China’s Aggressive Surveillance Technology Will Spread Beyond Its Borders

Already there are reports that Zimbabwe, for example, is turning to Chinese firms to implement nationwide facial-recognition and surveillance programs, wrapped into China’s infrastructure investments and a larger set of security agreements as well, including for policing online communication. The acquisition of black African faces will help China’s tech sector improve its overall data set.

Malaysia, too, announced new partnerships this spring with China to equip police with wearable facial-recognition cameras. There are quiet reports of Arab Gulf countries turning to China not just for the drone technologies America has denied but also for the authoritarian suite of surveillance, recognition, and data tools perfected in China’s provinces. In a recent article on Egypt’s military-led efforts to build a new capital city beyond Cairo’s chaos and revolutionary squares, a retired general acting as project spokesman declared, “a smart city means a safe city, with cameras and sensors everywhere. There will be a command center to control the entire city.” Who is financing construction? China.

While many governments are making attempts to secure this information, there have been several alarming stories of data leaks. Moreover, these national identifiers create an unprecedented opportunity for state surveillance at scale. What about collecting biometric information in nondemocratic regimes? In 2016, the personal details of nearly 50 million people in Turkey were leaked….

China and other determined authoritarian states may prove undeterrable in their zeal to adopt repressive technologies. A more realistic goal, as Georgetown University scholar Nicholas Wright has argued, is to sway countries on the fence by pointing out the reputational costs of repression and supporting those who are advocating for civil liberties in this domain within their own countries. Democracy promoters (which we hope will one day again include the White House) will also want to recognize the coming changes to the authoritarian public sphere. They can start now in helping vulnerable populations and civil society to gain greater technological literacy to advocate for their rights in new domains. It is not too early for governments and civil society groups alike to study what technological and tactical countermeasures exist to circumvent and disrupt new authoritarian tools.

Seven years ago, techno-optimists expressed hope that a wave of new digital tools for social networking and self-expression could help young people in the Middle East and elsewhere to find their voices. Today, a new wave of Chinese-led technological advances threatens to blossom into what we consider an “Arab spring in reverse”—in which the next digital wave shifts the pendulum back, enabling state domination and repression at a staggering scale and algorithmic effectiveness.

Americans are absolutely right to be urgently focused on countering Russian weaponized hacking and leaking as its primary beneficiary sits in the Oval Office. But we also need to be more proactive in countering the tools of algorithmic authoritarianism that will shape the worldwide future of individual freedom….(More)”.

Predicting Public Interest Issue Campaign Participation on Social Media

Jungyun Won, Linda Hon, Ah Ram Lee in the Journal of Public Interest Communication: “This study investigates what motivates people to participate in a social media campaign in the context of animal protection issues.

Structural equation modeling (SEM) tested a proposed research model with survey data from 326 respondents.

Situational awareness, participation benefits, and social ties influence were positive predictors of social media campaign participation intentions. Situational awareness also partially mediates the relationship between participation benefits and participation intentions as well as strong ties influence and participation intentions.

When designing social media campaigns, public interest communicators should raise situational awareness and emphasize participation benefits. Messages shared through social networks, especially via strong ties, also may be more effective than those posted only on official websites or social networking sites (SNSs)….(More)”.

Activism in the Social Media Age

PewInternet: “This month marks the fifth anniversary of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which was first coined following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. In the course of those five years, #BlackLivesMatter has become an archetypal example of modern protests and political engagement on social media: A new Pew Research Center analysis of public tweets finds the hashtag has been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter – an average of 17,002 times per day – as of May 1, 2018.

Use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter periodically spikes in response to major news events

The conversations surrounding this hashtag often center on issues related to race, violence and law enforcement, and its usage periodically surges surrounding real-world events – most prominently, during the police-related deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the subsequent shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 2016.1

The rise of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag – along with others like #MeToo and #MAGA (Make America Great Again) – has sparked a broader discussion about the effectiveness and viability of using social media for political engagement and social activism. To that end, a new survey by the Center finds that majorities of Americans do believe these sites are very or somewhat important for accomplishing a range of political goals, such as getting politicians to pay attention to issues (69% of Americans feel these platforms are important for this purpose) or creating sustained movements for social change (67%).

Certain groups of social media users – most notably, those who are black or Hispanic – view these platforms as an especially important tool for their own political engagement. For example, roughly half of black social media users say these platforms are at least somewhat personally important to them as a venue for expressing their political views or for getting involved with issues that are important to them. Those shares fall to around a third among white social media users.2

At the same time, the public as a whole expresses mixed views about the potential broader impact these sites might be having on political discourse and the nature of political activism. Some 64% of Americans feel that the statement “social media help give a voice to underrepresented groups” describes these sites very or somewhat well. But a larger share say social networking sites distract people from issues that are truly important (77% feel this way), and 71% agree with the assertion that “social media makes people believe they’re making a difference when they really aren’t.” Blacks and whites alike offer somewhat mixed assessments of the benefits and costs of activism on social media. But larger majorities of black Americans say these sites promote important issues or give voice to underrepresented groups, while smaller shares of blacks feel that political engagement on social media produces significant downsides in the form of a distracted public or “slacktivism.”…(More)”.

Open Data in Tourism

European Data Portal: “New technologies are rapidly changing the tourism industry. Data are central assets in management and marketing of tourism destinations and businesses. Data driven services became a prominent tool for tourists to plan their trips. The study “Utilizing open data in tourism” predicts great potential for Open Data to increase innovations and destination management. Several actors already use Open Data to provide services in the tourism industry, e.g. the open service called Helsinki Region Infoshare from the city of Helsinki. Malta and Montenegro, for example, are providing data sets on tourist expenditure, hotels, accommodation, restaurants, events, bicycle stations, heritage sites, or beaches.

But not only government organisations and companies use Open Data in tourism. User-generated content, such as reviews and comments spread via social networking services, supports Tourists’ decision making. The study “You will like it!”  analyses user generated Open Data to predict tourists’ perception of sights or attractions.  Thereby they are contributing to the process of predicting tourists’ future preferences, what has potential implications and benefits for the tourism industry.

Engage in the discourse of Open data in tourism, for example on 18 July: the meeting “Linked Open Data im Tourismus“for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) takes place  in Innsbruck to discuss possibilities and prerequisites for using Open Data in tourism. If you rather try out using Open Data to plan your next weekend trip, visit the European Data Portal featured data article on  “Use Open Data to prepare your holiday trip”….(More)”.

Organization after Social Media

Open access book by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter :”Organized networks are an alternative to the social media logic of weak links and their secretive economy of data mining. They put an end to freestyle friends, seeking forms of empowerment beyond the brief moment of joyful networking. This speculative manual calls for nothing less than social technologies based on enduring time. Analyzing contemporary practices of organization through networks as new institutional forms, organized networks provide an alternative to political parties, trade unions, NGOs, and traditional social movements. Dominant social media deliver remarkably little to advance decision-making within digital communication infrastructures. The world cries for action, not likes.

Organization after Social Media explores a range of social settings from arts and design, cultural politics, visual culture and creative industries, disorientated education and the crisis of pedagogy to media theory and activism. Lovink and Rossiter devise strategies of commitment to help claw ourselves out of the toxic morass of platform suffocation….(More)”.

The Promise of Community Citizen Science

Report by Ramya ChariLuke J. MatthewsMarjory S. BlumenthalAmanda F. Edelman, and Therese Jones: “Citizen science is public participation in research and scientific endeavors. Citizens volunteer as data collectors in science projects; collaborate with scientific experts on research design; and actively lead and carry out research, exerting a high degree of control and ownership over scientific activities. The last type — what we refer to as community citizen science — tends to involve action-oriented research to support interventional activities or policy change. This type of citizen science can be of particular importance to those working at the nexus of science and decisionmaking.

The authors examine the transformative potential of community citizen science for communities, science, and decisionmaking. The Perspective is based on the authors’ experiences working in collaboration with community groups, extensive readings of the scientific literature, and numerous interviews with leading scholars and practitioners in the fields of citizen science and participatory research. It first discusses models of citizen science in general, including community citizen science, and presents a brief history of its rise. It then looks at possible factors motivating the development of community citizen science, drawing from an exploration of the relationships among citizens, science, and decisionmaking. The final section examines areas in which community citizen science may exhibit promise in terms of outcomes and impacts, discusses concerns that may hinder its overall potential, and assesses the roles different stakeholders may play to continue to develop community citizen science into a positive force for science and society.

Key Findings

At Its Core, Citizen Science Is Public Participation in Research and Scientific Endeavors

  • Citizens volunteer as data collectors in science projects, collaborate with scientific experts on research design, and actively lead and carry out research.
  • It is part of a long tradition of rebirth of inventors, scientists, do-it-yourselfers, and makers at all levels of expertise.
  • Instead of working alone, today’s community citizen scientists take advantage of new technologies for networking and coordination to work collaboratively; learn from each other; and share knowledge, insights, and findings.

The Democratization of Science and the Increasingly Distributed Nature of Expertise Are Not Without Concern

  • There is some tension and conflict between current standards of practice and the changes required for citizen science to achieve its promising future.
  • There is also some concern about the potential for bias, given that some efforts begin as a form of activism.

Yet the Efforts of Community Citizen Science Can Be Transformative

  • Success will require an engaged citizenry, promote more open and democratic decisionmaking processes, and generate new solutions for intractable problems.
  • If its promise holds true, the relationship between science and society will be profoundly transformed for the betterment of all…(More)”.

The Follower Factory

 Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris And Mark Hansen in The New York Times: “…Fake accounts, deployed by governments, criminals and entrepreneurs, now infest social media networks. By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users — nearly 15 percent — are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.

In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Yet their creation and sale fall into a legal gray zone.

“The continued viability of fraudulent accounts and interactions on social media platforms — and the professionalization of these fraudulent services — is an indication that there’s still much work to do,” said Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating the spread of fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

Despite rising criticism of social media companies and growing scrutiny by elected officials, the trade in fake followers has remained largely opaque. While Twitter and other platforms prohibit buying followers, Devumi and dozens of other sites openly sell them. And social media companies, whose market value is closely tied to the number of people using their services, make their own rules about detecting and eliminating fake accounts.

Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied that his company sold fake followers and said he knew nothing about social identities stolen from real users. “The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,” Mr. Calas said in an email exchange in November.

The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying. For just pennies each — sometimes even less — Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud, the music-hosting site, and endorsements on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site….(More)”.

Crowdsourced Smart Cities

Paper by Robert A Iannucci and Anthony Rowe: “The vision of applying computing and communication technologies to enhance life in our cities is fundamentally appealing. Pervasive sensing and computing can alert us to imminent dangers, particularly with respect to the movement of vehicles and pedestrians in and around crowded streets. Signaling systems can integrate knowledge of city-scale traffic congestion. Self-driving vehicles can borrow from and contribute to a city-scale information collaborative. Achieving this vision will require significant coordination among the creators of sensors, actuators, and application-level software systems. Cities will invest in such smart infrastructure if and only if they are convinced that the value can be realized. Investment by technology providers in creation of the infrastructure depends to a large degree on their belief in a broad and ready market. To accelerate innovation, this stalemate must be broken. Borrowing a page from the evolution of the internet, we put forward the notion that an initially minimalist networking infrastructure that is well suited to smart city concepts can break this cycle and empower co-development of both clever city-sensing devices and valuable city-scale applications, with players large and small being empowered in the process. We call this the crowdsourced smart city concept. We illustrate the concept via an examination of our ongoing project to crowdsource real-time traffic data, arguing that this can rapidly generalize to many more smart city applications. This exploration motivates study of a number of smart city challenges, crowdsourced or otherwise, leading to a paradigm shift we call edgeless computing….(More)”.

Political Ideology and Municipal Size as Incentives for the Implementation and Governance Models of Web 2.0 in Providing Public Services

Manuel Pedro Rodríguez Bolívar and Laura Alcaide Muñoz in the International Journal of Public Administration in the Digital Age: “The growing participation in social networking sites is altering the nature of social relations and changing the nature of political and public dialogue. This paper aims to contribute to the current debate on Web 2.0 technologies and their implications for local governance, through the identification of the perceptions of policy makers in local governments on the use of Web 2.0 in providing public services (reasons, advantages and risks) and on the change of the roles that these technologies could provoke in interactions between local governments and their stakeholders (governance models). This paper also analyzes whether the municipal size is a main factor that could influence on the policy makers’ perceptions regarding these main topics. Findings suggest that policy makers are willing to implement Web 2.0 technologies in providing public services, but preferably under the Bureaucratic model framework, thus retaining a leading role in this implementation. The municipal size is a factor that could influence on policy makers’ perceptions….(More)”.

Tech’s fight for the upper hand on open data

Rana Foroohar at the Financial Times: “One thing that’s becoming very clear to me as I report on the digital economy is that a rethink of the legal framework in which business has been conducted for many decades is going to be required. Many of the key laws that govern digital commerce (which, increasingly, is most commerce) were crafted in the 1980s or 1990s, when the internet was an entirely different place. Consider, for example, the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This 1986 law made it a federal crime to engage in “unauthorised access” to a computer connected to the internet. It was designed to prevent hackers from breaking into government or corporate systems. …While few hackers seem to have been deterred by it, the law is being used in turf battles between companies looking to monetise the most valuable commodity on the planet — your personal data. Case in point: LinkedIn vs HiQ, which may well become a groundbreaker in Silicon Valley.

LinkedIn is the dominant professional networking platform, a Facebook for corporate types. HiQ is a “data-scraping” company, one that accesses publicly available data from LinkedIn profiles and then mixes it up in its own quantitative black box to create two products — Keeper, which tells employers which of their employees are at greatest risk of being recruited away, and Skill Mapper, which provides a summary of the skills possessed by individual workers. LinkedIn allowed HiQ to do this for five years, before developing a very similar product to Skill Mapper, at which point LinkedIn sent the company a “cease and desist” letter, and threatened to invoke the CFAA if HiQ did not stop tapping its user data.

..Meanwhile, a case that might have been significant mainly to digital insiders is being given a huge publicity boost by Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, the country’s pre-eminent constitutional law scholar. He has joined the HiQ defence team because, as he told me, he believes the case is “tremendously important”, not only in terms of setting competitive rules for the digital economy, but in the realm of free speech. According to Prof Tribe, if you accept that the internet is the new town square, and “data is a central type of capital”, then it must be freely available to everyone — and LinkedIn, as a private company, cannot suddenly decide that publicly accessible, Google-searchable data is their private property….(More)”.