Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Library of Congress Blinds Hill's Researchers to Wikileaks

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, December 6 2010

If a big takeaway from l'affair Wikileaks is that there's tremendous power in the networked world's ability to ripple out information, Steven Aftergood has a story on the flip-side of that power. Decisions about who gets to see what online can be more impactful than they might first look just because the way we get information these days is so integrated. The Library of Congress, it was reported last week, quickly moved to block Wikileaks in-house. One ripple effect? That means that researchers inside the Congressional Research Office, the Hill's research wing, are finding that they're cut off from the site too, and thus unable to make Congress smarter about what it is that Wikileaks is up to. Aftergood reports:

“It’s a difficult situation,” said one CRS analyst. “The information was released illegally, and it’s not right for government agencies to be aiding and abetting this illegal dissemination.  But the information is out there.  Presumably, any Library of Congress researcher who wants to access the information that Wikileaks illegally released will simply use their home computers or cellphones to do so.  Will they be able to refer directly to the information in their writings for the Library?  Apparently not, unless a secondary source, like a newspaper, happens to have already cited it.”

So, for example, if one of CRS's professional researchers wanted to answer a member of Congress' research request for, say, what in the Wikileaks cable dump has Putin upset, she or he would have to rely upon published reports rather than the source materials. In short,

In fact, if CRS is “Congress’s brain,” then the new access restrictions could mean a partial lobotomy.

Break the network, and the network breaks. There's some irony in the fact that one of the the big "leaks" that Wikileaks was known for until Cablegate happens was when last February they published more than 6,000 CRS reports, documents that are largely meant only for the eyes of members of Congress and their staff.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More