti-malala-arguments-answered/" target="_blank">spread about her online</a>. Attitudes range from hostility about her special status to rumours that she is actually a CIA agent or that the assassination attempt on her life was a hoax. While she has many supporters in the West, Malala can never return to her home country due to death threats and general hostility towards her—much of which has been spread online.</p><p>Of course, in spite of the risks and challenges, online tools still present plenty of opportunities for the promotion and protection of human rights. To begin with, online tools and spaces have changed the way human rights defenders engage and collaborate with each other. We can share information almost immediately, mobilise a broad range of partners and supporters for our causes, and engage directly with key stakeholders. Online tools and spaces have also enhanced our ability to reach out to much wider audiences.</p><p dir="ltr">Online tools and spaces also help human rights defenders to keep stories alive, and to keep certain cases in the spotlight that might otherwise slip off the radar. One illustration of this is Sombath Somphone, a Laotion development worker who disappeared in Vientiane, Laos on 15 December 2012. His abduction was recorded by a police surveillance camera (CCTV), which shows that he was stopped by the police and taken away. The Lao authorities have denied they were involved in Sombath’s disappearance, claiming that the police are still investigating what happened to him. Even though it has been over four years since his disappearance, his story is still rippling across the world due to the work of the Sombath campaign, an effort made possible through online tools and spaces.</p><p dir="ltr">Now more than ever, we need to make sure we use online spaces safely and securely. Initiatives like <a href="https://securityinabox.org.en" target="_blank">Security-in-a-box</a>, <a href="http://content.bytesforall.pk/" target="_blank">Bytes for All, Pakistan</a>, <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/" target="_blank">Access Now</a>, <a href="https://www.ifex.org/" target="_blank">IFEX</a>, <a href="https://www.eff.org/" target="_blank">EFF</a>, <a href="http://www.apc.org" target="_blank">Association for Progressive Communications</a> and <a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org" target="_blank">Privacy International</a>, are attempting to do just that. There is no way around it: digital tools and spaces are an expansion of our societies. And as we are in a battle for civic space in the real world, we also need to fight for our space online.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="imgupl_floating_none"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="imgupl_floating_none" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><aonmouseout="document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_11.png'" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_22.png'" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/closing-space-for-civil-society"> <img alt="Closing space for civil society? – Read on" border="0" name="Imgs" width="140" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_11.png" /></aonmouseout="document.imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/closingspace_inset_11.png'"></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/dhananjayan-sriskandarajah/under-threat-five-countries-in-which-civic-space-is-rapi">Under threat: five countries in which civic space is rapidly closing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/maina-kiai/from-funding-projects-to-funding-struggles-reimagining-role-of-donors">From funding projects to funding struggles: Reimagining the role of donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/to-preserve-human-rights-organizational-models-must-change">To preserve human rights, organizational models must change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/burkhard-gn-rig/old-world-of-civic-participation-is-being-replaced">The old world of civic participation is being replaced</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/lotta-teale/how-to-pay-for-legal-empowerment-alternative-structures-and-sources">How to pay for legal empowerment: alternative structures and sources</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/hans-fridlund/butterfly-effect-steps-to-improve-upr-implementation">A butterfly effect—steps to improve UPR implementation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jenny-hodgson/local-funding-is-not-just-option-anymore-it-s-imperative">Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights digitaLiberties openGlobalRights Marte Hellema East and South-East Asia South Asia Closing Space for Civil Society Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:30:00 +0000 Marte Hellema 109618 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The EU must keep up with new technologies https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/matthew-abbey/eu-must-keep-up-with-new-technologies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Surveillance technologies infiltrating computer systems of human rights activists can result in their imprisonment or death. The EU needs to put greater emphasis on working with activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13269922354_7047423cb7_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13269922354_7047423cb7_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Elderly man uses his smartphone to video record the large crowd gathered on Jinan Road (濟南路), near the ROC Legislative Yuan (立法院) in Taipei (台北), 2014. Flickr/Tomscy2000. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>New technologies are creating both opportunity and danger for <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/marianne-franklin/defending-human-rights-in-digital-age">human rights activists</a>. Social media platforms, anonymization and encryptions tools, and widespread internet access are empowering activists to exchange ideas, document abuses, and disseminate information to wider audiences. On the flip side, governments are using <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hri/joshua-franco/fear-of-surveillance-is-forcing-activists-to-hide-from-public-life-in-belarus">surveillance technologies</a> to target, prosecute, and silence activists. </p> <p>The European Union should breathe new life into its support of activists to help overcome the negative side effects of new technologies. The current EU strategy is focused on preventing surveillance technologies getting into abusive hands. On February 28, 2017, the European Parliament discussed a proposal for updated restrictions on dual-use exports (including surveillance technologies) that was drafted by the <a href="http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/september/tradoc_154976.pdf">European Commission</a> last year. The proposal recognizes that surveillance technologies are being used to “infiltrate computer systems of dissidents and human rights activists, at times resulting in their imprisonment or even death.” There will be a hearing on dual-use exports in the Parliament on March 21, 2017. </p> <h2><b>The Wassenaar Arrangement</b></h2> <p>Twenty-seven EU member states are party to the <a href="http://www.wassenaar.org/">Wassenaar Arrangement</a>, an international treaty established in 1995 that seeks to restrict the export of conventional arms and dual-use goods. However, because the treaty is non-binding, European-made surveillance technologies continue to be sold to repressive governments. According to investigative journalism conducted by <i>The Correspondent</i>, EU member states <a href="https://thecorrespondent.com/6257/how-european-spy-technology-falls-into-the-wrong-hands/2168866237604-51234153">permitted the export of surveillance technology 317 times</a> over the past three years, but only rejected 14 export permits. <a href="https://thecorrespondent.com/6249/the-surveillance-industry-still-sells-to-repressive-regimes-heres-what-europe-can-do-about-it/679999251459-591290a5">30 per cent of exports</a> went to countries considered ‘not free’ by Freedom House, and another 52 percent to countries considered ‘partially free.’ &nbsp;</p> <p>Tighter regulations are welcome, but at best they can limit government access to surveillance technologies, as opposed to restricting access or changing government behavior. After all, other states will continue to export surveillance technology unabated. The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU will further reduce the impact of export restrictions. In 2015, the UK <a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org/sites/default/files/global_surveillance.pdf">exported phone monitoring technology</a> to Israel, Bangladesh, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. ‘Brexit’ is likely to increase British technology exports to repressive governments. Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, has <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-theresa-may-liam-fox-middle-east-trade-deals-human-rights-a7543751.html">already placed trade deals above human rights concerns</a> amidst growing partnerships with Gulf Monarchies. <span class="mag-quote-center">The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU will further reduce the impact of export restrictions.</span></p> <p>Israel, another large exporter of surveillance technologies, made up <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/69f150da-25b8-11e5-bd83-71cb60e8f08c">10 percent of the global cybersecurity market</a> in 2014 and has <a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org/sites/default/files/global_surveillance.pdf">exported surveillance technology</a> to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Uganda. China also has extensive surveillance capabilities and is considered one of the worst abusers of internet freedom. Accurate data on the extent of Chinese exports of surveillance technologies is unavailable, but reports indicate that China has exported surveillance technologies to <a href="https://privacyinternational.org/sites/default/files/global_surveillance.pdf">Iran and Algeria</a>.</p> <p>European export controls are clearly not enough to have a lasting impact if other countries are able to freely export surveillance technology. <a href="http://www.digitaleurope.org/DesktopModules/Bring2mind/DMX/Download.aspx?Command=Core_Download&amp;entryID=1125&amp;language=en-US&amp;PortalId=0&amp;TabId=353">DigitalEurope</a>, a lobby organization, has argued that European export controls are pointless if other countries can act as they wish. For this reason, there is a need to protect activists from the surveillance technologies that get into the hands of abusive governments, but also to recognize the limits of such protection. </p> <p>Nongovernmental organizations have led the way in developing new technologies and guidelines on best practice. <a href="https://guardianproject.info/2012/01/20/introducing-informacam/">InformaCam</a> is a smartphone app that records the date, time and location of imagery, as well as encrypting it, to make sure it cannot be tampered with. Amnesty International created the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2015/07/panic-button-one-year-on/">Panic Button</a>, which turns a smartphone into an alert system. <a href="https://securityinabox.org/en/">Security in a Box</a> and the <a href="https://ssd.eff.org/en">Electronic Frontier Foundation</a> have provided guidelines on how to protect activists from surveillance technologies, such as information on how to bypass censorship and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/wendy-suzanne-betts-nyangala-zolho/rights-based-approach-to-technology-gathering-admissible-evidence">safeguard yourself from malware</a>. In addition, <a href="https://www.freedomonlinecoalition.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Background-Paper-NL-Protecting-and-Suporting-Cyber-Activities.pdf">the United States</a> is playing an important role by funding independent websites in closed societies, providing training in online security, and developing secure communications for smartphones. </p> <h2><b>Enhancing digital literacy – a European task</b></h2> <p>The protection of activists, however, is a reactive response to surveillance technologies. Further, the effectiveness of using technology to protect activists is under question. As governments are often the gatekeepers of technology and have access to greater resources, they have the power to draft legislation banning a certain technology if it becomes unfavorable, or legally request information from service providers, among other measures. <span class="mag-quote-center">The effectiveness of using technology to protect activists is under question.</span></p> <p>Beyond acting on the defensive – limiting exports of surveillance technologies and protecting activists from human rights violators – the EU should adopt a more proactive human rights policy that takes advantage of technological change. The <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/sites/antitrafficking/files/action-plan-on-human-rights-and-democracy-2015-2019_en.pdf">EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019)</a>, a strategy document that guides the promotion of human rights and democracy for EU institutions and member states, lists improving the capacity of local actors as its first objective. </p> <p>The plan, however, pays little attention to technology and fails to harness its positive potential. EU policy has largely focused on the way technology is restricting, not aiding, human rights activism. To remain relevant in the human rights struggles of today, the EU should expand its tactic by seeking to enhance digital literacy among activists in order for technology to be used in an effective way, especially for those working in closed or closing political spaces. </p> <h2><b>Change the paradigm</b></h2><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Technology changes the paradigm by allowing victims to become agents in the documentation process. </span>First, widespread use of smartphones and other recording technologies can lead to broad-based participation in activism through opening up the process of documenting human rights abuses to ordinary citizens. This will shift the power balance away from elite domestic and international organizations to build a more inclusive form of activism. Traditionally, victims of human rights abuses have been the subject of fact-finding missions, but technology changes the paradigm by allowing victims to become agents in the documentation process. Although technology is often unevenly shared throughout society, it can be used to enhance the participation and empowerment of women, children, people with disabilities, the LGBTI community, and minority groups. By taking part in such processes, victims can become aware of and take ownership of human rights. The EU should encourage the participatory documentation of human rights abuses to facilitate activism throughout society. </p><p>Second, technology can transform human rights activism through increased access to data. More data is available than ever before, as every individual has the potential to become a source of information. Whether it is the thousands of images taken on smartphones throughout the occupation of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/29/arab-spring-captured-on-cameraphones">Tahrir Square in Cairo</a>, or the use of <a href="http://www.eyesondarfur.org">geospatial technology</a> to document human rights abuses in Darfur, technology can provide human rights activists and policy makers with unparalleled levels of data. The EU should encourage its NGO partners to use new technologies like crowdsourcing and commons-based peer production to gather large quantities of data, which will be useful for understanding and highlighting the scope of a human rights problem. </p> <p>Third, technology can be used to verify the data. The widespread availability of data will become a problem if it cannot be verified accurately, as it has the potential to distort information. For example, a <a href="https://blog.witness.org/2014/02/video-exposes-police-abuse-venezuela-mexico-colombia/">video circulated on YouTube</a> of Colombian police officers spraying a water cannon towards a man tied to a tree was circulated to denounce police violence in Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. To name and shame a government or mobilize public opinion, accurate data is vital. The <a href="https://citizenevidence.org/2014/07/01/youtube-dataviewer/">YouTube Data Viewer</a> allows videos to be turned into thumbnails that are then processed in Google reverse image search to see if the thumbnails have previously appeared on the web. The EU should fund the verification of the large quantity of human rights data becoming available through such means.</p> <p>Fourth, there is a need for the EU, human rights activists, and innovative technology organizations to work together, as technology will to continue to develop and transform human rights activism. <a href="https://witness.org/watching-western-sahara-panel/">Witness</a>, <a href="http://www.benetech.org/">Benetech</a> &nbsp;<a href="https://tacticaltech.org/">Tactical Tech</a>, <a href="https://www.digitaldefenders.org/">Digital Defenders Project</a>, <a href="https://www.theengineroom.org/">Engine Room</a>, and <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/">Access Now</a> are just a few of the organizations bridging the gap between technology and human rights that the EU should partner with. </p> <h2><b>Who ultimately decides?</b></h2> <p>Ultimately, human rights activists must have the final say in whether or not they engage with new technologies. The risks are high, but so are the rewards. The European Parliament should demand tighter EU export controls and request that the European Commission support activists in taking informed decisions on risks and safety. But on top of this defensive approach, the EU needs to put greater emphasis on working with activists in order to reap the full benefits of technology.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13650450583_68b3971e8c_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/13650450583_68b3971e8c_z.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Tim Brockley. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opencitydocs/rosemary-bechler/democracy-call-to-arms">Democracy – a call to arms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/nils-mui-nieks/human-rights-in-europe-should-not-buckle-under-mass-surveillance">Human rights in Europe should not buckle under mass surveillance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-belli-christopher-t-marsden/european-net-neutrality-at-last">European net neutrality, at last?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties hri Can Europe make it? EU Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Matthew Abbey Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:17:15 +0000 Matthew Abbey 109538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The link tax threatens the internet as we know it https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-elston/link-tax-eu-copyright-directive-will-break-internet-as-we-know-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The EU Commission's proposed copyright directive poses a threat to the internet's fundamental interconnectedness.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chain-1995543_640.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chain-1995543_640.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Links under strain. Pixabay/bykst. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The "link tax" features some of the most impractical and extreme expansions of copyright rules ever seen. Copyright has already been bent out of shape; the original theory was to use copyright to protect the content creator and allow them to make back any investment on their idea, along with a healthy profit, over a fixed, 14 year period. However, with the current period set at 70 years, not only are copyright laws strangling innovation, but now these additional reforms seek to make criminals of everyone who does not pay a fee to simply link to someone else's work.<br /> <br /> In short, you may soon face a charge each time you publish a link to an article. From individual bloggers, to large publications, big media seeks to control how we direct people online, make citations on Wikipedia, or simply recommend a game or movie.<br /> <br /> But it doesn't stop there: saving photos to online shopping lists on sites such as Pinterest, or sharing any news article over Facebook or Twitter aren't in any way exempt. As it stands, there are no exceptions for non-commercial use.<br /> <br /> In fact, even search engines, which are essentially a long list of links gathered around whatever query you enter, could also be subject to the link tax.<br /> <br /> Julia Reda, Pirate Party Germany MEP, states in her article '<a href="https://juliareda.eu/2016/12/10-illegal-things/">10 everyday things on the web the EU commission wants to make illegal: Oettinger’s legacy'</a>: <br /> <br /><span class="blockquote-new"> "These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way, as well as the music industry’s wish to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube."<br /> <br /> "These proposals will cause major collateral damage – making many everyday habits on the web and many services you regularly use downright illegal, subject to fees or, at the very least, mired in legal uncertainty."</span> </p><p>What does this mean? By now, it's fairly obvious that implementing such a charge for links would fundamentally alter the way the web works.<br /> <br /> Should the link tax succeed, we would see a wave of online censorship. The effects of this cannot yet be fully understood or overstated.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the most foolish part of this bill is that it would actually drastically harm not only our digital economy but our "analogue" economy too. Viral promotions of movies, music or any other product would vanish as internet users would no longer be able to share links to movies or stores where products can be bought.<br /> <br /> Remember how excited the internet became at the release of Deadpool? How many different blogs, vlogs, reviews and how many different people shared direct links to movie trailers, merchandise and other Deadpool related promos? Now imagine that was all subject to a link tax – it is difficult to say how drastic the impact of this would be, but it's probably safe to say we'd never see a Deadpool 2.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/xnet/stop-censorshipmachine-for-eu-copyright-law-that-respects-our-rights-and-fre">Stop #CensorshipMachine, for a EU copyright law that respects our rights and freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/joe-mcnamee/mobilisation-for-digital-rights">Mobilisation for digital rights </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Internet media & the net governing the net David Elston Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:54:59 +0000 David Elston 109532 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The future of US net neutrality under Trump https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/michael-j-oghia/future-of-us-net-neutrality-under-trump <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. But now, net neutrality in its purest form is in peril.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/460px-5.6.2014_E-Rate_Modernization_Workshop_(13959900047).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/460px-5.6.2014_E-Rate_Modernization_Workshop_(13959900047).jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Welcome and Opening Remarks from Commissioner Ajit Pai, May 2014.Wikicommons/Federal Communications Commission.Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>As this openDemocracy series has poignantly <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hri">highlighted</a>, digital rights should never be taken for granted. For all those keeping a close eye on US politics, this reality could not resonate more ominously. With the new Republican administration of Donald J. Trump, there is plenty of kindle to fuel a fire of discussion and, often enough, outrage. </p> <p>Yet, behind all of the grandstanding, tweeting, and obscene showmanship, there lies a political machine forged in the corridors of Capitol Hill, skyscraping towers of corporate America, and musty legal libraries ready to take up the bureaucratic responsibility of running the United States. You see, outside of the more widely covered political issues such as immigration and healthcare, administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. </p> <p>Such is the case with the newly appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), <a href="https://www.fcc.gov/about/leadership/ajit-pai">Ajit Pai</a>. A former Harvard and University of Chicago-educated legal counselor for Verizon, a major US telecom company, Pai was appointed as a commissioner in 2012 by former US President Barack Obama to join the five-member leadership team of the FCC – an independent government agency overseen by the US Congress that regulates the country’s communications policy. And to understand the new FCC under Pai, a member of the Republican Party, one has to understand Pai. </p> <p>Pai is a staunch advocate against overregulation or intervention in what he considers blossoming markets, which he became known for during his tenure before being promoted by Trump to replace former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. But he is better known for his opposition to Wheeler’s <a href="https://www.fcc.gov/general/open-internet">Open Internet Order</a>. Taken together, his minimalistic regulatory philosophy, political leanings, and past history of opposing market intervention exemplify a new FCC chair that is in stark contrast to his predecessor – one that could have a lasting effect on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality_in_the_United_States">net neutrality in the United States</a>.</p> <h2><b>What is net neutrality?</b></h2> <p><a href="http://www.jthtl.org/content/articles/V2I1/JTHTLv2i1_Wu.PDF">Network neutrality</a> is the principle that operators, including Internet service providers (ISPs), and government regulators should treat all Internet traffic (data) equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. </p> <p>Coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, net neutrality is often considered a cornerstone of the open Internet that is paramount to safeguarding the fairness and equality of data traffic, as <i>Washington Post</i> tech reporter Hayley Tsukayama eloquently <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/the-effect-of-net-neutrality-rules-on-consumers/2014/04/24/59c90556-cbda-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html?utm_term=.71c017e3ae3a">explained</a>. Although it generally describes the debate surrounding whether or not Internet traffic should be regulated by governments, the term is often evoked to describe “throttling” by an ISP to slow Internet speeds in order to steer customers to services granted preferential treatment, such as by paying for faster speeds, or to manipulate a customer or service – such as what happened in January 2014 when the US broadband company Comcast <a href="https://mic.com/articles/88457/one-graph-shows-exactly-why-we-need-net-neutrality#.mHGV5TkSJ">severely crippled</a> Netflix’s bandwidth and slowed their services to a crawl. As a result, Comcast demanded that Netflix enter into a preferential deal to peer with their network, thus creating a two-sided market for ISPs -– that is, a precedent grounded in data-specific traffic management (for a humorous account of this deal, see the <i>Last Week Tonight with John Oliver</i> <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU">segment</a> that highlighted the effects it had on net neutrality in the US).</p> <p>Moreover, net neutrality debates exist <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/how-net-neutrality-working-countries-have-it-269632">around the world</a>. The European Union has particularly <a href="http://berec.europa.eu/eng/netneutrality/">stringent</a> net neutrality rules, which Luca Belli and Christopher Marsden covered in detail in this openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/luca-belli-christopher-t-marsden/european-net-neutrality-at-last">article</a> in this same series, while this <a href="https://www.thisisnetneutrality.org/">interactive map</a> from the Global Net Neutrality Coalition offers a glimpse of absolute net neutrality protections by country. This form of net neutrality also garnered global attention in 2016 when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) controversially <a href="http://mashable.com/2016/02/09/why-facebook-free-basics-failed-india/#MDjeUaPbEuqP">banned</a> Facebook’s Free Basics program <a href="https://www.wired.com/2016/02/facebooks-free-basics-app-is-now-banned-in-india/">citing</a> net neutrality concerns. Pai, on the other hand, <a href="https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/02/fcc-rescinds-claim-that-att-and-verizon-violated-net-neutrality/">dropped</a> FCC investigations into zero rating programs, <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/03/pai-zero-rating-fcc/">arguing</a>, “Free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 18.33.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 18.33.26.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Retrieved from: <a href="http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/04/25/this-hilarious-graph-of-netflix-speeds-shows-the-importance-of-net-neutrality/">http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/04/25/this-hilarious-graph-of-netflix-speeds-shows-the-importance-of-net-neutrality/</a></p><h2><b>Is net neutrality regulation necessary?</b></h2> <p>Net neutrality is often a topic of conversation at Internet governance events I participate in, such as the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufSFJGv-6lw">Internet Governance Forum</a> (IGF), and rarely does a digital policy issue present such a polarizing environment. Those who do not support absolute regulation – including Pai and Trump, economists such as Nobel Prize-winning economist <a href="http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/dennis.carlton/research/pdfs/NetNeutralityConsumerWelfare.pdf">Gary Becker</a>, technologists like one of the “fathers of the Internet,” <a href="https://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/18/kahn_net_neutrality_warning/">Bob Kahn</a>, senior managing director for global advanced technology policy at Cisco Systems, and former FCC chief of policy development, <a href="http://www.technewsworld.com/story/56272.html">Robert Pepper</a>, certain <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/holman-jenkins-the-net-neutrality-crack-up-1425080173">minority rights groups</a> such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), telecom and cable providers such as AT&amp;T, and <a href="http://www.tiaonline.org/sites/default/files/pages/Internet_ecosystem_letter_FINAL_12.10.14.pdf">technology companies</a> providing over-the-top (OTT) services – generally advance one of <a href="https://inform.tmforum.org/features-and-analysis/2016/06/net-neutrality-the-perspective-of-telcos-and-cable-companies/">seven arguments</a>, including that net neutrality regulation deters investment into improving broadband infrastructure, and it <a href="http://mashable.com/2014/05/16/5-arguments-against-net-neutrality/#TLKgW1JZvmq3">provides</a> government with more power over the Internet, undermining the free market. Absolute net neutrality opponents also <a href="https://medium.com/@kuroneko_akira/net-neutrality-isnt-what-you-think-it-is-9005c593f530#.7cl05svqs">argue</a> that this regulation hurts consumers by limiting competition from bandwidth-intensive Internet-delivered services against traditional managed services, and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/18/AR2007011801508.html">impedes</a> effective traffic management, which ISPs and especially wireless carriers require to maintain fast and efficient networks.</p> <p>Those in favor of net neutrality regulation – including Bob Kahn’s “father of the Internet” counterpart, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2014/10/10/5-insights-from-vinton-cerf-on-bitcoin-net-neutrality-and-more/?utm_term=.0925fda183b2">Vint Cerf</a>, the founder of the World Wide Web, <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/15/12197152/net-neutrality-europe-tim-berners-lee-letter">Tim Berners-Lee</a>, <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/7/5692578/tech-coalition-challenges-fcc">Internet service companies</a> like <a href="https://blog.mozilla.org/netpolicy/2016/06/15/a-step-forward-for-net-neutrality-in-the-u-s/">Mozilla</a> and Amazon, bloggers such as Matthew Inman from <a href="http://theoatmeal.com/blog/net_neutrality">The Oatmeal</a>, and digital rights groups such as the <a href="https://www.eff.org/issues/net-neutrality">Electronic Frontier Foundation</a> (EFF), <a href="https://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/net-neutrality">Public Knowledge</a>, and <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/issue/net-discrimination/">Access Now</a> – strongly advocate for net neutrality. They often argue that without such regulation, consumers will have little choice as to which services to use or the content they can access since ISPs would completely control Internet traffic, which they argue would lead to ISPs charging both consumers and Internet companies more for faster speeds and/or certain services and content. Additionally, pro-net neutrality proponents also fear that without regulation, small Internet companies would be shut out of mainstream service if they could not pay higher fees for greater bandwidth.</p> <h2><b>The future of the FCC and net neutrality in the United States</b></h2> <p>In February 2015, the FCC <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/technology/net-neutrality-fcc-vote-internet-utility.html">reclassified</a> Internet service providers in the US so that it would be regulated as a phone-like common carrier as opposed to a mostly unregulated information system, which was <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/14/471286113/u-s-appeals-court-holds-up-net-neutrality-rules-in-full?utm_medium=RSS&amp;utm_campaign=business">upheld</a> by a US Court of Appeals in June 2016. Fast-forward to the present, and Pai is reiterating his position that the FCC “<a href="http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2017/db0228/DOC-343646A1.pdf">made a mistake</a>” regarding the Open Internet Order (in reference to the aforementioned regulatory policy). While this might seem alarmist, bear in mind that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/jostling-begins-as-fccs-net-neutrality-vote-nears-1424819532">told</a> a top White House official in 2014 that Obama was making a mistake by supporting strong net neutrality rules (Google’s net neutrality position is neither for nor against – it supports discrimination across different data types, such as health data versus streaming video, but not among similar data types).</p> <p>Critics, however, have been quick to <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/321982-will-donald-trump-allow-wealthy-elites-to-call-the-shots">emphasize</a> that under the FCC’s Open Internet Order, “Capital investments for large ISPs were nearly 9 percent higher than in the two years prior.” Moreover, a heavily referenced Free Press <a href="https://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/free_press_march_2016_written_ex_parte_ISP_2015_financial_reporting.pdf">report</a> also refuted the argument made by Pai that investment has “<a href="https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-337930A1.pdf">flatlined</a>,” thoroughly documenting investment in Internet infrastructure in the US since the Open Internet Order was passed in 2015.</p> <p>Regardless, though, net neutrality in its purest form in the United States is undoubtedly in peril. Although pro-net neutrality advocates have despaired over the possible <a href="https://mic.com/articles/88355/net-neutrality-what-made-the-internet-powerful-dies-at-25#.1fi4I81mN">death of US net neutrality</a> in the past, highlighted its <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/02/23/comcasts-deal-with-netflix-makes-network-neutrality-obsolete/?utm_term=.af8b2ff40d67">obsolescence</a>, or at the very least, <a href="https://gigaom.com/2014/04/24/when-it-comes-to-net-neutrality-either-the-fcc-thinks-were-idiots-or-it-just-doesnt-care/">questioned</a> the FCC’s intentions and decision-making process, the next four years will likely prove to be a tough time for them. As one member of an Internet policy email list I subscribe to wrote, “This retroactive step [rolling back net neutrality rules] will not spell well for the independence of Internet access to all concerned.”</p> <p>Many of these concerns are grounded in the actions the FCC has taken since Pai became chair. In addition to <a href="https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-343229A1.pdf">scaling back</a> transparency rules for smaller ISPs, and proposing to <a href="http://www.npr.org/2017/02/27/517563172/new-fcc-chairman-plans-to-block-privacy-regulations">halt</a> major new privacy requirements because they only target ISPs and not information services like Google, consumer advocates interviewed for a <i>New York Times</i> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/technology/trumps-fcc-quickly-targets-net-neutrality-rules.html?emc=edit_nn_20170207&amp;nl=morning-briefing&amp;nlid=61119735&amp;te=1">article</a> stressed that Pai has “released about a dozen actions [since being appointed chair], many buried in the agency’s website and not publicly announced, stunning consumer advocacy groups and telecom analysts. They said Mr. Pai’s message was clear: The FCC … will mirror the Trump administration’s rapid unwinding of government regulations that businesses fought against during the Obama administration.” For instance, while they do not directly relate to net neutrality, Pai has also stopped nine companies from providing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/02/03/the-fcc-is-stopping-9-companies-from-providing-subsidized-broadband-to-the-poor/?utm_term=.c022dc9a60ab">discounted high-speed Internet service</a> to low-income individuals, withdrew an <a href="https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-322749A2.pdf">effort</a> to keep prison phone rates down, and scrapped a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/technology/fcc-cable-box-vote-delayed.html">proposal</a> to break open the cable box market.</p> <p>Yet, while “lighter” regulation was expected with the new administration, Pai’s intentions and actions are often <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/24/ajit-pai-donald-trump-s-fcc-pick-hates-net-neutrality.html">demonized</a> – even though he has <a href="https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-61A5.pdf">maintained</a> his desire to protect the “free and open Internet.” Pai has never criticized the concept of balanced net neutrality, and as one author writing for Forbes <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2017/01/24/why-is-the-media-smearing-new-fcc-chair-ajit-pai-as-the-enemy-of-net-neutrality/#141dab10438e">suggested</a>, Pai’s FCC will be consistent, experienced, and professional – an apparent deviation from the administration as a whole. For instance, he <a href="https://morningconsult.com/opinions/open-government-rules-best-moves-new-fcc-chairman/">introduced</a> several new transparency measures to improve the public’s ability to view rules well before they are passed, unlike in the past where some rules were not published until well after their vote by the commission. </p> <p>Moreover, according to <i>Fast Company</i>, “It seems less and less likely that Pai has it in mind to completely kill the network neutrality principles … [two commission insiders who insisted on anonymity said] Pai is more likely to scale back the effects of the order, rather than pushing the commission to withdraw it or asking Congress to pass legislation that overrides it. Pai may “soften” the order by allowing broadband carriers some kinds of web traffic prioritization or throttling under clearly defined conditions, one source said. For example, if a broadband customer is paying for 100 megabit-per-second broadband service, the provider might be allowed to prioritize some kinds of bandwidth-sensitive traffic (like video) in order to meet the speed promise.” In other words, the FCC’s new modus operandi vis-à-vis the Open Internet Order may likely offer ISPs more flexibility with traffic management, which deviates from the previous protocol under Wheeler of leaving data speeds untouched. The article concluded on an optimistic but also uncertain note: “For now at least, the reports of net neutrality’s death may indeed be greatly exaggerated.”</p> <p>There is a case to be made that Pai is motivated by the firm conviction of operating within the limits of power/oversight granted to the FCC by Congress. Regardless of his intentions, though, he is expected to steer the FCC into “<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/ajit-pai-fcc-net-neutrality-trump-what-to-expect-2017-2/#-21">a more hands-off, pro-industry direction</a>,” which was reinforced during his first US Senate <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/8/14858134/ajit-pai-first-oversight-hearing-fcc-chairman">hearing</a> as FCC chairman on 8 March 2017. Time will tell whether or not his conviction – and his vision – will manifest in a way that protects the free, competitive, and open Internet he and many of his Republican colleagues advocate so adamantly for, or if it will lead to the fears some consumer advocates believe may come to pass: greater market capture/monopolization by the powerful, existing telecoms, and ultimately higher costs for US Internet subscribers.</p> <p><i>Attribution: An earlier version of this article was published on the Global Forum for Media and Development blog at: </i><a href="http://www.gfmd.info/en/site/news/1087/Net-Neutrality-in-the-Crosshairs-after-Trump--Michael-J-Oghia.htm"><i>www.gfmd.info/en/site/news/1087/Net-Neutrality-in-the-Crosshairs-after-Trump--Michael-J-Oghia.htm</i></a><i>.</i></p> <p><i>Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Farid Enrique Ben Amor for his suggestions on how to improve this article and make it more objective.</i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties hri United States Democracy and government Economics International politics Internet Michael J. Oghia Fri, 17 Mar 2017 18:35:42 +0000 Michael J. Oghia 109509 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cybersecurity should protect us – not control us https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/lucy-purdon/cybersecurity-should-protect-us-not-control-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the race to secure against threats, human rights such as privacy, free expression, freedom of assembly are undermined rather than protected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/20772328793_296e6f97c4_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/20772328793_296e6f97c4_b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cyber threats on a Norse attack map. Christiaan Colen/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>What do the election in Mexico, a hospital in California, baby monitors around the world and tinned fruit in Thailand have in common? They were all were involved in the great ‘cybersecurity’ failures of 2016. They also highlight the spectrum of cybersecurity issues that potentially impact us all: Governments, public services, companies, you and I.&nbsp;</p> <p>The dizzying scale, technical complexity and downright panic accompanying ‘cyberattacks’ and data breaches often overshadow the fact that human rights are at the heart of cybersecurity, and that attacks mostly impact individuals. The personal information of over&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/amazon-mexican-voting-records/">93 million voters</a>&nbsp;in Mexico, including home addresses, were openly published on the internet after being taken from a poorly secured government database. Up to 100,000 people are reportedly&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vladimir-hernandez/our-world-kidnapped-in-mexico_b_9462258.html">kidnapped</a>&nbsp;in Mexico each year. A hospital in California had to cancel surgeries and move patients after attackers&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wired.com/2016/03/ransomware-why-hospitals-are-the-perfect-targets/">took down their network</a>&nbsp;with ransomware. Internet connected devices such as baby monitors were reportedly co-opted by malware and utilised as part of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2016/10/the_dyn_ddos_attack_shows_how_vulnerable_we_ve_made_ourselves.html">DDOS attack</a>, which brought down popular websites including Twitter and The New York Times.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-left">The cybersecurity debate can undermine human rights and the international obligation on governments to protect them.</span></p><p><span></span>Governments are under pressure to combat these kinds of threats and more to create a secure and stable online environment. Many inter-governmental forums focus on building state capacity to develop effective cybersecurity strategies which identifies critical infrastructure to protect and prevent instances such as those in Mexico, California and the global DDOS attack.</p><p>But in the race to secure against threats, human rights such as privacy, free expression, freedom of assembly and other rights are often undermined rather than protected, leaving individuals vulnerable. In Thailand for example, a journalist was convicted of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2016/12/thailand-parliament-passes-controversial-cyber-crime-legislation.php">violating cybercrime laws</a>&nbsp;after publishing a report on labour rights violations in the country’s fruit canning sector.</p> <p>British NGO Privacy International recently published a series of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/state-of-privacy">State of Privacy</a>&nbsp;reports, which aim to summarise privacy and surveillance laws and practices in a variety of countries. The reports identify&nbsp;cybersecurity as a government priority in various countries around the world, but also identify repressive cybercrime laws drafted alongside cybersecurity strategies. Cybercrime laws can be complex and problematic; they can be far-reaching, vague and national legal frameworks often lack the basic protections that should underpin them, such as data protection laws and explicit privacy protections which help curtail state power.&nbsp;</p> <p>The result is that, in some parts of the world, the cybersecurity debate can undermine human rights and the international obligation on governments to protect them. Too quickly the debate turns to increasing state surveillance capacity, closing down transparency, criminalising legitimate behaviour and speech and undermining encryption rather than promoting it. For example, using encrypted messaging services is illegal in Pakistan, and using them in Morocco will land you in prison and a $10,000 fine. What constitutes certain crimes is unclear in the cybercrime laws of Jordan, Kenya and Tunisia. The Computer Misuse Act in Uganda has been used to criminally charge a journalist. These examples demonstrate the range of issues that appear in cybercrime laws presented as cybersecurity.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Good cybersecurity puts the individual in the centre, ensures that secure devices and infrastructure is the priority of the nation state.</p><p>In addition, there is currently little transparency on how decisions regarding cybersecurity strategies and cybercrime laws are made and by whom. Civil society and technologists rarely have a seat at the decision-making table. Truly effective security must be done as a collaboration and no one actor can claim to have the solution. This requires trust and efforts to understand different stakeholder perspectives. When Donald Trump announced a review of US “cyber capabilities and vulnerabilities”, the Cyber Review Team consists of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/cyber-security">“military, law enforcement and industry representatives”</a>. No mention of civil society organisations or the technology community, which is a typical omission around the world. This inevitably leads to an adversarial relationship between governments and civil society, resulting in many initiatives being sent back to the drawing board. In 2015, a draft encryption policy in India was withdrawn after 24 hours due to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-to-withdraw-draft-encryption-policy/article7677348.ece">public outcry</a>&nbsp;over the requirement for end users to store plaintexts of communications for 90 days. In South Africa, civil society successfully prevented a draft cybercrime law from being passed due to the lack of a public interest defence and perceived criminalisation of journalists and whistleblowers. &nbsp;</p> <p>So what is the ‘right’ approach to cybersecurity? The guiding principle is that good cybersecurity policies and techniques uphold the right to privacy and other human rights, not undermine them.&nbsp;Good cybersecurity puts the individual in the centre, ensures that secure devices and infrastructure is the priority of the nation state, and that vulnerabilities that are found and risks that are identified are communicated as quickly as possible so that protection and prevention can occur.&nbsp;Everyone plays a role: cybersecurity is as much about response teams taking down bots, as about your installing the latest operating system updates on your phone. But most of all, we must ensure that cybercrime laws enacted alongside cybersecurity strategies reflect the need to protect people, rather than increase state power and control over people they are bound to protect.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/arne-hintz-lina-dencik/expanding-state-power-in-times-of-surveillance-realism-how-uk">Expanding state power in times of ‘surveillance realism’: how the UK got a ‘world-leading’ surveillance law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/waking-up-to-uk-s-investigatory-powers-act">Waking up to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Internet institutions & power human rights governing the net Lucy Purdon Mon, 13 Mar 2017 19:50:14 +0000 Lucy Purdon 109411 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Doing it the Malaysian way https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/kris-ruijgrok/doing-it-malaysian-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ever since the wake-up call of 2008, and with more and more Malaysians online, the ruling coalition is well aware that cyberspace is an important battleground, but chooses its battles.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29303729.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29303729.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BERSIH 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah waving to her supporters having been released from detention in Dataran Merdeka on 28 November 2016.NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Is internet a democratizing technology? Or is it first and foremost a tool for dictators to further control their populations? In a recently published <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2016.1223630?scroll=top&amp;needAccess=true">article</a> I used extensive quantitative research to demonstrate that increasing internet use has led to more protests in authoritarian regimes. However, although increasing use of the internet has facilitated <em>mobilization, </em>other <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022343314555782?legid=spjpr%3B52%2F3%2F338&amp;patientinform-links=yes">research</a> indicates that the existence of the internet has not contributed to the <em>democratisation </em>of authoritarian states. How to make sense of that? The authoritarian regime of Malaysia illustrates how the internet can enable collective action without truly threatening an authoritarian system.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Ever since independence in 1957 the same ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), has been in power in Malaysia. Strict control over the traditional media has always been an important pillar of its rule. However, when the internet became available to a wider public in the late 1990’s the Malaysian government promised <em>not </em>to censor the internet, in order to attract foreign investment. At the time, this was not seen as a huge political concession: there was no ‘dictators’ dilemma’. Internet was understood in purely economic and not political terms. Also very few Malaysians had access to the web: it was not perceived as a mass medium and hence not threatening. &nbsp;</p> <p>The political ‘tsunami’ in 2008 led to a different view of the BN government regarding cyberspace. For the first time since independence it lost its two third majority in parliament and nearly all commentators acknowledged that the internet had been very important for the success of the opposition. In the years before the elections the vast majority of the Malaysians entered a cyberspace where they were exposed to information that would never see the light of day in the national newspapers, or on television and radio channels. Learning about government wrongdoings like corruption scandals or human rights abuses, Malaysians’ perceptions of the BN government gradually changed, and it was this that impacted greatly on the polls in 2008. Even the prime minister at the time admitted that the government had lost the online battle. He said: <em>“We didn’t think it was important. It was a serious misjudgment. We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television were important, but young people were looking at text messages and blogs”. </em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since this wake-up call, the government has been much more active in cyberspace. Online dissidents have been increasingly persecuted, with bloggers who dig into scandals around the Prime Minister as well as netizens ‘insulting’ the Malaysian royalty or Islam often enough ending up behind bars. In addition, state resources have been invested in cybertroopers to influence public opinion, critical online websites have been blocked or are facing distributed denial-of-service attacks, and the government is known to possess sophisticated <a href="https://citizenlab.org/2013/04/for-their-eyes-only-2/">surveillance software</a>. </p> <p>Our traditional thinking on authoritarian regimes suggests that the primary goal of all these &nbsp;measures in the online realm is to suppress any further collective action against the state. More than anything else, we expect dictators to fear the threat ‘from below’. Very much in line with this is the <a href="http://gking.harvard.edu/files/censored.pdf">finding</a> that the Chinese authorities’ online censorship targets first and foremost content with a collective action potential. </p> <p>In the Malaysian case however, the story is different. As a matter of fact, the Malaysian government does not censor online calls for collective action, nor does it immediately persecute activists that openly call for a protest. Why not? &nbsp;</p> <p>The Malaysian regime is certainly technically capable of implementing ‘just-in-time’ blockings, to jail more online dissidents, or to modify its censorship more in accordance with the Chinese system. The fact that the BN coalition does not target online mobilization attempts also does not tell us that Malaysia is ‘not so authoritarian’. A glimpse at what the Malaysian state is doing in cyberspace nowadays is enough to conclude that the authorities are seriously undermining citizens’ access to alternative information. </p> <p>But the strategy not to crack down on internet-enabled protest is a deliberate one and the explanation for it is very simple. Even though demonstrations are a nuisance for the authorities, they are not truly endangering the survival of the regime. Anti-government protests and authoritarian sustainability are often imagined to be fundamentally incompatible. The Malaysian example shows that it is not. </p> <p>The 2008 election results demonstrated that exposure to alternative online information had led to an increased political awareness among the Malaysian urban middle classes. This not only manifested itself at the polls but also in the streets and squares. The Malaysian middle classes and especially the Bersih movement – demanding clean and fair elections – &nbsp;have taken to the streets on a frequent basis and been successful in attracting hundreds of thousands of protestors to these demonstrations. When these urban middle classes take to the streets they scream some slogans and take a few selfies. Yet after an afternoon of protesting they prefer to go home and have nice meal rather than staying in the streets for much longer. </p> <p>Without discrediting their grievances in any kind of way, it is clear that these protestors are dissatisfied but not nearly desperate enough to truly threaten the Malaysian political system. An activist I interviewed, remarked: “Malaysians are way too comfortable with the status-quo. If you had a week-long protest, the PM might do something. If you just protest for two days, it's not gonna do anything”. </p> <p>From BN’s perspective, there is no point in worrying too much about these folks taking to the streets. A majority of the crowd is opposition-voter anyway, and repressing them – online or offline – can only impact negatively on a domestic and international audience. Allowing protests can even count as good publicity for the regime. Ironically, by showing that protest is perfectly possible in Malaysia, demonstrations for more democracy become ‘proof’ of the democratic character of the country. </p> <p>If not to prevent online mobilization, why then is the regime increasingly active in cyberspace? In order to survive, the BN coalition tries to prevent the electoral tsunami of 2008 from flooding the whole country. It does so not through winning back the hearts and minds of the middle class urbanites, nor in keeping them from the streets. BN knows this is a lost battle. Instead, BN’s primary job is to keep the rural Malaysians on board through extensive systems of patronage and cooptation, but also by reaching out to them online. Many rural communities have access to internet nowadays, yet whereas the middle class urbanites entered an opposition-dominated virtual world, the youngest Malaysian netizens have entered a crowded cyberspace.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The BN government not only frustrates the online activities of the opposition and civil society, but tries to communicate pro-actively its message on the internet. Most importantly, it started doing online what it has been doing in the traditional press for decades: playing ‘the racial card’. Malaysia is an ethnically divided country with a majority of Muslim Malays and large Chinese and Indian minorities. BN – a multi-ethnic pact ­– has ever since its foundation constantly stirred up tensions between different ethnic groups, only to present itself as the sole moderate alternative that can preserve the fragile racial harmony in the country. </p> <p>As an illustration, the large Bersih demonstrations – demanding clean and fair elections – have constantly been bad-mouthed by the authorities as an attempt by the Chinese to take over the country. In addition, with every street protest against the BN coalition, the authorities tactically bring up the 13 May 1969 incident, when election-demonstrations ended in deadly ethnic riots.&nbsp; </p> <p>Freedom online until the political ‘earthquake’ in 2008 played an extremely important role in making the substantial middle classes aware of the unfair political system in the country, as well as the BN’s divide-and-rule tactics. They no longer buy into their ethnic fearmongering. The lower-class, rural Malaysians however, are still very susceptible to BN’s messages. It is this group – and primarily their votes – that most concerns the BN. Traditionally they have reached and convinced these people through television, newspapers and radio. But ever since the wake-up call of 2008, and with more and more Malaysians online, BN is now well aware that cyberspace is an important battleground. So, while they might not bother to prevent the middle classes in Kuala Lumpur from organizing collective action, they do make sure that the rural population continues to believe that not supporting Barisan Nasional would lead to ethnic clashes and chaos. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Malaysia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Malaysia Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Kris Ruijgrok Tue, 07 Mar 2017 20:44:32 +0000 Kris Ruijgrok 109306 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cooperativism in the digital era, or how to form a global counter-economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/michel-bauwens-vasilis-kostakis/cooperativism-in-digital-era-or-how-to-form-global-counter-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can we transform the renting economy of Uber and AirBnB into a genuine sharing one? Platform cooperatives must become open and commons-oriented.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-AirbnbToronto5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-AirbnbToronto5.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An Airbnb office in Toronto. Airbnb exemplifies "a kind of on-demand labour system." Wikicommons/opengrid scheduler/ grid engine. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“What if this is not capitalism, but something worse?” <a href="https://www.brown.edu/academics/literary-arts/events/mckenzie-wark-what-if-not-capitalism-something-worse">McKenzie Wark's question</a> eloquently summarizes the growing criticism of profit-maximizing business models within the so-called collaborative sharing economy. That “something worse,” appears to take the form of a new kind of feudalism, as in the case of Facebook. <span class="mag-quote-center">That “something worse,” appears to take the form of a new kind of feudalism, as in the case of Facebook.</span> If feudalism was based on the ownership of land by an elite, the resource now controlled by a small minority is networked data. Or, as in the case of Uber, AirBnB and TaskRabbit, it takes the form of a kind of on-demand labour system, where individuals-freelancers contribute their infrastructure and labour.</p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>What is platform cooperativism?</strong></h2> <p>The concept of “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platform_cooperative">platform cooperative</a>” has been proposed as an alternative to such “sharing economy” firms. A platform cooperative is an online platform (e.g. website, mobile app) that is organized as a cooperative and owned by its employees, customers, users, or other key stakeholders. For example, see a <a href="https://ioo.coop/directory/">directory</a> of several platform co-ops around the world. </p> <p>We fully support the broader movement of platform cooperativism. However, we cannot be content with isolated cooperative alternatives designed to counter old forms of capitalism. A global counter-economy needs to be built. And this could happen through the creation of a global digital commons of knowledge.</p> <h2><strong>How could commons-based peer production converge with cooperativism?</strong></h2> <p>Commons-based peer production has brought about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/michel-bauwens-vasilis-kostakis/new-post-capitalist-ecosystem-of-value-creation">a new logic </a>of collaboration between networks of people who freely organize around a common goal using shared resources, and market-oriented entities that add value on top of or alongside them. </p> <p>Prominent cases of commons-based peer production, such as the free and open-source software and Wikipedia, inaugurate a new model of value creation, different from both markets and firms. The creative energy of autonomous individuals, organized in distributed networks, produces meaningful projects, largely without traditional hierarchical organization or, quite often, financial compensation. <span class="mag-quote-center">Traditional models of cooperativism, which date back to the nineteenth century… have often over time tended to adopt competitive mentalities.</span></p> <p>This represents both challenges and opportunities for traditional models of cooperativism, which date back to the nineteenth century, and which have often over time tended to adopt competitive mentalities. In general, cooperatives are not creating, protecting, or producing commons, and they usually function under the patent and copyright system. Further, they may tend to self-enclose around their local or national membership. As a result, the global arena is left open to be dominated by large corporations. Arguably, these characteristics need changing, and today, there is a way for them to change.</p> <h2><strong>What is open cooperativism?</strong></h2> <p>The concept of <a href="http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/561">open cooperativism</a> has been conceived as an effort to infuse cooperatives with the basic principles of commons-based peer production. Pat Conaty and David Bollier <a href="http://bollier.org/blog/promise-“open-co-operativism”">have called</a> for “a new sort of synthesis or synergy between the emerging peer production and commons movement on the one hand, and growing, innovative elements of the co-operative and solidarity economy movements on the other.” </p> <p>To a greater degree than traditional cooperatives, open cooperatives would statutorily be oriented towards the common good by co-building digital commons. This could be understood as extending, not replacing, the seventh cooperative principle of concern for community. For instance, open cooperatives would internalize negative externalities; adopt multi-stakeholder governance models; contribute to the creation of immaterial and material commons; and be socially and politically organized around global concerns, even if they produce locally.</p> <h2><strong>Can we go beyond the classical corporate paradigm?</strong></h2> <p>We outline a list of six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy.</p> <p>First, it’s important to recognize that closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, closed firms use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce so that extra profits may be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving medicines or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. Open cooperatives, in comparison, would recognize natural abundance and refuse to generate revenue by making abundant resources artificially scarce. <span class="mag-quote-center">The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy.</span></p> <p>Second, a typical commons-based peer production project involves various distributed tasks, to which individuals can freely contribute. For instance, in free and open-source software projects, participants contribute code, create designs, maintain the websites, translate text, co-develop the marketing strategy, and offer support to users. Salaries based on a fixed job description may not be the most appropriate way to reward those who contribute to such processes. Open co-ops, therefore, may practice, for example, <a href="http://commonstransition.org/value-commons-economy/">open value accounting or contributory accounting.</a> Any income the contributions generate then flow to contributors according to the points they accrued. This model could be an antidote to the tendency in many firms for just a few well-placed contributors to capture the value that has been co-created by a much larger community. </p> <p>Third, open cooperatives could secure fair distribution and benefit-sharing of commonly created value through “<a href="http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/CopyFair_License">C</a><a href="http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/CopyFair_License">opy</a><a href="http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/CopyFair_License">F</a><a href="http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/CopyFair_License">air</a>” licenses. Existing copyleft licenses – such as Creative Commons and the GNU Public License – allow anyone to reuse the necessary knowledge commons on the condition that changes and improvements are added to that same commons. That framework, however, fails to encourage reciprocity for commercial use of the commons, or to foster a level playing field for commons-oriented enterprises. These shortcomings can be met through CopyFair licenses that allow for sharing while also expecting reciprocity. For example, the FairShares Association uses a Creative Commons non-commercial license for the general public, but allows members of its organization to use the content commercially.</p> <p>Fourth, open cooperatives would make use of open designs to produce sustainable goods and services. For-profit enterprises often aim to achieve planned obsolescence in products that would wear out prematurely. In that way, they maintain tension between supply and demand and maximize their profits; obsolescence is a feature, not a bug. In contrast, open design communities, such as these of the <a href="http://farmhack.org/tools">Farmhack</a>, the <a href="https://wikihouse.cc/">Wikihouse</a>, and the <a href="http://reprap.org/">RepRap 3D printe</a><a href="http://reprap.org/">rs</a>, do not have the same incentives, so the practice of planned obsolescence is arguably alien to them. </p> <p>Fifth, and relatedly, open cooperatives could reduce waste. The lack of transparency and penchant for antagonism among closed enterprises means they will have a hard time creating a circular economy ­– one in which the output of one production process is used as an input for another. But open cooperatives could create ecosystems of collaboration through open supply chains. These chains may enhance the transparency of the production processes and enable participants to adapt their behavior based on the knowledge available in the network. There is no need for overproduction once the realities of the network become common knowledge. Open cooperatives could then move beyond an exclusive reliance on imperfect market price signals and toward mutual coordination of production, thanks to the combination of open supply chains and open value accounting. <span class="mag-quote-center">Open cooperatives could create ecosystems of collaboration through open supply chains.</span></p> <p>Sixth, open cooperatives could mutualize not only digital infrastructures but also physical ones. The misnamed “sharing economy” of Airbnb and Uber, despite all the justified critique it receives, illustrates the potential in matching idle resources. Co-working, skill-sharing, and ride sharing are examples of the many ways in which we can reuse and share resources. With co-ownership and co-governance, a genuine sharing economy could achieve considerable advances in more efficient resource use, especially with the aid of shared data facilities and manufacturing tools.</p> <h2><strong>How does the concept of platform cooperativism relate to the notion of open cooperativism?</strong></h2> <p>Cooperative ownership of platforms can begin to reorient the platform economy around a commons-oriented model. </p> <p>We have highlighted six practices that are already emerging in various forms but need to be more universally integrated. We believe that the major aim for fostering a more commons-centric economy is to recapture surplus value which is now feeding speculative capital, and re-invest it in the development of commons-oriented productive communities. Otherwise, the potential of commons-based peer production will remain underdeveloped and subservient to the dominant system. Platform cooperatives must not merely replicate false scarcities and unnecessary waste; they must become open and commons-oriented. <span class="mag-quote-center">This model could be an antidote to the tendency in many firms for just a few well-placed contributors to capture the value that has been co-created by a much larger community.</span></p> <p><em>Note: This text is based on the authors' chapter in Ours to Hack and to Own (edited by T. Scholz &amp; N. Schneider, OR Books, 2016)</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/oliver-sylvester-bradley/ours-to-hack-and-own">Ours to Hack and to Own</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open2017/oliver-sylvester-bradley/representation-is-no-longer-enough-qa-with-michel-bauwens"> Representation is no longer enough - A Q&amp;A with Michel Bauwens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ann-pettifor/is-capitalism-mutating-into-infotech-utopia">Is capitalism ’mutating’ into an infotech utopia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open2017/oliver-sylvester-bradley/creating-financial-model-that-benefits-many-over-few-qa-with-brianna-wettla"> &quot;Creating a financial model that benefits the many over the few&quot; - A Q&amp;A with Brianna Wettlaufer, CEO of Stocksy.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open2017/introducing-open-2017-platform-co-ops">Introducing Open 2017 – what are platform co-ops?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/michel-bauwens-vasilis-kostakis/new-post-capitalist-ecosystem-of-value-creation">A new post-capitalist ecosystem of value creation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties EU United States Democracy and government Economics Ideas Internet Vasilis Kostakis Michel Bauwens Mon, 06 Mar 2017 18:47:11 +0000 Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis 109265 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How do we break the filter bubble, and design for democracy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/wfd/engin-bozdag/how-do-we-break-filter-bubble-and-design-for-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Some designers have developed software that actually combat online filter bubbles. But how these designers interpret democracy – aggregating choice – limits these tools. Democracy is so much more.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wfd"><img width="460px" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/bannerforarticle.png" alt="wfd" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-29338267.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yui Mok PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-29338267.jpg" alt="lead " title="Yui Mok PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yui Mok PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the aftermath of the US presidential election that seemed to shock at least half the country, many liberals are asking themselves how they missed the popularity of Donald Trump.&nbsp;The ‘remain’ campaign for the UK’s shocking Brexit vote are also asking themselves how the other side won. One possible answer lies in a concept known as “the filter bubble”: &nbsp;the idea that personalisation tools from companies like Facebook and Google are isolating us from opposing viewpoints, leading different parties to feel like they occupy separate realities. The theory argues that this in turn decreases the quality of information and as a consequence, civic discourse and democracy is undermined. </p> <p>To investigate this theory, Facebook conducted a study in 2015, and its findings show that exposure to diverse content is suppressed by Facebook’s algorithm by 8% for self-identified liberals, and by 5% for self-identified conservatives. <a href="https://medium.com/message/how-facebook-s-algorithm-suppresses-content-diversity-modestly-how-the-newsfeed-rules-the-clicks-b5f8a4bb7bab#.3x65gzbt8">As critics argue</a>, this proves that users see fewer news items on Facebook that they disagree with which are shared by their friends, because the algorithm is not showing them.</p> <p>While Facebook and Google have been criticised because they cause filter bubbles and damage democracy, algorithms are not inherently bad. Some designers have developed software that actually combat filter bubbles. However, as I will demonstrate, how the designers interpret democracy shapes the tools they are developing. Metrics from liberal and deliberative notions of democracy are dominating most of the tools, and other metrics, such as ‘minority reach’ are not implemented by any of the tools.</p> <h2><strong>Liberal democracy and autonomy-enhancing tools</strong></h2> <p>Liberal democrats stress the importance of self-determination, awareness, being able to make choices and respect for individuals. They construe democracy as an aggregation of individual preferences through a contest (in the form of voting), so that the preferences of the majority win the policy battle. Filter bubbles are a problem for liberal democrats, especially due to restrictions on individual liberty and autonomy, restrictions on choice and the increase in unawareness.</p> <p>If Facebook and Google make decisions on our behalf, and provide us no options to control the information we are receiving, this is bad for the individual, according to liberal democrats.</p> <p>There are many tools developed with this notion of democracy, where metrics such as autonomy, awareness and choice are used. One of the first examples of such tools is Balancer (See Figure 1). It is a Google Chrome extension that analyses user’s web browsing history and shows the user the political slant of their reading history. A more recent example is PolitEcho (Figure 2). PolitEcho shows the user the political biases of their Facebook friends and news feed. The tool assigns each of the friends a score based on a prediction of their political leanings, then displays a graph of the friend list. It calculates the political bias in the content of the user’s own news feed and compares it with the bias of the friends’ list, to highlight possible differences between the two.</p> <p>Bobble (Figure 3) uses hundreds of nodes to distribute a user's Google search queries worldwide each time the user performs a Google search.&nbsp; For example, when a user performs a Google search with keyword “Obamacare", this search keyword is distributed to 40+ worldwide Bobble clients that perform the same Google search and return corresponding search returns. Users then can see which results are displayed on their browser, but not on others, and vice versa. It is a tool for users to get an idea of the extent of personalisation taking place. The tool aims to increase users’ awareness of Google’s filters.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 1: Balancer is a browser add-on that shows users their biases. In this picture the user is biased towards reading from li"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz1.png" alt="" title="Figure 1: Balancer is a browser add-on that shows users their biases. In this picture the user is biased towards reading from li" width="360" height="365" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 1: Balancer is a browser add-on that shows users their biases. In this picture the user is biased towards reading from liberal news outlets.</span></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 2: PolitEcho shows the political leanings of friends and the political leaning of shown posts in a user’s Facebook news f"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz2.png" alt="" title="Figure 2: PolitEcho shows the political leanings of friends and the political leaning of shown posts in a user’s Facebook news f" width="451" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 2: PolitEcho shows the political leanings of friends and the political leaning of shown posts in a user’s Facebook news feed.</span></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/boz3.png" alt="" title="" width="438" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bozzo.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 3: Bobble displays a user’s Google search results that only they received (in yellow) and results that they have missed b"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bozzo.png" alt="" title="Figure 3: Bobble displays a user’s Google search results that only they received (in yellow) and results that they have missed b" width="434" height="117" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 3: Bobble displays a user’s Google search results that only they received (in yellow) and results that they have missed but others have received (in red).</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Deliberative democracy and knowledge quality enhancing tools</strong></h2> <p>Deliberative democrats aim to create a public opinion through open public discussions, so that elections are infused with information and reasoning. The goal is to use the common reason of equal citizens, not just fair elections. Improving the quality of information, discovering disagreements, gaining mutual understanding and sense-making are among their other goals.</p> <p>Filter bubbles are a problem for deliberative democrats, mainly because of the low quality of information and the diminishing of information diversity. If bubbles exist, the pool of available information and ideas will be less diverse and discovering new perspectives, ideas or facts will be more difficult. If we only get to see the things we already agree with on the Internet, discovering disagreement and the unknown will be quite difficult, considering the increasing popularity of the Internet and social media as a source of political information and news. Our arguments will not be refined, as they are not challenged by opposing viewpoints. We will not contest our own ideas and viewpoints and as a result, only receive confirming information. This will lead us not to be aware of disagreements. As a consequence, the quality of arguments and information and respect towards one other will suffer. Respect for other opinions is decreased and civic discourse is undermined,</p> <p class="Standaard1">There are many tools developed with this notion of democracy, where metrics such as information quality, disagreement discovery, mutual understanding are used. An example of such a tool is “This is fake” (Figure 4). “This is fake” allows users to submit items that intentionally spread misinformation. After a moderator reviews the submission, it is added to a database and users are warned when the item shows up in their feed. While the tool does not aim to highlight disagreements or improve deliberation, it aims to improve the quality of information. Similarly B.S. Detector (Figure 5) identifies fake news, satire, extreme bias, hate group, clickbait sites and adds a warning label to the top of questionable sites as well as link warnings on Facebook and Twitter.&nbsp;</p><p class="Standaard1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/box7.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 4: “This is Fake” allows users to submit fake items and warns users about fake items"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/box7.png" alt="" title="Figure 4: “This is Fake” allows users to submit fake items and warns users about fake items" width="451" height="185" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 4: “This is Fake” allows users to submit fake items and warns users about fake items.</span></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bozz78.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 5: B.S. Detector warns the user when the site they visit contains conspiracy theories, extreme bias, hate speech, or fak"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bozz78.png" alt="" title="Figure 5: B.S. Detector warns the user when the site they visit contains conspiracy theories, extreme bias, hate speech, or fak" width="451" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 5: B.S. Detector warns the user when the site they visit contains conspiracy theories, extreme bias, hate speech, or fake news.</span></span></span>FlipFeed (Figure 6) is a Chrome extension that enables Twitter users to replace their own feed with that of another real Twitter user. Powered by deep learning and social network analysis, feeds are selected based on inferred political ideology ("left" or "right") and served to users of the extension. For example, a left-leaning user who uses FlipFeed may load and navigate a right-leaning user's feed, observing the news stories, commentary, and other content they consume. While it does not aim to assess the quality of information, it aims to highlight disagreements and discover other viewpoints.</p><p class="Standaard1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bch78.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 6: FlipFeed changes a user’s newsfeed with another user’s from the other political ideology (left or right)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/bch78.png" alt="" title="Figure 6: FlipFeed changes a user’s newsfeed with another user’s from the other political ideology (left or right)." width="451" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 6: FlipFeed changes a user’s newsfeed with another user’s from the other political ideology (left or right).</span></span></span>Escape Your Bubble (Figure 7) asks users to identify whether they want to learn more about Republicans or Democrats and inserts stories into their feeds that align with the political leanings they wish to be exposed to. The extension then adds one clearly marked story that falls outside of the user's established political viewpoint every time a user visits the social network.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/fhjf67.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 7: Escape your Bubble, depending on the user’s preferences, inserts articles into their news feed from the opposing viewp"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/fhjf67.png" alt="" title="Figure 7: Escape your Bubble, depending on the user’s preferences, inserts articles into their news feed from the opposing viewp" width="451" height="519" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 7: Escape your Bubble, depending on the user’s preferences, inserts articles into their news feed from the opposing viewpoint (republican or liberal). </span></span></span>Considerit (Figure 8) is a deliberation (pro/con) tool that is developed with the aims of (1) helping people learn about political topics and possible trade-offs between different opinions, (2) nudging them toward reflective consideration of other voters’ thoughts, and (3) enabling users to see how others consider tradeoffs. It provides an interface where users can create pro/con lists by including existing arguments others have contributed, to contribute new points themselves, and to use the results of these personal deliberations to expose salient points by summarizing their stance rather than a yes/no vote.&nbsp;</p><p class="Standaard1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/hgd67.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Figure 8: Considerit helps people learn about political topics and possible tradeoffs between different opinions."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/hgd67.png" alt="" title="Figure 8: Considerit helps people learn about political topics and possible tradeoffs between different opinions." width="451" height="235" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 8: Considerit helps people learn about political topics and possible tradeoffs between different opinions.</span></span></span></p><h2><span style="font-size: 17px;">Are the tools perfect, and what about other models of democracy?</span></h2> <p>While liberal and deliberative notions of democracy dominate the created tools against filter bubbles, these models are not perfect. The liberal model of democracy is often criticised because it has no way of distinguishing normatively legitimate outcomes from the preferences and the desires of the powerful, and makes no distinction between purely subjective preferences and legitimate and shared (quasi-objective) judgments. It simply aggregates the choices of individuals. Deliberative democracy on the other hand is criticised due to limits of deliberation in large nations, widespread incompetence and political ignorance of an average voter and lack of time for real and frequent deliberation. Furthermore, too much focus on consensus via the deliberation of the majority might not provide much opportunity for the minority/challenging opinions.</p> <p>There are other models of democracy<strong>. </strong>For instance, agonistic democracy stresses the need to provide special exposure to the needs/opinions of minorities and<strong> </strong>and those who are disadvantaged due to structural inequalities. Agonists argue that just aiming for consensus and deliberation will serve the interest and perspective of dominant groups. As a result, minorities might never get the chance to reach a larger public.</p> <p>While it is possible to come across critical voices and disadvantaged views using some of these tools, it is also highly likely that these voices and views get lost among the “popular” items, which are of interest to the majority of the audience. As media scholars argued, media should not only proportionally reflect differences in politics, religion, culture and social conditions, but provide equal access to their channels for all people and all ideas <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/14614449922225555">in society</a>. If the population preferences were uniformly distributed over society, then satisfying the first condition (reflection) would also satisfy the second condition (equal access). However, this is seldom the case. Often population preferences tend toward the middle and to the mainstream. In such cases, the media will not satisfy the equal access norm, and the view of minorities will not reach a larger public. This is undesirable, because social change usually begins with minority views and movements.</p> <p>In conclusion, while the efforts of these designers are laudable, most of the designers’ interpretations of democracy seem to be limited to “increase awareness, increase choice and hear the other side”. As American philosopher John Dewey observed, long before the Internet, social media and other platforms were invented, democracy is an ongoing cooperative social experimentation process. Dewey was of the opinion that we live in an ever-evolving world that requires the continuous reconstruction of ideas and ideals to survive and thrive. The idea of democracy is no exception in this respect. Hence, we should experiment with a plurality of democracy models, including ones that propagate agonistic elements.</p><p><span style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 17px;">What should Google and Facebook do?</span></p> <p>Almost all of the tools I have mentioned are developed with limited resources and if they operate on popular platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, there is a risk that they get banned due to <a href="http://www.recode.net/2017/2/13/14599598/flipfeed-lets-you-see-other-twitter-feeds">unauthorised access</a>. They are also not likely to be used by the majority of Internet users. Google and Facebook often argue that they are not a news platform, they do not have an editorial role and therefore they will not design algorithms to promote diversity. For instance, Facebook’s project management director for News Feed states: “there’s a line that we can’t cross, which is deciding that a specific piece of information – be it news, political, religious, etc – is something we should be promoting. It’s just a very, very slippery slope that I think we have to be very careful <a href="http://time.com/collection-post/3950525/facebook-news-feed-algorithm/">not to go down</a>”.</p> <p class="Standaard1">However, research shows that these platforms are dominant social platforms when it comes to news consumption. According to a study from 2016, most people in the US read news from their phones and of those on Facebook, more than two-thirds <a href="http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-modern-news-consumer/%20%20http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36528256">use it for news</a>. Another recent study indicates that social media has overtaken television as young people's main source of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36528256">news</a>. Meanwhile, news sites rely more and more on Facebook for <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/04/facebook-is-eating-the-internet/391766/">social traffic</a>. For instance, in the first quarter of 2016, Buzzfeed received 201,343,000 worldwide desktop visits from Facebook <a href="https://www.similarweb.com/blog/facebook-traffic-publishers">alone</a>. If we also consider the dominant position of these platforms in the search and social media markets worldwide, we can argue that they are indeed important news and opinion sources. </p> <p>Considering their dominant status, online platforms should adapt and experiment with the metrics and approaches that I have outlined. Breaking bubbles requires an interdisciplinary approach, as several disciplines including human-computer interaction, multimedia information retrieval, and ethics all have something to contribute. More experiments with different contexts will need to be conducted in order to find which techniques work and which do not. Once we have more concrete results, the systems could apply different strategies for different types of users. </p> <p><em>An <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10676-015-9380-y">earlier version of this article</a> appeared in Ethics and Information Technology: “Breaking the filter bubble: democracy and design” (E. Bozdag and van den Hoven MJ), 2015.</em></p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner" style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">openDemocracy is partnering with the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy. <a href="http://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/home">Read more here</a>.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wfd"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u548777/edu2.png" alt="" /></a>openDemocracy is partnering with the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy (see <a href="http://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/programme-2016">here</a> for more details). </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/marco-deseriis-richard-bartlett/loomio-and-problem-of-deliberation">Loomio and the problem of deliberation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/sara-carpenter/learning-in-movement-moment">Learning in a &#039;movement moment&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mana-farooghi/internet-can-spread-hate-but-it-can-also-help-to-tackle-it">The internet can spread hate, but it can also help to tackle it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties World Forum for Democracy 2016 Engin Bozdag Fri, 03 Mar 2017 08:45:49 +0000 Engin Bozdag 109032 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does digital democracy improve democracy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/thamy-pogrebinschi/does-digital-democracy-improve-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Digital innovations may change the quality of participation and the nature of democracy. How? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/thamy-pogrebinschi/la-democracia-digital-mejora-la-democracia">Español&nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Sin título_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Sin título_2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: LATTINO</span></span></span></p><p>The advancement of tools of information and communications technology (ICT) has the potential to impact democracy nearly as much as any other area, such as science or education. The effects of the digital world on politics and society are still difficult to measure, and the speed with which these new technological tools evolve is often faster than a scholar’s ability to assess them, or a policymaker’s capacity to make them fit into existing institutional designs. </p> <p>Since their early inception, digital tools and widespread access to the internet have been changing the traditional means of participation in politics, making them more effective. Electoral processes have become more transparent and effective in several countries where the paper ballot has been substituted for electronic voting machines. Petition-signing became a widespread and powerful tool as individual citizens no longer needed to be bothered out in the streets to sign a sheet of paper, but could instead be simultaneously reached by the millions via e-mail and have their names added to virtual petition lists in seconds. Protests and demonstrations have also been immensely revitalized in the internet era. In the last few years, social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp have proved to be a driving-force behind democratic uprisings, by mobilizing the masses, invoking large gatherings, and raising awareness, as was the case of the Arab Spring. &nbsp;</p> <p>While traditional means of political participation can become more effective by reducing the costs of participation with the use of ICT tools, one cannot yet assure that it would become less subject to distortion and manipulation. In the most recent United States’ elections, computer scientists claimed that electronic voting machines may have been hacked, altering the results in the counties that relied on them. E-petitions can also be easily manipulated, if safe identification procedures are not put in place. And in these times of post-facts and post-truths, protests and demonstrations can result from strategic partisan manipulation of social media, leading to democratic instability as has recently occurred in Brazil. Nevertheless, the distortion and manipulation of these traditional forms of participation were also present before the rise of ICT tools, and regardless, even if the latter do not solve these preceding problems, they may manage to make political processes more effective anyway.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Petition-signing became a widespread and powerful tool as individual citizens no longer needed to be bothered out in the streets to sign a sheet of paper</span></p> <p>The game-changer for democracy, however, is not the revitalization of the traditional means of political participation like elections, petition-signing and protests through digital tools. Rather, the real change on how democracy works, governments rule, and representation is delivered comes from entirely <em>new means of e-participation</em>, or the so-called <em>digital democratic innovations</em>. While the internet may boost traditional forms of political participation by increasing the quantity of citizens engaged, democratic innovations that rely on ICT tools may change the very <em>quality </em>of participation, thus in the long-run changing the nature of democracy and its institutions. </p> <p>First, digital innovations may change how democracy works by making it more <em>inclusive</em> and more <em>deliberative</em>. Real democratic inclusion takes place when the latter is understood not in terms of the number of citizens and volume of participation, but in terms of the <em>groups targeted</em> and the <em>policy issues addressed</em> by the new means of e-participation. Several digital democratic innovations have been created that specifically address women, youth and other vulnerable groups that usually have not only a lower participation in electoral politics, but also have their interests left aside by elected politicians. Mechanisms for <em>digital oversight</em> have evolved to specifically allow women to raise their voices against the multiple forms of gender violence, and in many cases help law-enforcement officials to identify offenders and increase surveillance. Several new policies addressing the youth have been drafted in <em>interactive policymaking platforms,</em> making use of inputs directly provided by young citizens, who tend to prefer their computers’ keyboard to the ballot box. Such new spaces of participation have been teaching the new generations to not simply understand their political preferences as static manifestations of choice that are aggregated by voting mechanisms every two to four years, but instead to collectively express their demands and construct their political opinions through continuous deliberation. Historically excluded groups can now participate in new institutional spaces designed to address issues that specifically concern them, making their own (digital) voices count in the drafting and implementation of policies. </p> <p>Second, digital democratic innovations may change how governments rule by making them more <em>accountable </em>and <em>effective.</em> In a short time, E-government and open data have become so widespread as tools for enhancing transparency that one can barely still call them innovations. The most innovative and democratic institutional designs are today found among those who rely on ICT tools to allow citizens to <em>collaborate </em>with their government by <em>interacting </em>with the public administration. Forms of <em>interactive administration</em> have evolved as both internet sites and mobile applications (apps), where citizens can identify problems in their cities and propose solutions to fix them. Mechanisms of <em>collaborative mapping </em>have quickly increased, allowing citizens to use geo-localization tools to do things as varied as crime reporting, spotting foci of diseases, singling out areas of deforestation or denouncing corruption. Both types of digital innovations have been designed to include citizens in the policy process, allowing them to play a role in the implementation and evaluation of policies while improving public service delivery, enforcing the rule of law, and rendering governments more accountable.</p> <p>Third, digital innovations may change how representation is performed by turning it more <em>responsive</em>. Whereas sometimes millions of votes are not enough to ensure that elected politicians take the preferences of their constituencies into consideration; in certain cases the e-participation of a few thousand citizens have proved to be more effective to make those preferences heard. Processes of <em>crowdsourcing legislation</em> are perhaps the most innovative change that has taken place in parliaments over the last centuries, enabling citizens to collaboratively draft new legislation, and thus take part in lawmaking. In some cases, this form of online citizen participation is not only restricted to agenda-setting, but also to the formulation stage of the policy cycle by adding, changing or removing parts of new laws to be enacted by representatives. A growing number of political parties have also been using <em>open sourced platforms</em> to allow citizens to contribute suggestions to their political agendas, oppose their adopted polices, and vote online on the issues they must vote on in parliaments. The use of such tools enables parties and their incumbents to strengthen liaisons with their members and possibly win new supporters. Interestingly enough, digital innovations have been making representation less virtual by virtual means. </p> <p>These new digital institutional designs mentioned above not only enhance participation, they also improve democracy by increasing political inclusion, generating accountability, enforcing the rule of law and augmenting responsiveness. They may also foster social equality, as they include traditionally disadvantaged groups and provide channels to voice their underrepresented demands. Just a few years ago one could argue that the digital divide rules out low-income citizens, but today the widespread use of smartphones is almost making computers as a device necessary to access the internet obsolete. It is not by chance that higher numbers of active smartphones per capita are found in some of the poorest countries, and that such mobile internet devices have proved an efficient tool to include citizens in highly unequal societies. By correcting some of the deficits of representative governments and providing new ways to deal with social inequality, new forms of e-participation may not change democracy as quickly as they evolve and spread, but they have certainly already made it more diverse and inclusive through institutional digital innovation.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta digitaLiberties Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics latin america Thamy Pogrebinschi Thu, 02 Mar 2017 10:52:31 +0000 Thamy Pogrebinschi 109178 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Theresa May’s Britain, a proposed new ‘espionage act’ is alarming, but hardly surprising https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/rebecca-vincent/theresa-may-britain-proposed-new-espionage-act-is-alarming <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is part of a misguided trend of civil liberties being sacrificed in the name of security across Europe and the United States.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30157412.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Theresa May-Donald Trump piece by street artist Bambi. Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-30157412.jpg" alt="lead " title="Theresa May-Donald Trump piece by street artist Bambi. Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May-Donald Trump piece by street artist Bambi. Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last autumn, when the UK’s menacing Investigatory Powers Act was on the verge of being adopted, the human rights community grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of public interest in what would later be <a href="https://www.dontspyonus.org.uk/blog/2016/11/17/parliament-passes-most-extreme-surveillance-law-in-uk-history/">dubbed</a> “the most extreme surveillance law in UK history”. Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters sans frontières (RSF) – was among the groups working frantically to <a href="https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-urges-uk-parliament-reject-menacing-snoopers-charter">stop passage</a> of the bill (the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’), in the absence of sufficient safeguards for whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources. </p> <p>RSF <a href="https://leftfootforward.org/2016/10/theresa-mays-snoopers-charter-is-a-death-sentence-for-investigative-journalism/">cautioned</a> that the bill could serve as a “death sentence” for investigative journalism in the UK. And yet it passed, with Labour whipping its MPs and peers to abstain rather than oppose the bill, and hijacking the final few debates with a piggybacking <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/oct/27/press-freedom-danger-if-mps-vote-in-section-40-by-the-back-door">amendment</a> on press regulation that had no business being tacked onto the bill in the first place, yet effectively diverted focus from the serious surveillance matters at stake.</p> <p>At the time, one journalist <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/privacy/2016/10/you-are-living-black-mirror-episode-and-you-don-t-care">exclaimed</a>: “You are living in a Black Mirror episode and you don’t care”. Now, three months later, with stories breaking around the Law Commission’s <a href="https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-alarmed-uk-proposal-jail-journalists-spies-obtaining-leaks">alarming proposals</a> under the auspices of a new ‘Espionage Act’ that could land journalists in jail for up to 14 years for obtaining leaked information, the dystopian world of Black Mirror once again seems uncomfortably close to our present reality in the UK.</p> <h2><strong>Worrying moves under a new prime minister</strong></h2> <p>Since Theresa May became prime minister last July, the UK government and parliament have carried out a number of worrying moves against press freedom. The UK’s press freedom record was already far from perfect, with a ranking of 38th out of 180 countries in RSF’s <a href="https://rsf.org/en/ranking">2016 World Press Freedom Index</a>, but disturbing trends taking place under May’s leadership may result in the UK’s ranking slipping even further in this year’s Index.</p> <p>The case of <a href="https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-condemns-uks-seizure-syrian-journalists-passport">Zaina Erhaim</a> stands out – an award-winning Syrian journalist who was detained and questioned by UK border agents upon arrival at Heathrow airport in September. Officials seized Erhaim’s passport, which had falsely been flagged as stolen by Syria’s Assad regime, with which the UK has “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/oct/05/home-office-has-not-given-journalists-confiscated-passport-to-syria">no direct contact</a>”. The move left Erhaim and her infant daughter at risk, and set a worrying precedent for other critical foreign journalists and activists travelling to the UK.</p> <p>On the legislative front, since <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/investigatory-powers-act-bill-snoopers-charter-spying-law-powers-theresa-may-a7503616.html">taking effect</a> on 31 December, the Investigatory Powers Act, drafted by May herself when she was Home Secretary, has given the government vast powers to monitor, intercept, and store the communications data of tens of millions of people. Parliament failed to include sufficient provisions to protect whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources. This makes any guarantee of anonymity impossible, and puts sources at risk, jeopardising the most critical aspect of investigative journalism – the ability of journalists to get information that some are determined to hide.</p> <p>In parallel to the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, press regulation issues once again came to the forefront of the British press freedom debate. Following the Press Regulation Panel’s <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/25/impress-approved-as-regulatory-body-amid-press-freedom-fears/">approval</a> of Impress as a regulator in November, Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which had remained theoretical in the absence of a state-approved regulator, became a possible active threat to press freedom.</p> <p>RSF and other press freedom groups expressed particular concern regarding a cost-shifting provision that could hold publishers who refused to join the state-approved regulator liable for all legal claims made against them, regardless of merit – an overly punitive approach that would cripple many small publishers. The government opened the matter to public consultation, and RSF and English PEN drafted a <a href="https://rsf.org/en/reports/rsf-and-english-pen-response-consultation-leveson-inquiry-and-its-implementation">joint submission</a> calling for Section 40 to be repealed.</p> <p>Now, with still no decision from the government on the Section 40 consultation, even more worrying plans have come to light. Over the past week, startling proposals of the Law Commission have become public, with the release of a consultation paper titled ‘<a href="http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cp230_protection_of_official_data.pdf">"Protection of Official Data"</a>. Without <a href="https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/02/10/espionage_law_jail_journalists_as_spies/">meaningfully engaging</a> NGOs or media, the Law Commission has recommended replacing the Official Secrets Act with a disturbing new “Espionage Act”. The matter is now open to public consultation, closing on 3 April.</p> <p>As proposed, the act would make it easy to categorise journalists, whistleblowers, and human rights defenders as ‘spies’, by redefining espionage as “capable of being committed by someone who not only communicates information, but also by someone who obtains or gathers it”. There would be “no restriction on who can commit the offence”.</p> <p>Most alarming of all, the maximum jail sentence for such offences would be increased from two years to a staggering 14 years – meaning British journalists could face serious prison sentences for carrying out legitimate journalistic work in the public interest. The scope of the law would also be broadened to include information that damages “economic well-being”, leading some to <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-leaks-could-put-journalists-in-prison-0fvmv5gdm">point out</a> that leaks about Brexit negotiations could land journalists in jail.</p> <h2><strong>Erosion of civil liberties in the name of security</strong></h2> <p>Although certainly alarming, sadly, the proposed new “Espionage Act” is hardly surprising. It is part of a misguided trend of civil liberties being sacrificed in the name of security across Europe and the United States. With horrific terrorist attacks grabbing headlines and increasing political uncertainty in the wake of the British EU referendum results and the election of Donald Trump as US president, citing security concerns guaranteed public compliance with government proposals to do something – to do <em>anything</em> – to address perceived threats.</p> <p>But while increased security measures are in many ways justifiable, this cannot be done at the expense of our fundamental rights, of the very values underpinning British democracy. Human rights, including press freedom, must factor prominently in the debate, and safeguards must be included in all relevant policies and legislation to ensure their protection, not their continued erosion. &nbsp;</p> <p>The public consultation on the Law Commission’s proposals is an opportunity for the government to start heeding these concerns. The views of NGOs, of the legal community, and the media must be taken into consideration – and these views, so far, are united in their alarm at any prospect of jailing journalists for simply doing their jobs. The “Espionage Act” as envisioned is incompatible with British law and British values – not to mention our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. But then, in Theresa May’s Britain, the Convention may very well be <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-campaign-leave-european-convention-on-human-rights-2020-general-election-brexit-a7499951.html">the next thing to go</a>.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/arne-hintz-lina-dencik/expanding-state-power-in-times-of-surveillance-realism-how-uk">Expanding state power in times of ‘surveillance realism’: how the UK got a ‘world-leading’ surveillance law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/waking-up-to-uk-s-investigatory-powers-act">Waking up to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/rebecca-vincent/uk-re-elected-to-un-human-rights-council-despite-worrying-moves-against-press-freedo">UK re-elected to UN Human Rights Council despite worrying moves against press freedom at home</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Rebecca Vincent Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:16:08 +0000 Rebecca Vincent 108929 at https://www.opendemocracy.net