<-- The Filter --> May 2007

January 31, 2015
[0] From the Center
[1] Features
[2] Networked: Bookmarks, Webcasts, Podcasts, and Blogposts
[3] Global Voices: Digital Dose of Global Conversations
[4] Community Links
[5] Upcoming Conferences
[6] Staying Connected
[7] Filter Facts


[0] From the Center

While it often seems that each month is more exciting (and busy) than the last, with two major public events including the initial release of OpenNet Initiative's (ONI) first-ever global study of Internet filtering, the month of May was truly action-packed.  The ONI launch in Oxford (many thanks to the Oxford Internet Institute) and its various side-meetings were productive and fun on many levels.  It convened people from around the world who track and study (and often fight) net censorship in order to build awareness and community across organizations, approaches and disciplines.  It was also a chance to celebrate the ONI team's accomplishments among diverse friends and colleagues, to work on ongoing efforts such as the multi-stakeholder principles for ICT companies, and to explore new research directions like Internet surveillance.  The sixth Harvard Internet & Society Conference, UNIVERSITY: Knowledge Beyond Authority served as a sort of counterpart, taking on the concept of UNIVERSITY, its relationship to other sectors and its mission in the digital age.  Hundreds of academics, activists, librarians, rights-holders and others dove into these complex -- and often contentious -- issues, many relating to copyright.  While it comes as no surprise that the problems remain unsolved, we did identify some promising paths forward.  Perhaps most fundamentally, it was a reminder of the value of engaging in civil discourse among diverse stakeholders, and the hallowed neutral ground our collective community has created in which to do so.  As John Palfrey is wont to say, onward!

-- Colin Maclay, Managing Director, Berkman Center --


[1] FEATURES: a bit of what's going on at Berkman and where to read more

Thoreau in Cyberspace
by Lewis Hyde

In his keynote to the IS2K7 conference, John Palfrey noted that in front of each Harvard library one now usually finds a sign saying "Harvard ID Holders Only."  What sort of signs, Palfrey was asking, should greet those who approach these libraries not in their physical manifestations but as they appear in cyberspace?

A story about Henry D. Thoreau and the Harvard libraries suggests some answers.  Just before his death in 1862, Thoreau told a young man about to enter Harvard that its collection of books was the finest gift the institution had to offer.  It was in that library when he was twenty years old that Thoreau read Emerson's Nature, the book that gave him a first road map into his own adult life; it was there in later years that he discovered in an encyclopedia how to make a pencil superior to any then made in America (and thus reversed the family fortunes); and it was there he regularly made himself huge commonplace books of poems by the English poets.

Such post-graduate research would not have been possible, however, had he not been granted special access to the collections, for even in the mid-nineteenth century the doors were not open to all comers.  Students could take books out, of course, but beyond that the only people with borrowing privileges were ordained ministers and local resident alumni.  Thoreau fit neither category and thus he wrote a letter to the college president asking that an exception be made.  His petition argued, on the one hand, that he wasn't really a "nonresident" because the railroad had effectively made Concord a part of Cambridge, and, on the other hand, that as a scholar he was a species of minister:  "I have chosen letters for my profession, and so am one of the clergy embraced by the spirit at least of [the college's] rule."

The letter worked, and thus did Thoreau receive his pass into the commons of scholarship.

In cyberspace, what is equivalent to "Concord" and who are "the clergy"?  The answers seem simple:  just as the railroad made Concord part of Cambridge, so has the Internet made the world a part of Cambridge.  And in this world where we think the "knowledge economy" is soon to be the economy, anyone who knocks at the door of learning should by that act be taken to have ordained themselves into the order.

None of this speaks to the problem of buying books, maintaining the buildings, and keeping the servers running.  But such practical matters come late in any transcendentalist narrative.  The first chapter speaks of ideals.

About Lewis Hyde:
Harvard University Internet & Society Conference 2007 - University: Knowledge Beyond Authority:
John Palfrey's Keynote Address:

The Citizen Media Law Project Explained
by David Ardia

Journalism, as it has been practiced over the last century, is undergoing a transition.  With the advent of the Internet and widely available digital technology, individuals without professional journalism training or affiliations are launching websites and blogs that mimic aspects of traditional media.  While there is disagreement over what to call this phenomenon – for example, some call it open source journalism, networked journalism, or simply citizen media – it is growing rapidly.

These changes are having an especially important impact on community news coverage, where websites such as H2otown in Watertown, MA, WestportNow in Westport, CT, and Gotham Gazette in New York, NY, are providing extensive coverage of events in their local communities.
While not every citizen media site aspires to engage in journalism all the time, as these sites do more original reporting they will inevitably be faced with lawsuits and legal threats.  Unlike established media organizations that have the resources to pursue important reporting in the face of legal challenges, citizen media sites share several characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to legal threats and coercion: they are typically run by individuals or small groups who are not affiliated with larger organizations; they are operated by individuals, or rely on the contributions of individuals, with little or no journalism training and little or no knowledge of media law; and they have limited financial resources.

Moreover, as citizen media sites experiment with different approaches and models, it will be essential that they have a place to go for legal help.  Without legal assistance, it is easy to imagine how one threatening letter could close an important avenue of reporting or one lawsuit could shut down a promising citizen journalism site.  Consequently, in order for citizen journalists to survive and flourish on the Internet, they will need a legal safety net.

Through a joint venture between the Berkman Center and the Center for Citizen Media, the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) will provide legal education and resources for individuals and organizations involved in citizen media.  The CMLP has five primary objectives: legal education and training; litigation referral, consultation, and representation; collection and analysis of legal threats; community building; and advocacy on behalf of citizen media.  Each of these objectives is briefly summarized below.

Legal Education and Training: A central aim of the CMLP is to provide practical knowledge and tools for aspiring citizen journalists.  This runs the gamut from how to form a business and negotiate contracts for server space to how to use freedom of information and open meetings laws to get access to information, meetings, and governmental records.  The CMLP’s website will host a legal guide that covers these topics as well as other relevant legal subjects such as risks associated with publication, including discussion of defamation and privacy torts; legal issues related to newsgathering; use of copyrighted and trademarked materials; and special risks associated with covering elections.

The CMLP is currently working with the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism to provide legal expertise for the creation of an interactive online legal guide to teach citizen journalists their legal rights and responsibilities.  As other organizations begin work on similar educational projects, we anticipate being able to serve as a resource for them as well by providing legal subject matter expertise and content.

Litigation Referral, Consultation, and Representation:  In today’s litigious environment, education and training will not be enough.  Consequently, lawyers and clinical law students at the CMLP will provide legal advice to individuals and organizations that operate citizen media sites.  This advice could include advice on copyright fair use, pre-publication review of content, or how to respond to a cease and desist letter.

The CMLP is also creating a network of law school clinics, beginning with Harvard’s Clinical Program in Cyberlaw and Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, that are interested in handling litigation in their state or region involving citizen media.  The CMLP is also working to establish a citizen media defense bar consisting of media lawyers in private practice who are willing to take on citizen media cases pro bono.

Collection and Analysis of Legal Threats:  While legal threats to citizen media have been growing, there is little statistical information currently available to quantify this growth or assess where the threats are greatest.

To fill this void the CMLP is building a database of lawsuits, subpoenas, legal threats and other legal actions involving citizen media.  The CMLP will use the database to identify areas of highest risk for citizen journalists so that the legal guide can address these subjects and reflect the latest trends and developments.  The database will include descriptions and commentary in layman’s language plus full-text versions of the underlying documents and will be fully searchable by the public, who will be able to search by jurisdiction, medium of communication (e.g., blog, website, forum), and type of threat (e.g., copyright, defamation, trade secret). The CMLP will periodically publish assessments of the legal climate for online media as well as summaries of the data which will allow researchers and other interested parties to better evaluate the threats to citizen media.

Community Building:  The CMLP will not merely be a clearinghouse of vital information.  Instead, we want to serve as a catalyst for creative thinking about the intersection of law, new media, and journalism on the Internet.  Through the CMLP website, the active engagement of scholars, and occasional sponsored conferences, we hope to build a community of lawyers, academics, and others who are interested in facilitating citizen participation in online media and protecting the legal rights of those engaged in speech on the Internet.

Advocacy: The CMLP will also provide research and advocacy on free speech, newsgathering, intellectual property, and other legal issues related to citizen media.  One of our first projects is to cultivate support for a federal shield bill.  Other projects include tracking the current status of various state sunshine and open meetings laws and seeking to develop grassroots support for their expansion in ways that will benefit citizen media.

Citizen Media Law Project:
Center for Citizen Media:

OpenNet Initiative Conference Report
by Chris Conley

The OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a collaboration between the Citizen Lab at the Munk Center for International Studies, University of Toronto, the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, Cambridge University, and the Berkman Center, has been testing Internet filtering around the world for the past five years.  This past month marked the group's release of the first-ever empirical study of Internet filtering worldwide. At the project's first public conference, held in Oxford, the ONI's principal investigators unveiled the data along with the ONI's new interactive website, which presents the findings and offers many ways to search the types and breadth of filtering in the studied countries.

As ONI’s research demonstrates, the incidence of filtering in these five years has expanded from a small number of states, including China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, to become a growing global phenomenon.  During 2006 and early 2007, ONI carried out empirical testing in forty-one countries and prepared written summaries for each of these countries that briefly describe filtering practices and overall political and legal context.  Additionally, ONI prepared eight regional overviews that compare and contrast the targets and strategies for regulating Internet content around the world. The testing conducted this past year produced the first global-level comparison of filtering practices.  This testing establishes a baseline against which future filtering can be compared.

The results of the testing suggest that Internet filtering is becoming increasingly prevalent. Many states, however, deny engaging in such filtering, making it difficult for Internet users to distinguish between a blocked Web site and a technical malfunction. Moreover, even countries that acknowledge filtering often state a narrow mandate justifying their actions – blocking pornography or other content deemed obscene, or blocking content likely to incite ethnic or religious hatred – and then expand their filtering activities beyond the stated scope into censorship of other topics, particularly political dissent and activism. This highlights the need for ONI’s independent efforts to monitor the scope, mechanisms, and practical effects of filtering practices around the world as part of its contribution to the ongoing dialogue about the implications of Internet filtering on public policy, international law, and human rights and civil liberties.

The ONI conference brought together journalists, activists, academics, and other interested parties to discuss the current practice and future outlook of Internet filtering. Attendees debated many aspect of filtering, including the methodology employed by ONI in conducting its research, the appropriate role of technology corporations engaging in business within countries engaging in Internet filtering, the interaction between Internet filtering and economic development, the role of international and human rights law in limiting Internet filtering, and the design and use of circumvention tools intended to allow Internet users to evade filtering. The final session featured an active discussion of future areas for ONI research, including short-term filtering of content with immediate impact and local filtering at access points such as public libraries, and a debate as to whether the ONI or other organizations should encourage “best filtering practices” to encourage transparency and accountability or whether the only appropriate response to filtering is to discourage its use in most instances.

The conference concluded with a debate at the Oxford Union, with debaters arguing whether “the Internet is the greatest force for Democratisation in the World.” Conference participants argued both sides of the issue, with the “nay” side narrowly winning the debate based largely on arguments that the Internet is merely a tool and that human actors, not emergent technologies, provide the impetus for change and democratization in a global setting. The enthusiasm of those attending the conference suggests that the Internet, even if only a tool, is seen as a threat by authoritarian leaders, and that attempts to control the free flow of information on the Internet merit continued attention.

OpenNet Initiative:
OpenNet Initiative Conference Video:


Links to Berkman conversations happening online

UNIVERSITY: Knowledge Beyond Authority
[PODCAST] Keynote by Nicholas Negroponte on his project One Laptop per Child.

[PODCAST] Keynote by John Palfrey on being "Born Digital."

[PODCAST] David Weinberger's closing thoughts.

[WIKI] Conference Wiki for further discussion.

OpenNet Initiative Conference (University of Oxford, UK):

[REPORT] Country Profiles.

[REPORT] Regional Overviews.

[INTERACTIVE] World Filtering Map.

[VIDEO] Plenary Sessions of the ONI Conference.

[BLOGPOST] Urs Gasser wonders if there are "best practices" for filtering.

Internet Politics, Governance, and Regulation:

[VIDEO] Oxford Union Debate: The Internet and Democratisation.

[ARTICLE] Jonathan Zittrain on "Saving the Internet."

[PAPER] Digital Copyright Reform in Hong Kong: Promoting Creativity Without Sacrificing Free Speech.

[ARTICLE] John Palfrey's commentary on the professional implications of being googled.

Citizen Media and the Future of Journalism:

[BLOG] Citizen Media Law Project's new blog.

[WEBSITE] Knight Foundation News Challenge.

[BLOGPOST] Lessig announces debates in the public domain.

Security and Digital Identity:

[RELEASE] StopBadware.org Identifies Most Infected Website Hosts.

[WEBSITE] Boston Community Change.


[3] Global Voices:
Digital Dose of Global Conversations

David Sasaki, Global Voices Director of Outreach, put together the monthly digest below, a collection of links to the most interesting conversations happening in the global blogosphere. Please check out Global Voices here:  <http://www.globalvoicesonline.org>

Rising Voices, the outreach arm of Global Voices, is now accepting project proposals for the first round of microgrant funding of up to $5,000 for new media outreach projects. Ideal applicants will present innovative and detailed proposals to teach citizen media techniques to communities that are poorly positioned to discover and take advantage of tools like blogging, video-blogging, and podcasting on their own.

“As the news broke over the weekend that US law enforcement officials had uncovered a plot to bomb fuel tanks and pipelines at New York’s JFK International Airport, bloggers in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana reacted with consternation,” writes Nicholas Laughlin from Port of Spain. The reason why? “The alleged mastermind of the plot, Russell Defreitas, is a US citizen born in Guyana; two of his alleged co-conspirators are Guyanese citizens (one of them a former member of the Guyanese parliament and mayor of the town of Linden); and the fourth suspect is Trinidadian.”

The participation of ‘ordinary citizens’ has benefited the fields of journalism, photography, and software development thanks to what is generally referred to as “the wisdom of the crowds.” But what about the legal system? Do citizen judges make just as much sense as citizen journalists? According to Japanese opposition politician Nobuto Hosaka, absolutely. Find out more about Hosaka’s proposal and how the Japanese blogosphere has reacted in Chris Salzberg’s excellent wrap-up.

"He was just a guy who wanted to speak his own language and tried to convince the world to give a little respect to the history of his country, which is considered by nearly everyone as just a bunch of counties in Western Russia," writes one of the bloggers who pay tribute, in Veronica Khokhlova's post, to Uladzimer Katkouski, the 30 year-old Belarusian cultural activist and web editor of Radio Free Europe's Belarusian service who passed away in Prague on May 25.

Writes Gilad Lotan in his first portrait of the Hebrew blogosphere: “Internet censorship could slowly and surely find its way to Israel. Now that a new proposal ‘that is supposedly meant to protect kids from the dangers of pornography, violence and gambling sites’ has passed the primary voting stage in the Israeli Knesset, bloggers writing in Hebrew are asking: What is next?”

The Caribbean is much more than sunburned tourists, cruise ships, and cheap rum. As one Jamaican blogger puts it, being Caribbean “means being a part of one of the most interesting, though unintended, social experiments in the world.” The small region of even smaller islands brings together a diverse population whose ancestries are truly worldwide. To paint a more nuanced portrait of the complexities of Caribbean identity, Karel McIntosh interviews three bloggers: a Jamaican writer living in Miami, a Guyanese media critic, and a Jamaican management consultant.

The idea sounds fantastic: take 16 writers to 16 cities and ask them to each write a love story somehow related to the places they visited. But what looks like a great idea on paper turned into a literary scandal on the net when bloggers caught wind of the costly government funding and a less-than-transparent selection process. New Global Voices contributor Roberto Taddei let’s us know how it all unfolded and translates excerpts from the writers’ blogs as they report from Cairo, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires.

The bloodied face of a victim of police violence during another state crackdown on women’s dress last Sunday in Tehran has become an icon of moral decline and social anxiety as Iranian authorities push forward with increased regulation and enforcement of Islamic law.


Featuring our friends and affiliates

**NEW** OpenNet Initiative website

MapLight: the "Citizen's Encyclopedia on Congress"

Public Radio Talent Quest

Free Culture 2007 National Conference

Harvard Crimson Op-Ed, by Charlie Nesson & Wendy Seltzer

David Weinberger in the Harvard Business Review on Internet aggregation.



*June 18-20: 2007 Conference for Law School Computing - Legal Education and IT: Mirage or Oasis? - Las Vegas, NV:

*June 13-15: Creativity and Cognition Conference - Washington, DC:

*June 18-20: O'Reilly Tools of Change Conference for Publishing - San Jose, CA:

*June 19: Winning in a Web World: Online strategies for Grassroots Advocacy - Washington, DC:

*June 20-22: Supernova 2007 - San Francisco, CA:

*June 25-26: American Bar Association - Computing and the Law: From Steps to Strides into the New Age - San Francisco, CA:

*June 26-27: Audience [Me]asurement 2.0 - New York, NY:

*June 27-30: Communities & Technologies Conference - East Lansing, MI:


*July 2-5: International Conference on Risks and Security of Internet & Systems - Marrakech, Morocco:

*July 8-11: Info-CybernEthics 2007 - Ethics, Cybernetics and Informatics: Info-CybernEthics 2007 - Orlando, FL:

*July 11-13: 4th Sound and Music Computing Conference - Lefkada, Greece:

*July 18-20: Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security - Pittsburgh, PA:

*July 22-24: Intelligent Multimedia and Ambient Intelligence - Salt Lake City, Utah:


*August 7-9: Journalism That Matters: The DC sessions - Washington, DC:


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The Filter is a publication of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.
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Last updated

January 16, 2008