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WeGov

Who's Behind Russia's "WikiLeaks"?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, June 19 2014

Screenshot of Shaltay Boltay's Twitter account

Representatives of a “mysterious Russian hacker collective” known as “Anonymous International” or “Shaltay Boltay” (Humpty-Dumpty) have denied being hackers. They have told the press that they do very little technical hacking. Mostly they leak things: government memos, email exchanges, and insider reports.

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WeGov

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, April 24 2014

The new BBC series Sherlock is a popular subject for dan mei (Wikipedia)

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

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WeGov

The Tweet Is Coming From Inside the House: Rwanda's Twittergate

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 18 2014

Paul Kagame looking pensive (Matthew Jordaan / Wikipedia)

It began with a nasty tweet vilifying journalist Sonia Rolley, who covers Rwanda for Radio France International (RFI), from the account @RichardGoldston. A second journalist, Steve Terrill, stepped in to virtually defend Rolley from @RichardGoldston's malicious attacks. To their surprise, the response to Terrill came from the @PaulKagame, the verified account of the President of Rwanda. The slip was significant enough to earn the moniker “Rwanda's Twittergate.”

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WeGov

A First: Reporters Without Borders Declares UK, US “Enemies of the Internet”

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 17 2014

Screenshot of a graphic from the Reporters Without Borders report

It's official: the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ have earned the United Kingdom and the United States a new title: “Enemy of the Internet.” They share the honor with the likes of China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syria, among others.

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WeGov

Surveillance in the Overlooked Corners of Africa

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 4 2014

Screenshot of Appelbaum and Marques

In the video below, filmed during the Oslo Freedom Forum in May 2013, Jacob Appelbaum breaks it to Rafael Marques, an Angolan investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist, that his laptop is being surveilled through a crude backdoor in spite of the fact that he is using Tor. He opens up a file where they can see all the images that have been stored and are waiting to be collected by the hackers. Appelbaum tells an understandably concerned Marques: “Every computer that's targeted is compromisable,”

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WeGov

Transparency Optional? Try Poderopedia

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, February 21 2014

Transparency is important (Seth Thomas Rasmussen/Flickr)

In many parts of the world, political transparency is still considered to be optional. Take Panama, for example, where political candidates are not required to declare assets, sources of funding or potential conflicts of interest. This puts the onus of discovery and exposure on the public. However, before Panama voters head to the polls in May they can check a Poderopedia-powered platform chock full of vital information crowdsourced (and verified) by journalists and citizens. The project is called “Cuida Tu Voto” (“Watch Your Vote”) and launched in Panama City earlier this week.

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WeGov

Making "NSA-Proof" Social Networking Mainstream

BY Carola Frediani | Tuesday, February 18 2014

Even Internet Grandma Can Use It? (credit: KnowYourMeme)

Webmail services like Yahoo and Google and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are convenient and efficient platforms, as well as easy to use, but they collect massive amounts of user data that can facilitate intelligence spying and other types of snooping. Meanwhile, securer methods of communication are often cumbersome and overly technical for the average user who would like to send an email without having to download and set up various software. Yet after Edward Snowden’s leaks, an increasing demand for securer alternatives has led to the development of anti-surveillance products with an eye towards being user friendly. Read More

WeGov

Africa Needs A Cybersecurity Law But AU's Proposal is Flawed, Advocates Say

BY Joel Macharia | Friday, January 31 2014

The AU may soon pass a cybersecurity bill that advocates say will not offer enough protections (EmbassyEquatorialGuinea/flickr)

Over the past 12 years, Africa has experienced a boom in telecommunication use; in fact, between 2000 and 2012, compared to any other region, Africa had the fastest rate of Internet penetration at 3,606.7% over that period. Kenya has the world’s largest mobile money transfer service, MPESA. Evidently, the increasing growth in Internet and mobile use has created a need for legislation that helps deter crime, and that enhances confidence and security in African cyberspace leading to the drafting of the Africa Union Convention on Cybersecurity (AUCC). The convention, however, has met with some resistance from tech and civil society, who claim it does not do enough to protect privacy and freedom of speech. Read More

WeGov

TRAC FM Stirs Debate in Uganda By Merging Radio and Data

BY Erin Byrnes | Wednesday, January 29 2014

A radio presenter using the TRAC FM online platform (credit: TRAC FM)

Margaret Caroline Adong, 33, doesn’t own a smartphone or have access to the Internet where she lives in the Serere district in rural Uganda but she does participate in every TRAC FM poll that she hears over the radio or receives a text about. This SMS-based polling platform facilitates citizen engagement with interactive radio programs in Uganda through data collection and a radio broadcast of the mapped poll results. Read More

WeGov

"Burying" Data Until Convenient Undermines The UK's Open Data Efforts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, January 27 2014

They don't have to bury it forever, just long enough (Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist/Flickr)

Revelations that the UK government held back crucial information about the effects of alcohol pricing on health, until a policy decision about it had gone by, have left some questioning the United Kingdom's open data program.

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News Briefs

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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