Monthly Archives: February 2017

Conference: The Power Switch; How Power is Changing in a Networked World

Cripps Court auditorium, Magdalene College, 1-3 Chesterton Road, Cambridge
31 March 2017, 09:00 – 18:15

Registration for this conference is now open, please register here.
The full programme is available here.
Full fee £20 (includes refreshments and lunch)
Student and ECF fee £10 (includes refreshments and lunch)

Recent decades have seen the rise of a number of large US technology companies – Alphabet (Google’s holding company), Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple – which have achieved global dominance in their original fields (digital technology) and are now moving into other markets (healthcare, mobility, hotels, media, to name just four).

The scale and reach—as well as the wealth—of these corporations revives old concerns about corporate power and its regulation (for example in relation to monopoly and data protection). But their dominance also raises new questions deriving from the distinctive affordances of digital technology and the companies’ mastery of it.

In what ways is the power that they wield different from older kinds of corporate power? How should the power flowing from mastery of the technology be conceptualised? What kinds of regulatory approaches are viable in this new environment? Where does corporate responsibility begin and end in applications of Artificial Intelligence? And can the nation-state effectively regulate these new global entities?

This symposium, which is hosted by the Technology and Democracy project at CRASSH, will consider these and related issues. Continue reading

Trump is right: stories will dry up if the press can’t use anonymous sources

By Judith Townend, University of Sussex and Richard Danbury, De Montfort University

Donald Trump has declared war on anonymous sources and wants to ban their use by journalists. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24, he said: “You will see stories dry up like you have never seen before.” The Conversation

He’s right. If such a restriction is imposed then stories would dry up. He is very wrong to demand it though. Such a restriction on journalism would have devastating effects for democracy and the flow of information in the public interest, as courts have repeatedly recognised.

But in his first few weeks as president, Trump has shown himself to be no friend to press freedom. Hours after his CPAC speech, the White House barred several news organisations, including the Guardian, the New York Times, Politico, CNN, BuzzFeed, the BBC, the Daily Mail and others from an off-camera press briefing, or “gaggle” conducted by press secretary Sean Spicer. Additionally, he announced that he will not attend the White House correspondents’ dinner in April. Building relationships with the press is not a priority for this new administration.

Banning the use of confidential sources denies a core principle reflected in media ethics codes from around the world and flies in the face of the First Amendment to the United States constitution and rights to free speech. Protecting journalists’ confidential sources is deemed essential to freedom of expression, public interest journalism and holding power to account. It is held as sacred, to be interpreted rigidly – even in the face of criminal prosecution. Continue reading

Two Research Associate Posts at Hertie School of Governance

For the project ‘Evolving Internet Interfaces: Content Control and Privacy Protection’ within the Deutsche Foschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) research group on ‘Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order’ (www.osaic.eu), the Hertie School is looking to hire:

2 Research Associates (m/f)
26 hours/week

The contract duration is 36 months. The envisaged start date is 1 June 2017. Salary is in accordance with TV-L Berlin. Continue reading

ILPC launches new report: ‘Protecting Sources and Whistleblowers in a Digital Age’

front-page-snippet-download-the-reportThe emergence of an everyday digital culture and the increasing use of legal instruments by state actors to collect and access communications data has led to growing concern about the protection of journalistic sources and whistleblowers.

With the support of Guardian News and Media, the Information Law and Policy Centre has published a new report to consider these developments entitled ‘Protecting Sources and Whistleblowers in a Digital Age’. The report is open access and available for download.

Authored by Dr Judith Townend and Dr Richard Danbury, the report analyses how technological advances expose journalists and their sources to interference by state actors, corporate entities or individuals.

The report also looks at how journalists can reduce threats to whistleblowing; examines the rights and responsibilities of journalists, whistleblowers and lawmakers; and makes a number of positive recommendations for policymakers, journalists, NGOs and researchers.

The report’s findings are based on discussions with 25 investigative journalists, representatives from relevant NGOs and media organisations, media lawyers and specialist researchers in September 2016.

Protecting Sources and Whistleblowers in a Digital Age was officially launched on 22 February 2017 at the House of Lords.

Alongside the report, the Information Policy Law and Policy Centre has also published a range of open access resources on journalistic sources and whistleblowing which are available here.

CFP: Bytes, Bodies and Souls: Interrogating Human Digitalisation

conference-imageKent Law School, in conjunction with the Eastern Academic Research Consortium, invites early career academics and postgraduate research students to participate in the “Bytes, Bodies and Souls: Interrogating Human Digitalisation” workshop to be held on 30th May, 2017.

The workshop aims to bring together researchers across the social sciences, humanities, sciences and other relevant disciplines who are interested in examining the consequences, possibilities, and limitations of human digitalisation.

Papers and Posters are welcomed on any aspect of the conference theme. This may include, although is not restricted to:

  • Big Data and its challenges
  • The role and impact of the Internet of Things
  • Digital ownership and appropriation processes
  • Privacy, surveillance, and control
  • The role of algorithms in the governance of human digitalisation
  • Politics of digital humans from cyber activism to post-truth
  • Digital human aesthetics; the forging of a digital soul

Abstracts for papers are invited for consideration. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words in length. Successful applicants will be allocated 15 minutes for the presentation of their paper plus time for questions and discussion.

Abstracts for posters are invited for consideration. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words in length. Accepted poster presenters will need to deliver the hard copy of their poster to the venue no later than 9 am on the day of the workshop to allow it to be displayed throughout the day.

Submissions should be sent in a Word document format to a.m.holmes@kent.ac.uk. Please include name, title, institution, and email correspondence address and whether you wish to be considered for a paper or poster presentation. The deadline for submission is Friday 3rd March 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by the 19th March 2017.

Reflections on ‘Freedom of Information’ at 250

Freedom of Information Act Sweden and Finland 1766

In December 2016, the Information Law and Policy Centre co-organised an event celebrating the 250th anniversary of the world’s first law providing a right to information. It was hosted by free expression NGO, Article 19 at the Free Word Centre and supported by the Embassies of Sweden and Finland. A full programme of the event and the audio files are available on the Campaign for Freedom of Information website. In this post, Judith Townend and Daniel Bennett reflect on a few of the key themes discussed at the event. 

Accessing information may no longer feel like a pressing problem. We live in an age of global telecommunications, the internet and the smartphone with access to ubiquitous 24/7 media coverage on demand. Our data is collected, tracked, mapped and analysed by social media networks, search engines, commercial enterprises, governments and public authorities around the world. And yet, 250 years after the first law providing for a right to information was passed, the right for us – the public – to access information relating to the administration of state power remains a struggle.

Our ‘Freedom of Information at 250’ event sought to put this struggle into its historical context. The event celebrated and commemorated the signing into law of ‘His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press’ on 2nd December 1766.¹ Enacted by the Riksdag (parliament) of Sweden – which then also included Finland – this was the world’s first law to promise public access to governmental information. Continue reading